Growing up, I never thought I’d be one of those people who have episodes they refer to as “incidents.” Throughout my college career I found out otherwise, but I was hoping that they would stay in Newark. Wrong.
Last weekend I had Saturday to myself since my ingrate of a roommate had to work on her last day in the city, and my new roommate was out of town. I decided to spend the day going to IKEA, and took the subway downtown early to walk around for a few hours before catching the ferry. Wall Street is pretty empty on the weekends, but Bowling Green and Battery Park are full of people, so I parked myself on a bench with a book. Somehow I got conned into buying $20 worth of fruit snacks from some girl who was trying to send her basketball team to Disney World, so I was cashless for the rest of the day. After reading a bit, I saw that the Native American History Museum was across the street. Brilliantly they put “FREE ADMISSION” on a huge banner above the stairs, so I decided to go in and check out the Horse Nation exhibit.
The museum is housed in the old Alexander Hamilton Custom House, with huge columns and an atrium. I would use the term “museum” here pretty loosely. Granted I only looked at one wing of the museum, but it looked like a bunch of bison hides and horse blankets behind glass. Even on a Saturday there were only about 20 people that I saw in there, so I felt pretty guilty turning right around and leaving (plus I had to fill out a survey on the way in and marked that I would be in the museum “1-2 Hours”; it had been ten minutes).
I began to do what I imagine most people do in museums – think about other stuff. I’m walking around pretending to absorb bison migration patterns, while I’m actually concerned with how dry my eyes are. It had gotten to the point where my contacts were shifting every time I blinked, which is quite the uncomfortable feeling. Luckily, having turned 23 just 3 days earlier, I was a full-blown adult and had eye drops in my bag with me. Maturity! I fished the drops out and not-so-carefully applied about 46 to each eye. Things were immediately looking up, and I even felt bold enough to pick up the pace a little bit. Then I realized people were looking at me. I’m a bit tall, so I’m used to people looking at me. But this wasn’t normal staring, this was people stealing shifty glances from the side, elbowing their significant other and whispering. After an uneasy 30 seconds, I realized that I had eye drops rolling down my cheeks. To everyone else, it looked like I was distraught over the plight of the Native American.
Understand: I feel bad about the Trail of Tears and all that. I really do. But not enough to move me to tears; and if it did, I’d try to keep them under wraps. I’m not one of those people who holds on to that 1/64th Cherokee heritage and uses it as a reason for being vegan, walking around barefoot and marking “Native American” on standardized tests. I decided the best plan of action was to dry my face, cut my losses and remove myself immediately – fully realizing that this would make everyone think I was too overwhelmed to look at even one more arrowhead.