#793: Morning at the Field

May 22nd, 2017

It was the quiet time at the Field Museum of Natural History, the first few minutes after the 9 a.m. opening on a gray, murky Sunday.

Folding chairs and music stands waited empty by the main hall elephants taxidermied into a death battle, the furniture at alert for the day’s incoming middle- and high-school orchestras from Flint, Michigan; Neosho, Missouri; and Chicago’s South Side.

Sleepy-eyed teenagers with nametags idly straightened books, dino-footed mugs and toys blaring “Chicago,” “Field,” and “Sue” at the various gift shops lying in wait outside the temporary exhibit halls. Older security guards and ticket sellers seemed more vexed than sleepy, annoyed with whatever shift or scheduling manager put them in an empty hall that early on a weekend.

A woman in a Field polo shuffled around an empty Pawnee earth lodge replica, waiting to tell anyone who would come in that they can touch the buffalo-skin rugs.

In the main hall, the growing crowd idly wandered toward a monster. A gum-snapping bro in jeans and a Cubs tracksuit jacket stopped in his tracks when he saw it, a moment of near childlike astonishment before he remembered to be cool. A little girl in her mother’s arms reached out to trace the name on the brass plaque before the monster. An teenage girl’s “Mommmmmm, are you donnnnnnne?” echoed through the empty hall for a few seconds before the teen sheepishly joined her mom in photos with the beast.

It was she of the museum T-shirts, logos, and two separate proprietarily licensed microbrews for sale in the museum bistro (“PseudoSue” pale ale by Toppling Goliath and “Tooth and Claw” dry-hopped lager by Off Color). She of the novelty Twitter account that makes bets with other museums’ showpiece exhibits when their cities’ teams face off against the Cubs or Hawks. Teeth like the Chinese daggers on display a floor up, famous, beloved, and cross-platform branded, the monster behind the plaque was seven tons of bones, rocks and death.

Sue the Tyrannosaurus rex was starting her Sunday too.

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