My Liberty Bell Experience

Posted by on Oct 6, 2013 in Complaints, Stories

It was my birthday weekend. My girlfriend Sam and I were in Philadelphia. It was her first time in the city, so after dropping our bags at the hotel, we set out to see the sights.

First stop was the Liberty Bell. We arrived to find a long line of anti-abortion posters showing extracted fetuses, some of them dismembered and all of them bloody. Some of the posters had fetuses next to American pocket change for scale. The display was graphic and horrifying.

Next to the posters was a man standing on a soapbox and preaching into his microphone:

“Abortion has killed more than the Holocaust.”

“America is the new Babylon.”

“You MUST come to Jesus for salvation.”

How is all this OK? Sure, it’s public property. Sure, there’s free speech. But where’s the line? You surely can’t show footage of executions. You can’t show child pornography. You can’t show videos on how to make bombs or hijack planes. Ironically, you can’t show Holocaust victims. There would be outrage. But a fetus chopped in half clutching an American dime is OK?

The line to get into the Liberty Bell exhibit was single file and wrapped around the building in such a way that everyone HAD to view all this. Parents were doing what they could to shield their young children from the images, and I imagine a good number of people skipped the Liberty Bell altogether just because of this display. Perhaps it was all this that had everyone a bit on edge.

The line inched forward, and we eventually made it to the entrance to the exhibit. I was sipping what was left of an iced tea from our lunch at Reading Market, and I knew that the security guard/cop was going to say something nasty and aggressive to me, so I started looking for a place to throw it away before he could.

“SIR, YOU CANNOT TAKE THAT DRINK INSIDE THE BUILDING,” he barked. Sadly, I knew the attitude was coming, yet I was still annoyed by it. Why do these guys always have to be cocks?

“Yes, I know. Is there a trash can around here?” I asked. There was not.

Gesturing to the abortion people, he said, “You’ll have to go back over there to throw it away. I’ll let you back in line when you come back.”

“What about my girlfriend?” I asked?

“She can go in and wait for you inside.”

I hopped out of line and went over to the abortion people to throw away my drink. I walked back to the front of the line and past the cop who was holding the rope open for me. I smoothly filtered in and headed inside.

I was in the entryway halfway between the guard who let me in and the more extensive security inside when the woman in front of me calmy turned around and looked me in the eye.

“Excuse me, did you just cut in line?” she asked. The deadpan way she asked suggested that she might be making some sort of weird joke. After all, if she was in front of me, why would she care that I was cutting in line?

“No, I was asked to throw away my drink, and then the cop let me get back in line.”

“No, I saw you cut in front of everybody,” said a man behind me with two young children standing next to him, interrupting me. I realized that I had inadvertently split a family. OK, perhaps that’s a bit rude. Nonetheless, I was getting agitated with the accusations and felt compelled to defend myself.

“No, sir. I threw away my drink, and the cop let me back in line. Look over there, my girlfriend is waiting for me inside.”

“I just saw you walk in and cut in front of everybody,” he replied.

“You can go talk to the cop standing right over there. He just let me in…”

“I don’t need to ask the cop anything,” he interrupted again. “As far as I’m concerned, this is no longer open for discussion.” He turned his body away from me to physically indicate that this was in fact no longer open for discussion.

I looked around for validation from the other people in line who surely overheard this exchange, but I got only blank stares in return. My blood started boiling, and I clenched my fists. The adrenalin rush was threatening to escalate things very quickly. I took a beat to consider what I should say next:

  1. “I’m not moving!”
  2. To his kids, “Your Dad is teaching you a really good lesson here!”
  3. “Go fuck yourself!”

I decided to go with “Go fuck yourself!” when I remembered that Samantha was waiting for me inside and that we still had a full day of sightseeing ahead of us. Best case, this would turn into a shouting match, worst case, he’d throw a punch and we’d go at it. I was already playing it in my head. He was bigger than me, maybe ex-military, so he might have won, but I certainly would have done some damage on the way down.

In either scenario, I’d surely be detained and possibly arrested, and that surely would have ruined our day. So I went with something much safer.

“I hope you enjoy your day in Philadelphia!” I said loudly and sarcastically.

“Thank you, I will!” he replied just as loudly and sarcastically.

Blood still boiling, I turned away to walk through security and meet up with Sam. She had seen but not heard the exchange, so I explained what happened and I whisked her through the exhibit. The Liberty Bell is a bit smaller than everyone thinks and not all that impressive. Everyone crowded around to get pictures of themselves in front of it. This annoyed Sam.

I was secretly hoping the guy or his wife would say something else to me. I don’t know if I would have been able to contain myself.

While walking across the street to Independence Hall, Sam and I agreed that this guy was probably putting on a show for his wife. Sam, a neuroscience major, explained that the adrenalin response I was still experiencing was due to an influx of acetylcholine in my sympathetic nervous system. Biochemistry is fascinating.

DSC_8468There was a line forming to get into Independence Hall, and who did I see there but the same guy and his family. For a moment, I considered making things interesting by trying to cut in line (this gene comes from my Dad), but I decided against it. We never made eye contact.

We went inside and sat on benches for a presentation on the history of Independence Hall. To remember the occasion, I took a picture of my friend and his family as they sat a couple of rows in front of us.

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