Q: I am in need of advice on the proper way to respond when encountering rude behavior in that once gentle and quiet spot, the art museum. In the museum, surely a place for quiet, albeit not necessarily silent, contemplation, one is faced far too often with rude, garrulous visitors, who carry on as if they were the curator of the museum leading a tour. They offer quite freely their unsolicited and infelicitous comments. When I desire a commentary, I rent the available recording of the curator's remarks.
In the case at point, I usually leave the gallery in question in search of quietude -- though this can lead to the unfortunate situation of being chased throughout the entire museum by this vile visitor. I would appeal to a higher authority, but most museum guards limit their admonitions to, "Would you kindly not touch the 'Tintoretto.' "
How might one properly request the quiet to contemplate? There seem to be few well-recognized rules on museum behavior.
A. Such offenders come in two varieties: the free-lance guide, whom one is more likely to encounter in European museums, who hopes to make some change by his remarks, and the person who regards museums as high-class pick-up places, for romantic or merely social purposes. As someone who believes in the latter once said to Miss Manners, "How bad can someone be who likes 'Guernica'?"
The technique for dismissing both is the same, only it works better when the overture was intended to be social. Give him a quarter and a cold smile and say, "Thank you, but I prefer to look at the pictures without a guide."