I used to work in a camera store. It was at once the most perfect and the most infuriating job. On the one hand, I got to play with a whole lot of cool stuff. On the other, there were many moments of frustration and tedium. On the latter score, we used to deck out the front of the store with adhesive banners. These were big 24x36″ (and bigger) posters printed on a vinyl-like material. They could be stuck to corrugated backing or directly onto the storefront itself to promote products and services and it was my jobs to stick these banners onto whatever surface deemed necessary. In principal, it was like peeling off a sticker and placing it on your car’s rear window or laptop cover: get it straight and stick it on. But in practice, it was like wrangling an unwieldy magic carpet with surface attachment issues. Aside from getting the sticker straight, you then had to contend with air bubbles trapped underneath—little bubbly parcels of atmosphere that would make even the calmest Zen Buddhist lose their freaking mind, douse the storefront in metho, and light it on fire.
Which is why I was so delighted when on my way to Melbourne Museum, passing through Carlton Gardens. The museum building is striking—an unmistakable reminder of the Kennett era. Designed by Denton Corker Marshall, the museum opened to wide acclaim in 2000. I can remember the gardens before the museum was built, but I can’t imagine Melbourne now without it. The museum is a regular and familiar destination on days without plans, but with children, when time must be passed lest we—their parents—go insane. As we walked around to the main entry, I glanced up and noticed a blemish. A defect that looked like an out-of-scale bubble from a camera store sticky banner. Was that an air bubble in the metallic façade of this $250 million complex? Maybe. I had to remind myself that, despite its post-modernist presentation, this was not a new building. It was well over 20 years since construction began, with a design and style long predating that. If apartment buildings across the country only a couple of years old are creaking and cracking, it would be entirely expected that a 20 year old public building be experiencing the same.
I was no Zen Buddhist during my employ at the camera store, but I also resisted the infrequent urge to light the place up. Air bubbles were sometimes easy to solve. If close enough to the edge of the sticker, they could be squeezed out with enough force, like an adhesive pimple. If they were closer to the centre of the poster, a jab with a pin may be warranted to release the air once and for all. Satisfying. Looking up at the northern side of the Melbourne Museum, I had an urge to do the same. But, like with most moments of brief contemplation in my life, I was interrupted by one of my children. He wanted me to chase him up the path. Sure. I guess that would have to be my satisfaction until, one day soon, I can find a pin big enough to pierce the wall of the Melbourne Museum.