You break, you buy? Apparently not

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Imagine &8212; just for a moment &8212; this happened to you.

A museum-goer last week discovered the value of sure footing when a slight slip led to the destruction of several priceless vases.

According to news reports, the museum visitor &8212; who hasn&8217;t been named &8212;was at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England.

For whatever reason, the museum thought it would be a good idea to display some Qing dynasty Chinese vases on a windowsill. The vases dated back to the 17th and 18th centuries and were &8212; in the words of the museum officials &8212; priceless. (This is weird, though. If I owned something priceless, or even approaching priceless, I wouldn&8217;t put it in a windowsill. But that&8217;s an entirely different column.)

Apparently, the visitor tripped over his shoelace and went tumbling down the stairs, smashing into the aforementioned priceless vases.

The vases fell to the floor where they shattered into a thousand pieces.

The visitor was shaken but later left the museum, without paying for the vases.

I guess they don&8217;t have a &8220;You Break, Your Buy&8221; policy in Cambridge, England.

As for the museum, they said they are examining the policy for displaying items and are determined to restore the vases.

News sources said the museum staff is determined to glue the vases back together.

Everyone knows this won&8217;t work. Ask anyone who saw the episode of the &8220;Brady Bunch&8221; when Peter tried gluing Mrs. Brady&8217;s vase back together after he was playing ball in the house and they will tell you such attempts don&8217;t work.

While the museum is left with egg, or at least vase shards, on its face, can you imagine how the man who tripped on his shoelace feels?

Did he offer to pay for the vases? If so, how did they figure the price, being they were priceless and all? Did they set up a payment plan? Does he have to promise to wear slip-on shoes if he ever comes to a museum again?

After reading this story, I thought back to a friend of mine who was once called upon to deliver a eulogy at a large funeral.

She delivered the eulogy and then proceeded down the steps, only to slide down the riser and end up on her backside in front of the entire church.

&8220;What did you do?&8221; I asked.

&8220;I just laid there and pretended I was dead, too,&8221; she said. &8220;As far as I was concerned, they could have just dug a hole for me and put me in it right there.&8221;

I bet Mr. Museum visitor felt about the same.

The difference is, my friend was able to recover. The museum visitor is left with the knowledge that he destroyed hundreds of years of history in one fell swoop. And that, I guess, is pretty priceless