Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Chalk Circle

So we've all heard the infamous chalk circle quote by Karl G. Maeser. Well I've recently had an experience that made me reevaluate where I stand on the issue and whether it needs to be strictly adhered to at all times. I know I sound like a heretic in questioning the immortal words of Karl G., but the conundrum which I now present is one that I can't answer easily.

Let's set the scene:

Tuesday evening. I had just gotten out of class which was directly preceded by 6 hours of work. I hadn't had time to eat breakfast and I'd forgotten to bring a lunch to work so it was 5:00 pm and all I'd eaten was a stale granola bar that I had in my locker at work and an apple that Marlee was kind enough to give me. That said, I was leaving class famished. As I thought about what food I might eat in the 30 minutes I had before I had to go back to work for another 4 hours I was hit with a sudden stroke of inspiration: It's Tuesday! Taco Tuesday. 3 tacos for $1.

With renewed enthusiasm for life I walked home, hopped in my car, and headed off to that taco haven Del Taco. (quick side note, I'm currently typing this post while studying in the library. Some dude is walking around whistling The Final Countdown. It's making me happy. now back to the action.) I was hungry. Really hungry. When I got to Del Taco I decided that no fewer than 15 tacos would suffice. By the time I got my tacos, though, I probably only had 10 minutes before I needed to be in my uniform and guarding art. I jumped in my car and began to consume while en route to the MOA. In the 3-4 minutes it took for me to drive to the MOA I downed 6 tacos and was going strong. As I changed my clothes I managed to pound another 4, but after 10 tacos in under 7 minutes I was starting to feel the dull, aching burden of all that fake cheese, old lettuce and grease-ridden fast food style hamburger meat. During the walk from the changing room to the control room I put away two more, but I'd lost quite a bit of steam by this point and I was contemplating leaving the last three for later. My stomach grumbled as though agreeing with that course of action. As I walked into the control room I was met by Kiana who was getting off of work. She saw the Del Taco bag and asked me what was for dinner. I told her that I'd bought 15 tacos but currently only had 3 left. She could see from the way I was walking that I was really feeling the effects of the 12 I'd already put away and so she had the audacity to tell me that there's no way I'd be able to finish off the last three before going out to the galleries. At this point I had maybe 2 minutes before I needed to be on the floor. Well, I've never been one to back down to a challenge when it comes to food consumption, so I blocked her from exiting the room and I proceeded to force down the last three tacos. Flushed with victory and with a glow about me, probably the light reflecting off of smeared taco grease on my face, I bowed Kiana out of the room and proceeded along my merry way...with one slight hiccup: I was not feeling merry. The tacos sat uneasily in my stomach and at the thought of my first position, the Jones-Boshard Gallery, I despaired a little.

In the Jones-Boshard gallery there is currently an exhibit of Dorothea Lange's photography entitled Three Mormon Towns. Just so we're on the same page here, Dorothea Lange took this photo that you all know. It's actually quite a nice exhibit. Several of the photographs in the exhibit are on loan to the MOA from the J. Paul Getty Museum who, as a part of the contract that they drew up outlining the conditions for the loan, demand that there be a security guard in the exhibit with their photographs at all times during operating hours. Which, in honor circle speak, means that the Getty has drawn a chalk line in front of the two entrances to the Three Mormon Towns exhibit and has had the MOA give their word of honor that no security guard will cross those lines unless there is another guard already in the exhibit.

Back to me in the control room. I was really regretting my decision to consume 15 tacos, but the time for concern was past because I was up. I grabbed a radio and a set of keys and headed off to Three Mormon Towns. I replaced Dusty, who upon being replaced all but ran to the bathroom, and began my circuit of the gallery. Unfortunately, the act of walking around disturbed the greasy mixture that was struggling to live peaceably with my stomach juices and I immediately felt ill. Thankfully there weren't any patrons in the gallery so I sat down to consider my miserable existence. As I was sitting down I began to wonder: what do I do if I have to puke?

I could feel the spit in my mouth beginning to pool, a tell-tale sign if ever there was one of an impending flow. My mind, quick as lightning began to consider the options. My first inclination was, of course, to just run to the nearest garbage can and expel the offending substance there. Looking wildly around the gallery I realized with further despair that there was no can. Enter Circle of Honor conundrum.

Now what? I was bound by honor, both mine and that of the MOA as a whole, to stay where I was and not cross the chalk line. Karl G. said that he would rather die than cross the chalk line. Would dying be better or worse than spewing 15 half-digested fast food tacos mixed with a sprinkling of stomach fluids across an exhibit of fine art? I didn't know. I considered the mission statement of the MOA:

“The Museum of Art is a place where the heart and mind are brought together to seek knowledge and values, self affirmation and spiritual understanding.”

“We hope your experience in the Museum will nurture a more reflective mind, a capacity for deeper inquiry, a stronger commitment to excellence and integrity, and heightened appreciation for others and their ideas.”

Now there ain't no way any of that is happening if there's a pile of puke in the gallery, let alone a security guard of all people adding to the pile. So naturally I did as I'd been taught since I was a child and asked, "What would Jesus do?" (You have no idea how tempted I was to write What would Jimmer do, but I felt that that crossed the line into the realm of sacrilege and so I made it a parenthetical note instead. That makes it okay right?) In thinking about this as a theological question I recalled 1 Nephi 4: 37 which, in recounting how Nephi and his brothers were set at ease concerning Zoram, says, "And it came to pass that when Zoram had made an oath unto us, our fears did cease concerning him." They trusted Zoram's oath so completely that their fears ceased. They ceased. Completely. Was my honor such that it could set Nephi's fears aside so completely? I would like to think so.

As I decided that I'd do the honorable thing and stay in the gallery, I began to look around for the most out of the way, discreet place to puke...that is if such a place can exist. I decided under the desk was probably the best place because, while nothing could be done about the stench, at least it would block visibility somewhat. It wasn't a pleasant thought, but it was the best I could come up with. Grimly resolved to do what I had to do, I glanced towards the entrance and saw a happy young family, complete with 4 kids under the age of 8, walk in.

My despair turned to exasperation as I looked at the father and realized it was one of my favorite professors that I've had here at BYU. He was playing the part of a good dad in bringing his family to the MOA. This threw my mind awhirl once again. It's one thing to vomit in a fine art museum with no one watching, but now there was an audience, an audience that knew who I was. Was I really going to puke in front of my professor and his 4 young impressionable children? Not only was there the embarrassment factor to consider, but what if his kids had just eaten and by my throwing up I started a vicious cycle that would result in the entire gallery, artworks included, being covered in vomit? What would the Getty think of my sense of honor then? I was at a loss. I had no direction as to what I should do. Honor or Decorum? Which is more important? As if 15 angry tacos weren't enough, now I had to deal with the nausea of indecision as well.

At that moment of despairing vacillation, at this the true test of my sense of honor when I was being given the chance to either prove my moral mettle or make a royal mess of everything, the need to vomit went away. It just left. Call it dumb luck, divine intervention, or whatever you will, but it went away.

While I was relieved to be spared facing the reality of the situation, the question of honor vs. decorum remained: What would I have done? What should I have done? Truly, I have no idea.


  1. Oh, man. I have tears streaming down my face right now. That just kept getting better and better as it went along. Having recently been the victim of virus induced emesis myself, I both figuratively and literally felt your pain, yet I could not help laughing out loud.
    I'm glad that your integrity remains intact and that no chalk circle-breaching action was necessary. Next time you eat fifteen tacos before work, just grab a garbage can and bring it into the exhibit with you. Then radio for back-up.

  2. The best part is when you talk about a vicious cycle of puking. I laughed out loud at that part. (:

    I'm glad you're not dishonored, buddy. Also, that you didn't puke in the MOA. Though I think it only fitting that you puke in some building on campus before leaving BYU. It just seems like the thing to do.

  3. Isn't there an art study room down there? I probably would have slipped in there and broken the chalk circle. You have way better control over your bodily functions than you probably thought you did. Mind over matter, Sammy. Mind over matter.

  4. Two thoughts:
    1) The Jimmer would have puked into the garbage can 30 feet away. And got all of it in. Unless a New Mexico player was within 5 feet of him.
    2)There's a reason the word "dozen" exists. It's the perfect number of donuts or tacos or pancakes to eat. There is no word for 15.

  5. I don't know who NO DAVID! is, but I liked his comment.

  6. Didn't you learn your lesson all those years ago with the bag of Starburst? Apparently not. :)

  7. My Dad just told me he read this post and LOVED IT! He said it was the most hilarious and well-written blog posts he has ever read. Kudos.