Sunday, February 15, 2009

A lighter bit of OI history

The day I took my qualifying exams in Akkadian (on the second floor of the OI), they were filming right below me in the museum. As I labored through five hours of Akkadian exams, below me a director yelled “cut!” every ten minutes or so, at which point the gallery erupted into a cacophony of voices and sounds. Dead silence returned when “action!” rang out. This repeated itself over and over and over. For hours.

I acclimated the director’s M.O., and was able to push my way through the exams. At one point I got up and took a look down 58th street from the classroom window. It was packed on both sides, all they way from University to Woodlawn, with trucks for the film production company. I didn’t know at the time what they were filming, but given the amount of equipment they brought, the time they were putting into it, and the director’s overt seriousness, I convinced myself that I was taking my exams over an event of tremendous importance.

I was wrong. After finishing the exams, I made my way down the staircase, where I bumped into Hratch Papazian on the landing. He asked me if I was finished; arms raised, I let out a loud affirmative exclamation colored with a few profanities. Apparently its volume was enough to interrupt the filming, as the production company’s security guard escorted me the rest of the way out of the OI. He told me it was a commercial for Southwest Airlines as we smoked a cigarette in front of the OI.

To make matters worse, the OI appeared in only about five seconds of the commercial. Here is how I recollect it: two would-be archaeologists are standing in front of an empty sarcophagus; they turn to the camera with a panicked look on their faces and say something about the mummy escaping. The mummy is then shown making his way down the aisle of an airplane. He escaped, it turns out, in order to take advantage of Southwest’s low fares.

At least that’s the commercial I assume was filmed at the OI. Does anyone remember this? I can’t find a YouTube of the commercial, but perhaps it is referenced here (in the second paragraph):

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