I can’t believe I’m standing in line….
…to see a flower….
…at 11:00 o’clock on a Tuesday night.
Janna and I were dying because this girl was BOOKING IT down the sidewalk, she was THAT excited. That’s probably the fastest she’s ever ran in her whole life.
But that’s exactly what I was doing, thanks to my boss sending me an email last week about the Corpse Flower, which was due to blossom any day at Phipps Conservatory. This was a big deal because these flowers only bloom once every 6-10 years and when they do, it only lasts for a day or two. My boss thought I would be interested for two reasons:
- When in bloom, it’s supposed to give off a stench similar to a rotting corpse;
- Because of its power to wake the dead, Phipps lovingly named it Romero, after George Romero.
[Sidebar: I hope you know who George Romero is, but just in case you don’t, he is the mastermind behind the zombie classic Night of the Living Dead. Plus, he hails from Pittsburgh, which is why we are the Zombie Capital of the World, I don’t give a shit what any other city tries to say. COME AT ME, BRO.]
Originally, the flower was supposed to bloom over the weekend, but I ended up being unable to make it. Then Tuesday evening, my boss forwarded me this frantic-sounding “THE CORPSE FLOWER HAS BLOOMED!!!” email which she received from Phipps. They even extended their hours to 2AM that night and the next. I felt like I had to go and experience it at this point, like I was going to be a departmental failure if I passed it up. So I texted Janna and she was like, “Yes, I will go inhale a stinky flower with you.” It was around 10PM by the time we arrived, and the place was PACKED. I had to drive around for awhile before we finally found a parking space. At 10PM on a Tuesday! ALL OF THIS OVER A GODDAMN FLOWER! WTF was I thinking.
Surprisingly though, it only took about 5 minutes once we got inside before we acquired our admission and we were on our way up the curving staircase, which seemed remarkably less crowded than it had right when we walked in. I felt hope.
Then when we entered the main conservatory area, the corpse flower was pretty RIGHTTHERE. I nudged Janna and said, “Shucks, that wasn’t so bad at all!” Because you all can imagine me saying an endearing word like shucks.
Turns out though that there was a line that wound all the way around that side of the conservatory, through at least three separate rooms, before snaking back around and passing through all of those rooms once again.
It was a line full of college students, hipsters (because this was the “in” thing to be doing in Pittsburgh, you guys. I’m surprised Pitchfork didn’t write a review), giddy botany-geeks, and people who are just generally wet for flowers, I guess. A guy behind us was wearing a Chiodos shirt, so even My People were there! Then I saw my geology professor from Pitt run past us, his face practically droopy and glazed over with excitement, and I just totally lost it.
“What the fuck are we doing here?!” I laughed for the 87th time; Janna responded with the “This Was Your Idea” staredown.
The upside was that at least we had a ton of shit to look at while we were in line. Plus, I hadn’t been to Phipps since 2007 and I’m pretty sure I spent most of the time making fun of people instead of looking at leaves, so it was pretty much all new to me.
Each area is peppered with various art installations, so that kept it interesting for people like me who don’t care about learning the Latin name for orchids. In one room it’s rectangular pillars of stained glass which revolve slowly and depict different Pittsburgh landmarks and neighborhoods. The couple in front of us asked one of the docents a question about the stained glass and she, in a very uncertain tone similar to the one I use constantly at work, replied hesitantly, “Um, I think all of the scenes are like, the artist’s favorite places,” and then when they asked the name of the artist, she was like, “Um, I’m not sure. But you can find it on one of the placards, I think.”
“She’s basically the Erin Kelly of docents,” I whispered to Janna, and oh how we laughed.
Maybe she was only versed in Corpse Flower 101 and now these nerdy flower people are asking her questions about art, can you imagine.
They should have just asked this broad instead. She was wearing an “Ask Me!” pin and you could tell she was chomping at the bit to teach people naughty bits about flora. In fact, I avoided eye contact because I was afraid she was going to make me talk to her.
Surprisingly, there were zero assholes in line with us! Turns out though that this was only because the corpse flower was too far away still. Things changed once we got up there and everyone turned into motherfucking paparazzi.
I emailed this picture to Chooch while we were standing in line. His reply was, “You idiot, you know I hate butterflies!” WHY DO YOU THINK I SENT THIS, CHOOCH. God, he’s so slow sometimes. I kind of wish I had brought him just so I could have shoved him into the butterfly garden.
That’ll probably be the first horror movie he writes.
I don’t know what this is, but the cool college girls in front of us were taking pictures of it and I am a follower. When Janna started analyzing it (“It looks like hands coming out”), I knew we had officially been standing in line for too long. Plus, I was yawning every 10 seconds, which was embarrassing because the cool college girls were probably thinking, “Aw, this poor woman. She probably had a long day at home being a housewife and now she’s here standing in line not understanding art and nature when she should be home darning her husband’s socks. He is surely the breadwinner of the household.”
And then one of the other girls, who earlier didn’t want to give anything away about this amazing(ly boring) art house film she had recently watched, probably suggested, “I bet she is just holding a spot in line for her husband.”
Sorry, I don’t know where this is coming from. But coincidentally, I’m sitting at my desk yawning just thinking about the Great, Long Standing.
“Is it amazing? Of corpse it is!” Oh, Phipps. You punny, you punny.
The closer we got, the more the giddiness inside my belly began to build to a crescendo, and for a moment I forgot I was in line to see a flower. It was the same sensation I get when I’m about to meet a band or get on a roller coaster for the first time! Excitement is contagious, and this damn flower was certainly causing enough of it.
We were still an entire room away when the stench began wafting over, completely overpowering every other odor in that place. Someone could have farted, a big juicy Silent But Deadly, and it probably would have gone undetected. Because the stench of rot was in the air and it was dead set on building an olfactory monopoly. One by one, people started overeacting, covering their faces, dry-heaving, gagging.
“IT SMELLS SO BAD!” rang out like a round of Row Row Row Your Boat.
And well, that would probably be my review if I blogged with a word limit.
Ye Ol’ Corpse Flower, standing at [xx] feet. Three feet maybe? I didn’t measure. Nor did I actually read any of the literature while in line. But it looked pretty solid and tall for a flower.YOU CAN QUOTE ME ON THAT.
Some broad was standing on guard, only allowing about 15-20 people in front of the corpse flower at a time. This is when shit got cray. People were being so goddamn pushy, everyone wanted to take 45 selfies to post on Instagram (ME AND THE CORPSE FLOWER, WHATTTTT #corpseflower #meandthecorpseflower #corpseflower4lyfe #smellslikeshit #omfg #peeyew #instagramflowerhoes #caniget500likes), and then there were the fauxtographers who needed a shot FROM.EVERY.ANGLE. Newsflash guys! Search “corpse flower” on Instagram and literally every picture looks like the one above.
Snap a photo, take a whiff, move on!
It took me a hot while jsut to get this generic shot because elbows kept jutting out as losers were prancing around with their fancy DSLRs like they had Kate Upton spread eagle before them, and not some phallic flower emitting rancid notes of rotten meat, poop and Chooch’s feet. (The toe-curling bouquet of which was surpringly non-existent once we stood in front of the flower, go figure.)
Janna and I finally managed to shirk past all of the idiots clumping together for “group photos, OMG!!” to take our obligatory snaps and get the hell out of there.
The best part was actually getting to explore the rest of the grounds. It was only a little after 11PM by the time we made it past Romero, so we definitely had time to look around while Phipps remained open. It seemed like most people bolted once their photo op ended, so the rest of the place was dead. There was something really fun about walking around there at night, pretending to give a shit about flowers and leaves, oohing at the bonsai garden and then hurriedly putting on our “respectful” faces every time a Phipps worker would pop out to make sure we weren’t shitting in bushes.
Afterward, we hung out in the cafe, where I bought the most disgusting drink this side of Kambucha. It was a cantoulope refresher, which I’m sorry but that sounded really refreshing! So I ordered one and newsflash: it was unsweetened and tasted like how the corpse flower smelled. I was so disappointed and whined about it a lot. Janna had a pineapple version and she tried to act like hers was just as gross, but it totally wasn’t so nice try there, Janna!
I bought a commemorative shirt with this same design on it, I couldn’t help it. I was actually kind of glad that I got to experience this! It made me feel like I was part of the community or something. I’m just not sure what community exactly.
The next day at work, I was telling Wendy and Sue about it. “Did it really smell like a corpse?” Sue asked.
I started to say yes, but then admitted that I’ve never actually smelled a corpse, so who knows.
“That’s a good thing to know about my employee,” Sue sighed and retreated to her office, but I think she was actually shocked that sniffing dead bodies isn’t what I do when I leave here.
And that’s the story about how I stayed out until after midnight and didn’t even come home drunk or shoeless. God, I’m so lame.