Sunday, August 18, 2013

Members Only

It doesn't matter anymore to whom this missive was addressed when I sent it last year.  He or she is probably long-gone in the routine housecleaning that occurs in such underfunded cultural organizations.  If not, then it's even more disconcerting, since there was never any acknowledgement of this effort on my part to improve the world, one institution at a time, so whoever received it, obviously disregarded it as the ravings of a curmudgeonette of no importance.  Probably true. However, I subsequently declined to renew my  annual membership, in spite of numerous harassing 'membership campaign' phone calls promising me the moon.  Sadly, at this point in my pensioned-off life, I have to be selective about which organizations I favour with my measly donations.  I don't like to encourage this kind of tackiness.

Your email address is given at the bottom of the page about the Norma Ridley Members' Lounge, so I am writing directly to you about a couple of concerns that surfaced today during a visit at lunch time.  If you are not the individual to address these issues, please pass this information along to the correct person.

As a longtime member, it has been my experience that the food is delicious and the servers delightful, but I feel it is important to let someone know about these details so the lounge can live up to the standard we all expect from a 'retreat' that is touted as being a significant enticement to membership at a leading national art gallery. 

My friend and I arrived just before the rush so had a choice of tables, ALL of which were covered in a film of dust, which shows up easily on black surfaces.  At no time during our visit were any of the tables wiped down.  Surely, someone should dust the tables in anticipation of the lunch hour.  

(In a more creative mood, I might have been tempted to draw a little picture with my finger, to make the point.)

We sat by the large window which looks out at the park ....or it would, if the window was clean and transparent.  It was filthy and streaky.  Rather unsettling.  I remember it was like that when I visited in the fall.  Since it is at ground floor level, it would be a simple matter to have someone in maintenance take swipe at it once in awhile.  I know there are financial problems all around, but surely, letting the building deteriorate so visibly cannot be a good idea.

While we dined, many other members wandered through the now-filled room, looking for places to sit, to no avail.  There was no hostess to welcome them and show them to a seat, or politely ask them to wait in the lobby area for availability.  Instead, they moseyed around, checking out who might possibly be asking for their bill.  Some hovered impatiently over people still eating, staking their claims.  Very disorganized and unsettling, again.

The biggest disappointment may sound trivial, but is just another indication that standards have plummeted from the days when the Members' Lounge was a haven for refinement and elegance, a place to feel special.  My late, elegant Aunt Nettie, who was from Montreal, and hence a mavenette in such matters, and who often liked to visit the M.L. for tea on her many visits, is probably spinning in her velvet casket over this infraction:

I ordered tea and was served a cup of lukewarm water with a tea bag floating in it!

In all my days (and there have been many), I have never been served good quality tea in such a way.  (I assume it is good quality, since it costs $3 and is stuffed in a silken bag!  I don't know who was more offended, me or the fancy tea bag!) 

As any old Canadian who has seen a Red Rose TV plug knows, good tea needs to steep.  In a teapot of boiling water!  It used to be done this way, in the old M.L., to my recollection.  I asked my friends and they concur.  You used to serve it in little china teapots with matching china cups on little trays.  Very classy!

Members' Lounges in aspirational Canadian public institutions should be ashamed of themselves for slinging tea at its members as if they are at a food court in a mall.  You might as well abandon the porcelain and just plunk a paper cup on your dusty tables!  

Even Timmy's steeps tea!

This member is not feeling so special.  

If you continue to let the lounge deteriorate, it can hardly be held up as a perk (excuse me) for membership.

On another point, you might want to consider using the immediate outdoor patio area for a lovely al fresco dining area in the warmer weather....the way they do at the Rodin Museum in Paris, for example.  It seems a shame not to take advantage of its accessibility and proximity to the lounge area.  

It would be a great incentive for membership, especially if you brought out your old china tea pots and wiped off the black tables once in a while!


  1. It is sad to see the niceties deteriorate - as that song from "Chicago" goes - 'Whatever happened to class?'
    Charitable and cultural institutions are trying to embellish their memberships to entice patrons to donate more, and should be mindful of looking after that type of donor.
    If you want to throw a teabag into a cup, set yourself up as a fast food counter, not a fancy venue.
    You have captured it perfectly - as always you are an astute observer and an excellent conveyor of the way things are and the way they should be.

    1. Thanks for the corroboration! Are we the last holdouts for good taste?
      Gotta go polish the silver tea service for yontif....