Friday, January 26, 2007

Late Sunday at the Library

Believe it or not, Chris and I are one of the few households left not connected to the internet. No phone, no cable, no HDTV wireless plasma screen anything in our house.

And so, getting online usually necessitates a trip to the local library.

It’s time to confess, I’m a library rat. On any given night, after 8 pm, there’s a good chance that you’ll find me at the local library. We live in a small town, with a small library but it’s big enough for someone like me. It hasn’t been updated since the 70’s, and it surprises me that they can even wire it to anything at all. But still it serves its purpose. With books, CD’s, study corrals, quiet reading rooms. It still has kept up with technology enough to bid farewell to its card catalog and hello to its automated systems.

I’ve got to admit, though, our library is a little shady. It’s set in a secluded part of town, close to the train station, and sure to attract the most curious collection of people. In fact, on any given day or night I have observed the library full of riff-raff in the form of cagey people most who live on the fringe of a normal life; the unemployed, the addicts, convicted felons, train hobos, men with mullets wearing Dale Jr. attire.

Even the staff scares me a little. All of the mousy, moustached women in the world work in my local library. My favorite is one that I refer to as “the skunk”. Apparently after dying her hair jet black she decided jet black wasn’t her color. Now her stark white hair is growing back in. It’s one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen.

And then there’s people like me. Still not sure where I fit into it all. But let’s just say I feel like Paris Hilton when I walk into that place.

There’s just something about that place – it’s like a fly paper for freaks. Perhaps that it’s always open, perhaps that’s free. Perhaps it’s the one place that anyone can enter regardless of age, sex or socioeconomic status. And it’s not just me that sees the people this way. After an all too close encounter with a freaky form of library riff-raff, my mom won’t even set foot into that place. It was many years ago while visiting the library when she looked into the quiet reading room to see a man exposing his gleefully erect penis to her under a coat. I guess all the pages really turned him on.

That was her last trip to the library.

Though I’ve never been exposed to a penis at the library, I’ve had my share of unusual situations. And last Sunday was no exception. It was late in afternoon and I hopped over to the library to do some searching on the internet. Across from me sat two young girls and to my left was an older woman. The young girls surprised me – why were they in the adult section – but the older woman did not surprise me. After all, she looked like your standard crazy enough to be at the library late Sunday afternoon women with a moustache, moppy hair, thick circular glasses. The kind of person that makes you wonder how they found their way to the library let alone figured out how to get on to the internet.

Do you ever just get the sense that something is off?

Sure enough, confirmation came from the woman next to me. She started talking. Not unusual – after all, it’s a library and quiet talking is permissible. But she wasn’t engaged in a conversation – she was talking to herself.

I couldn’t help but listen in – really, I’ve seen and heard a lot of crazy things at the library but a conversation with one’s self – this was something new. This beats out the woman clicking her tongue in the corner by the magazines. Or the guy I caught looking at nudecelebrities.com. Maybe even the flasher…

There I sat, eavesdropping on what was becoming quite the heated conversation. From what I gathered, she was not pleased Saturn, the car company, not the planet – though it would have been logical to assume she came from Saturn and was in close contact with the planet and maybe even rotating around her own rings of craziness. Apparently, she was in the market for a new car because she kept commenting, out loud, that Saturn had failed to put their car prices on the website in the form of….

“Where is it?”

“Ok, but where’s the price?”

“Where’s the goddamn price?”

“Right, but NO price?!”

“I WANT THE PRICE.”

Of the 20 computers in the library, why WHY WHY have I parked myself next to this one. She must have missed the day in school where they learned the difference between talking voices and library voices.

This went on – for at least 10 minutes. And the woman just didn’t get it. Look high, look low, click on every link on the site but listen sister, Saturn just didn’t list their prices so give it a rest already and give them a call tomorrow. Obviously she didn’t hear that conversation in my head. She kept talking.

“The price, the PRICE,” she pleaded with the website.

10 minutes, 15 minutes, ok really this is getting out of hand and needs to stop now. Where’s the librarian? Seems like they are there to reprimand you for chewing gum, or not paying a fine, or using the internet express terminal for more than 10 minutes. But here is this woman ranting and raving, even cussing, but no one said a thing.

I was going to have to take matters into my own hands.

Not that I was doing any form of sophisticated work, but I still wanted quiet. After all, this was the library known for implicit insistence on hush-hush words and conversations kept on the down low.

I looked around wondering if anyone else was equally as annoyed by this as I was. Or was it just me. Was I being oversensitive? I wondered if it was maybe the early morning swim that had left me washed out and weary, uninterested in tolerating this stranger.

No, no, I decided indeed she was crazy and I was going to call crazy at her own game.

Perhaps if she has switched subjects or said something other than “WHERE’S THE PRICE” I might have been more tolerant. But that was it. I had cracked. I was going to say something, there was no stopping it, if the library gestapo wasn’t going to stop her I certainly was.

SSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” I spouted, overexaggerating the messy loudness of two simple letters, looking sternly and directly at her while furrowing my brows and snarling my mouth. I turned back to my computer and continued my work, happily clicking away on the keys.

Silence. It was completely quiet. You could hear the proverbial pin drop. Wow, I wondered, that’s all it took?

Not so fast, my friend.

About 1 minute later, the word “BITCH” broke through the silence. But not just any statement of BITCH. It was a slowly but surely BITCHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH with the “ch” accentuated just as I had accentuated the “sh”, quietly but audibly streaming out of the woman’s two hands cupped around her mouth in a tunnel of amplified crazy. She drew that word out for a good 30 seconds and then put her hands down.

Oh my god. Did crazy just call me a bitch? And I’m calling her crazy because I would expect any normal person would just snicker ‘bitch’ under their breath and let it go. But the whole cupping her hands over her mouth like a make-shift blownhorn while overexaggerating the whisper – now that, that WAS certifiably crazy.

Do not look crazy directly in the eye. Do not look crazy directly in the eye.

Surely a librarian heard that. Where are they? I expected the library police to come out from the shelves and arrest this woman for cussing in the library. There had to be a rule against that. There’s a rule for everything else in this place; no food, no drink, no taking CD’s out of the music room, no applying for library cards after 8:45 pm.

I looked over at the librarian. Oh there is NO way she heard. She has to be 1000 years old. Not only that but she’s the one that upon approaching her looks like a startled deer in headlights or realized she just had a bowel movement in her pants. She would be of no help.

So I had two choices – respond or ignore. Respond or ignore. Both very, very attractive choices. The ultimate response - I could see myself tussled up in a fight with this woman, pulling at her moppy hair, tearing her thick-rimmed glasses off before stomping on them wildly. Sending her straight to Saturn, no ticket back. Bitch.

But I went the other way. I ignored it. I didn’t flinch, I didn’t look her way. I was standing firm. And you know what, she finally stopped talking to herself.

The lesson learned – beware the library on late Sunday afternoons. You never know what you’ll hear or what you’ll find. It’s a sketchy, shady place. Best be prepared to look the other way or look crazy right in the eye and ssh them firmly. Then get the hell out of there before someone visually assaults you with their penis in the quiet reading room.


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