lafayette park grass maze as metaphor
The other day Noelle had a meeting at Bay area public library. Like many of the public libraries outside of the city, this one was in a building connected to the City Hall. Her meeting did not start until after 5 pm, all the City Hall employees had left for the day, emptying out much of the shared parking lot as well.
While Noelle waited for her appointment to arrive, she went looking for a bathroom. Since she has an old lady bladder, she needs to pee more than a curious potty training toddler.
I bet everyone can remember that stage, where you do not really have to go potty, but you really want to be taken to the potty. You know to get the lay of the land. Just in case.
So as Noelle roamed the second floor, cruising along the periphery, looking for the restroom sign or recessed water fountain alcove, she encountered a library employee. “A real library lady,” Noelle called her. Which is our shorthand for a certain type of person – male or female, actually – who embodies an over-exaggerated set of quirky traits.
You know them if you think about them. Usually in slightly out dated clothes, frayed at the edges and laundry hamper wrinkled. Sensible shoes bordering on the therapeutic. And a high strung stink of paralyzation clinging to them like the smell of a burned microwave burrito. It helps if they have a white Styrofoam cup full of soda pop near them as well. There are many more and we are constantly updating the list.
Just to be clear, most of these “library lady” traits are based on my own annoying habits and inexplicable traits. Such as, why don’t I change my pants? I have more than one pair. So why not wear them?
Noelle stopped this library employee and asked if there were a restroom on the second floor.
The Library Lady looked at her with an open mouth expression of shock and annoyance, “The NICE bathroom is in City Hall, but that is closed now!!”
“Okay,” Noelle replied slowly, careful not to further upset the Library Lady, “that’s too bad. Is there one somewhere that I can use?”
The Library Lady stared a good second. With a deeply pained sigh she directed Noelle to the “basement” of the library, which Noelle is convinced was actually the first floor.
Of course, Noelle when retelling me this story blames me. “WHY ARE YOU PEOPLE SO UNHELPFUL!! Seriously, why would she answer the question that way?”
I thought for a few minutes. I knew the answer to that immediately, but it was not something easily articulated. The reason is a condition of the profession. It is a pattern of abuse that stretches across the hours, the unending monologue of days, which morph into weeks and months and years. All encompassed in a fluid notion of time. One long story, a sense of memorized and repeated boredom.
Plus librarians work with librarians all day long. You think for a second that librarians are hard to deal with as a patron? Imagine what it is like to have them as co-workers.
For instance, here is an actual conversation I had with some pages during the renovation of my last job’s library:
John : Okay, I have sent about 150 Books-on-CD to the branches. So there should now be some room to shelve.
Page 1 : Huh?
Page 2 : Okay. But where we really need space is in the Books on CD shelving.
John : (blank stare) Right. There is now some room in the Books on CD shelves. I pulled a bunch and sent them to the branches.
Page 1 : So we can load that cart under the stairs on the wooden cart of overflow?
John : No. There is now room on the actual shelving.
Page 2 : So you did not empty the wooden cart?
Page 1 : What about the audios in the boxes?
John : No. What boxes? No. I made room on the CD shelves!
Page 1 : Maybe we should put the audios on the cart on the wooden cart.
Page 2 : He just said he did not empty that wooden cart. Right? You did not take any from there?
John : No. I did. I did. But you shouldn’t need to put anything on that wooden cart until the actual cd shelving is filled up!
Page 2 : So there IS room on the wooden cart?
Page 1 : Mary Beth said there were still boxes in the hall, maybe we should put those on the wooden cart.
Page 2 : Or you could send some of those to the branches.
John : No. I already pulled what I am sending to the branches.
Page 2 : Oh well, you should have taken some of the stuff in those boxes.
Page 1 : Or from the wooden cart. You know the one we mean.
John : Yes. Okay. Alright, there is room if you want to shelve.
Page 2 : well, we can’t get to that now.
Page 1 : And what about all the stuff we still have up here, should we shelve that?
John : I dunno. Do what you can!
And that was just a few minutes of one day. Now stretch that across eight hours.
Read Full Post »