Wednesday, August 18, 2010
I have just arrived at my library – or, one of them in the general vicinity of my residence – to new hours posted on the door. More hours they are closed. And I groan and slump and continue through the automatic door. Where will the crazy people go, I wonder? And believe me when I tell you I count myself among them.
As I type this there is a homeless man, one I see often in the area, at the table to my left cutting up periodicals and what appears, at least, to be book covers. One would think this might be a problem at the library, but the reference desk guy just came over and hauled off the 20-year-old with the laptop next to him instead. It sounded serious. Porno printouts? Too many downloads of American Idol finals ripping through the system? Makes one wonder. In the process, Homeless Man called a loud, boisterous greeting to Reference Guy and Reference Guy answered him politely and solemnly.
Homeless Man is a familiar face around here, we exchange greetings frequently, and sometimes change or apples, plus starved as we are for community, between him and the two former Brooklynites who've just reunited like loud, long-lost lovers to my right, talking about the days when baseball was “a gentleman's sport,” I'm feeling pretty much cozy in a “gang's-all-here” kind of way. It's like when you see a woman on the shuttle bus to the airport who also shows up in front of you at security. If you weren't fast buds by then, then when she sits down in the same gate area as you, you are considering inviting her to your family reunion. We are a social set. Like it or not.
It is really disconcerting – that tearing sound – Homeless Man again. Though he doesn't bother me nearly as much as he could. The last time I was in the library there was a woman crying hysterically while she perused the shelves, alternately reciting the rosary and commenting on magazine covers. It went something like,”Boo-hoo-hoo. Snort!! Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is...Oh, look! Oprah and Ellen!...with thee-hee-hee-hee...SOB!” The time before that, it was the sleeping man next to me awakened by his drunk friend to much commotion; and we can't forget the man in the Russian accent pacing on the grass just outside the window when I tried to escape to a private corner, shrieking tirades and curses into a cell phone that would have given Mel Gibson a run for his money. The Russians have whole dictionaries of vulgarities, though he was choosing to use ours.
Libraries are tricky places. Not as innocent as they seem. I've written about them before this way.
I need to confess that I have also been the crazy person in the library. In our last family visit with my mom in April of this year, we set her up with Skype. She had been suspicious of the service from the start, although ultimately we managed two very successful video calls before she passed.
I had been taken back by how much I had felt like I'd “visited” afterward, as opposed to calls or emails, which admittedly, I hadn't kept up nearly well enough. I had been looking forward to establishing the Skype dates as a regular thing, but we'd only be granted the two.
So I was in the library one day, working on an audio piece I have yet to finish, when a Skype call came in from my mom. I hit answer and tried to keep my voice low. “I can't hear you!” my mother kept shouting from my computer screen. I scooped up my things hurriedly and headed for the door.
“I'm in the library, ma.”
“The library!” I shuffle quickly past the homework helpers, a crowd at the online catalogue, cord dangling, bag and limbs akimbo.
“I still can't hear you, dear.”
“That's because I'm trying to be quiet. I'm at the LIBRARY!”
“WHAT?” says the little lady in my arms again, as I zoom by the check out counter, finally the foyer, and out onto the front steps.
“MOM. I. AM. AT. THE. LIBARY.”
“Oh,” she says, finally satisfied and wholly unconcerned. “That's nice.”
I attempt to hold a relatively normal and brief conversation with my mom while on the library steps, sun shining onto screen, battery dwindling, public passing by, as she regales me with the details on the height of her cosmos, the fate of her day lilies. At last, I ask her to please call me on Skype only when we've arranged it beforehand or when she knows I'm at home.
“Call YOU? I didn't call you,” she tells me.
“Of course you did.”
“No, I didn't.”
“Well, I didn't call YOU.”
She insisted that Skype did it on its own. Can I count a third Skype call, then? Another connection before she left? Can I count us among the crazy people?