Monday, June 2

A Visit to the Library on a Monday

Today I went to the library to work because I am worried the corner of the couch where I tend to perch most weekdays is becoming a bit too comfortable, and also because I was attempting to triple-task the laundry, returning an overdue library video (Dallas Buyers Club), and writing a complicated cover letter. The library felt like the perfect solution, although full disclosure -- were I not feeling underemployed lately, I would likely have perched at a coffee shop instead, an iced coffee spreading condensation close to my computer, while a timer for the laundry clicked down on my iPhone.

But I am glad that I went to the library. I have this very easily doable project in mind to visit and rate every library in New York. It is a sort of companion piece to my other easily achievable plan to ride the F train from end to end, Coney to Jamaica, getting out at every stop and taking a walk. Anyway my new local branch in Park Slope would get a solid B rating if I ever actually followed through on my project (points for the building itself, with its lovely high ceilings and feeling of significance; boos for shelving all fiction together regardless of genre).

Maybe you think you know the library from after work and weekend trips as a normally-employed person. But it's on the weekdays that the library lets loose, with a gamut of people from homeless to genius sitting, browsing, staring.

I sat today at a four-top table, across from someone's abandoned jacket, next to a man on a computer. We did not talk when I sat down, although we both took out headphones in unison when the woman at the table next to us starting a long but muttered conversation on her cell phone about how to use her computer. I would have given her my very best library disgruntled ssssshhh but didn't because who am I to shush. After thirty minutes, it occurred to me that the abandoned jacket might not have been abandoned, Maybe it was a carefully placed but not-so-effective ploy from my seatmate to get the whole table to himself. I stewed, and darted glances at him until I started to worry he would mistake my intentions.

Behind me was a cozy reading zone with fabric-covered armchairs and small round tables. I am suspicious of these areas in libraries. A teenage girl sat on the floor using a chair as a desk for her notebook; another girl sprawled directly on the floor. Maybe she was asleep. I sat facing the people at a bank of two double-sided tables, fitting about sixteeen computers, and when I finished my application I started another project but kept wondering what they were all working on. Did they wonder why I was there? We all worked intently, and I felt bad when I coughed. A man cat-corner to me flipped pages in his legal pad and made notes that seemed very important.

A man went up to the librarian arguing about his DVD that should have been on hold, and why wasn't it, and all the other people at the library would have helped him out except for her, she was so unreasonable. It went on for a bit, and I imagined how I would shut him down, move him along. I went back to work.

An older woman asked somewhat creakily if the fourth seat at the table (remember: it's me, computer man, and an "abandoned" coat) was available and we both nodded yes and the jacket continued to hang on the seat back, deserted. I saw that I got an email and held myself back from checking for ten whole minutes on the theory that if I waited awhile it might magically transform into a job offer but of course it wound up just being a "final day for your 20% off coupon" email from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I looked up and the woman across the table had a brush and mirror out. She was combing carefully through her short white strands first with one brush, and then with a second that emerged out of her purse.

My time dinged. Laundry ready to fold. Don't even get me started on the people in laundromats in the middle of weekdays, or the weird and wonderful world of daytime tv watching that can be justified on a Monday afternoon visit. I left the library.

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