As you read the following blog entry, please play the Jaws music in your head.
I recently moved out of my rental house and am “in transition” as a finalize my next residence. Because I work from home, the chaos has doubled as I’ve struggled to find a place to work during the day that’s quiet enough to think. I started at McDonald’s because the wifi is free, but despite the hatred of their food, the constant smell of french fries was just not conducive to my dietary needs and the fact that there’s only one electric outlet available in the place – and it’s usually in use by an employee – I went to the library.
What a mistake that was.
On the blazing hot Tuesday morning, I traveled to the library for the first time in many years. After arguing with the desk clerk about whether or not I was qualified to have a library card or not, I ventured to an open table in the atrium. The tables each had signs on them that read, “QUIET ZONE. NO TALKING.” Understandably, since the atrium had high windowed ceilings that would carry the noise of a nickel dropping as if it were a church bell. I set my computer up, got out my notes, and began to work.
It wasn’t fifteen minutes before someone came into the atrium from the book section of the library to use their cell phone. As the woman carried on her conversation about what she wanted her friend to bring her for lunch, another call beeped in. I just tried to breathe deeply, and the woman, of course, took the call and shared her evening plans, giggling and laughing it up.
I tried to be patient and remember that I’m not the only person who uses a library – this is everyone’s library, I told myself. That lasted about 30 seconds because the gentleman at the table next to me whipped out his ramen noodles and started crunching them on the table. He pulled out a bowl, used water from a water bottle and proceeded to make the noodles right there on the table. When water isn’t warm, noodles don’t soften. It was a loud next few minutes. (And I have that disorder that makes you want to commit violent crimes when you hear other people chewing.)
Once lunch time was over, I managed to get in a solid hour of work done without anyone using the
phone booth atrium. I was feeling good about my production when a woman wearing a name badge came into the atrium with two other people. She proceeded to pick up the “QUIET PLEASE. NO TALKING.” sign and move it to the window sill. She encouraged the people to sit down as she explained what is necessary to host an event at the library. I spent the next 10 minutes listening to where you can set up tables, what kinds of beverages are permitted on library premises, and what areas will be roped off for the organizations events. That’s right – a woman who works at the library moved the “QUIET PLEASE. NO TALKING.” sign so she could carry on a seminar, talk employment history, and chat about the storms coming through. Now I know why they have metal detectors at the front door.
Around 4:00 p.m., a man started circling the tables in the
phone booth atrium. “Hey girl. What’s your name? Where you from? You got a boyfriend?”
“What’s your name? Your boyfriend here?”
It would have been easier to hear what he was saying under his breath if children weren’t racing up and down the stairs, screaming, while their parents sat on Facebook at the computers. I was literally sweating…and wondering if they were just short staffed that day. I packed up my stuff and left. Luckily I had somewhere to be.
The sun set and rose again as Wednesday was upon me. I was optimistic that Tuesday’s library ordeal was simply a fluke and today would be better. Wrong.
When I arrived, the parking lot was full and all the tables were taken. What? It’s 11:00 A.M. on a Wednesday in the summer. One table was full of people playing Monopoly. There were children eating McDonald’s at another, toying with their Happy Meal toys as a mom said, “Okay, I’ll be back in about an hour.” Apparently the county library doubles as an unsupervised daycare.
Over the course of the next few hours, I listened to cell phones ring rap songs, videos on social media, complaints about the Monopoly game, employees arguing over who would answer the phone, and even a girl play a new song on her phone for her boyfriend. I could have powered a windmill with the amount of effort I put into saying, “SHHH!!!” Someone came by to vacuum and that was the quietest part of the day.
It was complete anarchy. It was what you would see if you combined DisneyLand with a FEMA camp fire drill. And the employees never batted an eye. They pushed the book carts around, stepped over children rolling around on the floor, and smiled at patrons across the room as they talked on their phones.
I left to go get a late lunch and enjoy the peace and quiet of my own vehicle. I contemplated going to WalMart to buy a whistle and a vest so I could direct things myself, but I was already developing an eye twitch from the stress of it all. Oh, how I’d love to issue some sort of citation inside the walls of the bibliotheque. When I returned from lunch, I was bumped from the atrium to the genealogy section because people were napping at the “QUIET PLEASE. NO TALKING.” tables. I don’t think it means what they think it means.
I cranked out a little more work before heading to dinner with a friend. What a sigh of relief to know my 2 of 3 of my days at the library were done.
I’m not going to get into today’s debacles here at the book box. It started and ended with the a line for the ladies restroom because some woman was on the phone in the stall. The ONLY stall. We all waited, and waited, and waited – just like they do on Orange is the New Black. When she exited, she acted as if we were disturbing her. I don’t know why all the safe spaces in the library are also phone booths, but it’s transitioned from ‘weird’ to ‘scary.’
I’ve written this vent piece from the genealogy section where the sign reads, ‘No food or drink allowed in Genealogy.’ As I’ve typed, I listened to two children eat sunflower seeds and spit them into a solo cup. Signs mean nothing around here, but when they told me their mom had to the run errands, I wasn’t about to get onto them. And remember the whistle I wanted to buy? No need. During editing, a child was actually blowing a train whistle upstairs. May God bless all the little children. Jesus loves them, but right now, I don’t.
Growing up, I loved the library. In college, it was the quiet place where I actually got things done. The only sounds you ever heard were squeaking shoes and laptop battery warning alerts. That’s not the case anymore and I can’t wait until I never have to come back here again. Over the course of 72 hours, I’ve developed an eye twitch, spent a decent portion of those hours swearing and sweating, and I’m pretty sure the blemish on my neck is actually a hive.
The sanctity of our libraries are dead. It’s quieter at McDonald’s.