Wednesday, April 18, 2012

At the Library

I was standing on a kiddie chair at the branch library, which is how most people browse the top two shelves of the new books section, when I heard a voice ask, as if calling from afar, "Sir?" Took a few seconds to realize I was the "sir," because I had to step out of one universe & into another. I looked down & there was the young part-time guy who mainly reshelves books looking up at me. He'd seen me numerous times before returning & checking out books.

I said, "Yes?"

He said, "Can I help you, sir?"

I had some difficulty processing this, so I said, "What?"

He repeated, "Can I help you, sir?"

I consider browsing the stacks at the public library one of the finest personal experiences known to humankind, emphasis on personal. I never look lost or confused at my local library. I don't like even being thought confused, it's like disrespecting a gangbanger. I was turned loose in a public library at a very young age. I fixed him with my steeliest Scorpio glare (I do have one, not often displayed), & said, in a fairly hushed, even tone of voice, "I'm looking at books."

He stood there gazing up at me for a long moment, his expression slowly changing as he realized how close he'd come to a terrible miscalculation, said, "Oh," & walked away.

I was about to call after him a favorite phrase of my dad's when he saw his kids lounging around on Sunday afternoon: "If you can't find something to do around here, I'll find something for you to do."

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"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson

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