today i got a library card.
it happened like this:
on the way into the library, a man and a lady were having a heated conversation.
it was actually kind of one-way, and rather than a conversation, well, it was more like… let’s be honest. this poor guy was getting his balls busted. loudly and publicly. i didn’t really want to stick around, but i heard enough to pick up:
“that is NOT ACCEPTABLE! I don’t CARE!….. WELL you GO UP THERE, NOW! AND LET THEM KNOW THAT YOU’RE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT!”
*whew* crazy people.
not your problem. not your business. just keep walking.
ahh, the front desk. the calming salve of bureaucracy. fill out form. tender sensitive personal data to be later used for jury duty summons at worst possible time.
receive library card.
wander. aimlessly. just keep walking. don’t stop.
finally, when it feels right, look up.
you are in the section all about painting. beautiful books too big to fit in your bookshelf. coffeetable books, bigger than your coffeetable. dining-room table books. full sized full color portraits by frans hals from 1640. delicately rendered pastels from mary cassatt in the late 1800s. everything you could imagine about carvaggio and durer and basquiat and names you’ll never remember later, don’t even write them down, just make a note, next time you’ll come back and pick a new one.
suddenly, yelling. lots of anger.
what the hell? it’s a library? shut up!
peek around the corner and you recognize the angry man’s tshirt. just moments ago you saw him outside. being read the riot act. and you wondered what transgression could possibly merit the tongue-lashing he got, but, not your business.
lucky day, now you will find out!
the angry man in the tshirt is hollering at a librarian man in glasses.
“WELL I RESERVED A ROOM FOR 4PM AND THERE IS SOMEONE USING IT”
“well, yes sir, but if you’re not there within 10 minutes, the library releases the rooms, sir”
“NO ONE TOLD ME THAT WOULD HAPPEN!! IT DOESN’T SAY THAT WHEN YOU RESERVE THE ROOM!!!!!!”
caution mitigated by excruciating adherence to policy:
“ah, yes, sir, actually it says that on the reverse of the form-”
rage. pedantic rage:
“THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE! I RESERVED A ROOM! AND SOMEONE IS USING IT!”
“ARE THERE OTHER ROOMS? YOU HAVE TO GIVE ME ANOTHER ROOM!”
reserved customer service:
“ahh, i’m sorry sir, there are no rooms, please follow me, maybe i can find you a space…”
the scene fades out as the man in glasses guides enraged tshirt man away from the research section. maybe in my life i never have seen such a clear example of the ripple effect.
cruelty begets cruelty. and that was a special kind of cruelty, that i saw today.
it wasn’t originated from the man in the tshirt. i don’t even think it originated from the mean ball-busting lady outside the library. i mean, for god’s sake. it’s a public room at the library. is this worth causing someone else their dignity? really? was it worth setting in motion a series of events to make people feel bad?
in a way it was worth it.
it’s all about how you react to a situation.
so today i gained understanding of something important, something no one else could ever explain to me.
epidemologists don’t study the vectors of cruelty, but i saw one today first hand.
it goes both ways. though. last week a random stranger bought drinks for mike and me, just because we struck up a silly conversation in line at the coffeebean on the promenade. just because we couldn’t stop laughing about nothing. because laughing about nothing is pretty much our base state. it was fun.
and the next day i was leaving my drawing class, after a great session with one of my favorite models, and when i realized she was behind me in the parking garage, i told the attendant i was paying for the car behind me, too.
it’s a little thing. it’s inconsequential. except, just like the cruelty of the crazy mean library tshirt man, it’s not. you don’t do it because you expect reciprocity. you do it because that’s the kind of person you choose to be.
maybe you believe in good things and you want to put more fun into the world whenever you can. or maybe you’re a jerk who yells at librarians.
either way, the next time someone gets in your face and starts reading you the riot act, instead of hitting them right back where it hurts, remember that they deal with other people too. many people are kind, but then some of them yell at librarians. the really terrible ones are poisonous enough to make weaker people feel so bad they only get back their self respect by abusing other people.
isn’t it so much easier just to buy a stranger a coffee?