Some of my favorite times in life are when you realize that a certain stereotype may not be all that you thought it was. Maybe white men can jump; perhaps Canadians can be mean... I could go on, but as others have voiced their offense at some of my previous posts, I shall resist the temptation to poke fun at items that are already too ridiculous or funny to be true. Whatever it may be, there's some sense of satisfaction that comes from seeing a stereotype broken.
My mom is a librarian. Naturally, you think of a quaint woman, adorned in a blueish-gray cardigan, wool stockings, and black orthopedic wedges (those are shoes for you male readers). She is staring over her half-moon glasses that have a dainty little chain dangling from them which you see perfectly due to the fact that her hair is pulled into a tight bun or classic french twist. Of course, she is surrounded by antique mahogany bookshelves and solid oak desks, a lamp at each seat, emitting a soft glow to the studious medical student, eager to escape the distractions of the world. Perhaps even, you might imagine an aerial view from a camera, panning out from her sitting at the reference desk to the vaulted ceiling of this Harvard-esque location.
Though picturesque and peaceful to think about, this isn't quite the librarian or library experience that is reality. My mom has worked at the same library since I was three, so I've become quite accustomed to what library reality is. Sure, there are the typical funny stories, the kind you would get no matter where you work, but then there are the ones that are just a little bizarre. You see, the typical public library-goer is not the kind that you see in movies or tv. There is no charming and oh-so-handsome English teacher/poet, nor is there the girl from She's All That where she takes off the glasses and lets her hair down and BOOM! she's a supermodel. Now don't get me wrong, I absolutely love the library! Many of my childhood memories originate within those walls... the smell of old books to me is comparable to the smell of the first rain of spring. However, the people there can be, for lack of better terms, straight up weird! You get the awkward homeschool kids who don't have tv and all walk in in pleated khakis hiked up to their belly button or jean jumpers and bangs up the wazoo that match perfectly with their mother's. There's also the fat 40 yr old wearing the faded black Led Zeppelin tshirt that's two sizes too small who still lives in his mother's basement playing World of Warcraft and browsing online dating sites. Oh! and you can't forget about the homeless man (who's probably not even homeless, but is just seeking free money and makes bank doing it!) who mumbles to himself as he paces the library doing who knows what. Needless to say, there are plenty of sources from which you can find fascinating stories. Usually they're humorous, but sometimes they're just sad and definitely not what you would expect to find at the library.
About a year and a half ago, during Christmas of '09, my family and I were sitting watching something on TV... probably a claymation Christmas special, and my mom gets a call from a distressed employee at the library. It's closing time there, and they needed to make sure everyone was out of the building. The employee noticed a woman enter the bathroom prior to closing, but realized she had never come out. They waited a little bit, not wanting to rush her doing her business, they waited for about 10 minutes or so (goodness knows, I'd do the same thing... I don't want to walk into the bathroom while someone is dealing with their bout with irritable bowel syndrome!). Well, enough is enough sometimes, and I don't care who you are or how pensive you may be, but there is such thing as too much time on the can. Anyway, the poor employee, bless her heart, walks in expecting to politely ask the woman to finish her business, and lo and behold! the lady's dead as a doorknob (bytheway... where in the heck did that phrase come from!?). Pretty much, she downed a whole bottle of pills while sitting on the john and decided to have it all go down at the public library.
Well now comes the most recent story... the one that inspired the topic of today's post. I got a call from my mom last night... she was on her way home and decided to pass the time by calling her one and only firstborn instead of listening to the Go-Go's or Dixie Chicks. So she proceeds to tell me once again about how the library is not the peaceful sanctuary from the rest of the world. Immediately, my heart started racing. I'm thinking to myself, please please let it be another event worthy of an opening scene of Bones. Well, there are no dead bodies this time, but there was a bomb! Ok, so it was a fake bomb, but it apparently looked real enough that they had the bomb squad come and detonate it using one of those little robot do-hickies because the police and fire departments didn't want to touch it. The whole library had to be evacuated, along with city hall and some other buildings nearby. Luckily, it was fake, but who in the world makes a fake bomb and puts in front of a library!? Really!? REALLY!?!? Have you been so tortured by 12th grade literature that you would want to send thousands of pages up in flames? Because if I were an English teacher, I might actually find that admirable that you took Fahrenheit 451 so seriously. Honestly, if you're going to do something so rash, make a statement out of it!
Anyway, moral of the story(ies) is that sometimes, things may surprise you. You never know when you'll find a corpse in the bathroom of your favorite literature retreat.
Suck on that stereotypes!