One of my collection of odd habits is writing in public places — coffee shops, libraries, hotel lobbies, haven’t done the grocery store yet, but it’s chilly in the freezer section.
There’s something about being away from the people I’m related to and eat breakfast with that unleashes my inner tappy-tapper, and most places with public computers have these satisfyingly noisy keyboards that take me back to my manual typewriter days. Part of the fun is the exasperated sighs of the people concentrating at my elbow .
I type fast and loud, in short bursts that mirror my brain activity.
But it was not my obnoxious nature that got me banned the other day from my little little hometown’s little little library.
(By the way, I’m not sure if I’m being too subtle here, but in employing the word “little,” I’m not referring to population or size.)
I had an hour to spare and looked forward to ensconcing myself in the center of a large room, surrounded by computers and sighing people, nestled in the confines of one of the most embracing places on earth: the public library.
The young woman at the front desk was an exchange student from another continent, exceedingly pleasant but unfamiliar with the English language. Now I’m all for cross cultural connecting here, but is there possibly a better place to put a person completely unfamiliar with the primary spoken language of a geographic area other than the front desk?
Apparently management recognized the issue, which is why they paid for a second employee to sit nearby and take over.
“You live within a 50-mile radius of the library, and you do not have a card,” this new contact told me sternly.
I need to read the criminal code for this township, as I am apparently in violation of it.
“You’re right; I live 35 miles away, and I don’t have a card,” I replied. “In the past, however, I’ve checked in as a guest. Can I do this?”
“Even though I’ve done it before?”
“The policy must have changed. I don’t know.” (Impressive training these front desk people receive.)
Well, so much for the most embracing place on earth.
And then my Assistant to the Associate of Auxiliary Affairs added the crowning touch:
“Rules are Rules.”
And she sailed away.
Did somebody 30 years my junior — and a “public” “servant” — just scold me in a manner that incompetent nursery school teachers employ with their charges?
Okay, so rules are rules, and my Untrained Diva is not responsible for policy — conveniently, the people who are never work behind desks and deal with real people, exasperating though we may be. Before I skulked out, head held high, I peeked into the mausoleum that housed 18 computers, 16 of which had no human operator.
Well no wonder policy dictated limiting the number of users.
Today I’m writing from another library — a very little one in size but not attitude — and before I signed on I asked the librarian,
“If I were from another town — say, within a 50-mile radius — would I be allowed to use the computer as a guest?”
“Of course,” she replied. With a smile, no less.
Policies are made for a reason.
My diva didn’t say that, but she could have, to which I reply, “True, to a point.”
But here’s the point: libraries are special places, filled with books and magazines and, nowadays, new technology and opportunities for people to grow and learn. I am fortunate in that I do not need to go to a library in order to access this technology, but what if I weren’t, and I lived within a 50-mile radius of this place, and I couldn’t afford the out-of-area card (which is $135, incidentally)?
And even if you drop the whole computer thing, because, after all, I could have sat down in a chair and perused a book or magazine, despite my 50-mile-radius status (at least, I think I could have; we didn’t discuss that particular policy), wouldn’t it reflect intelligent design to train employees so that they are 1) knowledgeable, 2) conversant, and 3) nominally polite?
Before I left the first little place, I did a shocking thing:
I used the bathroom. I even used soap when I washed my hands. Even though I live within a 50-mile radius and don’t have a library card.