My friend Ian and I were emailing each other last night. That really is his real name. He lives far enough away that I don’t feel the need to give him a pseudonym. Ian has many remarkable qualities, some of which are fabulous and some of which make you want to hide in your cellar with a gun. One of the coolest things about Ian is that he’s a writer. He’s published two novels and a bevy of short stories. (To prevent confusion, I should add that his last name is not Rankin or McEwan. I’m not as tight with those two as I am with Ian McDowell.)
In last night’s email, we were discussing blogs, and how lame it is to see a blog that recounts the events in a person’s day. No one really gives a shit, you know? Your life is just not that interesting. Get over yourself.
Now I am going to recount the events of my day.
It started with fifth graders, lots and lots of fifth graders. Droves of them. Hordes. Multitudes. Armies.
For reasons I can no longer recall, I had agreed to talk to four separate classes of fifth graders about using the library’s databases. I can’t for the life of me piece together what, exactly, I was thinking. The best I can figure is that I was very, very drunk, but that doesn’t make any sense, because I was at work when I agreed to it. My only other theories involve extraterrestrials and NKVD spies.
Promptly at 11:00, I found myself facing twenty fifth graders, and dear lord, I had to talk to them.
Public speaking is not typically a problem for me. I absolutely wilt if called upon to chitchat in small social groups, but I’ve never hesitated to make an ass of myself in front of crowds. (Recall that I was a tuba soloist.)
(Okay, technically, I never soloed in front of what could properly be called a crowd. A few dozen does not a throng make. But it is very difficult to assemble a large group to listen to a tuba player. This is because most people have absolutely no aesthetic sense, and not at all because the tuba is not a pleasurable solo instrument. Kindly refrain from disagreeing with me, please and thank you.)
So yeah, public speaking is not a problem, unless the audience is younguns. I do not know how to talk with people below the age of, say, 20. Twentysomethings are bad enough. Under almost no circumstance do I deliberately choose to speak to people in my age group. With few exceptions, we are intolerable human beings. If necessary, however, I am able to communicate with adults, using a simple system of grunting and exaggerated gesturing.
Children, though… Children are a different breed. They look like adult humans in miniature, more or less, but it is just a ruse to beguile me into believing they think and act like grownups.
Don’t believe the subterfuge. They’re a different creature entirely, and they are scary.
I did not know how to speak to fifth graders when I was myself in fifth grade. I certainly don’t know how to speak to them now.
So I faked it. I pretended they were in their forties, and I pretended they were desperately interested in my topic, Databases At The Library.
They didn’t throw stones. I count this as a victory. I spoke to two groups today without provoking violence, and tomorrow I am going to speak to two more groups.
And then I am never going to bore anyone with Databases At The Library ever, ever again.
Except that I am.
The poor darling Youth Services staff is going to hear my Databases At The Library spiel next month. I feel for them, I really do. Fortunately, some of them really are in their forties. I will be able to use my grunt-n-gesture method to great effect. (“Grunt!” –point at Ebscohost. “Grunt!” –point at NoveList.)
And then I am never going to bore anyone with Databases At The Library ever, ever again.
This is where things start getting absurd.
I am going to bore everyone in Wilhelmsplatz with Databases At The Library, or at least those folks who tune in to the local public access channel.
Let’s make this perfectly clear: I am going to go on television and talk about databases.
Shall we be honest for a moment? Library databases are not sexy. I like them, I use them every day, I spend a lot of the library’s money on them, but no one stays up late at night with a library database and a jar of vaseline. You can’t talk databases at a cocktail party. You can’t impress your girlfriend with your mad database searching skilz. You can’t impress anyone, not even fellow librarians, by teasing out the nuanced differences in subject searches in Gale v. ProQuest. (I know this from repeated personal experience.)
I can’t imagine that anyone would deliberately watch the telly to learn about databases, but I am excited about it nonetheless. Finally someone has realized my star potential. I was picked because I’m a hot young talent. It is only a happy coincidence that database instruction is in my job description.
It would be nice to assure you that, after I win the public’s adoration with my acting debut, I will retire gracefully and never again bore anyone with Databases At The Library. But I will be giving the same talk for a whole day in March. The unsuspecting staff of another library in Virginia have invited me to talk about technology at their staff training day. At least I will be able to talk about lots of things other than databases, such as the iPhone and Wii, which really don’t have much bearing on libraries, but that’s okay because they’re cool.
In the same vein, I learned this morning that my friend Marian the Librarian has been invited to talk about readers’ advisory in Singapore. I am thrilled for her, and I am thrilled for me, because there is an omen in this. Today, a daytrip to give a talk at a library in the same state; tomorrow, the world!
So that was my morning. I walked away with no bloodshed from two classes of fifth graders; I discovered that I’m the next American Idol; I found out that Marian will have the opportunity to buy me souvenirs from Singapore.
Then came the afternoon.
I love working the desk at Wilhelmsplatz. There’s always something happening. It prevents atrophy of the brain.
The only problem with helping a steady stream of people is the steady stream of people. During a busy afternoon, it is statistically impossible to avoid encountering a jerk.
Today I got two of them. Well—the first guy might not have been a jerk. Maybe he was just the friendly sort. After I found the book he needed, he patted me four times on the shoulder and told me I was the greatest librarian ever.
I do love to have my ego stroked. Can’t complain about the greatest librarian ever comment.
But I do not love to have my back stroked, not by strangers. I suppose I would make an exception if a stranger wanted to give me a backrub, but only if the stranger were physically stunning and the setting were appropriate, i.e., a beauty spa or a beach on the Mediterranean. (Or, okay, the Outer Banks. Think local, Jessica, think local.)
The second guy was definitely a jerk. (In the interests of anonymity, identifying details have been censored.)
I became aware that a patron was being obnoxious. I stepped from behind the desk and walked over to him.
“Hi, could you turn you please stop _______ ?” I asked, sweet as pie.
Mr. Obnoxious didn’t do anything. Mr. Obnoxious’s friend, two chairs over, guffa
I leaned in closer. “Could you _________ the ________?” I asked.
Mr. Obnoxious avoided eye contact, assumed a smartass grin, and snickered.
I marched back to the desk. Death happened to be standing there. (He bears no resemblance to Death, at all, but when you translate his name to German that’s what you’re stuck with.)
“How do I call security?” I asked Death.
“THEY’RE NOT HERE TODAY,” said Death. (A cookie to the first person who correctly explains why he’s speaking in caps lock.)
“Fuck,” I said.
“ASK YOUR BOSS FOR HELP,” suggested Death.
So I went to the workroom and asked Melvil to intervene.
Melvil walked over to the guy and he stopped being obnoxious, just like that.
I’m insulted. Mr. Obnoxious openly defied me. He flaunted his attitude because he figured I couldn’t do anything about it. But the second a man approached him he decided to obey the rules.
How come I can’t be an authority figure, huh? Listen, I think Melvil’s a great guy. I love having him for a boss and he’s a kind, compassionate person. But if I were attacked by thugs in a dark alley, Melvil’s not the first person I’d choose for a sidekick. He’s too nice.
I have never suffered from being too nice. Believe me, if you had to pick between incurring the wrath of Melvil or incurring the wrath of me, you’d want to go with Curtain # 1. If we were in a detective novel, Melvil would be Good Cop and I’d be Bad Cop.
Mr. Too Loud didn’t have our psychological profiles handy, fair enough, but I’m still irritated that he kowtowed to the male and dismissed the female.
Henceforth I will be carrying a whip at work. I will pull it out of the bedroom (Ack! Delete delete delete! Didn’t mean to type that in the blog!) and use it for non-sexual discipline in the library.
On second thought, maybe not. If we can’t have guns, we probably can’t have whips. Maybe I will settle for an intimidating cape. Does anyone know how to sew?