In an attempt to be more productive with my job search and to get myself out of the house, I’ve been spending a lot of time at the library over these past six months.
The Library of My Expectations is close to heaven. A silent place, with comfortable chairs – plenty of back support, soft pillows. Every book I’d ever want, easily accessible, always in stock. Maybe even a cafe with giant muffins that also sells decent cups of tea.
Expectations are never as good as reality though. I don’t know why I bother with expectations, I’d be much happier without them. Those with no expectations must live amazed lives. Going from place to place in awe. “Our plane is delayed, this is so much fun!”
I on the other hand live in constant disappointment. Just waiting for an opportunity to sigh or – in the direst of circumstances – tut.
My usual librarial haunt almost meets my expectations. It’s an amazing new building. Giant ceilings and sleek walls with long clear windows. Plenty of light. Two floors filled with books, every subject you can imagine. The seats aren’t bad either. At first sight you’d probably believe you’d found the perfect library. And when I turn up at opening time, sometimes it is perfect.
Then other people arrive.
Notice my dream library didn’t include any people. Maybe if I was in a saucy mood I’d allow a sexy librarian to stand quietly at the front desk. But mostly, I’d prefer nobody at all. I can find my own books, I don’t need any help with anything.
Ok, my expectations are far too high. But the worst thing about the library is the people. It’s like they go out of their way to annoy the shit out of me. Obviously I’m not narcissistic enough to believe that. Just narcissistic to think that everybody should meet my high standards.
But my standards aren’t even that high.
Everybody over the age of a toddler knows the number one rule of the library: be quiet. It’s one of these things that is common knowledge. A sandwich is made of bread. You use shampoo to wash your hair.Shoes go on your feet.
In a library you’re meant to be quiet!
But believe it or not, a bunch of people don’t understand. That or they’re not self-aware enough to know they’re making noise.
Take the woman sitting directly beside me right now. She’s drafting a letter to her telephone company to complain about overcharges over the last three months. How do I know this? Because she’s read the entire letter out loud while drafting it.
My mind can’t comprehend this at all. Firstly, doesn’t she realise that everybody can hear her? That’s she talking out loud, in a library! Secondly, doesn’t she know that she can just talk in her own head? It’s not really a hard skill to master, pretty much everybody else on the planet knows how to do it. But evidence suggests she’s not alone.
Every time I use the computer in the library, I’m almost guaranteed to sit beside somebody that annoys me. There’s the man that keeps muttering aggressive swear words under his breath constantly, “Mother fucking cocksucker. Stupid mother fucker.” I see him regularly. Always swearing.
There’s that guy that fell asleep beside me and started to snore in my ear. The retiree that screamed into her mobile phone, rattling the windows. The woman who gave a running commentary of what she was doing at all times. “Ok, now, let’s see, click on the start button. Good. Now, go to Internet Explorer and left click…type in the address…H T T P colon…” All the while my toes curling, teeth gritted.
I suppose I should be more understanding. Chances are if you’re spending your days at the library, it’s because you have nowhere else to go. No job, no computer at home, maybe no home at all or even worse, no internet.
But none of these necessarily prevent you from having some basic manners do they? Plus it’s not hard to simply shut the fuck up. It doesn’t take any effort. It’s literally as hard as doing nothing.
Maybe the real problem here is that I just don’t understand. I go through my life doing my best not to offend. Or rather trying to be courteous to others. If I think there’s a possibility my actions might annoy somebody, I try my best to do otherwise.
Once, I opened my laptop and accidentally played about three seconds of music out loud. I felt so embarrassed and apologetic that I couldn’t show my face for another month.
But other people just don’t give a shit. They go through life without embarrassment.
And the funny thing is. I envy them.
I’d also be a lot happier if I didn’t care about what other people thought of me.
Maybe if I start to mutter swear words under my breath it will set me free. Maybe if I give a running commentary as I use a computer, I’ll feel happier. Maybe I’ll stop giving a shit.
Yet, I just can’t help feeling that giving a shit is a good thing. Not giving a shit just means having no standards for yourself. Aren’t standards a good thing? Isn’t it important to have rules. After all, without rules, all there would be is chaos. People would do as they please. They’d make as much noise as they want.
Although it seems that’s what they do anyway.
Photo of Library by Stewart Butterfield.