One night at the public library

People tell me no one goes to the library anymore. But I think there’s something there for everyone. Sure, you can get all of your needs met on-line. You can read books on Kindle, or go “old school” and order a book from Amazon for less than five dollars. But the public library is an institution.

And so this past Tuesday, I found myself hobbling up to the counter with my bad left wheel like some kind of degenerate.

There were two quintessentially librarian-looking ladies seated at the main desk.

benjaminfranklin“I’d like to get a library card,” I said to the one on my right, setting my Starbucks on the Formica counter.  A drop spilled and I immediately wiped it up with my hand.

There was a very polite high school kid who couldn’t get the photocopier to cooperate. He said he had a “dumb question” for the other lady.

I filled out a form and handed over my driver’s license. In no time, I was clunkety-hobbling on one crutch to the nearest place I could plug in my laptop.

I finally got situated in a room with glass walls in the back. It was a small area with flimsy, futuristic looking chairs, giving the space the air of an interrogation room. But like one at an airport or perhaps the J. Edgar Hoover building.

What kind of information would I have that would be useful in an interrogation? Who would interrogate me?

No sooner had I dreamed up the question then did the obvious answer materialize before me: Benjamin Franklin.

Someone on Facebook recently asked if you could have dinner with one person from history, who would it be? A lot of people said Jesus. I picked Winston Churchill. Thinking better of it, I’d choose Ben Franklin.

Oh, how I’d relish a tete-a-tete with this Founding Father. Obviously, I’d cover the basics: The American Revolution, The Declaration of Independence. Did you really send a kite up into a dark sky of lightning flashes? And what of your romantic dalliances in France? (Probably not that last one… I’d keep my 21st century voyeurism in check.)

The truth is somehow the prospect of Benjamin Franklin seated across from me in a South Tampa public library lo these 200-plus years would be a sad story. I feel like he’d be disappointed. America has gone to the dogs.

In that physical and mental space I worked for an hour or so on an on-line Career Success course I’m developing for work.

At 8:32 pm, a woman came over the PA and announced: “You have 28 minutes to check out books, magazines…” and on and on she prattled about God knows what for the next 30 seconds.

On my way out, I stopped to peruse some videos.

There were so many movies I didn’t recognize. After a few confused moments, I realized I was in the foreign film section. In the next row over, my eyes finally settled upon something familiar: The Caine Mutiny.

I wonder what Ben Franklin would think of the film industry?

I got another woman’s attention. What was the name of that show that had the medical examiner who was the serial killer, I said.

In no time, she ordered me the first three seasons of Dexter through Inter-Library Loan.

Sitting in my car, I looked over the flyer that was handed to me with my library card. You can borrow a DVD for 7 days. The late fees are $.20 a day and fines max out at $5. Not quite the extortion practiced by, say, the Infernal Revenue $ervice.

I’m not trying to go on some anti-government screed here. Just giving you a sense of the vibe that settled over me at the public library.

Poor Ben.

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1 Comment on One night at the public library

  1. Loved this. Though I haven’t been to the library in some years, I can tell you that I spent a lot of time in them when I was younger. We didn’t have the net back then. It was like a home away from home. All that quiet was so immensely wonderful. It wasn’t like sitting in the cafateria at school when I was a kid. The noise would be some what tolerable in the beginning but it would balloon to epic proportions. I guess I was really sensitive to that. All these kids hardly 8-10 inches away from each other and I’d be like why so loud. Everyone needs a library. Doesn’t matter how it comes to be. It’s just one good fine experience.

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