Realities as overheard in library conversation

I am working in the public library, a couple of hours around midday, while mum goes to her writing group. I have two job applications due, and I am trying to write a research proposal, which always involves a lot of staring into space for me. Along with agony and feelings of literary and academic unworthiness and impotence. I am not cheered by my surroundings, but they feel much more comfortable than university libraries. This is much more my place. That doesn’t help my anxiety at all.

Putting off writing a research proposal involves a lot of existential angst.

Public libraries in Tucson have slowly been emptying of books and filling with open spaces and computer stations. Every time I come, months or a whole year between visits, there are fewer books. Their loss, each one a resource and a pleasure, breaks my heart. The growth of libraries into new kinds of community spaces is perhaps no bad thing, however. I do think institutionally they could manage to be both places of work and computers, and also books. But not on this budget I am guessing.

It is all a question of priorities. It’s a nice library though.

In front of the little table where I sit with my laptop there is a great bank of stations — 5 rows of 6 computers each, huge screens so there is no privacy. I am trying not to look. Even so I am ashamed to say that one guy has been playing solitaire, another working on a resume, another woman shopping online. Or maybe just looking. It is a most random collection of clothes and accessories she is perusing.

My eyes were caught by the shoes you see. But they were also caught by the woman looking up action against climate change through Chispa. That made me happy.

Perhaps in the main those sharing this space with me are our elders and just-graduated youth, but there are a number of middle aged people here too. It is fairly diverse in terms of race. I am guessing almost all of us are probably among the limited income or unemployed categories of the great working class though. Except perhaps the three mormons who just came in to use the computers in their slacks and bright white long-sleeve button-down shirts and dark ties that must be killing them as it’s over a hundred outside. They might be among the group of people that I bet are here just for the air conditioning. Not so the goth girl who just walked in, dressed in black and boots to her knees and leggings and long sleeved shirt down almost to her knuckles and damn the weather. I rather admire that.

There have been long lines to use the single printer/copier. My people do not go to Kinkos, though I doubt it is more expensive. A disabled elderly woman just dragged herself and her walker to it, some kind soul helping her, setting up a chair so she could sit down because clearly she was not able to stand for long at all. In the limited space it hurt her to navigate this arrival past a line of people to the copier, this turning and shifting so she was angled correctly to sit safely. She sat with relief. She had to rely on the kindness of strangers.

I hate that we live in a society where elders have to rely on the kindness of strangers. But everyone here has been so nice, polite. Seems to me that’s still mostly how we are.

She sorted through papers as others used the machine. The first kind stranger (middle aged man with a beard) had had to go. A second (middle aged man with a beard) took his place. Made her copies for her. She was hard of hearing so I could not help but catch snatches of conversation — and I was stuck on this proposal — about her illness, her need to send these copies registered mail. That he was here to use the computer to look for work. That unemployment did not come easy. The end of the conversation somehow emerged entirely clear:

‘How old are you?’
’53’
‘That is too young. You’re not even eligible for the food bank until you’re 65.’

Too young for the fucking foodbank.

Leave a Reply