I boycotted my public library six months after discovering where it was located. Never mind I had lived in Fairfax for nearly five years by then.
Why would I go, though? I have no kids to surprise with story time and I buy all of my books and magazines online, on my Nook or at the bookstore. The library just wasn't a place I needed to frequent. But it seemed to be an ideal spot to concentrate and get work done – namely my writing. I just wish someone told me the library is no longer a quiet zone.
I sat at a table with two other individuals, one who appeared to be mumbling to herself. But I didn't say anything. Instead I retrieved my ragged, but trusted, earbuds and inserted them into my laptop so I could drown out her unintelligible drivel with some music. Unfortunately I hadn't pushed the connector all the way in and sound escaped from my built-in speakers, playing for the entire table.
But I immediately realized the mishap because I generally remove my buds from my ears once I turn the music on and listen to see if I can still hear it. Unlike everyone else, I don't want to disturb anyone.
“Excuse me! Excuse me!” the mumbler said while she frantically waved her hands.
“I know,” I retorted. “I'm fixing it.” But my mind was saying, “
please.” It was six seconds of tunes, yet she had been speaking
into a recorder for over 30 minutes. That
was an activity reserved for a private office.
From there my library experiences grew weird.
On another particular day, I sat at a chair with a folding writing surface tucked away by a window and an electrical outlet. I periodically broke up the constant grind with Facebook Mobile (always on silent!) so I was staring at my phone as another patron sat in the matching chair about six feet from my right. She unzipped her laptop bag, placed her Dell on the folding table top and commenced to talk to her machine.
I felt it best to ignore her but sometimes I just disregard my initial instincts. I looked in her direction.
She asked me why this little plastic rectangular piece was partially sticking out. I told her it was to protect the space designated for a PC card from dust and she only needed to push it back in. That led to a few more questions that I met with “I don't know.” I mean, damn, I had a Dell but I wasn't Dell technical support.
“Do you mind if I use your phone?” she asked as if she were requesting the time.
My mouth formed the shape of a Cheerio because I was on the verge of asking, “What?” One, who doesn't own a cell phone? Two, who asks to use someone else's phone in a library? Three, what emergency could you be possibly having right about now?
“I'm sorry; my battery's dying,” I quickly replied. I started to retrieve my laptop bag but as my luck would have it, a required Windows update had begun to install. I seriously contemplated taking my chances to see if my operating system would actually crash if I unplugged my laptop (My battery was so old that my computer instantly went into
completely off mode as soon as the prongs detached from an outlet.)
and packed it away. But again, I'm not technical support.
I needed my laptop so I put my phone away.
The next day, I returned to my same seat at the same time. An hour later, so did she and she came munching on a bag of Cheetos. So not only could we hold phone conversations in the library, we could also eat! I made a mental note to bring my Big Mac combo from the adjacent McDonald's next time.
I intentionally avoided eye contact this time but it didn't work.
“Excuse me. Excuse me. Do you mind if I use your phone?”
“I'm sorry. I left it in my car.”
I figured after two consecutive rejections, she'd leave me alone. But to be on the safe side, I found a new seat in the library on the third day. It was still tucked away behind some bookshelves but I remained cautious, checking the aisles for a woman with long black hair and a laptop bag and leaving my phone in my purse. When I checked it, I did it in a way that passersby would mistake me for searching for a stick of gum. A few uneventful days passed.
A week later, I made the new chair my unofficial assigned seat. It was semi-secluded. No one could find me. Very few passed by unless they were headed to the study room. Patrons were quiet – except another woman who talked to her boyfriend in her nightclub voice. She got the evil eye.
Needing to make a Facebook status about her, I pulled out my cell. From between the stacks emerged the phone lady!
“Can I use your phone?”
I searched for Ashton Kutcher and Betty White because surely I was getting double-punked.
“I don't let anyone use my phone,” I abruptly said. The phone lady walked off in a huff.
I returned to the front tables on my subsequent visit. Hiding clearly didn't work either. I glanced up and damn if phone lady wasn't walking towards me! I slipped into defense mode. It was time for me to break library protocol as I knew it and raise my voice a few octaves. But she continued past me. Then I realized she sat at a student's desk diagonally behind me.
Barely 20 minutes later, I heard a laptop lid slam down followed by an outburst of “Stupid!” Phone lady got up and walked straight past me, past the library stacks. I have no clue of her final destination because I packed my shit and left. I needed a new spot.