Sunday, 13 March 2016

The Thing With The Librarian And The Bookmark

Last week I went into the library to pick up some books that I had on reserve. 

When the librarian brought them up to the counter she noticed that one of them had a bookmark in it.

She said something along the lines of “Oh, someone forgot their bookmark, happens from time to time,” and removed it from the book, presumably with the intention of setting it aside. 

I made a throwaway “One of life’s little bonuses, I suppose,” comment and went to pick up the two books she had just checked out in my name. 

Librarian (sounding odd): “Oh do you want to keep it?”

Me (all flustered): “Uh maybe, what’s on it?”

Librarian (still sounding slightly off): “… It’s a summer reading list bookmark.”

Me (feeling awkward as hell by this point and acting slightly too cheerful): “Might as well.” 

Librarian: “Uh well, there you go… Enjoy!” (there wasn’t quite a question mark at the end of this statement but it almost felt like there should be)

Me: Cheers!!! (the extra exclamation marks are there to show I was being needlessly enthusiastic at this point).

The whole thing was just… Well, I blame the librarian.

You find a random, generic bookmark that was clearly not lovingly crafted by anyone’s grandchildren or a hand-painted memento of the trip to Venice that someone saved their whole life to take and you should just go ‘oh hey, a bookmark; lucky you, you don’t have to find one when you start reading’ and move on with your life.

Instead we ended up with one of those ‘I just congratulated someone because they said they were enjoying the change in weather and now I don’t know how to take it back without making it worse’ kind of exchanges.

When I said ‘one of life’s little bonuses’ I wasn’t talking about me, maybe it was a bonus for the library, hell if I care.
I didn’t mean ‘score’ or ‘truly my life is blessed and this bookmark was meant to come to me, thanks karma’ or anything like that.

I was just trying to say something less bland than ‘huh, how about that?’ and things got weird.

I mean, did the librarian think that I had been demanding the bookmark?
Because I didn’t really care.

And did she have her own plans for it which I was thwarting?
Because she was welcome to it, it’s just a promotional bookmark that they printed off when they made up the summer reading list.

And why had I asked what was on it?
Was I going to reject it if it didn’t live up to my standards or was advertising something I found objectionable or dull?

As I walked out of the library was she thinking ‘the hell happened there?’ and planning to go find her co-worker who was shelving books and tell the tale of the exciting and confusing exchange she had just had with some penny-pinching nutjob who was determined not to get screwed out of a free bookmark that was obviously her birthright!?

The thing about all of this is I have not spent days rehashing these events or analysing them from different angles like a detective in a procedural show who just knows that the answer is staring them in the face if they could just work out the right way to come at the problem.

All of these thoughts zipped through my head in the time it took to turn around and step away from the counter.

When I tell one of these stories to people or, for instance,  explain all of the considerations that occurred to me when I realised that people who don’t routinely wear hairpins will be at a serious disadvantage if they ever need to pick a lock in a survival situation* the level of detail I can cram in will convince them that I have been thinking about this for days possibly in the place of all the sleeping and taking medication they assume I should have been doing instead but these thoughts** take place at the speed of light.

I could possibly comfortably spend an hour outlining the expanded universe of ‘what would happen if I got stuck in an elevator with my handbag vs what would happen if I got stuck in an elevator without my handbag’ but that doesn’t mean I’ve been mulling it over in my spare time, just that I took an elevator this morning and in the space of time that it took to blink I realised that I would never be able to Bruce Willis my way out of a stuck elevator to safety what with their roof hatches all being locked these days, and I certainly wasn’t going to do a Resident Evil and try to squeeze myself out of a hole that was clearly not big enough to fit an adult human through, even a slender one, so my choices going forward would depend on a multitude of variables including the resources available to me at the time.

One of the side effects of this is that I am constantly having people try to soothe or calm me down as they are convinced I am working myself into a tizz.

I’m not.

I’m usually just trying to make conversation.

I think of these sorts of things at all times about all things not because I am over-invested in working out what happened/will happen and my place in it all and what that all might mean, it just makes everyday events more interesting.

Because everyday events are usually dull, as are the conversations that recall them.

Everyone seems willing to engage in the world’s most boring theoreticals (eg, ‘what I would do if I won the lottery’, always the same answers: pay off various debts, travel, buy a house, buy a Tony Stark-esque garage full of classic cars, develop an addiction) but no-one wants to have a crack at the ones that actually require some world-building, thinking, or fun (eg, if there was an EMP event and all tech got knocked out for long enough for our various cities and suburbs to devolve into feudal city-states do you think that they would be able to go back to ‘normal’ once we got tech up and running again or would the shift to small local government be permanent?)

TL;DR, I got a new bookmark.

*I mean I don’t personally know how to pick a lock even if I did have a hairpin, but thanks to TV I’m convinced that a hairpin is technically a valid lock picking tool and that at some point some McGyver-esque person is going to turn to me saying ‘Thank god, there’s a woman here! We’re all saved! Miss, I need your hairpins!’ and I’ll have to explain that I don’t actually use them because my hair tends to spit them out like a toddler spits out vegetables and everyone will sit and stare at me mulishly for being a substandard woman until we all die, trapped for want of a hairpin.

**Like, should I start wearing hairpins just in case I’m ever in a survival situation? I would probably be better off putting a couple of paperclips in my pencil case because I already own paperclips and they’re actually a bit sturdier than some hairpins…***

***As a result of writing this blog post there is a possibility that I am considering adding a small number of paperclips and a packet of chewing gum to my handbag just in case. I would hate to a) die because I didn’t have them b) be a disappointment to McGyver.

UPDATE: You guys probably won't believe me but I swear to all that is sacred and/or delicious that when I got home after writing this post I found a hairpin on the floor of my bedroom!

I honest to Glod do not own any hairpins! 0_0

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