Career Ambition / Pre-enactment

I’m currently chipping away at credits towards my Master’s degree in library science so I can finally fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a librarian. If all goes according to plan, someday I may be sitting at the reference desk in a public library near you, doing my job, sort of like a fisherman except with an ocean of knowledge instead of fish.

Most recently, in true procrastination, under-the-wire form, I just completed a rather lengthy paper on utter needlessness of Patriot Act-era (so the saga continues…the fucking thing is getting renewed!) FBI snooping in public libraries. Which was really fun, but man, I’m burned out...I thought I’d recover from this self-imposed stress-out by testing a scenario…using the theory of self-reenactment (let's call it pre-enactment for accuracy's sake) to see how I’d handle this situation fictionally so I’ll be prepared professionally when the time comes…when it may be up to me to confront potential terrorists invading our oceans of knowledge...


It’s about 2:30 p.m. on a weekday. It’s pretty quiet, but Bob’s presence is loud. He’s been lurking behind the classics shelf for about a half an hour. I know this because my wandering eye carelessly watches people like a babysitter with no responsibility. I can’t help it; I’m just fascinated by people in libraries. This fascination, although indiscriminate and given to hit on everyone in the room, tends to favor the most recent additions to the situation. Bob is the freshest ingredient, an unpredictable wrinkle in this otherwise smooth fabric.

After a couple more minutes of lurking, he finally shuffles towards me, wearing wrinkled khaki pants, a white t-shirt, and flip-flops. What looks like a burn or irritated skin is splotched down his upper right arm. His sandy hair is messy, and he has the beginnings of a beard. Before I can wonder whether his proto-beard is intentional or the result of hygiene neglect, his blue eyes bore into mine and I stare right back, slightly intimidated but mostly just curious.

Bob: I’m looking for information about terrorism.
Me: [I open my mouth to answer, but he interjects before I can say anything]
Bob: I know what you’re thinking.
Me: You know what I’m thinking?
Bob: Yeah.
Me: Well, I don’t know you. You might be a mind reader.
Bob: What are you talking about? I asked you to help me look for information on terrorism, and here you are telling me I’m a mind reader. What kind of place is this?
Me: It’s a library. And I’m here to help you. What kind of terrorism information are you looking for?
Bob: Well, I just want to check out the various organizations that are currently involved in terrorist activities.
Me: Okay, well. [typing] I would recommend a book called Terrorism and Global Power Systems by Schawar Junaid.
Bob: Do you even know how to pronounce his name?
Me: Haven’t a clue.
Bob: Sounds like it’s written by a foreigner.
Me: She’s Pakistani, I believe. A woman.
Bob: A woman? What the fuck? Those women can't show their faces in public but they can write books about terrorism?

People in the library start to look at us.

Me [writing on a piece of paper]: Here, I wrote down the call number. You can find it upstairs in the Social Sciences department.
Bob: What department is this?
Me: Literature.
Bob: Literature...
Me: Yeah. Down here, I think we have some fictional books that have terrorism-related plots, but nothing real.
Bob: [holding up the piece of paper] So if I read this book, it will help me figure out which terrorist organization to join?
Me: Maybe. That’s none of my business. You told me you wanted to learn more about various terrorist organizations. I’m simply providing you with an excellent overview.
Bob: Alright.
Me: I'll give you some more suggestions if you want, but I've actually read that book, and it's very informative. You really should run up there and get it before somebody else does. We only have one copy, and terrorism is a pretty popular topic these days.
Bob: Really?
Me: Yeah.
Bob: Why?
Me: Well, if you want my opinion, I guess it has something to do with fear. Since we’re at war with terrorists, maybe people want to learn more about the supposed enemy. There’s a comfort in learning more about what you fear, diffusing the cloud of mystery…it becomes less scary.
Bob: What are you, a librarian or a shrink?
Me: Last I checked my bank account…they pay me to be a librarian.
Bob: Why do they call them “shrinks” anyway? Who thought up that one?
Me: Let’s find out…
Bob: You mean you don’t know?
Me: Nope. Wait, now I do. Says here it’s a derogatory term for psychologists, comparing them to primitive tribal leaders who would try to “shrink” the heads of their slain enemies.
Bob: Like terrorists?
Me: Well, I guess if their enemies were terrorizing them, maybe they would be terrorists. I don’t know.
Bob: Some librarian you are.
Me: I try to do my best for you. I’m sorry if I wasn’t any help.
Bob: Does your boss know you give out information on terrorism?
Me: Sure. Didn’t you read 1984? Big Brother is always watching me.
Bob: What are you talking about?
Me: Never mind.
Bob: So what - your boss knows you give out information on terrorism? You could have a hand in someone becoming a terrorist. How will you live with yourself then?
Me: Well, it’s my job. I’m sure the guy who invented the atom bomb has the same problem.
Bob: Aren’t you worried about the Patriot Act?
Me: Oh, come on. The Patriot Act is just a scare tactic. I’m not afraid. You could be from the FBI, testing me, ready to take me in on conspiracy charges. You could just be curious. Or you could be a terrorist. You could have a bomb strapped to your chest, for all I know. It could be a matter of seconds before this whole place is dust. I don’t know...I just work here.
Bob: So you don’t have Osama bin Laden’s phone number.
Me: No. I don’t think he has a phone number.
Bob: Do you have any books that would, you know, help me get in contact with him?
Me: No.

A fifty-ish woman with crooked teeth and red hair in a bun approaches the reference desk.

April: [to Bob] Would you mind keeping your voice down? I can hear you from all the way across the room. Why don’t you leave this poor girl alone?
Me: It’s okay, April. He was just going upstairs to find a book.

April waves her book.

April: Swingin’ ‘60s paperback fiction today. A romance. Hot sex scenes. Drug orgies. You know.
Me: One of those days, huh?
April: Apparently.

The man looks at me and shakes his head. April looks at the man.

April: Excuse me…

April shuffles back to her seat, her eyes close to the book.

Man: What kind of place is this?
Me: What the hell do you think it is? It’s a library.

To be continued?


Blogger Pirooz M. Kalayeh said...

Fantastic.! You are so sharp and grounded dealing with this guy. Really phenomenal. You'll have to tell me more stories in person. Dacheux and I get together on Sundays around 12pm at the Sabor. You'll have to stop by sometime. Email me.

11:45 PM  
Blogger Klova said...

ha, I love this, pleeeease continue.

12:46 PM  
Blogger Ross Douglas said...

Encore! Encore!

4:23 PM  

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