Yesterday, instead of working, I went to the library. The intent for the trip was two-fold. 1. To stock up on unread Christopher Moore novels. And 2. Perform my semi-contributive writerly duties to society by aimlessly wandering about and watching civilized folks try not to embarrass themselves.
The Harold Washington branch of the Chicago Public Library is the second largest in the world, with seven floors, and over 2 million books. It's an arsonist's wet dream. Well...maybe their dry, tindery dream. Anyway, it's a big brick box full of books. Very impressive and a good jolt for any bookworm's literary libido. But, despite its size and expensive-looking light fixtures, I was surprised to find the place so empty. I ran into a few book shelvers and ambling librarians, but other than that, the place was deserted. I spent the better part of an hour in the seventh floor Fiction section, and during that time, the only other stack-lurker I came across was a homeless guy with two red backpacks and a ZZ Top beard, who looked like a bedraggled Santa Claus, sitting on the floor with his rosy nose buried in a copy of Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and The Sea.
A little while later, I made my way back to the third floor check-out with an armload of books that will hopefully get read before they start costing me quarters. And that was when I noticed that there were actually other patrons in that enormous place besides me. And there were a lot of them. At least one for every computer station. On the library's third level, it seems like half of the floor space is filled with public computers. Every single one of them was occupied. In 1969, the director of NASA likely would have shat himself at the thought of so much raw computing muscle in one room. Just think of how in-tune he could've been, knowing what Neil Armstrong had eaten for breakfast by reading his status update. He'd have filled his pants again if he'd known he could watch teenagers impale themselves with skateboards all day long while lip-syncing Busta Rhymes on YouTube.
The room was full of glazed eyes, glowing monitors, and zombiefied fingers slowly dragging mouse pointers here and there. It was sort of like looking at one of those human grapevines from The Matrix. Besides the infrequent cough or click of a mouse button, the place was as quiet as a library. Free internet. Toll-free cruising on the information super highway. That's the real perk of qualifying for a library card. The hobo on the seventh floor had no idea what he was missing.
I leave you with a haiku dedicated to today's subway seats:
Bearers of the cheeks,
Too narrow for fat neighbors,
Fart dust in transit.
Song Playing Now: Shuffle Your Feet by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Drink: Dunkin' Donuts coffee