Unstuck in time from April 8, 2016
Unstuck in Time
I have a special fondness for time travel stories. They're such wonderful vehicles for talking about fate, free will, and the nature of stories themselves, after all, stories are made out of time itself, and yet they are completely free to travel unfettered around in it as well. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut has a fine understanding of this. So fine, I suppose, that it is actually where I learned this.
In Slaughterhouse Five, the main character, Billy Pilgrim, is unstuck in time, and moves through different episodes of his life in a non linear manner. I have been thinking about this a lot lately as this is what seems to be happening to me these days at the library. I have worked here for more than two decades. One moment I am downstairs watching the O.J. verdict in a break room that no longer exists and the next I am showing people how to use our programmable paper books which don't yet exist as I write this. For a few minutes I am buried in an endless crush of book returns that I could never hope to get caught up on, and then I am watching our big check in machine toil away for me, taking care of the job handily, as I sip a cappuccino.
Then I am at the front desk with some co-worker. There have been hundreds of them. I turn to this person and ask how long they've worked at the library.
"Almost six months now." They answer. "Why do you ask?"
"I just wanted to know where I am in time."
I remember when they'd worked here for eight years.
Enobling Library Work
July 28, 2018
Just this once, in one of these library stories, let's start with the punchline:
"I don't know how anything gets done around here!"
Now that that's taken care of we can get down to our real message.
I was shelving in Non Fiction, which on the hour was supposed to switch to me shelving in Fiction. But I'd been reading and writing in the stacks so much that it was 20 after the hour by the time I had an empty cart to bring down for a new Fiction one. In the pre elevator room one of my colleagues was standing with a full cart of books, talking on their cell phone, having a particularly intense discussion with one of their children. I dashed into the elevator and pressed the down button several hundred times until the door finally closed.
Downstairs the automated check in machine was entirely abandoned. I suspected what this meant and confirmed it with our posted schedule; one of my managers was assigned to the machine. Only the managers would treat that responsibility so cavalierly and leave so much work for the people to come. This manager was off in their office while the machine either idled or cranked off towards some disaster. I went around straightening bins with the real motive of causing them to fill up so that the machine display would light up with lots of alarming red boxes.
The person on phones was doing nothing and staring vacantly into space in a vaguely alarming way, but, hey, I've been there. Another co-worker, I'm not sure where she was assigned, probably Non Fiction, was watching some inscrutable, corporate looking video with sound so low I doubt she could properly hear.
One other person was also shelving in Fiction with me, meaning I'd want to try to carefully choose a cart that kept us from shelving in the same place. But since I'd seen on the schedule who that person was I knew there was no way in hell he was upstairs shelving. He was either smoking in the parking lot or off on some secret mission of his own, and I could take whatever cart I wanted.
Upstairs in the elevator anteroom my co-worker was still there on the phone, just wrapping up the discussion. I rolled my cart out into the public area, behind where two librarians were aimlessly surfing the Internet, looking very bored, and I wheeled into the quiet respite of Fiction. I shelved for about ten minutes and then wrote most of this.
Maybe I really belong here after all.