Thursday, September 3, 2009

Dispatches from the Library

So I have not been sleeping well all week. In fact I went out on a quest last night for a second fan. This one is a little table one that I can put on the dresser right in front of the window, in the hopes that it would draw in cooler air from outside. Of course, (apart from the problem that last night it didn't cool off much, unlike other nights this week) the fan sounds like a prop plane taking off, so it was restful in some ways and yet still I did not get a good night's sleep.

This has affected my ability to work during the day and even my ability to not completely shut down and become a lump. Pretty much everything I need to do right now, including cooking/eating/cleaning up the piles left over from this, is on hiatus.

So today I am in the library, because my attempts to use air-conditioned coffee shops on M and T did not work out; they were all packed and there were no outlets available.

Our library is not really air conditioned (usually they regulate the temperature based on what the books need not the people, and books are strange contrary objects that love air conditioning in the winter and the heater during summer months), but this morning it has been quite tolerable. I put in a fairly good show of work this morning and then went on to start reading through this book.

Now I'm taking a bit of a break and I may need to take an additional break to walk around and not be reading things, as I can't just sit there all day. (Note to those of you who actually have this skill of hyperfocus: one of my friends developed a blood clot in her leg when pushing to hit a dissertation deadline recently Now she will be on coumadin for the rest of her life. So if you are in your 40s and capable of sitting and concentrating at the computer for hours and hours at a time, you might want to force yourself to get up and take breaks. I never have this problem --- 30 minutes without moving is very difficult for me.)

Alas, long gone are the days when I was eligible for a grad student carrell room, and was awarded with an old abandoned classroom because they accidentally took my name out of the wait list. Aahh, having a room where I could play music, and pace around, and could lock up with a key whenever I went to the bathroom was nice! Still, I've gotten pleasantly used to working in the main reading area --- although I probably should not as they have configured it to be wireless capable --- I like the high ceilings and skylight and openness of this room. And it may be just because it is summer but the students are all quite quiet and diligent. (those of you who think your students are nothing but lazy slackers should do their work in the quiet parts of the library rather than on the campus green or an off-campus eating establishment.) I bet this part gets more crowded during the school year, but right now I like it.

There are a lot of homeless people here, of course, as with any public university or library these days. Most of them don't bother me, and they are all quiet and mellow here, but one has been annoying me to one end, just his mere presence.

We have quite a few of them who are using the free computers or playing chess or hanging out ... or, you know, either waiting to score something or sleeping it off ... this guy, who looks like a disgruntled Santa Claus, is clearly one of the ones on the mental illness-schizophrenia end of the spectrum of homelessness. Or possibly some sort of obsessive, repetitive disorder. Anyway, he angers me like you wouldn't believe because his symptoms come off as this mocking parody of all things academic.

Disgruntled Santa can be seen on the local shuttles and bus, wearing suspenders and a tweed jacket, and whatever else he has currently been given from the shelter, and he always carries this stack of books under his arm, bedecked with paper fragments and post-its. Today I finally got to take a look at them --- they clearly were picked up from abandoned piles someplace. One is a Danielle Steel novel.

So he will come in to the reading room with this huge stack of books under his arm, lay them in a stack on the table, take off his jacket and roll up his sleeves, and then go to the nearest stack, where he will take down for or five books, one at a time, and walk them back to his pile. Pick a book, bring it back. Repeat. Then he sits down and goes through the motions of reading them --- although its more like skimming and turning pages, clearly too fast to be reading ---- all the while rocking back and forth and grunting, ever so softly. This maybe lasts five minutes to go through all these books, then he replaces them one by one in the reverse of the earlier ritual. (No, he doesn't return them to the same shelf or even bookcase. Search for these books at your peril.) Then he puts his jacket back on, collects "his" books, and shuffles out. He usually bums cigarettes off the students outside the library.

He can go through this little ritual as many as twenty times in the amount of time I'm here, and as I pointed out earlier, I can't stay and work a full day, only a morning or an afternoon. He drives me nuts!!! I know he's harmless and not bothering anybody --- he still pisses me off! If he just sat there and mumbled or downloaded youtube porn I wouldn't care. But I'm already poor enough and my work is obscure enough in the mind of the general public that the sight of some crazy homeless dude mimicking my every action and reducing it to the point of parody really sticks in my craw.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the heat and sleep ick. Not fun. Disgruntled Santa would TOTALLY tick me off, homeless innocence notwithstanding. It would be in poor, poor taste to mock homelessness back at him, but . . . so tempting. Sorry. Here's to cooler temps and saner study mates.