end days

Jul. 12th, 2007 07:15 pm
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I have two more days in the branches, and one day to work at administration, and then goodbye forever Multnomah County Library. Surprisingly, i'm not getting overly sentimental. Maybe it's not surprising. After all, I'm not going to have to work, at least for a little while. I mean, I'll be working, but I won't have a day job for at least a year.

I'll miss MCL in a lot of ways. It's been a good home to me these past five years. As [personal profile] te_amo_azul says, it's the best of the slacker jobs. Decent pay for part time work, a chance to build community and get paid for it, a chance to be surrounded by books every day. There are ever frustrations in any job, and the library has its share. My exit survey was not shall we say kind or gentle. That said, my boss is awesome, I've met lots of great people. And it was the job that allowed me to get my life back together after the Panic of '03.

Plus, a major selling point that it's not Spartacus.

In any case, the only time I sort of teared up was last week when a shy woman who I've always loved working with, who I've always had a sort of gently empathic working relationship with, gave me a hug before leaving for the day. Not one of my closest friends at the library, but a woman I like and respect, with her own private pains tucked behind her eyes. I just remember thinking, "Who's going to know how incredible you are when I'm gone?"

Which is a thought that has all the major zenithblue flaw groups covered: vainglorious, narcissistic, nosy, and too involved in other people's bid-ness. I rule.

In any case, three more days. Three! I've been very well behaved, but all I can say is that on Saturday patrons should probably be warned at the door. "Okay, don't...don't leave scraps of paper on her desk, she hates that. And don't ask her to shred your personal paperwork. She will very possibly put that on the internet today. Um, and please don't ask for her to waive your enormous fines simply because you're an entitled yuppie fuck. And...well, just don't make eye contact, all right? Yeah, that's probably for the best."
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The library I work for recently printed a bunch of little tags that say "Ask Me What I'm Reading!" You can then print an image of the book you want to talk about in the space beneath, and pin it to your nametag. They're very excited about this as a way to foster conversation and find new opportunities to provide a reader's advisory.

On Friday I had a conversation with one of the young hip youth services people about why I hated, loathed, and scorned this idea. Okay, to be fair, it was less a conversation than a diatribe on my part. But it was still sort of an interesting exchange.

Zenithblue: It just opens a can of worms that's not really practical to open while at a public desk. I mean, what if I'm reading something sexually charged or violent or philosophically challenging or religious in nature?

Youth Services Babe: (giving me a sort of are-you-stupid look) But...you don't have to put what you're actually reading on the tag. I mean, I have The Memory Keeper's Daughter just because it's a good recommendation, not because I'm reading it right now.

ZB: Well, I know, but I think having a conversation about books at a public desk, as a clerk, is kind of a bad idea. Any books. I mean, we're not supposed to "see" what other people are checking out, we're not supposed to comment on someone's choice of books, but suddenly we're inviting them to invade our intellectual space and reveal something about ourselves? Don't get me wrong, I love talking about books. I love it. But I'm there trying to take care of their accounts and handle their fines and how much are they going to trust me to do my appointed government-official work if I tell them one of my favorite books is about a love affair between a thirteen-year-old girl and her stepfather? I mean, Portland is pretty permissive, but there are lots of people here nonetheless who'd flip out.

YSB: Well sure, but you just try to pick something fairly safe.

ZB: ...and that's my main problem, the idea that there are "safe" books. All books should be safe. All books should be dangerous. I have no interest in a guarded and euphemistic thirty second conversation with someone about a book.

YSB: You're awfully passionate for someone who works in a bureaucracy.

The whole conversation was fueled by my early Barnes and Noble trauma, the summer I worked at the really lousy Anchorage location. The idea that we were supposed to speak glowingly and excitedly about the one book they were trying to push, even though we hadn't read it: I refused and ground in my heels. This feels like the opposite of that, a move towards a self-censoring conversation about a book I possibly feel passionate about (or else a half-hearted suggestion about a book I found mediocre). Anyone who's read more than one of my posts knows I love talking about and recommending books. I've recommended plenty of books even in my capacity as a library clerk, but only after I get a feel for where the patron is coming from and what they're interested in. I'm not going to put out a generalized, democratized, bland, middle-of-the-road and wholly unoffensive book on my chest for anyone to ask about. I won't have that hanging by my heart.
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A woman walked up to me at the circulation desk today, a prim middle-aged women with a tight lipsticked line for a mouth. She looked at me sort of embarrassed for a minute, then said: "You know, wearing a shirt like that really just encourages people to look at your chest."

A number of possible reactions zipped through my head.

REJECTED COMEBACK #1: "Really?" A pause. "So are you saying I should be charging more per hour?"

REJECTED COMEBACK #2: (getting jiggy behind the counter) "My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard..."

REJECTED COMEBACK #3: (grabbing a handful of tit and shrieking) "Stop looking at my dirty pillows!"

REJECTED COMEBACK #4: "Yeah, I like to lead the eye to my lady lumps, if you know what I'm saying. Keeps people from catching wise that I'm stealing their credit card numbers. How did you say you wanted to pay for your fines?" 

WHAT I ACTUALLY SAID: (sweet as sugar) "Thanks for the fashion advice!"

...which I thought was very well-behaved of me, all things considered
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My attitude at work has improved exponentially now that I've found out I don't have to be there every day for the rest of my life. It's much easier to be cheerful now that I don't have to feel deeply bitter about my marginally crippled hands and elbows. I am totally one hundred percent disengaged from the incredibly poor decision-making coming down from the top (sorry to all of you still hitching your wagon to MCL, I don't mean to pour salt in the wounds). I am no longer taking any of this foolishness to heart. Oddly enough, instead of feeling bored and angry all day, now I just feel very cheerily functional.

The unfortunate side effect is that I'm feeling kind of cocky. Not cocky like "I'm the smartest person in the world" (even though it's obviously true), but cocky like the cop on any given crime show who has nothing to lose and plays by her own rules (imagine that in the cool grizzled voice-over voice you hear in movie previews). I've caught myself walking with a swagger a few times. Picture me in suspenders and a badge leaning over the desk of the commissioner yelling, "I don't care what those fuckwits at city hall say, Stromboli is going down! I don't care who he's got in his pocket!" That's the equivalent of how I feel every time I see, say, the Neighborhood Libraries manager. Or the Access Services manager. Anyone on the X-team, honestly. This is totally bitchy of me but every time I see one of those individuals all I can think is, "You don't fucking own me. And I'm better than you."

I'm not particularly proud of feeling this way, but it's also kind of fun. Human beings get to spend so much of their time on earth feeling helpless and annoyed that I'm comfortable indulging myself for the tiny fragment of time I get to spend feeling empowered and earth-striding. The library has been, overall, a tremendously good thing in my life these past few years, and I came into the job desperately needing what it had to offer (money being the least  of it--also some self-respect, peace of mind, and the opportunity to pay my bills while becoming a writer). But these days I just feel immensely done with it, like I've outgrown it--by that I don't mean it's a waste of my time or I'm too good to work for my supper, but only that the part of my journey that includes MCL is over. As [personal profile] te_amo_azul says, it's the best possible slacker job. But it's not exactly a career, and it's a less viable long term option with every passing day (thanks to a number of shitty planning moves, mostly).

So, yeah. I'm feeling pretty good. Hopefully my sass won't get me in trouble. I'm not ready to turn in my gun and badge yet.

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