Miss Chompsalot & other Library Hubbubs

If I  wasn’t such a nice person I would have yanked the earphones out of her ears, and told the girl none too politely to stop chewing her gum or get out of my presence.

There were five plush, maroon chairs in the circle around that particular coffee table and she had chosen the one almost directly across from me in which to set her derriere, her incessant smack, smack, smack being only slightly less obnoxious than her obvious disregard for her present-ability in public.

Red, plastic sunglasses that looked like something a three-year-old would win at Chuck E. Cheese’s sat on top of her dark, messy ponytail. Her gray t-shirt over the almost-matching-the-chairs maroon, long-sleeve shirt, purple eye shadow that might match in the correct lighting, slate gray jeans, neon green phone case, gray and neon green tennis shoes, puke green nail polish with golden squiggles, copper, metallic purse, and neon pink, zebra-striped backpack created an almost comical appearance, not unlike that of a four-year-old determined to dress themselves in the morning much to their parents lament.

Smack, smack, smack.

“You have to do what’s inside the brackets first.” The lady’s voice gave me a much needed moment of respite from the vile sound. She sat almost directly behind Miss Chompsalot at a big table with two teenagers, one of which was reading, the other which was obviously working on math of some kind.

After doing a brief survey of the scene before me I continued my book. It was one of the few times since middle school I’d chosen to direct my time and attention to a library; I was reminded why I prefer reading in the company of my dogs.

***

I was feeling quite productive that day. Sitting surrounded once again by stacks of books, I delved into one after another, scavenging each page for another idea or word that would latch itself onto my brain and become another avenue of emotional and mental release. When one become boring or redundant of the information I already possessed it was discarded and replaced with something fresh.

My perfectly organized stacks of books became haphazardly strewn piles of rejected works. Frustration toyed with stray thoughts, attempting to confuse and dismantle my progress. Still I pressed on, sometimes scanning chapter titles and bullet points for something spectacular to jump out, other times starting at the beginning, critically reviewing each sentence.

A noisy commotion at the library’s entrance broke my train of thought. My forehead wrinkled as my eyes lifted. I was busy. I had no intention of letting distractions take more than a few moments of my time. A handful of clamoring middle school kids elbowed and guffawed their way to the loveseats and chairs all around me. It must be around 3:00.

I ignored them and continued my examination and exploration of The Writer’s Market 2013, Here if You Need Me, Just Open a Vein, and various other stories and writing tools.

“Let me see it!”

“Where’s your book?”

“I gave it to Mary.”

Their ceaseless chatter quickly became a growing buzz. My eyes skittered over them again. They were becoming more of an irritation than I had anticipated or desired. I looked around the room hoping to see a librarian close by who could intercede. I was out of luck.

“What the f***?”

This remark was said in a volume low enough to cause me hesitation. Did I hear that right? I looked up yet again, this time meeting the eyes of a large, dark-skinned girl with a mini-afro hairstyle who looked to be about 11- or 12-years old. She met my eye for a brief moment before turning her attention back to the two boys elbowing each other on the loveseat to her left.

Maybe I heard her wrong. I’m not naive enough to believe that children don’t use profanity sometimes, but this group wasn’t even in high school yet. Heck, several of them looked like they may barely be starting the 5th grade.I may not be around middle-schools much, but I doubted profanity, especially of that nature, was tolerated. I went back to my reading.

“What the f*** are you doing?”

This time there was no mistaking it.

“F*** you.”

I caught her eye again. This time she smiled and continued her conversation with barely a pause. It was almost as if she was daring me to say something to her. I sighed and shook my head. They should be riding bikes or climbing trees, or maybe even reading as their presence in the library might suggest, not cussing and playing on their cell phones.

Cell phones? I didn’t have a cell phone until I was in college!

How sad it is that we live in a day and age where our children are so engrossed in gadgets and technology they don’t appreciate the real beauty of life. Machines babysit our children. T.V., computers, and cell phones dictate what they hear and see because parents are too busy working or living their own life, regardless of where their children are or what they are doing.

A librarian finally came by and asked them to be quiet, but the damage was done. How abhorrent it is to hear such language on the lips of babes who should be walking in the light of education and ethics. After all, they are the next generation. They will be the ones to care for our generation in our old age.

I slowly put my books in my backpack with a morose thought weighing heavily on my mind: is f*** you really the legacy we are leaving the next generation?   

***

A library can be the recipient of attention from a wide variety of individuals. Some, not unlike myself, enjoy finding the quiet chair or computer in the corner with the intention of staying as unnoticeable as possible. Some saunter in, hunch over a computer with their large headphones and attempt to lose their hearing while oblivious to the fact that they are sharing their audio material with everyone else. Some are parents either toting little ones around by the hand, carrying them so they don’t make a mess, or ignoring them in search of their own parental pursuits.

Children in the library are often the center of much attention because of their inability to whisper. Today was no different. As I sat at the desk recording my thoughts, my fingers tap-tap-tapping away on the keyboard, I couldn’t help, but notice a middle-aged man with two little girls. The oldest was maybe 4 and had shoulder-length blonde hair. She wore an aqua blue shirt with a ruffle along the top under a gray jacket and pink pants. In slight contrast, wore a pink zippered-up jacket and yellow pants with a white stripe and a pink stripe up each side.

“Don’t just grab books.” Their father’s voice resonated about the room when he spoke, catching my attention.

“I have to.” The hood of the 4-year-old’s jacket bounced up and down as she flounced by him and around the corner of a bookshelf.

“No, you don’t.”

“I have to,” she repeated.

“Stop.”

“No.” I could all but hear her stomp her little foot on the other side of the book shelf. Her 4-year-old indignation made me laugh.

“Fine, I’ll give your toy to your sister.” The father walked to the 2-year-old who was seated on a little wooden chair in front of a computer with big, blue plastic  headphones on and set something down beside her. He was smiling while he did it, presumably from the knowledge of the effect it would have.

“No!” Her sister wailed on Que and ran across the room to snatch it up. I laughed again.

I watched the two girls with their father for another minute. It didn’t take him but a couple of clicks on the mouse to get both daughters sitting in front of the computers, one on his lap.

Children can create many distractions in a library where everyone is expected to keep the noise level down. Many patrons get frustrated or annoyed by the noise they make. In fact, earlier that same afternoon I had been irritated by the screaming of a 5-year-old boy whose mother didn’t reprimand him.

“Dora! Thank you daddy!”

I smiled. This was one distraction I didn’t mind at all.