If we had a tall, handsome and single RCMP newly stationed on our island, he may decide to use his new library card. He may want to find a good book about his home province. Then he could also check whether or not a coy and secretly gorgeous Librarian might be available to practice her literary skills on a lonely transplant.
He discovers the state-of-the-art library will require some investigative skills.
The library is full of volunteers. They’re cloistered behind the counter apparently solving computer mysteries. Others are scattered about the building. One is asking questions to sign up a new member. Wandering volunteers are chatting with patrons, pointing people to the section requested, steering them around large and small lounge areas, skirting a large circle of tables holding computers and bypassing the high-energy children’s section.
People move about the building, some quiet, others chatting and laughing. Children excitedly head for their section and squeal over recognition of friends. Patrons acknowledge the volunteer replacing returned books to their proper places.
Computer instructions are being given in several different locations. People are:
- renewing membership,
- booking free computer time
- finding where books are located
- finding names of books or authors
- ordering books from other libraries
- checking out chosen items.
A man stands conspicuously in the foyer smiling as people pass. The Mountie stands within hearing range and hears, “No, I’m not the Librarian. I’m here to answer questions. Since our Library is new, we want to help our patrons orient themselves as easily as possible.”
Still curious about the Librarian, the Mountie begins to work his way through rows of books. He’s in the History section. An older man is wandering aimlessly through the aisles, hands in his pockets, humming. It’s unpleasant and irritating. The hummer strolls down aisles merely glancing at eye level books. He continues – la-la-la-ing his non-tune. The drone of the man’s musical monotony cuts through the Mountie’s concentration and grates.
The Mountie is about to jokingly comment when the man’s wife suddenly appears. The insipid humming stops immediately. With an expression of disappointment, she chatters for few seconds. He nods and they leave.
The Mountie comes to the end of the aisle and sees a row of glassed offices. He strolls past one and discovers its an empty meeting room. The next two are administrative offices housing individuals working at computers.
He sees the sign, “Librarian”. Though no one is with her, the Librarian’s office door is shut. She’s frowning into the screen of her monitor.
She’s good-looking. Slim. Maybe a little older than him, but without signs of prissiness. He can’t see if there’s a wedding band on her finger. He begins to dream up a clever question that would warrant interrupting such obvious concentration.
The Librarian casually reaches up and adjusts her bangs with her left hand. He sees a finger laden with gold.
He reaches into his pocket and brings out his car keys. He takes hold of the 1″x 2″ library card on the key ring and walks to the check-out computer sitting on the main counter. He holds the plastic card under the scanner. A message on the screen says he can now scan his book. He slips “Rise Again!: The Story of Cape Breton Island: Book 1” by Robert Morgan under the same scanner.
As a receipt is spit out, he thinks, ‘Hope this is as good as a meal with an attractive woman’, and leaves.
The Mountie is fictitious. I wanted to write facts, not feelings, so created a person new to the Island.
The snapshot of activity is real. It occurred while I was sitting in the Lounge section with a Harper’s Magazine. Reading intermittently for over a half hour, my observations came with a slate of good feelings and awe. I realized how seldom I take time to watch, hear, feel, smell and sense my fellow islanders. I delighted in their enthusiasm. It’s no surprise – the building was planned to welcome, include and embrace a broad spectrum of patrons. Even those who cry over spent taxes.
While I was Secretary Treasurer of our School District a number of years ago, we hired a group of consultants to help the School District chose a new Superintendent of Schools. These polished professionals confessed they thought they were coming to survey and interview clusters of small-town mentality. Instead, they exclaimed, they uncovered a full microcosm of society. In spite of only touching the core groups of a few thousand individuals, they discovered the fullness of our nation – even some aspects of our planet.
From my Lounge chair, I watched these caring, creative, health-driven, once-professional, well-traveled, foreign-focused, grass roots, rich, live-off-the-land islanders mill about a library that expresses who we are. While some patrons may have parked their Mercedes or Porsches in some location where they won’t be scratched by an errant door opening, these same people will readily notice a street person who may be cold and have no other chair as comfortable as the ones offered in the Lounges.
I heard a voice. I peeked over the June, 2013 Harper’s Magazine. To my delight, one of my favourite people, Richard, came through a door pushing a mail bin. The smiling ‘mail delivery man’ is the same one who sat on the Library Board and fought hard to defray a lack of courage to build this wonderful oasis of literary culture and creativity. Now approaching his 80s, Richard’s rebellious nature has stayed true to his determination. His life has been one courageous act after another.
Richard knows how much I adore and respect him. I confessed once that had we been closer in age, no other woman would have dared put a hand on him. He blushed.
We hugged our delight over another chance meeting. We savour our quickie exchanges and laugh about our die-hard disagreements over which popcorn is best and how to properly pop it.
This time, we also talked about his strong distaste for thank you parties and gatherings. He learned about one coming up for him and he was drafting a strategy to not appear. We share parallel stories about discouraging and downplaying such events as big birthday parties, retirement events, etc.
I then tried to describe some of the invisible benefits effervescing from this work of art – our new Library. I ignored his guffaws and thanked him for all his efforts – knowing they were considerable.
Richard left to finish his mail route. I adjusted myself in the puffy, sand-coloured, leather easy-chair and returned to my magazine. It fell open to an article: “Easy Chair – Getting to Eureka” by Thomas Frank. An excerpt stood out and my eyes stung with tears:
“What determines “creativity“, in other words, is the very faction it’s supposedly rebelling against: established expertise.”
Could anything more profound have opened under my nose? Richard, the man who just left to finish his mail duty, has not been snagged by this dichotomy. To our enrichment, he has frequently stood to gently, but adamantly defy its destructive hold on foresight and intuition.
I want to be just like him. I want to rebel seamlessly. No big anything. Just quiet results.
He does, however, eat the wrong kind of popcorn.
(Note: For further proof of this man’s uniqueness, click on this link to find his book, “By degrees: around the world by tramp freighter” – Richard Moses)