This guy I know (OK, I’m married to him) has a simple theory about the District: There are two types of people, those who make it a great place to live and those who make you want to scream. Last night I encountered a card-carrying member of the latter group at the MLK Library.
This was at the famed Washingtoniana room on the third floor, the go-to spot to research D.C. neighborhoods. Or maybe it’s not so famous, because when I called the main number of the library to ask if this room would be open during regular library hours, I talked to someone who seemingly had never heard of it. She gave me another number to call, an automated message with general hours and the location. Screw it, I said, and hopped on the 42 bus to take my chances.
The room was, indeed, open and the librarian in there was, at first, nice enough. She pointed me to the stacks, gave me a bibliography binder that has seen better days, and told me to start with the books. When I was done with those, she said, I could come back and she would pull some hanging files for me. I could not pull them myself, she let me know, and I could not check them out. Fair enough. I dug into the books, only when I was ready for the hanging files, she was about two minutes into her 45-minute high-decibel telephone diatribe about some loan she couldn’t pay off, about how she was going to have to use credit-card checks, about how no one understood her predicament.
By the time she had finished, I didn’t have time to go through all the hanging files. That guy I mentioned (my husband) was leaving to come pick me up and called my cell to tell me so. I talked quietly until I heard the librarian say to me in her now-familiar take-no-prisoners tone: “Miss! Miss! If you’re going to talk on the phone, you’ll have to go outside or go into the hall!”
I get it, I really do. I hate cell phones, loathe them. They are a menace to civility and should have no place in a library. But c’mon, lady. I just listened to you berate someone for almost an hour.
And, while I’m at it, I might as well bring it: As a member of both the D.C. Library system and the Arlington Library system, I’ve concluded that the difference between them is the equivalent of spending six hours at the Half Street inspection station listening to DMV workers bitch about their supervisor and getting a foot rub while a valet parks your car and has it detailed.
Oh, and the drinking fountains at Arlington libraries? Water comes out of them. Amazing.