Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Frozen library

By the time this post goes live our ferociously cold, minus twenty something weather will have begun to fade. According to predictions we will soon see temperatures inch their way above zero. Our little weather emergency will be over. But, like most not too horrible library emergencies, it was fun while it lasted.

We started with advance warning of the imminent cold front and an accompanying rising hysteria about it on the weekend. While the weather was still in the twenties our DVD section was mobbed. Traditionally disdained movies like Birdemic: Shock and Terror or the loathsome I'm Not There, were greedily scooped up and taken out of the library for the first time in years. We can only hope the discs still remember how to spin in the disc drives. All 3,000 people I helped that day said to me "Stay Warm" to which I invariably replied "Warmth is for the weak." Unless I replied "You too." or "I'll need to since we've decided to turn off the library's heat as a cost saving measure this week."

The heart of the cold wave struck early Monday morning. When I arrived at the library, at my appointed time, I was informed that seven people had called in, unable to come in for various reasons, mostly transportation related. The fact that being short seven people made very little difference here was faintly alarming. I took comfort in the fact that I wasn't one of the seven people and so could hang on to my illusions that I am the linchpin whose absence would bring this library to a horrible, grinding halt. Throughout the day, when people owed us money, I waived all their fines while being as unfriendly as possible. Then, just before they hated me, I would say "I waived your fines and was cold about it for a reason. It was a cold waive. Get it, a cold wave?" If they didn't pretend to laugh I added all their fines back on.

During the day it wasn't as quiet as one might have anticipated with minus 50 wind chills. Some people were perhaps trying to assert how intrepid they were, some maybe had nowhere else to go. At two the coffee shop closed because they are heartless, weak kneed Capitalists, leaving only us public loving Socialists to enrich and serve the frozen community. By evening my library did get as close to as quiet as it does. We are too big to really empty, but 25 or 35 visitors, mostly on computers, feels pretty close to empty. It freed up our staff and our staff's special guests, to go outside and hurl water in the air and watch it flash freeze, turning instantly to mist and drifting into the night sky.

At 8:40 I had to go out and unlock the backup return bin. It was only minus 17 at the time, with minus 40 wind chills, so there was no need for a jacket or hat or anything. I wanted just to, you know, see. The whole thing only takes about a minute or a minute and a half. It really wasn't too bad. When the wind gusted on my bare wrists though they ached like they were horribly bruised, and it was only when I walked back inside that I realized I was suddenly on the verge of being freezing, shiveringly cold. Before I walked into the library though a woman said "I can't believe you're out here dressed like that." to which I replied "Look who's talking, you don't even have a hat!"

When it was time to go everyone's car started up just fine. There was some preemptive starting them up, but I figured if the car got them to us it could get them home too, and I found no frozen corpses in the parking lot today.

Things are pretty well back to normal now. They say minus 13 tonight, but you get acclimated. I doubt it will even make my wrists hurt.



  1. Good post today. I LOL'd. Photo, too!

  2. Good god, you people are tough!!

    1. Hey, my dear friend, sorry to take 6 months for this response, but...

      one of my most emblematic images of mdnez is in the house (first floor) I shared with him in Oakland, CA, where, in the winter he would sit with the oven on, open, and with his feet fully inside. He had to actually cook himself in an oven to stay warm enough!

      But he lives in New Orleans now, where it is warm and humid. Ugh! Now that's tough!


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