Friday, April 4, 2014

The mystery fifteen feet away

I suppose this post would have been far more interesting had I not been seized with shyness, or human decency, or a fear of being caught, or the fact that I had other duties to attend to. It could have been any one of these, or likely a combination of all that stopped me.

I was coming down the grand staircase of our library, which isn't really grand, it's just big, and I had a perfect view of the service desk that I work at for a couple of hours each day. Two of my co-workers were helping people, and I was seized with the thought that I could watch that, watch them, entertained and interested, for just about forever. It would be like my dream TV show. It's an opportunity to see people I know engage in a task that I understand minutely, to see different personalities and skill sets collide with a sometimes complicated, ever changing and diverse job. I would know the secret meaning behind every utterance, the detailed reality behind every denied service and behind every indulged exception. In day to day life at my job I am forced to mostly guess and assume about what my co-workers are out there at the front desk doing. Even working next to them I don't really know. They are in my blind spot, or I am busy myself, or it's more polite to engage in my own project while they are helping people. Here I would get to see the whole picture! My curiosity runs the gamut! Are these people I work with nice, racist, condescending, dry, cold, brusque, friendly, lazy, strict, silly, inflexible, pleasant, gentle, fast, slow, ignorant, clever, confused? I am guessing yes, they are, and I sure would like to see it. As we encounter people out in the world we may suspect or wonder which of all these things might be true, but we generally have too small a frame of reference to judge of it properly. Is the Dr. lying to you because they're in a hurry? Do they not know what they're talking about? Are they eliminating a concern based on deep knowledge? I don't know. But when it comes to library clerking, I usually do. And then, besides all this, I am not so overwhelmingly self regarding that I don't hold out an interest in learning more. Surely my colleagues have their share of deft moves, kindnesses, and tricks of the trade I would be delighted to see. The whole thing would be a learning experience in addition to a rich exposé of human interaction.

All of this was laid out before me, but lo, I turned away. Really though, what was I going to do? Stand there on the stairs for an hour? And then I wouldn't have been able to hear what anyone said anyway. I have to be able to hear too! So I, like everyone else, remain half blind to what is all around us. We read novels, watch movies, scoot around the Internet, read a newspaper, ask people how they are, just trying to figure out what all these people all around us are really up to. Mostly, we won't know.

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