Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Under the bridge

One can glamorize most things. We live in a glamorizing culture, which in itself is a glamorization of "We live in a culture of self aggrandizing lies."  I don't personally set out to glamorize clerking, but when it happens I try not to worry about it too much. On the one hand, clerking is pretty well under glamorized, and on the other hand, around my blog, not to mention in real life, clerking's comedown is always just around the corner.

I must have been doing some glamorizing lately because today I have a comedown for you.

Let's talk just a bit about shelving.

No, not about the alphabet, or technique, or speed. I don't want to talk about any of the amusing interactions with patrons that one runs into along the way. Nor do I intend to discuss all the books, all the fascinating, infuriating, eye-catching, intriguing books that a shelver is subsumed in as he shelves. No, I'd like to talk a bit about how I feel out there, shelving.

Working away in between the stacks cuts me off from any real, outside light. It removes me from the action of the library, its open spaces, its activity, but if I peer out through the space between the tops of the books and the bottom of the next shelf I get a weird, secret, hunter's blind sort of view of parts of the library, motion, people coming and going. They can't see me, half crouched as I am to look, peering out through my gap. I move through the stacks mucking with my stuff, bookends, books, abandoned things, shuffling about inscrutably, moving at my weird shelving pace with my emptying cart of books. I stop. I scrawl an inscrutable note onto a post-it pad, I straighten, I reorder, I read the very start of a book. I shelve. No one sees me in my quiet, private labor until maybe I am just there, where they thought they'd look for a book. I duck away from them and into invisibility again.

Today I read a short story by Neil Gaiman. I was drawn to it. Like most of what I read by Neil Gaiman I am still working out how I feel about it. Sherman Alexie is the same for me. I read something by either of them and think "I'm not sure how I feel about this. I need some time to see." But I never quite see, exactly. I don't know why I was drawn to the Neil Gaiman story, but it was up there in the stacks and I read it.

It was a troll story. A story about a person and a troll, a regular, under the bridge troll. It wasn't a happy story. It was only kind of horrible. I'm sure I'll figure out how I feel about it sometime. But I didn't then. I shelved. And I looked out of my cracks and gaps, and I shuffled about in my rooting private endeavors, and I went invisible. And I thought, hey, I am a troll. I am a troll, here with my books, under a bridge, hidden, peering out, mucking about, I am a troll. A fable, a game, a truth.

I am a troll under a bridge

It wasn't horrible, exactly. It was the strangest feeling, but, no, not necessarily horrible. Should it be? 
Actually, I'm still sort of working out how I feel about it. One day I may know.

But no, it wasn't glamorous.

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