Monday, December 22, 2014

The mesmerizing schedule

At this library I work at we are scheduled in one hour increments; fiction, other, desk, the machine, phones, and so on. This schedule, one that tells a staff member what they will be doing, is posted on a bulletin board just to the right of where we enter into the public part of the library. We clerks and pages all flock to this schedule like moths to a summer night's light bulb, and we stare at it, dazzled by its luminous, mysterious power.

We all like to check the schedule eight or nine times a day. There may only be ten or fifteen of us working on a single day altogether, but at nearly any given moment throughout the day there will be a cluster of three or four of us gathered around the schedule, lingering, murmuring, reading it over and over. When it comes to this schedule we are all devout Jews here. It is our Torah and our Talmud.

What is it with this schedule? I don't know. It doesn't change much, and I generally have an idea of what my day will be like before I see it. And yet my mood can hinge on it. I'm elated if I like the way things look, and something even slightly disagreeable, like being at the front desk with someone awful for an hour, or too much time assigned on the machine, can pierce me to my soul.

"Nooooooooo!" I cry out.

"Are you okay?" Someone asks, alarmed.

"What? Did I cry out again? Oh. no, I'm fine."

And I usually am. I read the schedule again a few times. I soak up its complicated mysteries.

Dave, who has been quite witty this week, described the schedule in passing as "The clerks' favorite job." Five of us were gathered there, studying and studying some more.

What all are we doing, staring there, musing, reading? I, just, don't, know. Often, when I read my schedule for the day, by the time I've worked my way to the bottom of my scheduled hours I've forgotten what was at the top. I start over. Then I remember a certain hour I want to especially check. I wonder what a particular co-worker is doing that day for comparisons sake. But all of this does nothing to explain the sheer fascination with it, the draw of the thing, the deep reflection it incites. The amnesia it induces. We seem to be able to study the schedule endlessly, forgetting, and remembering.

I often write here in an attempt to explain the tiny mysteries of my daily life, but not today. The mighty schedule, subtly shifting, ever mysterious, oracular, and commanding, is beyond my small powers of divination.

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