Monday, January 5, 2015
I have worked at my library for twenty years. The history of the place pours through my hands like sand. I don't know why I grasp at the unholdable sand like I do, but sometimes I have to. I am not alone. Fits come over us old timers sometimes, and we start pulling, like out of a dusty old box, the names of our long gone fellow co-workers. I'm telling you, this work stuff, man! Four, five days a week we lived with these people! They were our brothers and sisters, for a year at least, or two years, or ten. Do you remember the two Noahs? There was big Noah and little Noah. What about Pam? She always seemed so painfully hungover or something. Handsome Phil, everyone remembers handsome Phil, too beautiful for the County Library. Peggy? No, she was before my time, but I know a story about her. Barak (his real name!) who drank two liters of a violently orange beverage every day and was the first person willing to discuss video games with me. How can there even be so many people? I ran into a long time patron at a party and he told me proudly of when his daughter worked at my library, oh, 15 years ago. I pretended to remember the kid, but I just couldn't bring her to mind. Another one lost. If you'll allow me to convene an informal panel of my fellow old timers, perhaps, with us all working together, we could do some archeology on the memory of her. As a group it is just possible we can excavate her to mind again. Or maybe it is too late. So many lost co-workers, so many brothers and sisters gone.
There is a trick for keeping library books in a collection, and you should learn it. Our shelving space is always maxed out. For everything new we must weed the old. That doesn't sound very libraryish, but it's usually how it goes. And when it is time to weed where does one look but at the items that have not been used, the items that no one has checked out. So if you want to save Fish Whistle, for instance (and you do!), you can try and convince someone to read it (harder than it sounds!), but your safest bet is just to check it out yourself, flip through it, or do nothing but return it. And then it will probably be safe for another year.
And so it is with my co-workers. My memory is close to hitting its limit, maybe that's at 500 or maybe it's at 2,000, but it's out there. This list only grows longer. If I want to keep the memory of some of these former co-workers alive I have to bring them to mind periodically. That's always easiest to do with the assistance of some fellow old timer.
I go dig one up.
Hey, Victor, remember Rachel, Tanya, Jason, Brian? Dean, Carol, Linda, Sue, Roxanne, John?
Yeah, yeah, he was, wasn't he? What? Do I remember Carl?
Carl? God, why do you bring him up? Blah, Carl! I don't want to remember him!
Now I have to forget someone else instead!