Wednesday, July 29, 2015


My library does not work on the buddy system, but I do.

Indeed, I run a very advanced and involved version of the buddy system. Besides my standard, over arching "buddy", who, for demonstration purposes, we will call "Dave", I have a vast series of auxiliary, specialized buddies. I have a kid lit buddy, a we secretly run the circ department buddy, a life's a joke buddy, a music buddy, a deep gossip of the library buddy, a librarian buddy, a life's a party buddy, a volunteer buddy, a library system buddy, and even a patron buddy.

It's a lot of buddies!

But the main buddy is the key thing. That's the person you, day to day, secretly count on.

When one works someplace a long time, as I have, one sees many people move on. Sometimes it feels like one sees everybody move on. One loses a lot of buddies. I have analogized this passing on of co-workers to deaths, to the little deaths of all those who leave. Not for them- they are seeing a different world open out before them- only for all of us who remain. And so it is. A work life is a long war. My library life is one, epic military campaign. It is a long march. There are endless hours of boredom, of duty, of fighting and customer service, of trudging along with one's comrades in arms. If one is lucky there is an occasional two-week leave in an exotic locale before it's back to the front lines, back to the barely sufficient grub, the meandering, chatty, and confessional talks in the foxholes, the long, restless wait with one's buddies in the trenches. Then the burst of fire, the brief flurry of explosions, and a potluck goodbye party in the break room. Someone that one likes very much has fallen in the field. Someone lies bleeding out in the smoking ruins and you can't get to them. They are gone, off to another job, or another city, or more school and some finer, more ambitious career. Gone.

No, the library I work at does not work on the buddy system. We are all just fodder here. Someone goes and a new person comes. That's how it goes. And a person can't make it here if they're going to get too sentimental. It won't do for a soldier, or a clerk, or a worker, or whatever, to attach too much meaning to all these work relationships.

But it's hard going without a few buddies to watch one's back and lighten the day. So I work on the buddy system. And though I am strong, and cold, and on the long campaign, I will confess that every lost buddy is a wound. Every lost buddy adds to my dozens of purple hearts, every lost buddy hurts. And when that main buddy goes it is worst of all. It's dark, and sad, and empty.

I don't say too much. I cry fake tears for real ones. It's very different for the one leaving. Their eyes are all forward, mine on another empty space. I wish them the best and tell them it's the right thing for them to do as long as it at least partly is. And it always is. And I spend my last working days with them like any other working days with them ever, like I have no idea what's coming.

And then, in a single, undetectable moment, they're gone forever.

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