Tuesday, January 26, 2016

In the shadow of Vesuvius

Every day that I work at the library I work until closing time. I am well acquainted with closing time's technicalities and peculiarities, the way people linger and appear out of crevices seven minutes after we lock the doors, the look and feel of the place as we shut down, the eerie, appealing quiet and darkness of a library put to bed. And surely there are a dozen or two posts concerning these closing issues, all scattered across my voluminous history here.

But today I was making up a couple extra hours that I was short for a recent holiday, and so I was uncharacteristically here on a Sunday morning, preparing the building for its add-people-and-shake instant opening. I roamed the whole library turning hundreds of things on, picking hundreds of things up, and being generally fascinated by how the library looked.

As we leave the library at night it looks sleepy and settled, but I never realized what was obscured in that. Because in the morning, in the light of a fresh day, the library looks like the aftermath of the rapture. It looks like people were sucked up midstride. It looks like Vesuvius erupted without warning, every action of every patron frozen exactly as they were in the moment the library shut down. There are no bodies, fortunately, but there are carefully chosen books and DVDs, ready for check out just... abandoned, uncompleted. A scarf and backpack lie sadly together on the floor like a human being disintegrated into ash rather than make the effort of walking out of the building. There is a chair pulled out for a person to sit in, though no one is there. A notebook sits on the table before that absent person, half a sentence written, a pencil there almost seems to still be rocking back and forth, so fresh is its abandonment.

Who were these evaporating patrons? Were they beamed up? Do visitors from starships come to our library? Do they tell Scotty to beam them down.

"Scotty," They instruct. "Beam us down into the science area of non fiction. The library closes at 9:00 so just set it to auto beam us back up then."

"Are you sure? If we beam you back up at nine exactly then everything you're doing will be left behind." 

"Oh, don't worry." They reply. "There's plenty of warning for when the library closes. I'm sure we'll be all prepared and ready to go when it does."

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