Saturday, May 7, 2016
It is an unavoidable fact that most of the patrons I see when I am working at the library are in some state of leisure. They are here wiling an afternoon away with a cozy book, or picking out movies to watch at home later that evening, or even just surfing the Internet as they wait for the drugs to kick in. All this wanton recreation makes it a ripe environment for the induction of jealousy on my part. After all, I wish I could just sit around anonymously reading for hours and hours, but I have to shelve these books. I would love to look up more gelaterias in Rome on the library's serviceable public computers during some idle early evening where I have nothing to do, but I don't have nothing to do. I'm working!
For the most part the nature of our clientele has helped to save me from the bitter yoke of jealousy. It is vastly easier to look at our most regular idlers and think "They have no place to go." than it is to think "Ohh! Landed Gentry!". As much as I might feel a pang of envy at the free time of our library visitors, I feel an equal, perhaps even greater comfort in my gainful employment and stable and happy place in the world.
And perhaps that would work anywhere. If I were serving out gelato to the tourists at one of those Roman gelaterias I was referring to, there would be an endless stream of vacationers enjoying the blissful wonders of a brilliant city, all passing before me as I made the small talk, and effortfully plunked out their immensely tasty treats ("Per favore, try the Gorgonzola gelato. It is strange but bellissima!"). But I would be able to tell myself in that situation "Yes, they are on a vacation in paradise, but look at this place: Rome. I get to live here! Plus I am Italian!").
Yesterday I biked through my neighborhood to work. I saw people having a leisurely brunch at an adorable and amazingly popular new art deco old converted diner car café. It was 70 degrees out with a slight breeze. People were out on the deck sipping fruity cocktails as I trundled my way to work on my heavy city bike. Yes, I felt a mighty pang of jealousy, but I also understood, maybe they were hurrying through their little quick business brunch, or were otherwise racing along so that they could get to work. And then they glanced up to see me biking past.
"Oh." They would think. "What I would give on a beautiful day like this to just be able to bike around all day like that guy."
So am I saying the grass is always greener?
No, I'm saying our uninformed stories about strangers are usually wrong, so we might as well write the ones we can live with best.