Sunday, November 6, 2016

More adventures in multiculturalism

The hideously run In Service Days of my library system are one of the banes of my existence, but oddly I didn't much mind this year's In Service Day. In fact, I enjoyed it immensely. I think the key for me this year was in flying to Rome and observing it at a distance,  unaware it was happening, sipping fresh juices on a couch in a Renaissance Palace, looking out over the baroque domes and roof gardens of the city. A simple solution, but elegant.

Nevertheless, upon my return, reports reached me, fascinating reports. And my favorite report is the one about lunch. Well, it's about lunch, but it's about multiculturalism as well.

My library system's feverish commitment to diversity and multiculturalism is of the highest order, so long as you don't count who we hire for any managerial positions, or really any positions of authority, or how we treat the public, all of which would fit in comfortably with Minnesota in the 1950s. But other than that we're right on top of it with mandatory training that has no practical application, occasional public programming, and a concerted effort to hire diversely in direct proportion to whatever job pays least.

It's a start. Possibly an end too. But that doesn't mean my library system has given up. So this year when it came time to order the In Service Day lunch, instead of the hideous gruel known as the Jimmy Johns box lunch, it was decided we would use a local Thai cafe to provide the food.

Thai food! Thai owners! Diversity. Multiculturalism!

A spark of gustatory thrill ignited through the stomachs of our library community. Could we possibly be getting tasty, interesting, maybe even real food on In Service Day?

The day came. I woke up and went with my wife for a cappuccino at Sant' Eustachio before a wander through ancient streets to astonishing sights of pure loveliness. But back in Minnesota my co-workers went to In Service Day. And the thought of a Thai lunch sustained them through strange, droning lectures. Expectation built until the noon hour. Lunch came. And it was in boxes.

Wait, boxes? 

Yes, boxes, boxes with meat sandwiches on white bread. Boxes with condiment packages of mustard and mayonnaise. Boxes with bags of potato chips. Somehow the Thai Restaurant had provided an even worse box lunch than Jimmy Johns had. I didn't even know such a thing was possible. What happened?

In a spark of commitment to diversity the library hired a Thai Restaurant. But as evidence that none of the four years of diversity training had any effect they specially asked for boxed lunches of American Food.

It was very funny. In Rome. Nibbling grilled eggplant. And drinking a lot of wine.


  1. Good morning, Dear Feldenstein Calypso. I have an off-topic question, and perhaps some assistance. You see, I have requested a copy of the new Bruce Springsteen (AKA The Boss) autobiography. Sadly, I am number 19 on the queue. Assuming it will take the average reader a couple of weeks (I hear it's a long book), I'm looking at...wait...let's see...two times 19...around 38 weeks, or nine months or more until I get that book!!!

    What should I do? Should I request that they purchase more than one copy? Is there anything you can do on your end? Like hack into their computer? I mean, The Boss and I have a long history, and who knows what will happen in the next nine months. I could die. Books could disappear from the planet. I could lose interest in reading altogether, or the Kate Bush autobiography would come out, but in that case I would purchase the hard copy immediately, so strike that eventuality.

    My plight has been laid bare.



    1. I don't know why it somehow always falls to me to bail you out on Bruce Springsteen related problems. I feel our relationship has always been equitable except when it comes to Bruce Springsteen where I end up in more of a "giver" role. I tried to fix this inbalance by having you buy us tickets for a Springsteen "River" concert in the twin cities last year, but I guess the history and pattern in our relationship is too deep to alter. I accept. I will continue to give.

      So, I have investigated your Ventura County library system. There are four copies of this book in the system. As 19 on the list my estimate is that you will see a copy in roughly a couple of months, which is a much less likely amount of time for the world to end or suchlike. If you are as eager as you say (and yet too financially prudent to buy the book- something I support!) you could listen to the book on CD! It appears your library system has one copy of the book on CD, and though I think it's checked out, I don't believe there are any holds on it as I type!

      Good luck. Let me know if there is anything else I could do for you in this matter.

      Yours too,


  2. Lots of coincidences! Too many to describe. Mrs. Grape and I just got back from the local library, where our local librarian, Debbie, confirmed that there are four copies in the greater system. Silly me I assumed there was only one, but that set my mind at ease.

    I have tried books on CD with moderate success. Once for a while I got mysteries to help my ride along when traveling far distances and that was kind of pleasant, but will wait for hard copy.

    Thanks again. If you could please put me first in the queue for the Kate Bush autobiography, I would appreciate it.

    But you didn't say anything about the Kate Bush autobiography.

    1. I'm glad Debbie could help you almost as much as me.

      Yes, I know I didn't mention her. I'm so sorry. Hang in there.

      She started her autobiograpy. The first two chapters went pretty fast. That was 8 years ago. Currently every few months she comes

  3. ha ha, that story was hilarious....and suspenseful. I couldn't wait to hear how the in-service participants liked the Thai food. But then....worse than Jimmy Johns? And the asked a Thai restaurant to serve American sandwiches? hahahahaha

    All in-services are jokes. I remember one I went to quite a few years back on sexual harassment. The only thing I remember is that the presenter said that if there is a wind that blows a women's skirt up, all the men will look, but if a man's pants fall down, all the women cover their eyes. Not sure what his point was.

    1. In a different library era I took over In Service Day for a few years, and while it was perhaps still a joke (though I tried to make that more intentional) the amazing thing to me was how we were able to take their ridiculous box lunch food budget to the store and came back with a frankly absurd amount of really nice and interesting food (nuts, good fruit, salads, chocolate, ice cream, guacamole, cheeses, good breads, and on and on in a faintly obscene way), and we still had enough for delivered pizzas as well.

      It suddenly strikes me that there may be something fishy going on with our ISD lunch budget and these 49 cent box lunches!


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