Saturday, December 31, 2016
Every rare once in awhile we get an unbelievably quiet night like this. It's the season of course. But also we had a lot of staff go missing today. Sometimes the library can get quiet but a lot of staff can still make it feel a bit noisome and active. Tonight I have the whole backroom to myself. At virtually any other time two people are scheduled back here, and as many as half a dozen more, just on average, are milling about or coming through or working at one of these stations.
But I'm all alone. Phones, machine, back entrance, whatever comes up and it's just me. Not much is happening back here, indeed it is very quiet, but I am nevertheless needing to pee and just... holding it.
It's the little details that make clerkmanifesto so special.
Even before I was here running the whole of the uneventful back of the library it was an uncharacteristically slow night. A man I have been friendly with for decades came to chat at the service desk. He is sensitive to people needing help behind him in line and generally leaves right when someone comes along. So for years our longest conversations tend to be just a few minutes. Tonight was so quiet we talked for fifteen. I'm pretty sure I learned more about him tonight than I have in two decades. Because I know him it was like seeing a whole life all at once: childhood tragedies, marriage, children, divorce, work, marriage, children.
When I went to the backroom it was eerily quiet. One of my co-workers from the front desk came back to get something and I got all dramatic. "I don't know if I can handle all this all by myself!" I exclaimed, gesturing to absolutely nothing whatsoever happening anywhere. He politely snickered.
But I should know by now how dangerous such mockery can be. After ten minutes of nothing happening in any way, two bins on the machine filled up at once. A book caught in the spokes and the machine jammed completely and shut down. Running over to fix it I realized the phone was ringing, two lines.
My night is almost done. I almost enjoyed it. It was deathly quiet. In two hours there was a total of eight minutes of work. Oddly they all came in the same eleven seconds.