Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Mr. Toad's wild ride

Among the most mediocre (but as a fan, ever thrillingly delightful) rides of Disneyland there sits Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. It is a very short, dark ride, meaning an indoor environmental ride wherein one's party sits in a conveyance (a simulated roadster in this case) and is taken along a track on a little adventure. The Mr. Toad ride was based off characters from a kid's book called The Wind in the Willows which, it turns out, is about reckless driving and auto theft. Disney made half an animated movie about it three quarters of a century or so ago. Any further nuances are relatively moot as the premise of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride is that you are in a car being recklessly driven through a variety of English Environments: The countryside, a manor, London, Hell, all of it full of ridiculous hazards like road construction, exploding factories, frantically gesturing police, and evil judges. Your car's headlong, dangerous, and crazy driving is ever bailed out by a fool's luck and sudden, last minute, skin-of-your-teeth turns.

I did not intend originally to provide so thorough an explanation of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Most of you probably know the gist of it all already. I merely came here to talk about my library once again.

Right now my library reminds me a lot of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

Because of all the special limitations of the pandemic, and with all the very specialized, highly limited, and minutely scheduled things herein offered, my library has become a warren of stanchions, cart walls, "Do Not Enter!" signs, giant red arrows, closed areas, gated sections, and long, narrow access pathways.

All of it seems assembled with the same chaotic and ill fitting, makeshift and wild design that marks Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. And the library patrons that wander into this frantic, complicated, overly stimulating environment seem to me exactly like the cars jolting madly through Mr. Toad's. These people push on a door that reads "Warning: No Entry!" only to wheel off to another door, plunge through, and find themselves walking against the tide of an army of red arrows.

They surge away from that just as they are set to head the wrong direction down an endlessly stanchioned path to nowhere. They dodge through the proper entrance only to make an ill-advised turn to the computer appointments area where they find some County functionary looking admonishingly at them and saying "Can I help you" in a tone that implies it is not help, rather a stern correction they offer. Of course like the Disney ride nothing ever goes seriously wrong, except for in Mr Toad one ends up in Hell, and in the library there is a possibility the experience will lead to a terrible bout of Coronavirus and maybe an impending, tragic, and brutal death. 

 But, of course, you go for the ride, you take your chances.


  1. I can't but think that RCL must have had a contest to determine the most complicated possible response to the virus. By contrast, libraries where I am are opening bit by bit, a few more each week. Most are still providing curbside service, but more and more are moving on to "open with restrictions." Those restrictions are generally to do with mask, hand sanitizer, the three questions, to which I routinely answer, before they ask, "no symptom, no contact, no travel," and limits on the people in the library at one time. Maybe some arrows or 6-foot markers on the floor.

    I grant you, these are smaller libraries than yours, but they seem to have found a level of caution where they are comfortable enough to operate without going crazy.

    I'll tell you who DOESN'T seem to be functioning well. This afternoon I walked too far to find the NH Democratic HQ, in search of a Biden/Harris sign. When I finally located the building, a large house, and the correct door, I found this sign: "Closed until further notice for the safety of our employees." My gosh, don't these people know their is a battle going on!?

    1. What can I say? The country is broken. Most of the chaos in my library comes down a wide swath of managers wanting to make important decisions and do important things and appease those above them. When they act pragmatically and practically and without fuss they are able enough. That's probably why your small libraries are doing it just fine; there isn't room or incentive to turn simple ten minute decisions into months long processes that become outdated as they are prevaricated over.


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