Last week, I found myself with a rare Thursday morning, empty of all obligations. Tim had left the day before on a business trip, so once all the children had departed for school, I started a load of laundry and drank my cup of coffee in near silence. Only the warbling of the birds and the barking of a few neighbor dogs broke the quietude. I contemplated staying home, in my seat at the dining table, but I knew that soon enough, Patty would want to be let out (and then in and then out and then in again), and that I’d have at least three of the four cats doing something to distract me. In an effort to be more productive than I might be at home, I decided that I’d head to the library. After all, a book was waiting for me there, on reserve. I could bring my computer with me and get some much-needed work done, then pick up my book and return home.

I’ve always loved libraries. The smell of the book paper, the creak of the book spines, the short carpet used to muffle footsteps, and the nooks and crannies where one can get lost, physically or metaphorically. And this library? Well it had been renovated within the last year. The design team made sure that this library housed many places to work and large windows that let in natural light. I smiled when I thought of all the work that could be done if I just went to the library.

So I did.

This library had opened at 9:30 a.m. I walked through the door just seven minutes after that, and I was shocked to see that already, the placed bustled. A few people sat in the armchairs, reading newspapers; a couple more patrons stood at the reference desk, speaking to the librarian; a school group was situated in the children’s area. The number of people within the space amazed me, and I wondered to myself, Will I be able to get any work done? Will it be too noisy? Should I look into one of their quiet study rooms instead? With few walls and so many hard surfaces, the sounds reverberated pretty easily. Should I stay or should I go?

I decided to risk the noise because I wanted to sit in front of the large floor-to-ceiling windows. Outside, the rays of sun splashed off the white lines of the road and the wind rippled the leaves of the trees. Few things inspire me more than sun and the new life of spring; I knew I needed that window. I plugged in my computer, booted it up, and pulled up the current exam I was working on. I didn’t have too much to work to do it, so I figured it was a good place to start.

And work I did until a woman approached a nearby librarian and asked for help with her computer. The woman looked a decade or so older than me, but not old enough to justify the volume of her speaking voice. Didn’t her decibel level bother anyone else? I looked around at the teenagers who sat in a small group, doing some reading, and then back to a man at the table behind me. No one seemed ruffled by the voice of this woman. Okay then. I had an exam to finish making. Mind over matter, and move on, lady. I placed my fingers to the keyboard once again.

No sooner did I get into the groove and a man sat down at my table. Almost always willing to share a table, I smiled at him, and then forged ahead with my document. I watched out of the corner of my eye as he plugged in his computer and adjusted the monitor. Almost immediately, a loud chirp erupted. I refrained from saying anything or from making eye contact. I thought he would turn the volume of his machine down, but then, the chirp rang out once more. And then a third time.

I looked at him, and then I looked around the room. Did he not hear this noise? Did no one hear the noise? I felt like standing on top of the table, hands on hips, and feet apart. I wanted to shout out, Isn’t this a library? What happened to the QUIET ZONE?

I didn’t, but I vowed that I’d say something to him if the computer kept up it’s odd behavior. But then, his phone rang, and I don’t mean that the phone vibrated against the table or that his ringtone lilted toward my ears. No, that phone, which should have been silenced, screamed for attention. I pursed my lips and gave the man a quick glance out of the side of my eyes. He didn’t notice, because instead of looking at me, he was answering his phone.

Hello?

He’s not here right now. May I ask who is calling?

Okay, I’ll let him know.

I almost leaned in and asked him why he even bothered to pick up the phone when that was the conversation that went down and why, for the love of God, did he not have his phone on silent?

But I’m too nice to be rude, so instead, I called it a day. I’d managed to finish up the draft of my test and send a few emails. As much as I wanted to spend time in front of a great view, I knew the Universe would not allow it. I packed up my things, told the man to have a great day, and exited the building with a smile pasted to my face.

As I walked out the front sliding doors, the complete and utter silence of the outdoors smacked me in the face. I laughed on my drive home and spent the rest of the day in relative peace and quiet.

Image of library bookshelves by Ahmad Ardity from Pixabay.

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