Thursday, November 18, 2010


          This post is dedicated to Julie, who understands personal filth, and also likes peanuts.

          When it's finally time for my lunch break, I put the closed sign out, turn the main lights off, and retreat into the narrow little storage/workroom at the back of the library, locking the door behind me.  That way I don't hear the phone, or the walkie-talkie, and even if someone brazenly demands that a custodian unlock the library to track me (or something I'm in charge of) down, they will be foiled.  There is no sign of me.  Short of a family emergency or a terrorist attack, I AM NOT TO BE BOTHERED.
          In my secret Library Cave it's just me, whatever book I'm currently reading, my snacks, and a cup of coffee.  Perfect.  The book is the most important element.  That, and the silence.
          The problem is that I'm not good at covering my tracks.  I usually don't put much thought into what to eat at work, so it ends up being whatever unhealthy, messy thing I happen to grab on the way out the door.          
          And I have two speeds: "On," and "Off."  Which means when I'm "Off" (during my lunch break), I am REALLY off.  Meaning I toss food wrappers on the floor because it would be too much effort to throw them away.  And if crumbs and globs tumble to the floor I just ignore it.
          And then there are the frequent ant invasions.  I don't blame the ants, they're naturally attracted to sticky crumbly food messes, and I leave plenty of those.
          Here's where the peanuts come in:
          Anthony's birthday was circus-themed, so we had lots of unshelled peanuts to snack on, so much that I ended up with several bags of them after the event.  I took some to work with me and stashed them in the back storage/workroom.  When I'm reading during my lunch hour I don't want to have to put my book down, so I ended up clumsily breaking into the shells with one hand, gobbling the peanuts, and making a mess of the shells all over the floor around me.  There's no trash can back there, because I don't want it to look like I actually eat lunch there.  It's supposed to be my secret hideout.
          But I spent several days in a peanut-eating frenzy, scattering crushed bits of peanut shells all over the floor, and just kind of never cleaning it up.  I don't know why.  I guess I was just way more focused on the book I was reading.  It looked like rats had gotten into the storage room.  What human being would make such a splintery, shredded mess all over the floor?
          When my lunch break was over, I'd get up, look down, and think, "Gross!  Somebody should clean that up..."
          One day I showed my Student Library Aide the workroom, because he had to help me get some boxes from back there.  He stopped, noticing the organic mess around the small table and chair.
          "Wow...  Somebody made a real mess back here!  What are all these peanut shells...?!" he asked innocently, perplexed and seemingly affronted.
          My face flushed red, and I felt like a teenage boy whose mother had discovered his hidden stash of (gay) porn.
          I confessed quickly that it was actually ME who made that mess, and immediately got down to business moving the boxes, trying to distract the lad from thinking too much about how disgusting and trashy Mr. Kovac is.
          Later I went back into the workroom alone, staring at my filth and wondering why I'm like that.  My mom is very tidy, my dad is very tidy, and they certainly tried their best with me.  My husband was very tidy when we first moved in together, but slowly my tide of clutter and careless filth overwhelmed and defeated him.  (He's still alive, but not as tidy.)
          It didn't occur to me until the next day that even though I was embarrassed at having my mess discovered, I STILL hadn't cleaned it up.  The only reason I even thought about it was because miraculously, overnight, the mess had been totally cleaned up by someone else!  The carpet was vacuumed, no trace of peanuts or shells remaining.  I realized the custodians must have discovered my terrible secret at last, and added that back workroom to their nightly cleaning route.
          The shame hit me like a punch to the chest.
          Every day now, whatever mess I make back there is cleaned up by morning.  Did they tell anybody?  Do they even care?  This is an exceptionally clean school, so I'm afraid my trashiness MUST stand out.  I should change my behavior, become cleaner and pick up after myself.  Eat less weird candy and snacks.
          But here is what my secret hidden workroom desk looks like right now:
Bag of Peanut M&Ms and Cracker Jacks (Halloween leftovers), and a truly disgusting mug of mostly-eaten potato soup, with trash stuffed in it.  When I finally cleaned it out, I discovered MOLD growing in it.  Yay!

Wrappers from the Mexican peanut candy I stole from the Edgar Allan Poe "Dia de los Muertos" ofrenda.  Also Peanut M&M wrapper, dirty napkins, stray paperclip and some kind of dark yarn.
           At least there's nothing on the floor, though.  Well, maybe a few broken shards of pretzel crackers.  If questioned, I will suggest that rats must be living in the Library's air-conditioning ducts.

(Follow-up topic: PEANUTS.  Is it simple coincidence, or fate that leads me to eat so many peanut-related foods?  First peanuts in natural form, then Peanut M&Ms, then Mexican peanut candy...  Why is this a theme in my life lately?)

1 comment:

  1. This whole thing is a dark yarn, my friend. I love it. And peanuts will make their way into all good circus animals' diets. I love that the janitors found your shreddy, animal-y mess, sighed, and cleaned it up.