Friday, November 19, 2010


I found this on a scrap of paper by one of the student computers after school: 

Let me walk you through my interpretation of this:  The figure on the right appears to be mildly annoyed at first, and tosses something (sushi? a bento box?) at the figure on the left.  Although the figure on the right is now delighted by his own antics, the figure on the left becomes large and freaky with anger.  Suddenly, the figure on the right is tiny, dwarfed by the fiery wrath of the figure on the left.  It is wordless, yet profound.

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?)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


-from the Malleus Librarium, by Tater Lumpkin

          Monday during our busiest stretch of the morning, when we have about 50 kids all packed into this little library, I gave a detention to a 7th grade boy.  He cried, and I offered the barest of reassurances, staring down at him stonily.  Welcome to the harsh realities of life, kid.
          Here is how the absurd events played out:
The common stapler, a seemingly benign office tool
          We have ONE stapler on the circ desk that is for student use.  They are supposed to use it AT the desk.  The Offender (name withheld) made his first mistake by carrying the stapler to the back of the room with him.  When another student asked for the stapler and I found it missing from the counter, I yelled,
          “Whoever took the stapler from the desk needs to bring it back up here NOW!”
          No response from the Offender, but then some kids started muttering that someone had the stapler at the back of the room, and they were still using it.  I have no patience for this kind of thing, especially when I’m busy and there are 50 kids to supervise.
          “Whoever has the stapler needs to bring it to the desk right NOW, because there are other students who need to USE it!!!”
          Finally a helpful girl went over to the Offender, who I finally noticed.  He was trying to hide behind some other kids at the back while he finished his work.  He finished stapling, head down, and the girl took the stapler and brought it up to me. 
          I marched over to the Offender and demanded to know why he had ignored me, and why another student had to bring the stapler up to me, when HE was the one hoarding it.  He offered some lame, whining excuses, which I had no patience for.
          “Well, you get a detention.  Come up to the desk now.”
          He was horrified, eyes instantly red and welling.  I realized he was a 7th grader, a little guy I recognized from a class that meets in the Library 4 days a week.  Tears spilled down his cheeks, and his voice wobbled as he asked, “Will this go on my permanent record?!”
          I sighed, and assured him that it would not.  He asked if I would have to notify his parents, and I answered, “Not unless you fail to serve the detention.”  As I filled out the scary white/yellow/pink triplicate detention slip, he tearfully asked where to serve the detention, and when.  He’d never had one before, and had no idea what to do or where to go.
          I took a small amount of pity on him and assured him that it was really no big deal, he just needed to serve it and get it over with, and everything would be fine.  As long as he did NOT ignore/defy me again. 
          I’ve only made kids cry a few times in my years as a Library technician, so I thought it was worth mentioning.  Okay, well maybe more than just “a few” times, but probably no more than 10.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

DAY OF THE DEAD : "Ofrenda" for Poe

     My friend Christine, the Art teacher, did all sorts of Day of the Dead decorating all over campus, and was kind enough to give us all the makings for an ofrenda for Edgar Allan Poe, complete with (plastic) skeletal remains.  She and her students are responsible for making all the cool stuff.  I assembled it on top of our graphic novels section.
Mr. Poe

      "Ofrendas are an essential part of the Day of the Dead celebrations. The word "ofrenda" means offering in Spanish. They are also called altares or altars, but they are not for worshiping.                
      Ofrendas are set up to remember and honor the memory of ancestors."
"Lenore" painted on the mysteriously squished side of his skull

I love the colorful tissue-paper flower garland
     When she was putting up all the decorations late Friday evening, she was on a ladder outside one of the classrooms and the ladder collapsed.  She felt into the wall and then dropped to the ground.  Her ankle is pretty f***ed up, she's sore all over, but at least we don't have to make an altar dedicated to HER memory.
     (I don't know why it is that we school employees tend to flaunt safety so much.  I don't even HAVE a ladder in the library, so I end up balancing precariously on book carts, or even stacking a little rolling library stool on top of a chair on top of a table to reach the higher bulletin boards.  We received a flyer by email a few weeks ago with the slogan, "A chair is not a ladder!" showing how to use a stepladder correctly to reach things, and reminding us to be very careful.  I tacked it to the wall in the back room and ignore it every day.)

Skulls, pictures of the deceased, offerings of food, candy, and drinking water, even flowers and ravens!
      She also did an altar dedicated to Frida Kahlo in the main office, and drew a unibrow on it.  Awesome, right?  And did you notice Mr. Poe has a mustache?  It's amazing it survived even after his skin and organs rotted away.  That is a seriously tough mustache.
      Mr. Poe is dressed in my own clothes, and it felt weird shoving his stiff, awkward limbs into my shirt and pants.  It felt sort of like dressing a child or an old person.  He was so uncooperative I had to pop his hands off and re-attach them after I got the sleeves on.  (I don't think you're allowed to do that with kids or old people.)