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international librarian of mystery

Friday, October 01, 2004

Are you talking to me?

I wandered into the tea-room and saw Mrs Farnum - one of the older librarians at our branch - with her head down in the newspaper. I made myself a nice milky cup of hot Milo, and settled down on the couch with a pile of French Vogues. French Vogue, by the way, has far nicer clothes than the British edition. I also had a couple of New Scientists, which may as well be written in French for all that I understand them, but, still, I always think my brain must be benefiting from even being exposed to the latest theories on quantum physics.

Mrs Farnum has either ever attained, or never wanted to get herself into, a cushy management position, despite over 30 years in service in the local library network. As a result, or maybe because of, she has developed an odd quirk or two. The oddest, as far as I know, is her tendency to just rabbit on, all the time, about what she's doing and thinking. There is no valve between brain and mouth. Here, for example, is a description of our tea break 'conversation'.

My head is buried in a Vogue, and I am a good 3 or 4 metres away from Mrs Farnum , who is reading the paper at a table across the room. We are the only people in the room. Suddenly, she speaks...

"Well, I don't know what they're doing putting this sort of frivolous scandal on the front page of the paper. With all the things that are going on in the world, you'd think the main metropolitan paper in the capital city of one of the world's developed nations could come up with something that might have some actual impact in the wider world beyond some love trist!"

I look up. Does she want a response? What the hell is she talking about, for starters? (This, as it turns out).

"Err, yes."

No reply. I go back to my Vogue. Mrs Farnum continues to mutter under her breath at a barely audible level, but then, a minute later she launches into it again...

"These people! I don't know. What are they thinking? It just doesn't seem right that people can come to New Zealand from the sorts of hardships and horrors they've faced at home and then still have to put up with a few thick-headed locals who obviously have no idea how hurtful their actions can be. I do hope the police catch them. Nasty pieces of work, by the sounds of it."
"Mmm," I concur, not looking up from my magazine.

And then, after a couple more minutes of incoherent mumblings...

"If my house was worth that much, I'd be selling up now and moving to some sunny spot in Gisborne! I think a lot of this real estate speculation has got out of hand, and a lot of people are going to get burned when the reality of the situation hits home!"

Why, oh why have I not bought new batteries for my discman yet?

Finally she folds the paper up, goes to the sink and washes her cup, and starts to head out the door, and I'm thanking the stars that at least the last of half of my quarter hour break might be uninterrupted by random verbal rantings, when she actually notices that I'm there.

"Oh, hello Natalie. Have you seen the fund-raiser we're organising next Thursday night?"

She gestured to the wildly over-populated noticeboard.

"Err, no."
"We're putting on a screening of The Corporation. Have you heard about it?"
"A bit."
"Quite compelling. Maybe not quite in the same populist league as Fahrenheit 9/11, or as eye-opening as the End of Suburbia, but very interesting nonetheless. It's quite depressing actually, how the current system of oil-dependency is inevitably going to bring the current system of capitalist growth to a crashing end at some time in the near future. Oil prices will hit a record high, oil-funded investment in places like China and Asia will stop, and, well, from there, who knows what will happen: chaos!"
"Umm, yes. Actually, I thought oil prices were at an all-time high now?"
"Oh no, not compared to the 70s, with inflation taken into account."

I shouldn't have baited her, should I? There followed a five minute explanation of inflation-adjusted price comparisons. At some point there was a pause. It was, perhaps, a cue for me...

"Oh," I nodded.

I looked down longingly at the very latest edition of French Vogue that I had been saving as my 'best-til-last' treat. Mrs Farnum ranted on...

"So, it's $20 for the movie, but you get a bit of a nibble and a drink as part of that."
"Just leave drop me an email if you want to come along. With all the local body electioneering that's going on at the moment some people are a bit busy to make it out, so it'd be great if you could make it along."
"Yes. I'll try. I'll let you know."
"Excellent. Actually, have you seen the End of Suburbia?"
"I have it on DVD. I could bring it in for you if you wanted to see it. Might give you a bit more context for the Corporation."
"That'd be great. Thank you."
"No worries at all. As I was saying, it's a bit of a depressing watch. Might change your mind about how you use your car!"
"I don't have a car. I bus."
"Aha. Even then! I'll get you onto your bike yet!"
"Have you heard anything about the Critical Mass cycle event?"

But I'm sure I was about too...

"A big group of cyclists gather at Civic Square on the last Friday of each month and then head out to reclaim the streets. It's all good fun - we just cycle about nice and slowly, holding up traffic during rush hour."

She chortled away to herself as I tried to think back to any previous Friday evening bus trips that took longer than they should have, giving me further fuel to feed the fire of resentment I was now feeling towards for Mrs Farnum for ruining my tea break. As if sensing she'd now used up the last remaining moments of my precious break, she bade me farewell and sauntered out the door. I collected up my unread magazines and headed off to the Dungeon, where, admittedly, I would finish them in peace on work time.

Critical mass, eh? I must make a note of taking extra reading material for the bus on the last Friday afternoon of every month.

And get new batteries for my discman.