I regularly go to the public library. It can be a bit of a trial.
To get to the library I have to park-up in the multi-storey and walk through the shopping centre. Today I took a diversion. This is mainly so I won’t see the girl who sells The Big Issue in the market place. She’s some kind of foreign person. She wears a black scarf and colouful clothing. She’s very outgoing and loud. She’ll wave to you from across the way and shout, ‘How are you today?’ First time, I gave her £3.00 for the paper, and a hot sausage roll I’d just bought from Greggs. She showered me with thanks and God bless yous. Second time, I gave her £3.00 but didn’t take a paper as it was the same edition. Next time, I did likewise. It’s like becoming a regular thing. So today I took different route to the library, through the park. I feel bad about this.
One day I sat on a park bench with my subway and cappachino, and an elderly scruffy bewhiskered man approached me and jokingly admonished me for sitting on ‘his’ bench. He asked me if I minded if he also sat on the bench. I said, ‘no, it’s okay. I’m going now anyway.’ He apologised profusely before asking me if I could let him have £1.15. I said, ‘that’s a very specific amount. It won’t get you much. What do you want it for?’ He said he wouldn’t tell me a load of bull-shit but the truth of the matter is that he is an alcoholic, and he wanted to buy a can of beer. After further interrogation, he revealed that he was living in the park in the bushes, the rangers knew about it, and he was quite cosy thank you. ‘Well,’ I said, ‘You’ve put me in a moral predicament. If I give you the money I won’t be doing you any favours, I’d just be feeding your addiction.’ (I’d been told before not to give beggars money as they just piss it up the wall) ‘Well, hark at me!’ I thought. Anyway, I just gave him a fiver from my purse to do with what he liked.
And then there’s the homeless youth that possesses the alley way that runs from the car park to the shopping precinct. He sits wrapped in a sleeping bag with a cup hopefully placed near his feet. Today he had an older colleague for company. While I was passing he asked me in a gruff voice if I had any spare change ‘love’. I looked into his grey haggard face and said, ‘no, sorry, I haven’t.’ He gave a shrug and sincerely thanked me for talking to him. That’s all I said though, and I momentarily thought he was being sarcastic. But then I thought, most of the time people probably don’t even see him, never mind talk to him. Most of the time, neither do I.
I don’t go to the public library for the peace and quiet or to utilise their literary resources (although, to be fair I did find Margaret Powell’s autobiography here. And they have some good dvds). I mainly go for the free internet. I have my own portable wifi, but it’s limited capacity and it costs, so I am careful. Tramps, drug addicts, and delinquents on bail or facing imminent incarceration frequent the IT suite in the library. I know this because I hear them talking. It stinks in here today. A skeletal spaced-out white-as-a ghost faced youth dangles across a chair, stale alcohol fumes exhude from his pores. His partner in crime is erratically pacing the room, looking out of the window every few seconds. He mutters something about someone ‘tekking their time’ and looking like ‘they ain’t coming’. They’re waiting for a special delivery, I think. The pacing one keeps glancing at me suspiciously. I try to look uninterested and chavvy. I cough like I have TB. I don’t want no trouble. I’m having a problem logging on to the computer. I get up and approach the help desk in the main part of the library. I’m chewing on an apple (conspicuously). The librarian says to me, ‘It’s against the law to eat in the library.’ I (chameleon-like) want to tell her ‘fuck off!’ I don’t. I quickly stuff the rest of the apple, core and all, into my mouth and garble, ‘oh, well I don’t want to get arrested do I.’ I don’t mention the poor old smelly lady huddled next to the heater scoffing a hot potato.
Tomorrow, I’m going to the university library instead.
To cut a long story short: