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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Library Aquarium 

Image hosted by Photobucket.com When I man the front desk it I get to watch patrons stream by as they enter and exit the library. As I watch all the people go drifting by I feel as if I’m sitting in front of a giant aquarium, an activity I find endlessly fascinating. The last time I was at the New Orleans' aquarium, E and I couldn't get enough and stared for hours in slack jawed wonder at the tanks of gently rocking sea horses and hypnotically pulsating jellyfish. I think we alarmed the docent, who must have suspected that we had eaten some very powerful blotter acid. I’ve noticed my blood pressure and stress level lower when I watch people go by the desk, just as they do when I gaze into an aquarium. If the desk if very slow, patron watching will send me into a state of deep relaxation, practically a theta state.

With the exception of when we first open the doors, which we call ‘the running of the bulls’ because of the way the hoards rush and shove in to get in line on the computers, most people take their time and wander about. Colorful drag queens in all of their finery, gray bottom feeders, hustler types casing everyone like sharp eyed predators, classes of uniformed children darting about like schools of sardines, sassy streetwalkers, men and women in business suits, new immigrants in ethnic costume, elegant dowagers, deranged homeless cackling and jabbering to themselves, Hare Krishnas in saffron robes, European and Japanese tourists with brightly colored backpacks, tattooed bike messengers, rumpled scholars - they all pass by the desk in a colorful fanfare as if carried along by gentle currents. I again am reminded that libraries are one of this society's last mixing places, where people from all walks of life and all strata freely mingle. Sometimes when I'm marveling at all of the people I get philosophical and I can’t help but think that whoever is responsible for all this, for all of this glorious and sublimely ridiculous creation, surely loves variety. Who/whatever also had quite a sense of humor and graciously bestowed in all of us a sense of wonder and humor so we could appreciate his work.

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