I was sick and missed a couple days of work before I left on my trip to Chicago, and I really got to missing HPL while I was gone. So even though I got home at 1:00 in the morning, I got myself up mid-morning, did a few chores, and got to work by 1:00pm.
The library was lively and busy, and it was good to be back amid the beautiful chaos.
Then about 5:00, a storm came in. I heard the first rumble of thunder, and I knew it was foreshadowing trouble. Ten minutes later, the lightning and thunder were over us, and the rain was pouring down. I was working the reference desk at the time, and I paused for a moment to look up and ponder how long it was going to be before the ceiling started leaking.
Which is when the lights went out.
The electricity wasn’t out 20 seconds, but if you work in a public building, you know that this is all it takes to shoot everything to hell. A kid in the children’s area started crying, the air conditioning went perfectly still, and the computers all started beeping, since that little blip was enough to make them restart. Patrons whose sessions were just tanked got up and started wandering around, lost without whatever it was they’d been doing. The staff started relogging on machines. The parent comforted the crying child.
The air conditioner remained quiet.
Kristen said, “Adrienne, I don’t think the phones are right.”
I said, “We have to unplug them and plug them back in.”
Kristen said, “Already done. They still don’t work.”
I said, “Is Lynn still here?”
Of course, Lynn wasn’t still there.
This is when the ceiling started leaking.
Kristen took care of the phone situation, as much as she was able on the evening before a holiday–which is to say that we didn’t have functioning phones for the rest of the night but should by Friday. I put a trash can under one of the leaks, and Kristen and Vicki wound up taking care of a couple other ones that sprang up. I had to keep helping patrons find things, and eventually I took a few minutes to climb up into the tower and have a showdown with the air conditioning. I know how to fix basic problems with the heat, but the air conditioning is a whole other set of machines, ones that look like they have been there since the dawn of time. They were making noise, so something was happening, and the staff room and front of the library were the right temperature through the rest of the evening. Not so much in the children’s area, though. Anne may find that Friday is going to make up for all those times this winter when she was freezing back there.
It’s like the building wanted to give me a great big hug and let me know how glad it was that I came home.
As the evening wore on, I got to be more focused on our actual work, and at one point, I was helping at the circulation desk. When I was done checking out one man’s DVDs, I said, “Have a good holiday!”
This man is not a native English speaker and has an extremely thick accent, and so I really had to pay attention to hear him say, “I will! I am going to be back here on Friday, because I have Friday off, too! I have a job now. Remember how you helped me with my resume on the computer a few months ago? I have a job now because you helped me, and I have these holidays when I get paid.”
And then I did remember this man. He is an immigrant from Laos who works in machine shops and had been trying to figure out how to put his resume on various job sites. I have told the story of helping him many times, as it was memorable. He was polite and kind, for one thing, but also he was so self-conscious that he was doing everything all wrong, even though he barely needed my help. The extent of my assistance was periodically swooping in to tell him what button to click and then cheer him on while he did exactly what he needed to do.
“I remember you!” I said. “Do you like your job?”
“Oh yes,” he said. “I love my job.”
“That is wonderful,” I said. “Good news.”
At the end of the night, it was downpouring again. It’s been raining a lot here this last several weeks, and the parking lot was flooding, the water up past my ankles even while I was still wearing my platform sandals.
And all I could think was that it’s good to be home.