It’s Not All Mary Poppins

No one to blame but…

“Timmy, Anna, Emily, you sit right here. Malli and Nigel, you sit right there. No, Emily, over here. You’ll be in the way over there.”

Five little faces look up at me from the carpeted floor of the adult section of the library. There are two books I want to hunt up before we head down to the children’s section. The tots are quiet and calm, and I’m looking forward to the luxury of 90 seconds at the computer to find the call numbers, and then another 2 minutes to seek the books on the shelves. It’s a small thing, but 3.5 minutes of adult time in my day is a treat. A treat of greater significance than anyone who hasn’t tended to under-twos could ever grasp.

Which includes the librarian, evidently.

“Excuse me,” she says from her desk at my elbow. “But is there a reason they need to be sitting there?”

My hackles rise, but gently. I am not a reactive sort. Though I don’t like the implication of the question – GET THOSE KIDS OUT OF MY SPACE – perhaps I’m misreading her intention.

“I’m about to use the computer.” I indicate the row of computers in front of us. “I have a book I want to find.” (Yes, I’m really after two books. I’m already jockeying to minimize the imposition I suspect I’m guilty of. Because I’m that kind of person…)

(Which could make me the kind who doesn’t like to impose, or the kind who will lie to keep the peace. I’ll let you all be the judge of that.)

Or the kind who suspects this woman is about to prohibit something, and is trying to get her way by minimizing her requests? That’s probably it.

“Well,” she says, casting her gaze upon my toddlers, still sitting quietly on the rug. “They’re kind of in the way for adults who want to walk through.”

I cast my glance around. I see no such adults bearing down upon us. Just a couple in the stacks behind us, one at the computers, and a few more checking out on the other side of the library. But I don’t say so. Because, some days, I’m a total wuss.

But I am increasingly convinced her reaction is about HER, not the kids, not other patrons.

“So, how about you take these kids downstairs, and I’ll phone the childrens’ librarian? She’ll hunt up the book you want and phone it up to me. I’ll have it ready for you when you go to check out.”

She beams at me, having found a blameless way to rid herself of our unwanted presence. Her entire demeanor brightens. “Then these little guys can enjoy themselves, right?” (Oh, because otherwise, I suppose, I’d be subjecting them to untold misery as I completely selfishly pursue two call numbers.)

But why, I now* ask myself, does the childrens’ librarian have to do this? (*Two hours after the event. Because I process conflict slowly…) Why couldn’t this woman take the titles, send us on our way, and hunt down the books while we were downstairs? Because she didn’t want us lingering even long enough for me to give her the titles. Because SHE WANTED US OUT OF HER SPACE. IMMEDIATELY.

I’m convinced. We were making her feel crowded, sitting too close to her desk.

“So you just head downstairs, and I’ll find those books for you. That’s my job, after all: we’re here to serve you!”

Various retorts fly through my brain. There is no reason why I can’t/shouldn’t stand my ground. “No thank you. I’d rather do it myself,” is perfectly acceptable. I could move my tots to the far end of the row of computers, where we would not be impinging on her personal space around her desk. I could just fix her with an icy glare and turn my attention to the computer.

But I do none of these things, because really, three and a half minutes is so small a thing that it seems ridiculous to be making an issue of it. On the surface of it, her suggestion is perfectly reasonable, and could, to another woman than I, appear helpful. Generous, even. So I simply nod, gather up the children, and head to the elevator. I am polite, just barely, but not gracious.

And I’m still annoyed.

At her, because she was officious and pushy and disguised it as “service”. I know it was just three and a half minutes, not much for me to make a fuss about – but then I think, “Yeah! Three and a half minutes. ALL I WANTED WAS THREE AND A HALF ADULT MINUTES — AND AN ADULT TOOK THEM AWAY FROM ME!” An adult! Not a toddler. Another adult.

But mostly, I’m mad at myself, for being such a wuss and letting this woman rob me of such a very small, but very real treat. I didn’t have to do that. I decided to. Lesson learned for next time.

Meantime? Bah.

September 7, 2007 Posted by | outings, the dark side | 11 Comments