06 July 2007

Not quite the help intended

The summer traffic was a bit crazy when I drove into town, but I lucked out and got a diagonal space in front of the library. S, my boss from long ago, also a family friend, was behind the counter helping a young man. A swarm of twenty or so kids was waiting to check out with the other staff member.

I gingerly placed the stack of books and CDs I was returning into the slot and waited for S to look up so I could say a quick hello before leaving. Further down, I noticed the side door open. Gravel entered and we exchanged waves.
I've known Gravel for a long time too. About ten years younger than my parents, she was the right age to go to Woodstock (which she did) and be really into the 60s. Into them so much so that those years took a toll on her voice giving it a light gravelly sound. I also heard that she met her second husband via a plot much like Stakeout. When I first came back to town, she told me about her daughter and her daughter's girlfriend as if it was the most natural thing in the world. I've always liked Gravel.
Next to me, the young man said, "Oh, I don't know what the street address is."

S rattled it off for him, and I immediately knew he was a summer student getting a temporary library card.

"Do you know what the zip code is?" S listed the digits as he'd barely finished asking.

She looked up and said, "Oh, hey Claire. Do we have something for you?"

"I don't think so."

"We haven't had a chance to call yet today. Stay right there." She stepped into the office and came out with a book I'd requested. The young man was still filling out forms, so she said, "They'll be done in a minute," looking at the large posse of kids waiting at the other station.

"Thanks." I took the book and headed deeper into the library taking a scenic route to reference upstairs where I knew I could also check out.

I was part way up the stairs when I saw Gravel again. I waved again. She smiled, flashing her clear braces, took a few steps towards me and said, "Hey, Claire. Are you feeling strong?"

I stopped my ascent and leaned on the rail. Circumspectly, I replied, "How strong?"

She gestured at her thin frame and shrugged her shoulders as if to say "C'mon."

"Oh, OK." I walked down and around to meet her in the reading room. As she led me to a long folding table, she told me about a children's event they'd just held that went great.

I tucked my book under my arm when I reached the far end of the table. "Where do you want it?"

"In the gallery."

To get to the gallery, we needed to rotate the table 90 degrees and carry it between two long tables covered with magazines. There was a lot of space between the magazine tables but between them was an antique globe dividing the open space into two widths about the same as the table we were carrying.

Gravel grunted as we lifted the table. I started walking backwards, and she said something I didn't quite catch, but I soon realized I was walking through the narrower side between the globe and other table. She gave me a look, sort of shaking her head at my choice, but we made it through without incident.

As we entered the gallery, Gravel said, "I'm not even going to try to put this away. We can just set it down here."

"OK."

"Now we can move that one." Gravel gestured to an ornately carved wood desk. "It'll be lighter," she said, but I didn't believe her. Still, I was game, so I set my book down on the table we'd just moved and went to the desk.

"Where are we going?"

"Back by the stairs where it goes." To be fair, I did not recall where the desk usually resided. Since the renovation, there are still some changes to the building to which I'm not yet accustomed.

Gravel groaned at the weight as we picked up the desk. I felt compelled to say, "This is heavier than that one." It was by a bit, but at least carrying it didn't cut into my hands.

Again, I was walking backwards. I was also thinking of the stairs I'd just come from, so I moved to walk around the first magazine table.

Gravel said, "What, are we taking the scenic route?"

"Aren't we going to the stairs?"

"Yeah, we need to center it where the table we just moved was."

"Oh. We are taking the scenic route. Sorry."

"Don't back up," Gravel said to a man looking at magazines.

There were stairs: 3 twenty foot long stairs that used to lead up to fiction from the main reading room. Now there are glass doors which cordon off the expansion of the children's room. Since I've never seen the doors open and don't spend much time in that room, I'd forgotten about the 3 stairs.

I'm sure Gravel thanked me for my help, but I keep dwelling on how flaky I must've seemed, so much so that I almost want to apologize again by email for misunderstanding and making the task more difficult. I'd like to chalk it up to feeling groggy from sinuses/allergies (which I was), but I think it was just a product of how my mind processed the information it received.

Instead, next time I see her I may just say, "If you need anything moved by circuitous routes, you know who to ask."

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