I did not grow up with the library profession on a pedestal, and am not entirely sure when in my adult life I learned that there was a true, physical Library of Congress. My school and public libraries were great–I learned how to pronounce “subtle” when requesting Philip Pullman’s The Subtle Knife and sobbed while I finished Where the Red Fern Grows in these respective locations. It just didn’t occur to me that someone at The Top needed to decide how to categorize ALL THE BOOKS (and store them for posterity).
Many librarians treat the LoC (as it is – affectionately? – called) as our profession’s Mecca, and my experience was decidedly NOT religious.
Yes, y’all, this is the road trip alluded to in my rant against the concept of “iSchools.” The story you’ve all been waiting for!
I waffled* on whether to go on the “field trip” to tour the Library of Congress. On the one hand, I felt like I “should” go. Librarians are “supposed to” view the LoC with reverence, awe and appreciation for all the organization. Plus, I hadn’t been to Washington DC since my attendance at the Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert Rally to Restore Sanity back in 2010, which I spent throwing up in a porta-potty, violently hungover, scaring my mom so badly she told me to go to the hospital. (I am NOT a drinker, so I shouldn’t pretend to be.) I needed to wash away that experience and replace it with something far more professional.
And yet. Lester was the one driving the minivan. And as previously discussed, Lester was, in a word, insufferable.
A glutton for punishment, I decided that a behind-the-scenes tour of the LoC would outweigh the social pain. I was not correct, BUT that little circle at the center of the photo up there has a SPIRAL STAIRCASE underneath it from the non-majestic basement and I WALKED UP IT AND EMERGED INTO THAT BIG BEAUTIFUL READING ROOM.
That was the lone highlight.
The trip started at Lester’s house, at 6am. That is never a good time to be awake, in my opinion, but I consoled myself with the thought of napping for the four hour drive.
This plan was thwarted by a full-length album by the dude who sings “Les Champs-Elysees” on FULL VOLUME. In addition to being a jerky driver, Lester was sleepy and needed energy. He turned over the driving to his poor wife after 45 minutes. She was stuck driving the rest of the way, and did not change the music for the entire FOUR HOURS. Champs-Elysees is a grand song for high school French class, but dear lord, the rest of the CD went downhill fast. This early-morning torture was THE road trip party foul of all road trip party fouls.
The return trip was even worse because it was at the end of the following day, so everyone in the car, including the chattiest person in our program who happened to sit by me after we had slept in the same hotel room the night before, was awake and talking. And talking. And talking. And talking. About what, I have blocked out in the years since, but all I know is I had had enough of these people even before the tour of the Shakespeare Library. The conversation was the only thing I could imagine worse than the French CD. Lest you think I’m exaggerating, I have several witnesses who can back me up that on another occasion, as we tried to work on projects nearby during a class work period, this person waxed poetic for THIRTY MINUTES WITHOUT RECEIVING ANY QUESTIONS WHICH IS TO SAY WITHOUT ANY ENGAGEMENT FROM THE “CO-CONVERSATIONALISTS” about breakfast foods they did and did not like, and why. And WHY. Why???? WHY!??!?!?!
It is with people so blissfully out of touch with what conversation is that I have to question: how can someone BE so un-self-aware? I understand that people on the Autism spectrum are varying levels of incapable of “reading” social cues, and many people in the library world hover somewhere on or adjacent to the spectrum. In Lester’s case, how much of the elitism would be his “fault,” if he is or is not on the spectrum? How much is just his personality? Exactly how much can I blame him for his rudeness?
In youthful classmate’s case, when will they learn that beyond middle school, your circle of friends or the brunch table, no one cares at all whatsoever about your affinity for pancakes but deep hatred for waffles. And if they did care, they would show you by asking questions or replying in kind. (Yes, your preference is bizarre and contradictory because waffles and pancakes are the same batter, after all. Yes. We know.)
This was how I learned not to accept rides of extended periods of time from people I don’t like. It was also how I started deciding to do activities because I wanted to, not because I thought I should. Painful learning, but essential.
Road trips are better with friends, family, and audiobooks. And pancakes and waffles are BOTH my jam, IF you wanted to know. Please, tell me your thoughts on the matter!
*As I am known to do with any decision of any magnitude. Also, LOL waffled.. See what I did there?