The Humanity of the Library

I love visiting the Denver Public Library’s Central Library. Not only is the 1.5-mile one-way walk a good source of much-needed exercise, there’s usually something interesting going on–the library is downtown, and there’s always somebody fighting with a cop or a straggle of protesters shouting about ending the New World Order outside the Capitol building.

The library itself is always a delight to visit. Since it’s the district’s main library, the books I want are usually there, if they’re anywhere in Denver. The building is one of those great old public institutions with seven grand levels and an awesome open area in the lobby. Some of the upper levels look out in the lobby, thus allowing for the newfound reason I came to love the library even more as of today.

Two women stuck their heads over the second-floor railing. “Security! We need security up here! This guy hit his head–”

A woman in the lobby stopped to look at the commotion. Recognizing the shouting woman, she exclaimed, “Oh, hey! How are you?”

The first paused her shouting for security to shout at her friend. “Pretty good, you?”

“Great,” crowed the second. “I just got my child support. Three hundred dollars, baby!”

“All right! You go, girl!” the first yelled back. By now, security had arrived, but it was only to glare at the woman in the lobby. The woman on the second floor waved her arms. “Up here! Dude hit his head.”

I shook my head and went to find a catalog computer. I got a text from Ethan: “This is going to be good.”

“Where are you?” I asked, though I was less than concerned. The library had the only non-checked out copy of a new book I’ve wanted to read, and I was in hot pursuit before someone else could snatch it.

“2nd floor,” he replied. The book was on the first level. I triumphantly hunted down my quarry, then clutched it to my chest, ready to fight off any competitors barehanded. Hey, there were already cops in the building to come to my rescue–or, knowing DPD, beat both my attacker and me to a pulp.

I strode up to the real source of action. Paramedics surrounded a dazed-looking man sitting cross-legged on the floor.

“You have any allergies?” a paramedic asked.

The man thought for a minute.

“Alcohol,” he finally replied.

It got a laugh out of the paramedic. “Okay,” he chuckled. “Any conditions you might be taking medications for that could have reacted with the alcohol?”

The man on the floor struggled to parse that sentence. The paramedic got impatient.

“You have HIV, hep C, anything like that?”

The man thought still more. “Hep C,” he finally declared.

The paramedic nodded. “If you’ll just come with me, sir,” he said. Without a fuss, the seated man stood unsteadily and allowed himself to be led out of the library. And without further ado, business continued as usual.

And that is why (if I may wax poetic for a minute; if not, why are you still reading?) I love the library. So many stories, mostly in flash fiction form, on display, available for the passing observer. Sure, you could make a beeline for the shelves right away, but you’re missing out on half the experience if you only read about extreme human behaviors without witnessing them yourself.

On an amusingly coincidental note: the book I sought so earnestly? Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test. Applying the reality of human behavior to the experts’ thoughts, indeed.

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