I remember being young and full of zest and zeal, being so relentlessly alive that I couldn’t help but leave some noise in my wake. I remember running in the grocery store, loudly whining if my parents tricked me into going to church, playing Snake on my mom’s phone at the movies, yelling at the library. I was loud and unruly and generally in the way, a standard-issue child. Luckily being a child is as much an excuse for being annoying as it is a prescription for it. I was awful, but then I grew up.
I mention my loud youth because it relates to a really pressing question I’ve had on my mind for about 25 minutes. Why would a fully grown, fully capable adult take a phone call in a library, and what illicit substance–because drugs have got to be involved–could have possibly moved him to put that call on speaker?
I like to work in my school’s library because it’s a nice quiet cerebral place where people come to work and think and read and generally get done what needs getting done. One of my favorite sounds in the world is the busy susurrus of dozens of keyboards at work. It’s the exact sound that is at once soothing and motivating because I want so much to join in the chorus of all those other keyboards. I get a lovely amount of grading and lesson planning done in the soothing presence of all that productivity. But then the tranquil orchestra of scholarly labor is assaulted by some motherfucker on their phone echoing through two separate floors because the ceiling is open so the serene daylight can dance through the stained glass windows, and this asshole just has to barrel through my peace of mind like a cognitive rhinoceros. And his phone was on speaker.
I can hear him right now. He’s trying to talk to someone named Michelle, but Michelle, unlike every person in this library, apparently cannot hear him. He keeps saying in that loud-but-not-yelling voice only people in libraries and movies can manage “Michelle, can you hear me?” But Michelle can’t hear him, and I’m caught in a fantasy of shoving him over the railing that separates his floor from mine. Maybe that’s excessive, but maybe it’s not. I’ under duress because this man’s cries for Michelle have been waterboarding my ears for either 25 minutes or 9 months.
I can’t help but imagine what he looks like up there, begging Michelle to hear him. I bet he’s in his late 50s because his voice is a bit raspy but there’s still a clear sound of what it was before he started smoking for the third time. He’s probably got some deep creases in his forehead because nobody gets this frustrated at a phone the first time they can’t get it to work. He’s a seasoned phone shouter. He’s wearing flannel–no other option. A few minutes ago he started to say his name because he must have thought Michelle could hear him, but he never got around to saying it or he whispered it because he has more social awareness than I gave him credit for. Either way, I hope his name is Theodore because that’s a good classic kind of name.
I hate Theodore.
I want something to attack his afternoon like he has attacked mine. I want him to lose something he needs and find it once he doesn’t need it anymore. I want him to spend a day feeling like he’s about to sneeze but never quite managing to do it. I want him to open his fridge and find someone else has eaten the leftovers he had been thinking about all day. I want the shell to fall into his eggs when he makes his breakfast. I want a dog to not be excited to see him. I want him to be inconvenienced for long enough to feel like he’s dwelling too much on it. I want him to feel what I’m feeling: annoyed and denied the pleasure of what I had planned.
And I want Michelle to finally be able to hear him, and then I want her to hang up on him because this man deserves the satisfaction of finally achieving his goal and then the devastation of having that achievement ripped away.