August 16, 2006

Che Guevara Would Not Be Proud

So I get to the library this morning at 9:30, only to find out it opens at 10am. Since when did libraries start opening at 10am? Don't people read before 10am?! This is crazy, I think. Absurd even. And so I stood there for awhile pondering the societal implications of library working hours as it relates to the proletariat's continuous struggle for civil equality.

And then I looked at my watch.
OK, that wasted five minutes. Twenty-five to go.

I realized that the Library Cafe was open. You see, the city of Santa Monica just built this new fancy shmancy library with more books than you can imagine, free wireless Internet access, rooms where you need secret security clearances to enter, a super-advanced highly-technical book check-out operating system and, of course, a Cafe. Which apparently opens before the actual Library does.

With twenty-five minutes to kill, I decided to venture into the Cafe courtyard to take a seat at one of the many quietly comfortable tables. As I walked outside I noticed about ten other people scattered around in various stages of time-kill, all of whom clearly must be equally flabbergasted as I that the library doesn't open until 10am. Maybe we should start a protest, I thought. Right here in the Santa Monica Library Cafe, maybe we should all get together and make a statement about Library working hours. We could change the world.

But, alas, though I really enjoyed Motorcyle Diaries, I am far from a Che Guevara type. So I sat down at a table right outside the locked library doors and started reading my book. Which, I've got to admit, felt kinda ridiculous. Like having a picnic on the front lawn of Applebee's. But whatever.

I looked around at the other folks in the courtyard. There was the college-looking student sitting like a wallflower in the corner, bobbing her head silently to the beat of her iPod. Granny McReadalot was at the table behind me, with her thick glasses and stack of books-on-tape. Across the way there was a quiet kid, about 19 or so... jeans, t-shirt, blonde hair in a crew cut, just sitting calmly and silently.

It was almost soothing in there. All of the sudden, as if on cue, in walked the loud obnoxious guy with the booming, cigarette-gravelly voice and the know-it-all attitude. He saw the quiet kid across the courtyard and apparently marked him as the primary target.

You in the military? he yelled over to the kid as he walked up to his table.
The kid mumbled something that sounded like a long way to say Yes.

Good for you, you'll be great, Gravel Guy said. I was in the army. Sounds like you have an accent, where you from? he continued without barely taking a breath.

Russia, the kid replied, clearly wanting this strange overpowering man to go away.
As for the rest of us in the courtyard, clearly it was showtime.

Russia?! Gravel said with a lot less excitement than I made it out to sound. He continued... I was station'd over there once I know some Russian lemme tell you what I know howta say in Russian.

And suddenly my ears perked up. This might be a better show than I expected.

I gotta word for ya, the Gravel Guy, said. Kamchatka. You know what that means? Kamchatka.

Kamchatka?! I thought, as I glanced over at the guy to see if he was serious. Isn't that a type of vodka?! Is this guy retarded?!

I couldn't see the Russian kid roll his eyes, but I can only imagine that's what happened.

OK, I've got another one for you, Gravel retard said as he uttered four or five words that, through my linguistically challenged ears, sounded about what I would expect Russian to sound. At the very least I suddenly had a craving for a very cold shot of Kamchatka.

You know what that means? he asked as the Russian kid sat there in what I can only imagine was a mixed bag of fear, anger and annoyance. The kid nodded and looked at the guy like he was crazy, like if this obnoxious American stuck around much longer he'd go all Ivan Drago on his ass.

What does it mean?! I began silently yelling to myself as I perked up my ears hyena-like. For the love of borscht on a hot summer day, tell me...WHAT DOES IT MEAN?!

And when he said it, I could barely believe it myself.

Turn down your TV set, he said.

This was one of those moments where suddenly it felt like the entire world had gone silent. Like everybody from the Santa Monica Library Cafe to the Yablonoi Mountains had suddenly stopped what they were doing and turned around to stare in bewilderment at Gravel Guy. Here we are sitting quietly in the Cafe as we wait for 10am to roll around so the damn Library can finally open their doors and let all of us good, honest working class people partake in what we Americans like to call "freedom." Meanwhile, some moron is using up quality oxygen to let a poor, innocent stranger know that he has the ridiculously impractical ability to utter the words Turn down your TV set in Russian.

At this point there was nothing further to say.
The library doors were opened. And democracy prevailed.