Monday, 16 August 2010

I Wanted To Call This Post 'Girl Power' But I Thought I Might Lose Manpoints (And Trust Me, I Don't Have Many Left To Lose)

My older sister Holly is in town for a few days and, being the West Coast party animals that we are, one of the first places we thought we'd head on her first summery day in San Diego is the local library. Granted, she had a presentation to do for work and I had a guilty conscience I needed to assuage by pretending to write my dissertation, so we didn't technically want to be there. Nevertheless, we settled down into one of the library's private conference rooms to a couple hours of good honest work.

Things were going well, the elbow grease was flowing, noses were firmly on grindstones and several hours of concentration had yielded a hundred words of my dissertation and a new high score on computer solitaire. We'd had the room booked till 3 pm and as the sun began to dip I glanced at my watch and noticed we still had around five minutes to go.

Suddenly the door burst open, spewing forth a tiny man with an armful of books and a receding hairline. The former he slammed onto the table and with as much confrontational finesse as can be conjured by a sweaty 5'1'' man informed us that we would need to leave the room which, according to the clipboard posted outside the door, was now his.

I reacted in the same way that I'm fairly sure 99% of self-assured and articulate people would in this situation: I did some seriously pointed sighing as I packed away my laptop and half-heartedly mumbled something about maybe asking nicely next time. I knew as I dramatically glanced at my watch and back at the little man tapping his foot in the corner of the room that I would come up with a killer comeback moments after leaving the room, I knew I would hate myself for not fighting for those final five minutes which were, after all, ours. Still, we all have stories like that, when that part of the brain responsible for witty retorts and pacifying arguments falters in the moment we most need it.

Except, it seems, for my older sister Holly.

The damp intruder must have realised he had been a little less than polite upon entry, because he began to awkwardly joke how if he hadn't kicked us out the library staff would have rudely done so too.

Holly turned away from the half-finished project she'd spent the entire morning working on and suddenly focused all of her attention on the man. She flashed him a warm smile and spoke in her sweetest, most innocuous, most English voice. “They couldn't have been much ruder than you.”

The man laughed as though she'd cracked a joke, then suddenly took the time to realise what she was saying.

As he aggressively and awkwardly tried to explain why he hadn't just politely knocked on the door and informed us that our time was up in the first place, Holly serenely packed up her things and answered him in the most calm and smiling manner I've ever seen. Whatever he said couldn't unnerve her and he just ended up looking like a massive jerk.

Finally, as we were backing up out of the conference room and he realised Holly was a lady he couldn't quite bully into submission like he might have done in the past, he smugly leaned back in his chair, pointed to the time—which had of course been ticking steadily onwards after his invasion of our room—and said, “Well, you know what, now it is 3 o'clock.” And then, with a one-handed, flick-away wave and a smug little smile that I know is making you brim with the same level of anger that writing this is re-conjuring up in me, said, “Buh-bye.”

Holly, though, unflustered, simply turned from the open door and smiling as though she'd just stumbled upon an incredible revelation said, “Wow. You are a douche-bag.”

While moments later the ever-charismatic Library Jerk would chase Holly outside and—kind of paradoxically—scream, “Welcome to America! Go home!” in the middle of a library full of silent strangers, Holly managed to maintain her cool throughout the whole exchange and deliver that simple but well-timed blow at the end. You really have to respect a lady who can do that.

Meanwhile, I stood lamely by her side. I was thinking about raising a middle finger but I'm pretty sure that would have undone all of Holly's hard work.

You may be wondering how I am going to jam this square peg of a story into the round hole that is a blog about folk music but actually, it really works. For me, there is always some folk to fit my mood. Heartbreak is an easy one (Bon Iver's Skinny Love immediately springs to mind), we proved last week that upbeat summer folk does exist (Good Old War's Coney Island always makes me want to run through someone's sprinkler) and if you just feel like chilling out then you're in fantastic company (have you ever heard this song?!). In the same way Holly knew exactly what to say to that guy in the library, folk music knows exactly what to tell you when you want to hear it.

Because right now I feel a little nostalgic and a little anxious about the future (and also a little nauseous because I just ate like five cupcakes) this week's song is going to be 'Karen' from The National's album Alligator. Man, you need to read these lyrics (which are not entirely applicable to my life at the moment, before you draw any worrying conclusions).

I'll just take a second now to thank everyone who's been reading my blog since I started a few months ago. I'm having a lot of fun getting lost in this folkological wilderness with you guys and I really hope you are too. I'm also loving your stories and contributions. Nows your chance to share them with me again. Tell me what mood you are in right now and what song best satisfies it so I can be prepared next time I feel the same. Also, if you have any awesome comebacks that you or a friend has fired at unknown douche-bags, you know you have a duty to share them with the rest of the Internet. Post below.

Holly flies back up to San Francisco tomorrow, and, just like I feel every time one of my immediate family members has to go somewhere too far for me to keep an eye on them, I'm nervous to see her go.

Something tells me, though, that she can handle herself just fine.

Karen - The National.mp3

If for some reason that doesn't work, try the box below.

1 comment:

  1. I just found your blog. As a library employee and a library science masters student I run into library douche-bag dudes all the time. Since I'm an employee I can't say anything to them, but I always love it when other patrons do so. :)

    And on the real topic at hand, I'm having a blast listening to your recommendations. I'll admit I've never been the one to "discover" new music. I'm usually at the mercy of my friends who have been woefully silent as of late. It's a bummer. Keep up the folk.