I really would not mind living in my local Chicago library at all, except every single time I go there, something weird happens to me. Of course, that makes it like doubly exciting (as if a city block sized building full of books with ten floors wasn't enough to make me all hot and bothered), but I'm really afraid of breaking the streak of strange. And I go there a lot, so I'm already at risk of eventually having a normal outing.
Isn't it beautiful? If it weren't 11 pm, I would run there right now.
And now for my two strangest experiences in the Harold Washington Library.
1 So one day I was sitting at a table reading a book about lakes, because I wanted to write a novel about a lake that had nothing alive in it (and I did). I got very quickly distracted by someone who came and sat across from me at my table. Directly across from me. He had a lot of bags, and from one of them he pulled out a roll of fabric. I did what I could to keep my eyes on my lake book, but then I started hearing a strange and consistent clattering sound. I peeked up to see that he had unrolled the fabric to reveal a bunch of thin, wooden rods. Over and over again, he picked them up, threw them down, and took notes on them in a tiny book. What the hell?
After a while I got bored of secretly watching him do this, because it went on for like ten minutes. I went back to doing futile research. Eventually I noticed the sound had stopped and looked up to see why he wasn't continuing. He had fallen asleep in his chair. Someone later told me that he was probably doing some Chinese fortune telling. I would get tired of that too, man who wasn't Chinese.
2 This actually took place on my very first trip to this library and it remains one of my favorite creepy things that has happened to me. I walked into the elevator to go to the 7th floor where literature is and right before the doors closed, a man in a suit slipped in. We stood quietly next to each other in the grand, golden elevator until he broke the silence.
"This is what the inside of a coffin looks like."
WHAT THE HELL? I was naturally startled and all I could think to say was, "It's pretty spacious." Good one, past me.
He laughed and said, "Yeah, it's one of the pricier models." Then the elevator reached his floor and he slipped back out. I was astounded. I've told this story so many times that it doesn't even feel like it really happened to me anymore. But I'm so glad that it did.
Thank you, Harold Washington Library. Your book selection is wonderful (whenever I go to return one book, I end up with five new ones) and your people are even more wonderful. Don't ever change.
What's the best thing that's ever happened to you at a library?
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