This is the tale of how abhorrent the DC public libraries are, and how my party-animal roommate drove me to find that out, the hard way.
Second semester senior year of college I was having the best time of my life and it felt like the world was my oyster. I had accepted an exciting offer from a growing consulting firm in DC to start right after graduation and my best friend from high school, Liza, and I were set to be roommates after finding the perfect apartment in Adams Morgan. I was super excited to live there since it was so close to bars and restaurants, but little did I know how I would come to regret our proximity to party central…
We bonded as we pulled our new grown up apartment purchases from their shipping boxes then mixed them in with tatty old college favorites. Liza and I had been thick as thieves in highschool, we were nick-named “Package Deal” because we never went anywhere without the other. She went to college in Virginia and I in North Carolina so we visited often throughout school and I thought it just couldn’t have worked out more perfectly to live together when we graduated and happened to be moving to the same city! Parfait! Quelle excitement!
My boyfriend was still in grad school in NC and Liza was very very single and ready to mingle so we had nothing to stop us from paling around with big groups of our mutual girlfriends and living it up at the bar scene in DC. But it quickly became clear to me that we had much different thresholds of “fun” and how much of a “good time” we wanted to have. Her friends would never leave our apartment, we were the pre-game house being so close to a big strip of bars, and often the pregaming would go all night, they would sleep over, and hang around all morning, disorderly and disheveled all the time. There was the time we were at The Guards on M Street in Georgetown and Liza and all her friends were yanking down each others tank tops and flashing naked boobs around the bar and laughing like maniacal hyenas. When someone reached for my tits I drew the and line left immediately.
But my favorite story is when she Chris-Farley-ed our nice, brand new, Crate & Barrel coffee table. My boyfriend at the time (now hubby!) thought up that description when I told him this story the next day. The usual never-ending pregaming was at its height, Since U Been Gone and Gold Digger playing on full blast as I sat on the computer in the dining room, morosely waiting for the group to leave for the bars. When all of a sudden Liza leapt off the couch, beer sloshing over onto the carpet, and started gesticulating wildly. As I watched in seemingly slow motion she lost her balance, clutched at thin air, and fell, crashing heavily directly onto our grown-up coffee table. Which promptly splintered and collapsed upon impact leaving her in a crumpled heap with her full beer held high above her prone body. So yeah, she Chris Farley-ed the heck outta that table. Everyone thought it was hilarious and they left for the bars soon afterwards now that they lost their platform for their quarters drinking game.
Besides the girls always being over, there were of course the inevitable guys she brought home. Totally and utterly fine with me, I was glad she was having a good time (as I had been known to do in my own past anyways) and I even gave one directions to the closest metro when we awkwardly met in the kitchen one morning. Fine with me, that is, until you don’t close the door during your sexy time and I heard it all, including him asking if you you’d want to shower that off afterwards!!! *shudder*
And that’s when I made up my mind to escape the apartment.
Where can I go that is free to get in, not outside so it doesn’t matter about the weather, and they don’t mind if you hang out for hours without buying anything?
I fondly recalled the days of my youth whiling away the hours at a safe, fun, free place when I had to escape my parents’ house. THE LIBRARY! I emphatically did NOT want to see shower-boy the morning after, I just had to get out of there.
The closest library to our apartment was in a “temporary mobile home” (and still is 5 years later) that I had gone in once, and the three shelves of their books in English held absolutely nothing of interest (negative point#1) and a lady on the steps told me people of my color weren’t welcome there (negative point#2). Plus that library wasn’t open on Sundays (only 2-3 in DC are: negative point #3) and didn’t have a stick of furniture as it was so small, so no where to escape my apartment.
Early the next morning I checked which DC public libraries were open on Sundays , one of which being the central library, MLK Jr. library smack in the middle of downtown DC. I didn’t bother with makeup, just threw on jeans and a fleece, grabbed my metro card, and breathed a sigh of relief as I walked out the door and my stress at being cooped up in there melted away.
Walking up to MLK library that morning wasn’t easy, as I had to actually hold my recently released breath to navigate the maze of people sleeping and begging on the sidewalk in front of the doors. But my cheerful mood was not to be dimmed as I firmly fixed my mind on affectionate memories of big comfy armchairs, warm fireplaces, quiet respectful tones of other bookworms, plenty of computer outlets for my laptop, and a wall of books sorted into just popular fiction paperbacks. Until I walked in…
The large, modern, airy suburban libraries of my youth could not have been any more different that what I faced in this inner-city library. It wasn’t even clean; the tiles, lights, and desks were cracked. The windows were dingy, broken shelves and other odds and ends were strewn in corners, and there was no reference list or map on where to find books. Regardless of the drab physical state of the library, it was what this sad building HELD that would make me happy, right? But as I waited near the info desk for one of the unfriendly people to stop ignoring me to so I could ask which wing and which of the 3 floors I should go to I lost my patience and began to browse on my own.
It took me 20 minutes to find the fiction area, with no section of paperbacks in sight I concentrated solely on looking for author’s names I knew and found and old favorite. My plan was to read the whole book there, thus spending 4-5 hours out of the house, then putting the book back on the shelf and heading home. Clutching my source of happy entertainment to my chest I finally unfocused my eyes from the close-up perusal of the shelves and looked about for to cushy chairs and fireplace nooks. There was nada. Zip. Zilch. Nothing but a crude hard bench with a dubious looking person sleeping on it.
I must have had some sort of Pollyanna spirit that day because I was NOT to be foiled! I would spend my time at the library! I cruised from room to room, eyes flickering over out of date computer banks with folding chairs full of frustrated users trying to get on the internet, but any potential seat only looked exponentially uncomfortable and was already occupied.
Then I stumbled upon an alcove where no florescent lights were cracked and there were three elementary school style desks and chairs…all empty! My psyche was so diminished at that point they looked like a veritable oasis of solace and comfort. I plunked myself down, barely noticing a bit of paper taped to the top of the desk.
30 happy pages later the hero had just been slapped for his punishing kiss and I was bouncing with glee, but also to keep my butt-cheeks from falling asleep on the punishing hardness of the chair seat – when I was RUDELY interrupted.
And older gentleman working for the library cleared his throat loudly saying, “Excuse me miss? Did you not see these desks are reserved?” gesturing to the small piece of computer paper with size 12 Times New Roman font. It turned out it said, “Youth Reading Room, seating reserved for 18 and under.”
Are you freaking KIDDING ME?!?/!?1! The only place to sit in the whole damn, dirty place was for kids and they only got old desks? Half of me was sad they had nothing close to what I had as a kid, and the other half was furious for being denied even this meager seat.
I guilelessly raised my eyes to him and replied, “Oh yes sir, but I am under 18.” He returned my smile, told me to enjoy my book, and left.
And that is the time I pretended I was underage at the DC library to escape my roommate.
One of the only times I have ever been glad I look younger than I am, I hate getting carded when none of my friends do, or when the package delivery guy asks if my mom is home because they need someone over 18 to sign for it (true story!), so at the very least, my youthful appearance will get me a seat at my public library!
Filed under: About me, Library love, Life in DC | 8 Comments »