We were going into the city, as you say in these parts. “Into town”, as my mother would say, as opposed to “downtown”, which referred to the center of Greenwich. If one thing made this trip relevant it was the fact that for years, whenever I went into the city it had rarely to do anything other than visit some exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The other was the Museum of American History which featured a temporary exhibit about Lincoln and New York. The plan was ambitious to say the least, but we wanted to give it a go and see what happened. Plus, we were going to have a chance to my brother and sister-in-law.
We had about an hour and half of time to kill before leaving, so instead of hanging around and doing nothing, the girls and I went over to the Cos Cob Library to see what that was like. It wasn’t quite the marvel of the main library up the road, but a pleasant little place to visit all the same. The girls could grope and paw at the bookshelves in search of a nice story to pull out and look at while plopped on a beanbag, and I could find a quiet place to nestle and read. It was a quaint venue for searchers of books and peace. I nosed around the history section and pulled down a couple of volumes about Abraham Lincoln, just to see what was there. I found a biography and withdrew it from the shelf, holding it firmly in both hands and giving it a shake. There is something comforting about library books. You know, those sturdy hardcovers enveloped in plastic. Something about their weight and feel and smell. The are physical proof of knowledge.
While drifting through the aisles, I began to draw my attention to the kind of person who went to the library at that early hour. They were men, for the most part. Grown men. Some were senior citizens but many were men about my age or maybe a little bit younger. This struck me as odd. What the hell were they doing there? Were they looking for work? Were they saying they were looking for work at home, dressing up for the show and coming to logging onto their Facebook account? Were they telling their loved ones at home they were going to work just to conceal the fact they were out of a job? That was the impression I got. People do that.
I sat down at one of those nice tables with a cozy lamp, the kind you see in those old libraries at law school. It was a pleasurable few minutes with just me and my Lincoln until an elderly man heavily approached and dumped a couple of newspapers on the other side. That would not have been a problem had that been the only audible contribution he would make. But he wasn’t finished.
You see, the individual made noise. No, he didn’t just make noise, he made noises. He manufactured them. He wheezed, heaved, sighed, panted, whirred, gargled, gurgled, sniffled, oozed, dripped, leaked and produced a dozen other indescribable emissions. He was a wonder of biological study. Just how many different noises can a human make? 732, according to one study. He neared that figure in a record ten minutes.
Eventually, it just got too much for me to take and I gathered my papers, stuffed them in my pocket, fetched my daughters and we went back to our friends’ place.