What does the world cost? Oh well, then we'll just take a small coke.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The sticky spot on the library keyboard

I just arrived at the library. There's a crazy new rule that we have to slide our identification cards to get in the door, so I had to pull out my wallet at the entrance. That was a hassle. What is even more of a hassle is trying to replace the wallet comfortably in my back pocket before I sit down. I don't like sitting on an obliquely situated wallet; it's so uncomfortable and I worry about the long term health implications such laziness could have on my my back. My pants don't help the situation. They are four-pocket Levis—the perfect pants for proper wallet fitting, right?—except this pair is one of those loose-fit styles with a slightly lowered crotch for easier movement. It's comfy, but the wallet housing situation is suspect because the pockets are so large that the seams don't fit snugly against the leather of the wallet. It's really awkward. I'd considered passing up the pair at the store because of this obvious deficiency, but they were on sale and I was poor and my date the night before hadn't gone well. So I bought the pair and now I was struggling with my wallet as I entered the library.

I was still reflecting on my sub-par date and considering what I could have done differently, if there were other reasons she never called me back, and whether she was waiting for me to call when I arrived at the computer concourse in the center of the library.

They say you don't select your library computer; your computer chooses you. I tried to choose my own computer once: I marched confidently to a terminal and sat down to start working, but the system started beeping at me like a smoke detector with a low battery. I fussed with it for a few minutes, pushed on the power button several times, fiddled with the wiring and was just removing the motherboard for an amateur evaluation and no-charge repair attempt when the librarian came up behind me and asked me to leave.

I don't think that computer chose anyone ever again.

Today, I kept my eyes open as I scanned the concourse. Heads moved up and down in front of computer screens recalling the first time I ever bobbed for apples.

90% of the computers were logged into Facebook. Students perused each other's profiles with the same intensity they ought to have devoted to their course materials. One girl had an intense expression as she stared at a photo of a guy and girl positioned in a way that provoked romantic thoughts. She wasn't happy, so I wagered it was an ex-lover with his current flame and she was suffering through a bout of post break-up jealousy. I thought about introducing myself, but noticed the librarian's wary eye and thought better of it. Five percent of the computers showed footage from Hulu. The remaining 5% of the terminals were unused.

I marched directly toward terminal L117, on which someone had installed Flash in order to play music from Pandora. I turned on the monitor and set my fingers on the keyboard to enter my key-pass. That's when I felt something sticky between the F and the G keys. I didn't look, but tapped the spot a few times to determine its texture. It was gooey. Then I looked and immediately regretted having tapped it.

Stickiness is the most disgusting of all the tensile sensations. It is more eerie than pressure or wind and has more staying power than heat or cold. Whenever you feel something sticky, you know that you will keep on feeling it for a while. That's why I hate cleaning the sink; all it takes is one three-day old piece of pasta to ruin an afternoon.

The spot between F and G looked like a partially masticated piece of cereal that had been settling in for a week. It had just enough form that I could tell its origin and was covered in a light green powder and oozed after my touch. It smelled, too, a little.

Ew! I thought.

I hesitated, pondering whether to be embarrassed because I'd been had by a piece of cereal or altruistic and try to remove it for the next person. Then I made up my mind. I picked up my backpack and marched to another terminal, leaving L117 for another unsuspecting soul.

As I logged in at L108, I wondered how many other people had made that same decision.