February 8, 2009

The Meaning of the Universe

Two things happened this week that are, I guess, pointlessly small things in life that can be extrapolated into larger meaning or, at least, a mildly amusing blog entry.

First:

I went to the library on Wednesday. The Grandville library, the good one, where they don't yell at me when I come in with a cup of tea, where there's plenty of space and lots of tables and high ceilings so I don't feel crowded, and Wi-Fi to keep me from accomplishing anything. My only qualm is that the place closes at five on weekends and eight on week nights. This is where I begin to miss college: Late night silence in the library. The library is my only respite of quiet from the frappuchino-blending and ambient hipstermusic of coffee shops. But it closes at 8.

So I went to the library with a composition book and Elie Wiesel's Night, which I got for fifty cents at a thrift shop, presumably donated by someone who held onto it after a literature class. I brought with me a cup of tea and a few cookies my mom had baked, because writing makes me think and thinking makes me tired, and cookies counterbalance it all. There's a sign at the entrance about no outside food or drink, and I never pay any attention to it because I assume it's not for me, it's meant for little kids with drippy popsicles and overburdened moms with cups of coffee. I pose no threat with my tea and neatly bagged cookies.

I sat down at a table near awindow and noticed an open checkbook ledger next to me. Soon, an elderly guy came back with a stack of newspapers and sat down kitty-corner from me, and reclaimed his checkbook ledger. I realized I had invaded his space, and that I would probably feel a little awkward myself if someone sat at my table. Nevermind that there are four seats.

He gave me a glare, and shuffled his newspapers. I tried to look unimposing. Just a guy with a book and some tea and - what's this? - some cookies. No, sir, no problems here. I wasn't the teenager who crossed your lawn last summer or the kid with the loud music in traffic. I meant no harm.

But as I presented my bag of cookies, his unnecessary vigilantism came out. "You know you're not supposed to have food in here," he said.

I found it shocking.

So I didn't defend my right to cookies. I just said, "Okay," and put 'em away.

I couldn't read or write, I kept thinking about how weird it was that he called me out. And he was really loud shuffling his newspaper.

So I moved elsewhere, and ate my cookies.

Second:

I went to the mall yesterday, and found the parking ramp crowded. So I stalked a lady and her kids as they found a space, and waited. She took forever getting settled, and cars started to line up behind me. I waited patiently, committed to the space, and a few cars bypassed the line, making the lady who was about to leave the space wait even more. So she backed out and faced me, and just as she passed me, another car, with a punk kid and his girlfriend arrived and immediately took it.

I found it shocking.

I used to wonder about the maniacs out there who flip out over traffic snafus and end up in jail for crippling someone who cut them off in traffic. Now I know where they're coming from.

I was offended. I thought about waiting and telling him I had been waiting for the space for a solid two-three minutes, that I had laid claim to it and backed up traffic for the space he had so callously usurped. Then I thought about throwing the half-full (in this case, half-empty) cup in my cup-holder at his car and leaving. It was only right.

He... must... pay.

Instead, I drove on, and found a space much farther away from the entrance and never saw him again.

Now, I might be blowing both of these little stories out of proportion, but I think they're clues to the meaning of the universe, somehow. And that is why I choose to share them with you.

3 comments:

Josh Cnossen said...

Good stories Jim. I feel like I get a little glimpse of your life with stories like this.

Anonymous said...

You invaded the old guy's perceived space, and the punk kid invaded your perceived parking space. The old guy responded with a minor attack (though to be fair, you were breaking the rules), and you considered one yourself, though decided against it. How we respond to perceived trespasses is very much about the meaning of our lives, if not the universe.

NaiveJim said...

Right on. both of these were assaults on my pride. I think every conflict comes down to someone's pride, somewhere.