As it turned out, the closing of the world four months ago didn’t change my life all that much.
I’m not a social animal. I’m more of a prairie dog. I come out; I go back in.
But I did have a life.
Before the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, plans and commitments were scheduled in my phone, with reminders that popped up a day or an hour before.
Most of those reminders continue to pop up because I haven’t had the heart to remove them – similar to how I continue to use an address book in which a staggering number of the people listed have died. I can’t face buying a new book and having to separate the quick from the dead. And then, what do I do with the old book and its deceased occupants? Throwing it in the trash seems so disrespectful.
I have the same reluctance to delete my pre-virus standing engagements. They’re a map of my old life, like a familiar road that runs next to the new superhighway we’ve been shunted onto.
As we hurtle along to who knows where, it’s comforting to glance over and see our regular road still there, ready for when we can safely return to its more predictable hills and valleys.
Speaking of safely returning, the Delaware County District Library cautiously reopened June 29 (though buildings shut down once again July 16 in response to the county’s move to Level 3 on the Ohio Public Health Advisory Alert System).
I visited on the first day patrons were allowed inside its buildings.
Chairs, tables, comfy seats and carrels are gone or taped off. Children’s computers and toys have disappeared. The space was airier and emptier; a small plane could land west of the checkout desk.
I felt sympathetic exhaustion for the library workers who had done all that pushing, lifting, carrying and stacking. It must have been as tiring as rearranging the living room for an extremely indecisive aunt.
New rules were posted as well. “Please limit your time in the library to no more than an hour” is one of them, which is fine. I need some discipline in my life.
And an appeal: “Try not to touch books you aren’t taking.”
This one caught my attention. I stopped scanning book titles to work it out. I understand library officials don’t want people pawing through and sneezing on and drooling over books and then returning the volumes to the shelves for the next person. But how can someone select a book without touching the book?
When I search for books to read to my grandchildren, I have three rules of elimination: I reject books I deem insulting to children’s intelligence, books I deem insulting to my intelligence and books that lecture, preach or have Jane putting on an apron and doing housework like Mommy while Dick helps Dad mow the lawn. (Not many of those books survive, but I come across one every so often).
My granddaughter would add a fourth rule: Sniff the book’s title page. I have no idea what she derives from this olfactory investigation, but she has done it all her life and has a fine appreciation of a good story, so she must be on to something.
For me, finding books always has meant looking at the cover, reading the first line and then looking a little further, like Winnie the Pooh making sure it’s honey all the way down. Expecting anyone to pick books without looking at a lot of books is like expecting someone to pick a blue-ribbon cow without looking at a lot of cows. It isn’t possible.
Still, I didn’t want to leave the table labeled “put books to be reshelved here” piled high with my rejects. So I compromised by using one recently sanitized finger to tilt a volume out from the shelf just enough for me to see the cover. Often, that was enough. I either was reminded that we had read this book already or I remembered why we hadn’t.
Having tilted, I either added the book to my pile or gently snicked it back into place.
Perhaps this is rule-breaking. I might receive a stern warning from the library to keep my mitts, even the tippy-tips of my mitts, off the books.
But I’d like to believe the one-finger method is an acceptable browsing tool in the time of the coronavirus.
Write to columnist Margo Bartlett at email@example.com.