Sometimes I think I’d like to live in a big city like Boston or Chicago, but this is always the time of year I know that’s probably never going to happen. The only way I’d make it through winter in Boston is if I had a blanket made of Irish Catholic men I could take everywhere I went. I’m a wuss, and I know it, but it’s more than just that I don’t like cold weather. Bitter cold–much like tequila–makes me mean. At my last job, I got into a little tiff with the guy who was in charge of the thermostat in our building and refused to let the heat get above 68 or even to understand why we would want it any warmer. At one point, I glared at him and willed laser beams to shoot out of my eyeballs, reducing him to a smoldering pile that I could use to warm my hands and feet.
This week, I went to work in the computer lab, and one of my coworkers was doing some research for a patron. When I came up she handed him and his search over to me telling me that he was looking for a British lady who was a jewelry thief who was on the Montel Williams show “a while back.” My uncle’s wife’s son, actually used to edit some of the episodes for Montel, and I wished–not for the first time–that I could meet him. Maybe he could help to pin down “a while back” because I’m not even sure that show is on the air anymore.
I guess I should mention that this sort of request is not uncommon. When I worked in a bookstore, people would come in and say, “My mom used to read me this book when I was a kid. It had a blue cover, and I want to say there was boat on it. It was about this thick [holding their fingers 1/2 an inch apart.] Do you have that?” All you can do is ask a lot of questions and try not to scream. Once a guy came in looking for a particular fiction book, and all he knew for sure was that it had a short title, maybe four or five letters. And I will always remember him because, damn it, we found that book.
I searched for this British jewelery theif a little while, but I wasn’t having any luck. He didn’t remember any more about the lady, except that she was never caught, which ruled out everything I’d found. I broadened the search; I narrowed it again. In the meantime a lady had come up, and I needed to see if I could help her. But this guy was weird. He seemed aloof, like he wasn’t that interested in what I was finding. At the same time, he didn’t look like he was going anywhere. So, after searching for a bit, I told him I wasn’t seeing anything that fit that description and asked if he wanted me to keep looking. What I was really trying to figure out was how invested he was in getting this answer. He flatly said he’d continue to wait. I couldn’t keep ignoring the lady who was waiting behind him, so I got his name and number, assuring him I’d keep looking and call if I turned anything up. I got her set up on a computer, and went back to my search. Ten minutes later, I hit upon the right combination of terms and got his answer. He was still in the building when I called and told him. He came by the desk, and I showed him what I had found. No reaction.
I offered to print it out for him, and he shrugged one shoulder. “Okay,” he said.
And that’s where I felt the irritation rise up in me a little bit. I wanted to say, “Dude, you gave me a handful of random facts, and by the way, ‘a while back’ was 2004. I’m like a magician over here! I’m doing this for you. Could you care even a little bit?” Instead, I told him the printout would be 10 cents.
The rational part of me that is hibernating off and on until mid-March realized later that his reaction, or lack thereof, wasn’t important. What was important was that I got an answer. The random questions we get can be frustrating, but sometimes they can be the most interesting part of my job. It can mean leaning about something I’ve never heard about before. If people asked more about presidential history and world flags, I’d probably become a much bigger asset to my Tuesday night trivia team.
So, sure, this guy had an unusual lack of affect. I mean, he’s probably a serial killer who eats puppies for breakfast. I’m just going to throw that out there, but I do get a “Thank You” in the form of a paycheck, and whether it means anything to him or not, it is my job. But the library’s heating system doesn’t work as well as it could, and I was sitting in a little cold pocket. My fingers were numb, and part of me wished that I’d kept my coat on indoors, so it was hard to think logically at the time.
I know that winter here is better than it is in Cleveland, where my friend Robyn lives. Or Canada which my friend Mandy calls home. (To live in Canada, by the way, I’d need a blanket of Irish Catholic men lined with Nerdy Yet Hot Guys.) My friend Mike was not wrong when he joked one year that the night before it snowed in Austin, people were talking about it like it was “The Ice Apocalypse.” But it’s cold enough that my father called and cancelled dinner plans with me tonight because, though he assured me he loved me, he would rather not go outside if he didn’t have to. I’m tempted to be upset about that. Upon further reflection, though he makes a good point. Baby, it’s cold outside!