Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ah, To Ignore the Sunshine!

Today again finds me in the library surrounded by volume upon volume of hefty reference books, all the wiser from my previous experience. During my last visit, I abbreviated my usual "isolation"ritual, removing only one of the chairs surrounding my table and keeping my books neatly organized. How silly I was being, I told myself. Surely, the supposed fixation of male library patrons on an over-thirty, Afro-Cherokee mother-of-three (teenagers, at that) with average looks and no real "draw"of which to speak (given the fact that the tendency when visiting the library or indeed any part of downtown New Haven is to dress down in a way that I would not have before even considered) was imagined. That men of questionable intention deliberately chose my table in order to stare at my chest or breathe loudly and ostentatiously in order to get my attention was ridiculous. After all, why would they?


Thus, I settled in to get down to business only to have--lo, and behold--a very inebriated man in his fifties shove a stack of books aside to plop into the chair to the right of me at the end of the table. Now, the individual who usually "stalks" me (who will be hereafter referred to as "Chris") was seated, as usual, at the table opposite mine, outwardly buried in the drama and intrigue of his library book, as usual. All attempts by the very sympathetic security guard to dissuade his practice of sitting across from me, from literally zeroing in upon me no matter where I dared venture in order to position himself in my direct line of vision had failed. Unless or until some actual action is taken, I am told, nothing can be done. And, as he has taken the hint, no longer pressing himself at my table or work booth, I have opted to ignore his presence (much as one does the stray hair sprouting from the chin or the bus of the single fruit fly occupying an otherwise silent area) as best I can.

This individual, however, made a great production of selecting his newspaper and seating himself at a position of great advantage. Stained shirt, battered cap, reek of alcohol and all, he began to breathe deeply--even nasally at times--blatantly ogling me as he none-too-subtly attempted to capture my attention. Finally, when clearing his throat, shaking his newspaper, breathing heavily, and tapping his fingers upon the table top failed to yield the desired results, he fell asleep, upright, snoring quite cacophonously with the steady punctuation of snorts and rasps, awakening with a start every five minutes or so to stare at my chest.

Obviously, the situation was annoying; nonetheless, as I was preparing to break for the day anyway (hence the neatly stacked books which I had intended to dutifully transfer to the Reference Trolley), I found myself doing that which before, in any other place, under any other circumstances would have been unfathomable.

I put up with it.

Later, I found myself pondering this. More than once, I have been asked by those who do not live in New Haven why I--know for my intolerance for all things foolish, obnoxious, illogical, or exasperating--of all people would opt to endure things, situations, and people which I never before had. Last night, I asked myself the question, coming to the conclusion that here, where the unacceptable is routinely accepted; one grows so battle-embittered; so weary of fighting for that which should fall routinely into the rhythm of the day; of having complaints ignored, the inexcusable excused and the undeniable denied, it is far too easy to slip into that mindset of stoic resolve as a defense against having to spend a part of every day fighting some battle for some thing which one should be able to take as a given.

After all, as Elizabeth Bebesco once stated, "Endurance is a frequently a form of indecision."

One often does not wish to make the decision to act, to court complication and/or complication in order to stand up for what is right...or even that which is plainly and simply not annoying. And, as a natural result, those who would cross even the most basic lines of decency, common courtesy, and respect for others, rely upon others to--in the face of such indecision--back down, somehow affording them--those who cross the lines--a degree of power over others that they would not and could not have before known. Perhaps, additionally, this attitude of begrudging acceptance of the unacceptable has become (like some enormous but unseen social leech)tenaciously affixed to the everyday notions of modern American life. We accept the apathetic admonitions don't make waves, don't rock to boat because this is easier than deciding what needs to be done in order in the face of any unpleasant situation which arises. Maybe, furthermore, we have all forgotten that if the boat has no waves, if the boat ain't rocking, it probably ain't going anywhere.

In conclusion, I have, quite undeniably, conformed. And, the crusader in me--the tireless and undaunted defender of life, liberty, and the need for common sense--has apparently taken a beating here as a stranger in a strange land. Yet, rest assured, I have begun the day with renewed diligence, an awakened sense that the simple luxuries of peace, dignity, and self esteem are well worth the battle. I have put on my armor, set my jaw with steely resolve, and narrowed my eyes in wordless menace...

For after all,

If one does not stand up for the simplest rights or issues in life, what future is there for human dignity as a whole.

So, if tomorrow, anyone reads in the news the story of the struggling and disgruntled Connecticut writer who was carried off in handcuff having inexplicably beaten some male library patron fiercely about the head and shoulders with a fifteen-pound Second Edition Unabridged version of the Random House Dictionary of the English Language, fiberglass pedestal and all, just know that I, like Popeye the Sailor, "have had all I can stands...I can't stands no more"!

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