Monday, August 15, 2016

The Day the Books Got Wet

     Writing can be exhausting. I'm currently working on a somewhat-secret project (that actually has a deadline looming) and it's been one of the most emotionally taxing writing experiences I've had thus far, simply due to the plot and some scenes where I had to dredge up actual emotions out of myself. Not that I haven't done that before; this instance is just a little more grueling.The other day I had a to write a rousing military battle speech, and being that I'm not Shakespeare, Henry V, or Winston Churchill, that meant that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

Me, complaining: "How do you even write a battle speech?"
11-year-old brother, dramatically: "Today will no longer be known as an American holiday, but a day when the world..."*
14-year-old brother, in a Mulan-fake-man voice: "I see you have a sword. I do too. They're very manly and tough."

     I'm so thankful I have my brothers to help me in this matter. I mainly just slammed my head on my desk repeating, "We few, we happy few....Cry God for Harry, England, and St. George!"

     Unfortunately, this speech does not work very well when you're writing something set in Italy. Also, there's the small matter of plagiarism, which is an action frowned upon in most societies.

     Anyway, to give myself a little break, I thought, what can I write about that's a little more uplifting? WHAT ABOUT THE MOST EXCITING DAY OF MY LIFE? (No, not the time I saw the Broadway tour of Beauty and the Beast. You're thinking of the other most exciting day of my life.) I don't really talk much about my personal life here-and believe me, that's probably not going to change anytime soon-but every once in awhile, amusing and interesting things happen to me. And this is one instance that I don't think I've ever written about.

     It all began the summer of 2009- I think. It might have been 2010. My journals of this time are currently packed in a storage unit, so I'm telling this one from memory. Anyway, roughly about this time I was volunteering at my local library's summer program for the kids. (I can see you all raising an eyebrow now- the most exciting day of her life? And it's in a library? I'm not James Bond, people. This is as exciting as my life gets.)

     I've always been interested in becoming a librarian, so this was a dream come true for me. The days that I worked, my mornings were usually spent signing kids in for the special programs, and then getting to sit in the back and watch them, too. Even at the ripe old age of fifteen, I certainly was not averse to children's entertainment. Afterwards, all of the volunteers helped back in the children's area of the library, where we shelved books and other librarian-ish things. It was wonderful.

     Now, where this particular library is located is not known as being one of the *best* places in South Carolina. Colleton County is kind of a rural, troubled area. I mean, our main claim to fame is that it's where the guy who played young Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace got arrested for reckless driving. South Carolina is a beautiful place, though, and the actual library is really very nice and historic. I was sad when we moved and I had to leave it.



     It was late in the summer. The children's program for the day had ended, and some of the volunteers had gone home. There were not many people in the library at all, and with the rain pouring down outside (which I found comforting) as I shelved books, it was a pretty lazy late afternoon.

     Now, as I mentioned, this library is rather old, and there were understandably a couple of small leaks. The ceiling was kind of your basic commercial/government type of ceiling, where it's divided into squares, a bit like this:



     The children's area is also divided: there is a section with full-height shelves for chapter books and middle grade fiction, and lower, waist-high shelves for all of the kids' picture books and early readers.

     I was minding my own business, filling in information on the computer, I believe, when suddenly, an entire square ceiling tile fell, right in the middle of the picture book section. Someone dragged a trash can over to collect the water, and I'm sure we were all thinking, wow, that was really bad. Good thing we had something to collect all that water.

ha. haha.

     I turned to continue my typing, when a large thud sounded behind me. I turned to see another ceiling tile on the floor as another one dropped from the ceiling and fell down in front of me. Someone screamed, "save the books!" Another tile fell, and everyone in the library -employees, volunteers, the few random patrons that had been in the building at the off-time of day- ran into the pouring water to grab handfuls of books from the shelves as water poured down around us. It was not a drizzle; it was a thunderstorm. And the water was coming into the building as rapidly as if there hadn't been any ceiling at all- the degree of wetness we experienced was along the lines of being underneath a shower spigot. On top of this, tiles were still falling, and had to be dodged as we sprinted under the danger zone to grab the books. A young boy who'd been in the library with his family was shrieking in delight the entire time. "This is the best library trip ever!" he yelled, a stack of picture books in his arms.

     And, for all my love of books...it was fun. I had taken off my flipflops and was running, drenched and gleeful like a five-year-old, in and out of the water as I grabbed books from the shelves and piled them in a dry corner of the room. There was lots of laughing and screaming. The water had begun pooling on the carpet, and we had to move up the piles of all of the books so that the small flood wouldn't reach them.

     All in all, I would say about six or so of the tiles fell in, and we pretty much evacuated every book in the little kids' section. Amazingly enough, only a few books were damaged enough to be completely discarded. The story even made the local paper. (although they interviewed the volunteers the one day I wasn't there. I am still a little bitter about this.)

     But it was not fun the next day. The library was closed, and we had to come in and sort the hundreds of books we'd dumped haphazardly off of the shelves. We did this in a back room while someone came in to fix the water damage and the ceiling. It took a few days for everything to go back to normal, but it was a truly unexpected experience. And it also gives me a good story to tell anytime someone says that the library is boring.

     Now my break is over and it's once more unto the breach, dear friends. The game is afoot.

* I feel like my mother would want you to know that my 11-year-old brother has not seen Independence Day in its full and complete form, but an age-appropriate edit on our clearplay. End of disclaimer.

8 comments:

Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

Oh, this had me laughing so much! I know that kind of catastrophe where you can't help seeing the hilarity even as it's happening (I am thinking of a patio umbrella turning inside-out in a strong wind while I'm desperately hanging onto it)—but seriously, the roof falling in during a rainstorm in a library? That's priceless. :)

I hope you have a breakthrough with your scene soon! I know those frustratingly-stuck moments too. I wish I could think of a good rousing speech to help you with inspiration, but at the moment my mind is a blank.

Lady Nefertankh said...

Within the opening sentences, I thought this was going to be a story about the time a librarian gave all you volunteers a rousing speech about how to spread the love of books, or the day you suddenly "discovered" you really liked reading and writing and might want to be an authoress. (not to say those would've been bad things) Never expected such a hilarious story! My sympathy about not being there for the day they interviewed everyone. (WHY does that always happen?)

rockandminerals4him said...

Hahahaha THIS WAS HILARIOUS. I WANT TO BE THERE. And is it weird that at your description of library, I thought of my childhood library!

Natalie said...

This was hilarious!! I hope you share more personal stories, because your style of "story telling" is so entertaining.

I would be bitter about missing the interview, too. :P

ps. I love your disclaimer at the end. It made me smile. Haha!

Hayden said...

Elisabeth: Thanks! It was so awful it *was* hilarious, so really all there was to do was laugh about it.

The writing is certainly getting better! I got through that battle speech but I still can't tell if it's good or just melodramatic. :)

Lady Nefertankh: Those would have been good guesses! Yes, it was a little annoying. Alas, my participation in the event went undocumented....until now.

rocksandminerals4him: Thanks! No, that's not weird at all :)

Natalie: I'm glad you enjoyed it! Who knows...I may write more about my life. But it will probably not be nearly as interesting as this bit was, haha. :)

Madeline Osigian said...

Oh my goodness! I love this post so much! What an awesome story. Wish it would happen to me. :)

Hamlette said...

Hahaha! That's a splendid story. I used to volunteer in the library when I was a teen, helping with Story Hour for toddlers, but I never got to shelve books. How I would have liked to.

Your story reminds me of the time the electricity went out when I worked at Walmart overnights, and we had to all rush to the frozen foods section and put cardboard over all the open bunkers to keep the coldness in, and write the times on the cardboard to show what time we sealed it because certain foods can be okay for certain amounts of time without power to the refrigeration units. It was much more exciting than a usual night of stocking!

(I'm not James Bond, people. This is as exciting as my life gets. Mine too!)

Jenelle Leanne said...

That is a fantastic story! I saw it when you posted it, but didn't get around to coming back to read it until just now. Wow. Of course, my head is spinning on WHY the ceiling started to suddenly pour water down into that particular section of the library... but still, sounds like fun. Glad the books were mostly saved and nobody was hurt by falling tiles. I can't even imagine!

Sorry you weren't there when the news came to interview people. That is frustrating.

I'm not James Bond, either. :) Loved that line.

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