So, we have a district meeting today for all library staff. There are about 18 of us, 19 counting the District Librarian. We try to get together for lunch before our afternoon meetings, because that’s nice, or whatever. Last time it was Ruby’s, and everyone was fine with that.
     This time, however, things are not so simple. Oh, no, my friend.
     I will convey the gist of things below. And believe it or not, this is almost verbatim.

LIBRARY TECH 1 (via email to group): Hey, are we doing lunch together before the meeting?

LIBRARY TECH 2: Sure! Where should we meet?

LIBRARY TECH 1: I don’t know that area very well. Suggestions?

LIBRARY TECH 3: Tommy, how about that Mexican place you usually go to? Or how about this Country Café Place? (includes link)

LIBRARY TECH 4: I don’t like that place, it’s not very good.

LIBRARY TECH 3: I think there’s a Spires nearby…

TOMMY: Yes, there is a Spires right across from where our meeting is being held. I vote Spires.

LIBRARY TECH 4: Yes, but there’s also a Chipotle, and plenty of other eateries in that same area.

LIBRARY TECH 5 (privately to just Tommy): That’s where Library Tech 6 and I usually go before meetings! (Presumably referring to Spires)

TOMMY (privately to Library Tech 5): Great! Let’s go there, then. Should we make reservations?

LIBRARY TECH 5: Well, let’s find out where everyone else is going, first. Library Tech 6 and I haven’t figured out where we’re going, yet.

LIBRARY TECH 1 (to entire group): I’m totally down for Spires!

TOMMY (to group): Okay, how many of you are good with Spires, other than me and Library Tech 1?

LIBRARY TECH 7: I have errands to run first, but I’ll be there.

LIBRARY TECH 4: I’ll be there.

LIBRARY TECH 8: Have you eaten at the Sandwich Place across the street from Spires? It’s really good! We might want to try that.

LIBRARY TECH 9: I vote for Chipotle, because it’s better and healthier. Library Tech 4 is going there, too.

LIBRARY TECH 4: Well, actually it doesn’t matter to me! Either place is fine.

ANONYMOUS (sent via private text to Tommy): Library Tech 9 wants me to go to Chipotle with her. I know you committed to Spires, but I vote you come to Chipotle with us!

TOMMY (after discovering no cell coverage anywhere in library, and wandering out to quad in the sun, holding phone at various angles and directions until weak signal finally appears): Who is this?

LIBRARY TECH 3: It’s Library Tech 3.

TOMMY (hot, frustrated, getting crabby): Oh! My cell is fucked up, not showing me who’s texting. Already told Library Tech 1 and Library Tech 7 I’d go to Spires with them. ALL THESE BITCHES NEED TO MAKE UP THEIR DAMN MINDS!

-Tommy has to get some work done, and goes to counseling office to scan some documents. While there in the copy room, he mentions the frustration of the library techs not being able to figure out where to meet for lunch.

OFFICE ASSISTANT: Oh! You should go to this really great place on Euclid—

TOMMY: No way, I don’t even want to CONSIDER adding another option at this point! That’s the last thing we need!

OFFICE ASSISTANT 1: --and Broadway, it’s a gourmet hamburger place, the chef is amazing, and—

TOMMY: Thanks, but no.

OFFICE ASSISTANT: --it’s cheaper than that other place we went last time, remember, Office Assistant 2?

OFFICE ASSISTANT 2: Oh, yeah, Fancy Burger! It was good, but they were, like, $15 burgers!

TOMMY: Hm. I HAVE been wanting to try that Fancy Burger place! No, wait! That’s not helping! I’m not suggesting another place!

-Tommy runs back to his office.

TOMMY (via email to Library Tech 1, Library Tech 4, and Library Tech 7): So, apparently lunch is a big issue and requires much heated debate. Are you guys switching to Camp Chipotle, or staying with Camp Spires?

LIBRARY TECH 1: Well, I’m not really in the mood for disease with my rice and beans. Remember that contamination issue with Chipotle? But this is a community thing, so I don’t know. Where are you going?

TOMMY: I don’t know. My brain is dead and I am now incapable of making a decision. I say we let Library Tech 4 or Library Tech 7 decide.

LIBRARY TECH 4: Who knew lunch would divide us? I’ll go to Chipotle. But there is a Northgate Market there, too, and they have a HUGE food court!



     I like to take my lunch break alone, and I typically barricade myself in the Library's back storage room, which does have a little desk to sit at. I'm forced to hunker back there, because if I stay in my office, I can hear the choir next door practicing, and that is not conducive to healthy digestion.
     At least the back storage room is quiet, and there's no phone. I can eat and read in peace.
     Back in my secret hideaway I sometimes have a jar of peanut butter, and a jar of Nutella, and well... you know how things just kind of HAPPEN. The spoon spends time in both jars, and things get a little crazy, like a '70s love-in.
     The really bad thing is that I'm usually too lazy to wash the spoon after lunch, so it sits there for at least a day in its smeary filth, hardening and probably being licked by rats and cockroaches. That's my worst fear.
     Yesterday I finally shooed all the students out, turned off the lights, locked the door, and closed for lunch.
     I crept back to the scene of the previous day's lunch crimes, and grabbed the spoon. Disgusting. I headed for the sink, holding the spoon out in front of me like a dirty diaper.
     Suddenly I heard someone fumbling at the locked door, and the principal barged in, apologizing for interrupting my lunch break. There I stood, in darkness, with my spoon of shame. I quickly shifted my grip on the spoon so the dirty business end was enclosed completely in my fist. I casually dropped it to my side, hoping she wouldn't notice.
     I slipped behind the circ desk while she asked me the quick question that was the purpose of her visit. As she spoke I surreptitiously dropped the spoon on a storage shelf below the counter. It made a "CLANK" sound, which I ignored.
     As soon as she was gone I took it to the sink and scrubbed away the shame, and the specters of rat tongues and dancing cockroach legs.
     Today it occurred to me that she probably noticed I was weirdly hiding something in my hand, and she probably heard the sound as I dropped it to the shelf out of her view. What if she thought I was concealing a hip flask of vodka? Who knows what she might imagine that could be even worse than the spoon of shame. It briefly crossed my mind that I could fess up and explain that it was a dirty peanut butter-and-Nutella encrusted spoon I was hiding, not anything illegal or perverted.
     But I know that would only make it worse, especially if she hadn't noticed anything.
     Let her think it was a crack pipe.


          This post is dedicated to Julie, who understands personal filth, and also likes peanuts.

          When it's finally time for my lunch break, I put the closed sign out, turn the main lights off, and retreat into the narrow little storage/workroom at the back of the library, locking the door behind me.  That way I don't hear the phone, or the walkie-talkie, and even if someone brazenly demands that a custodian unlock the library to track me (or something I'm in charge of) down, they will be foiled.  There is no sign of me.  Short of a family emergency or a terrorist attack, I AM NOT TO BE BOTHERED.
          In my secret Library Cave it's just me, whatever book I'm currently reading, my snacks, and a cup of coffee.  Perfect.  The book is the most important element.  That, and the silence.
          The problem is that I'm not good at covering my tracks.  I usually don't put much thought into what to eat at work, so it ends up being whatever unhealthy, messy thing I happen to grab on the way out the door.          
          And I have two speeds: "On," and "Off."  Which means when I'm "Off" (during my lunch break), I am REALLY off.  Meaning I toss food wrappers on the floor because it would be too much effort to throw them away.  And if crumbs and globs tumble to the floor I just ignore it.
          And then there are the frequent ant invasions.  I don't blame the ants, they're naturally attracted to sticky crumbly food messes, and I leave plenty of those.
          Here's where the peanuts come in:
          Anthony's birthday was circus-themed, so we had lots of unshelled peanuts to snack on, so much that I ended up with several bags of them after the event.  I took some to work with me and stashed them in the back storage/workroom.  When I'm reading during my lunch hour I don't want to have to put my book down, so I ended up clumsily breaking into the shells with one hand, gobbling the peanuts, and making a mess of the shells all over the floor around me.  There's no trash can back there, because I don't want it to look like I actually eat lunch there.  It's supposed to be my secret hideout.
          But I spent several days in a peanut-eating frenzy, scattering crushed bits of peanut shells all over the floor, and just kind of never cleaning it up.  I don't know why.  I guess I was just way more focused on the book I was reading.  It looked like rats had gotten into the storage room.  What human being would make such a splintery, shredded mess all over the floor?
          When my lunch break was over, I'd get up, look down, and think, "Gross!  Somebody should clean that up..."
          One day I showed my Student Library Aide the workroom, because he had to help me get some boxes from back there.  He stopped, noticing the organic mess around the small table and chair.
          "Wow...  Somebody made a real mess back here!  What are all these peanut shells...?!" he asked innocently, perplexed and seemingly affronted.
          My face flushed red, and I felt like a teenage boy whose mother had discovered his hidden stash of (gay) porn.
          I confessed quickly that it was actually ME who made that mess, and immediately got down to business moving the boxes, trying to distract the lad from thinking too much about how disgusting and trashy Mr. Kovac is.
          Later I went back into the workroom alone, staring at my filth and wondering why I'm like that.  My mom is very tidy, my dad is very tidy, and they certainly tried their best with me.  My husband was very tidy when we first moved in together, but slowly my tide of clutter and careless filth overwhelmed and defeated him.  (He's still alive, but not as tidy.)
          It didn't occur to me until the next day that even though I was embarrassed at having my mess discovered, I STILL hadn't cleaned it up.  The only reason I even thought about it was because miraculously, overnight, the mess had been totally cleaned up by someone else!  The carpet was vacuumed, no trace of peanuts or shells remaining.  I realized the custodians must have discovered my terrible secret at last, and added that back workroom to their nightly cleaning route.
          The shame hit me like a punch to the chest.
          Every day now, whatever mess I make back there is cleaned up by morning.  Did they tell anybody?  Do they even care?  This is an exceptionally clean school, so I'm afraid my trashiness MUST stand out.  I should change my behavior, become cleaner and pick up after myself.  Eat less weird candy and snacks.
          But here is what my secret hidden workroom desk looks like right now:
Bag of Peanut M&Ms and Cracker Jacks (Halloween leftovers), and a truly disgusting mug of mostly-eaten potato soup, with trash stuffed in it.  When I finally cleaned it out, I discovered MOLD growing in it.  Yay!

Wrappers from the Mexican peanut candy I stole from the Edgar Allan Poe "Dia de los Muertos" ofrenda.  Also Peanut M&M wrapper, dirty napkins, stray paperclip and some kind of dark yarn.
           At least there's nothing on the floor, though.  Well, maybe a few broken shards of pretzel crackers.  If questioned, I will suggest that rats must be living in the Library's air-conditioning ducts.

(Follow-up topic: PEANUTS.  Is it simple coincidence, or fate that leads me to eat so many peanut-related foods?  First peanuts in natural form, then Peanut M&Ms, then Mexican peanut candy...  Why is this a theme in my life lately?)