Friday, February 27, 2004


I have realized that I am scared to death of teenagers. Perhaps its my genteel nature, my delicate primrose demeanor, or my flat out non-threatening nature.

When I see teenagers, I know how the gazelle feels. Just like in those nature specials, the gazelle can be having a snack of wheatgrass out on the plains, when along come a pack of vicious wolves, or hyaena. That is how I think of teenagers.

Like the hyaena, teenagers tend to travel in packs. They let out cackles that are both frightening and distracting. They are stronger in groups, as they hoot and holler and live through that group mentale. The gazelle on the other hand is svelte, much like me, and gentle. They tend to their young, and gingerly step through the fields where they live, eat, and play.

Putting them together is a bad idea. Much like putting me with a group of teenagers. Looking over my shoulder, and imagining that every hushed conversation they have among themselves is a plot to somehow overtake me. Steal my wallet, knock me down, tussle my hair, rip my button down collared shirts.

Lately, groups of teens have been coming to the library. This is good, afterall, they aren't out on the streets terrorizing pedestrians on their skateboards, and trying to rush through on-coming traffic. Instead, they turn to my territory: the library.

I'm sure most of them are well meaning, misguided, overly pierced people. Their tattoos and gamey scent only hide the true inner being they hope will shine through by entering the pearly gates of the literary world. Somehow, you can take the punk off the street, but you can't take the street out of the punk. In a well meaning way, they remove a book from the shelve - and make 10 more fall to the faux berber carpeting. They jam the photocopier while making copies of Anime monthly. They begin in gentle, soft voices but end up calling to their pack in loud, alpine worthy tones. The impression they may have hoped to leave with us never arrives. Instead, like a poorly made James Bond martini, they leave me both shaken and stirred.

I like the gazelle stay alert. I look for all their tell tale signs of attack...sudden movement, an unexpected calm, a sideways glance from their shifty pubescent eyes. Librarians must stay alert when they enter, like the Victorian Safari hunters of yesteryear. I must be ready at any moment to dash with my long legs into the staff canteen, hiding with the other innocents until the terror has passed.

Like the gazelle, I can slip back to my graceful composure while retaining my innate sense of impending danger, ready for the next group to enter the library.

I was a teenager once, and I don't think anyone was afraid of me. Perhaps I've been like a gazelle my whole life. I wonder what it is about them that is so startling? Perhaps it's that they are the next wave of librarians. Which of them will escape the pack? Or will it be the other gentle natured gazelle-like boys that contain the gen-x replacement series.

When I am old will I want them to help me? Will I trust them? At 65 will I look at those 50 year old librarians with the same fear? Will librarians even be the same in 40 years? Reference interviews being held like shouting matches across a library that I helped build? Will roaming in the stacks turn into tracking down people to assault with the ambitious "can I help you find something?". Who knows.

Luckily, being a gazelle can only happen in the public realm. An African proverb says "Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or be killed. Every morning in Africa a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle or it will starve. So whether you're the lion or gazelle, when the sun comes up, start running."

I don't run even when I'm being chased. Its too hard to light a cigarette when running.

Moral of this blog: Chain smoking gazelles should not work in public libraries. They are meant to create exhibition catalogues for Sotheby's or Christie's.

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