In case you couldn't figure it out for yourself, this is a photo of me wearing my beloved "read" necklace. I frequently wear it at the library in order to send a subliminal message to the kids that READING IS COOL, SEE? I'm not sure if it works, and people young and old get confused sometimes - "Is that your name?" - but overall it gets positive, supportive comments. Yay for reading!
I wore the necklace today, and after I left work at 8pm, I stopped by a drugstore to pick up some practical items, which included dish soap, paper towels, and milk. (Okay, I admit, I looked longingly at the fridge filled with beer, but kept on walking. I mean, I didn't NEED it, right?)
To be completely honest, when I finish a particularly busy day of work, I often just don't feel like physically talking. To anyone. It's nothing personal, merely a side effect of having to talk all day long. I think my vocal chords actually get tired or something. However, as annoying as it can be at times, I realize that making inane chit-chat is usually inevitable if you want to be a decent member of a civil society. Life is hard, right?
Anyway, the drugstore clerk - a perfectly nice, friendly kid who appeared to be in his early 20s - noticed my necklace as he rang up my banal, beer-less purchases. I was in one of those "don't want to talk" kind of moods, but the customer service provider in me apparently doesn't know how or when to cut a conversation short.
Here's a rough transcription. My thoughts are in italics.
Him: "I'm going to assume the word on your necklace is not your name."
Me: "Yes, you are correct."
(Please don't ask me my name, please don't ask me my name.)
Me: "But my name IS Rita, so it's kind of a funny coincidence."
(What? He didn't even ask what your name was. Stop talking.)
Him: "So you're just a big fan of reading?"
(Just nod. Do not engage any more. There's a line forming behind you.)
Me: "Yes. I'm a librarian, so it's sort of work-related."
(Crap. Rookie mistake. Please don't say anything about me being a librarian, please don't say anything about me being a librarian.)
Him *laughing*: "YOU'RE a librarian?"
(Aaaaaand here we go. Okay, Rita. You have the power to prevent this
conversation from going any further. You have dishes to do at home, after all.)
Me *with a weak smile*: "Yup."
(Good. A one-word answer. That's better. Keep it up.)
Him: "It's just that when I think of a librarian, I think of someone...older."
(Don't take the bait. Don't take the bait. Don't take the bait.)
Me: "Well, actually, a lot of librarians are young like me. Not that I'm young, really. I just mean not old. Although, I am kind of old. I mean, relatively speaking."
(God, JUST SHUT UP.)
Him: "C'mon. You look about the same age as me."
(Don't ask him how old he is, don't ask him how old he is.)
Me: "How old are you?"
Him *deadpan*: "I'm 83. Don't I look good for my age?"
(Okay, this just got kinda weird. Swipe your debit card and get the hell out out of there.)
Me: *politely laughing while fumbling with the debit card*
(Don't wait for the receipt, don't wait for the receipt.)
Him: "Here's your receipt."
What just happened? Was I insulted? Complimented? Did I help smash tired
librarian stereotypes while simultaneously promoting a love of reading? I really have no idea.
What I do know for sure is that I learned three things tonight:
1) From now on, when I leave the library, the "read" necklace comes off.
2) I am not required to engage in conversation. It's okay to NOT be
a librarian when you're not actually being a librarian.
3) Always, always, always get beer. (Really, who was I kidding??)