I took a census employment test recently. I think everyone has by this point, so that’s not much of a revelation. It was my first time visiting the central library, though, and since this blog is partly about my new-ish home city, I thought I’d offer up a flowery description of the place/my day downtown.
I make it a point to center downtown adventures around Horton Plaza whenever possible in order to abuse their three-hour free mall parking. All you have to do is validate your ticket inside the mall. I highly recommend this. The entrance is off of fourth ave. just before F street, under the big, flashy, red “PARKING” sign.
The central library is just four blocks away from the mall, down E St. This location serves as a hub for all the other branches throughout the city, so it’s rather large. I walked past the maze of circulation desk options, sinking into the smell of library books, and waited until the information desk guy looked up to ask where I was supposed to go. The central library is absolutely overflowing with helpful and informative signs, which would be nice, if you know, more of them had arrows and pertained to events currently in progress or at least something relevant to anything I might want to do. I had forgotten how much the smell of libraries and used bookstores calms me. It is my hope that one day I’ll find the quintessential perfect bookstore and reach a level of meditative nirvana most devoted monks only dream of, but I digress.
The help desk dude pointed me toward a set of sketchy side stairs. A “staff only” sign hung on the wall beside them, but pretty much everyone seemed to be taking the forbidden stairs. So, did that sign pertain to some hidden room/doorway/item? Or do none of the signs in the library ever get read? If so, I pity whoever plasters the walls with them, as their life must be a perpetual testament to futility.
On the second floor I found myself facing “children’s media”, with some sort of fine arts room on the opposite side of a glass wall beside me. Off to the right lay the hallway described by the information man – one long corridor with bathrooms at the end. Upon knocking on the meeting room door I was told to wait while the proctor set up the room. Slowly, a ridiculously diverse line formed behind me (all totally probably fifteen or so people showed up, fitting every possible description). The homeless downtowners seem to rely heavily on the library’s public facilities. A near steady stream of haggard people with backpacks and duffel bags filed past while we waited, going to and from the restrooms. Within the hallway the scent of the library faded away beneath the swirling, competing mixture of alcohol and hand soap.
The tables in the meeting room were the trapezoidal kind that fit together to form either rows or hexagons. These were arranged in rows, bringing me back to junior high scholastic bowl. I sat calmly poised, hands folded on the table, envisioning the big, older style buzzers, the confidence of being captain of my hyper-intelligent group of friends, plunked right in the middle, staring down the high school age moderator, feeling nothing but a burning, desperate need to kick Mt. Vernon’s ass. What was that one guy’s name? Todd? Tom? Archie Nemesis? I wanted to get started. I wanted to win. Instead, we filled out forms for a half hour, spent another half hour on the test, and then waited awkwardly for the proctor to grade the scantrons so we could leave knowing whether or not we needed to schedule a retest. I passed, but I don’t find out whether or not I’m one of the chosen until at least the end of the month.
Back at Horton Plaza I took the wrong stairs and found myself gazing longingly at my vehicle, perched on the other side of the mid-garage chasm, unable to actually reach it for an embarrassing ten minutes or so. Fun fact – until college, I had never driven a vehicle into a parking garage. I had been the passenger in a garage setting many times, sure, but by the time I was old enough to drive, I usually Metro Linked into St. Louis, and, well, there weren’t any parking garages anywhere closer to me. So I’m still learning.
And… then I drove home, blasting indie techno-pop music all the way up fifth avenue. Because that’s how I roll.