The problem is sometimes I do that, even when the situation does not call for it. A quiet restaurant. A conversation in someone's living room with family or friends. One of them shushes me, and I immediately vault back to being a child, the keeper of secrets who told, and
was told: You have a big mouth. In my defense, the earlier times I told, and told quietly, no one seemed to hear me.
This is all to say that Me and Being Loud go way back. But I wasn't thinking of any of this the other day at the library. I was at the help desk, greeting patrons as they came in to pick up their holds, scurrying over to the fax machine to help someone fax a document, helping someone else at the printer,
having a long, very loud (I'll admit it) conversation with Mr. W., one of our regular patrons, someone I adore and know is hard of hearing so we all have to shout when we speak to him.
It's my day today! he said.
and I said, OH YOU'RE RIGHT, VETERAN'S DAY (because I know he is a proud veteran) THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR SERVICE!
A short pause after he left to catch my breath, another patron heading over to the desk from the computer area, and what might he need help with?
I have a complaint, he said, and I was all serious and ready to hear it. Trouble with the printer? A problem locating materials? An issue with our catalog, our magazine selection, a missing newspaper?
You are very loud, he said, pointing at me.
I stammered an apology and he went on. How he was trying to read and how very loud I was, over by the printer and at the computers and having very loud conversations with people at the desk.
Oh, that. I started to explain about sweet Mr. W and how he is a regular patron and we know that he is hard of hearing.
The man cut me off. Well, he should get his hearing problems taken care of! There was more grouching about how libraries have changed and not in a good way and aren't they supposed to be quiet and what was it with all of these people talking, all of these mothers and their crying babies and why couldn't they control their crying babies--
My ears were ringing at this point, worse than those blaringly loud concert nights, and now I was sputtering defenses of the people who needed help with the printer, the mothers with the crying babies (not that there were any around at the moment) but they were welcome in the library too,
and Maybe, I said, gently, quietly, You would be happier at the main library, where there is a quiet room? Because this library, our library, doesn't have a quiet room.
The manager came out then to resolve the situation, not that it could really be resolved. The man wanted quiet, wanted shushing, but the world has changed. Sometimes the library is loud. Some of our patrons are loud. I am loud.
Or I guess I should say, I AM LOUD.
I promise I'll try to keep my voice down in your living room or at a quiet restaurant, but when I am chatting with Mr. W, at the help desk, PLEASE DON'T SHUSH ME.