Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Making Laura Hate You in One Easy Step

Something happened today. And I have to rant about it. You, therefore, need not read the rant. And if you do, nod in an understanding fashion and navigate away, or perhaps leave an encouraging remark for me, because that is what you do when a person is ranting and has passed the point where they can be considered rational.

I had a bad moment at work today. It didn't seem bad when you weren't me, but in my head, it was bad. In my head, it was pretty terrible. In my head, it got a little heated. But I kept my mouth shut and came across as dense, which is enough to make me angrier than I was to start with.

Allow me to begin.

I am predisposed to like people.

When I meet a person, I listen to what they say, make eye contact, suddenly discover that the person is beautiful, due to whatever feature I find to be lovely in that particular moment. I notice how interesting the person is to talk to, how much they know about whatever subject we are talking about, be it the weather, membership rates at the Y, history, and so forth. I like them.

Usually, several conversations determine how much I will like said person and if I will like them long-term. So, if Person X talks to me at the library every Monday, I discover that either they are fun (in which case I pick out books I think they will like to show them later, look for books they mentioned they wanted to read and put them on hold for them, and so forth), or that they are the kind of person eager to share what popular culture will refer to as T.M.I., that their adult children are lazy, that they hate their ex, that their professor in their Ivy Tech criminal justice class decided to give them a B+ on purpose because the teacher secretly hates them (which I can understand, if that is how disrespectful that person was in class), or that the person is actually unpleasant and should be avoided, like the I'm Sorry Family and the few truly bad children that come to the library weekly.

A morsel of Library-Trivia...

We have a book sale at the library. It used to be upstairs, but it became far too large to keep in our small entryway, so we moved it downstairs in the entryway there. The move meant that we became responsible for the large number of the book sales that take place, meaning I have to make change For Real, something I hate to do but endure.

Here, I must stop and tell you a little more Laura Trivia.

In seventh grade, I had perhaps two friends. Neither of them, I must add, were close friends. They were school friends that I spent time with in order to make school bearable. I was the same to them. It was a bond built on survival, and it made junior high something I haven't blocked out entirely. Just partially.

In seventh grade, because I felt so disenfranchised, so miserable in a crowd of girls crazy about boys, I fell into a world of literature.

I had always been a reader, but my addiction grew. I was attracted to characters that distanced themselves from their fellow man; characters that were clinical and efficient. That was the year I decided I wanted to be a psychologist. I was an observer. This change in my viewpoint made me feel less left out, and I focused myself on the aspects of my character I thought were positive. I became reclusive. There were days when I didn't speak a single word to anyone.

That was the year I found Sherlock Holmes. I read each and every story. I carried the complete Sherlock Holmes, checked out from the library where I am now employed, with me all day long, reading it between classes when the other students were talking.

Most students thought it was a text book, so I was left alone. If they had thought it was a book...that would have been another story.

I tell you all this by way of introduction for this little freakish thing that developed.

Sherlock Holmes didn't use slang. His grammar was impeccable, so I stopped using slang altogether (I had only used a bit) and I stopped using nicknames, and for a few weeks, I stopped using contractions. That wore off fast. My writing was the same way.

Now, I have grown out of that. With adulthood comes the knowledge that even the quiet girl no one notices can draw negative attention from someone, because not being noticed isn't the same thing as being invisible. It's far better to be surrounded by good friends you love than to hide from everyone, especially when your good friends read or listen to your ranting and support you (like mine do).

My writing has changed a great deal. Not only has it matured as I have, I now can turn the freakishly accurate grammar off and on. Jennifer mentioned that the mark of a good singer was that said singer could sing badly on purpose and then go right back to singing well. Writing is the same. Here, I write what I would almost describe as stream of consciousness. I edit this only for misspellings, and not very closely. That is why there are so many ...s and so many --s and so many ()s.

I am too lazy to type out the punctuation names. Sorry.

When I'm at work, I use proper English.

All of the above gives you the background you need to understand the following: How a Person Can Make Me Hate Them in One Easy Step

I was checking out books for a patron. A man came in with books from the book sale outside. He stood directly in front of me, between me and the patron I was helping.

"You can go ahead and put those books on the desk," I told him. "We'll see what you've got in a moment."

He just stood there, impatiently. He was in his early sixties with silver hair and a bulging stomach. He also wore a strap around his lower back as if to support his stomach. He was buying biographies. I noticed all this as I checked out the two people in front of him.

When it was his turn, perhaps five minutes later, I had to ask him a second time to hand me the books. "I need to see what color the dots are on the spines," I explained.

"Have," he replied.

I stood for a moment, confused.

"I'm sorry?" I said.

"Have."

"I'm afraid I don't know what you mean by that."

"What books I have."

Oh.

That man was correcting my grammar.

Part of me wanted to drop his books right there and say something to the effect of, "Sir, I have a B.A. in English, I know how to form a sentence."

But I didn't. I didn't tell him he'd misheard me. And instantly, I hated him.

I hated that he thought I was the same age as the high school student working next to me. I hated that I look that young. I hated that he thought he could teach me how to form a sentence when I already knew how to do so, and that I could never prove that to him without offending him and causing him to tell my coworkers that I was disrespectful.

What might have been a perfectly decent human being was, at that moment, a horrible man I detested. I was happy to see him leave. The moment he walked away, I told my student assistant that he really, really needed a hearing aid.

That was it, you see. He obviously worked physically, injuring his lower back. I think he must have damaged his hearing in a factory, perhaps, or construction, like so many men I know in my life. My father damaged his hearing in the same way.

If he had talked to me about the people in his biographies, I would have liked him. Instead, he struck the one nerve I didn't know I had, the sore spot I am now aware of. My temper, which is usually mild, is apparently only mild in 99% of situations. In 1%, it is the opposite.

The poor man was likely a great person. He may have even been teasing me, like he would his daughter or granddaughter. However, it was not the way to make me laugh.

I wanted to launch into a lecture straight from my History of the English Language class, describing to him how the English language is dynamic, changing so rapidly that textbooks can't keep up with it. Language is a living thing, adapting to new technology, to religion, literature, and popular culture. When I was little, no one could have defined the word "muggle" in the United States. Now, we all know what a Muggle is, we know it ought to be capitalized, and we've started to use it as a word for any person outside of a community. A non-knitter is now called a Muggle.

When people from other cultures learn to speak English, each language changes. When English was brought to Africa, Asia, and the Americas, it was altered forever by the languages of the many indigenous cultures of each continent. The word "tote" originated in Africa and was brought over to our country by slaves.

Dialects change language. When a group of people, isolated from other English speakers, remain so for decades, their version of English changes from that of the population they left behind. Once reunited, each dialect of English changes the other.

I wanted to scream all this at that man. I wanted to take him upstairs and hand him the first VHS of The Story of English, a fantastic documentary that would teach him all of what I just ranted about.

But that would have changed me from Normal Librarian Laura to Freaky Psycho Laura, who would quickly become Unemployed Laura because Freaky Psycho Laura was yelling at patrons and forcing VHS tapes on them.

Instead, I am taking this opportunity and using this outlet to tell you the following, most of which I think you already know:

I am intelligent.

I can form a sentence using proper grammar and punctuation.

I graduated from both high school and college, meaning that I am no longer a child, despite my youthful appearance.

It is impolite to correct the grammar of a perfect stranger, as it is impolite to interrupt a person who is waiting ahead of you in a line, because you feel that your needs are somehow greater or more pressing than the person or people in front of you.

Again, I thank you all for listening to this rant. I could not repress it any longer and my family is tired of hearing me lecture on this subject. Linguistics gets boring after a while to people who aren't linguists. I would imagine.

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