My usual MO when it comes to scouting new reading material is to head down to Borders, pick up three or four books that look intellectually stimulating along with one that I actually want to read, not just say I read (usually something along the lines of "Shoes, Sex and Why Women Like Them") then shell out the $60 - $100 to the cashier without thinking twice. However, my new socioeconomic status doesn't allow for such careless spending so off I was to that foreboding monster of a building on Fifth Avenue called the New York Public Library to get myself a Library Card.
Climbing the many steps to the beautiful building I had passed so many times before, I started to feel like Rocky running up the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, my mind wandered and I started thinking about why New York is so much better than Philadelphia. Typical. Thinking I would prance right through the giant doors and and immediately be surrounded by shelves and shelves of books, enough to scare the pants of the Dewey Decimal System, I pushed the revolving door as fast as I could until I was inside and abruptly stopped by the giant line of people going through security. Did I forget I was in New York for a second? I happily opened up my bag to let the security guard dig his way through my notebook, a couple of Pepto Bismol Pills, a tampon and my gigantic makeup bag until I was finally inside and free to roam the New York Public Library.
I bounced up to the information desk, all cheer and sunshine and said, "Excuse me, but you can tell me where I go to get my Library Card?!" Anything but charmed by my positive attitude, the woman behind the desk replied, "You're in the wrong building. You need to go across the street."
"Damn," I thought. The building across the street is plain, there are no statues, no exhibits, just a big dusty, quasi-book store. How can I experience this momentous occasion without the grandeur of statues and stairs and artwork surrounding me? Where will the gospel choir that is going to sing as my library card is handed over to me going to stand? Resigned to the fact that my Library Card experience would be more like a trip to the DMV than a day at the Met, I decided to pop into an Art Deco exhibit being held inside this pretty building that I so desperately wanted to borrow anything from before heading across the street to get my card.
Once inside the glass doors to the exhibit, I took a look at the five or so other people in there and decided to pretend I was just as genuinely interested in the art of this period as they pretended to be. And so I read each and every informational piece on the wall when I came to the a descriptive on how the Art Deco period came to be. It began, "On Thursday, October 24, 1924 as the Stock Market crashed sending the United States into the Great Depression..." That's when I stopped. I did not need a reminder that I am unemployed and not a lady of leisure, so I decided to head across the street to get that Library Card.
Resisting the pull of BCBG to my right and Lord & Taylor to my left, I trucked it into the building where the nice lady at the information desk directed me to the long line at the Library Card Registration Desk. Wanting to whip out my AmEx and bolt back across the street for some shopping, I trudged over and took my place in line. When it was finally my turn, I handed over my Driver's License, which still has my New Jersey address on it, when Stanley, the man running the desk said, "I need something with your New York address." I desperately dug through my purse, determined not to have wasted an afternoon looking at art I don't get and waiting on line. Viola! I pulled out a bottle of Antibiotics my doctor had prescribed for the Sinus Infection I had a few weeks ago. Embarrassing? Absolutely. But it had my New York address on it so I handed it over. Stanley, clearly uncomfortable with the situation, reached out and grabbed the bottle, gave me a look that said, "Sure this is antibiotics, it's probably Herpes medication" and copied my address from the bottle, into his computer.
Within two minutes my antiobiotics were back in my purse and my New York Public Library card was in my hand. "So I can take out books RIGHT NOW?" I confirmed. "Yes," replied Stanley desperate to have me and my pills away from his desk. "Sweet!"
I was off. First to crime and mystery to pick up a book for T, then off to the "Oprah" section to pick up one for me. I looked around in wonderment at just how many people were here borrowing and returning books, in awe of the fact that here, at this place in New York where nothing is free, they will just give you a book or a DVD and trust that you will return it. I'm just glad they didn't do a background check and find out that I am permanently banned from Blockbuster for failure to return movies.
When I checked out and passed through security to leave the building, this time I barely noticed all the retail therapy that surrounded me upon exiting. Slightly skeeved by the fact that thousands of other hands have probably touched the books I was holding, I whipped out my bottle of Purell for a quick fix, then bounced the rest of the way home like a little kid on the first day of school. The minute T walked in the door from work, I proudly displayed my Library Card and handed over the book I selected just for him. That night, we settled into bed and read ourselves to sleep. For free. Nice.