*ding ding* “The library will be closing in fifteen minutes.”
We call that the “nerd bell,” but it’s not derogatory. Or at least it’s only a little self-deprecating. Most students here don’t stay up until midnight… not to study, anyway. There isn’t much else to do in a small town, though, so the library stays open until 12:15 and every night, I end up reading here until the bell rings and the doors close. This common room is nice for relaxing, isn’t it? Haven’t seen you here before.
Oh, if you want to get real work done, not just chatting and reading novels, make sure you claim a spot in the building. People are creatures of habit, right, so it’s an unspoken custom here that students find spots and stick to them.
The first week of school I actually found this little study niche, framed by the government document section, that no one else uses. It isn’t near either of the computer labs, so the area doesn’t see much foot traffic, and I don’t have to worry about anyone crunching chips or listening to a Walkman set so loud the music bleeds out.
Sure, the heating vent right overhead can be a little noisy now that it’s winter, and the shelves close to both sides of this desk mean you have to squeeze by sideways to sit down, but it has a heavy, padded oak chair that’s really comfortable. I have no idea how long ago someone bothered to carry it down here, but it’s not going anywhere. (They probably stole it from the Provost’s office, anyway.)
There’s also a big oil painting of Edwin Cuthbert, from 1810, that dominates the wall right behind the chair. I guess that could be unsettling to people, since it’s about life-sized, or maybe a little larger than life. I used to think of old Cuthbert as my study partner, since he’s reading over my shoulder as I work.
I have an odd habit a friend recently picked up on, a habit I developed about a year ago. He noticed that when I enter a room, any room, and shut the door, I turn my face away from it and close my eyes until I hear the lock click. Only after the door is fully closed will I open them. He gave me a hard time about it until I told him where it started.
I work for a water-seal company in St. Paul. We produce sealant for exposed wood — decks, boats, that kind of thing. You hear about sealant being a dirty word in the Ashland-Ichor Falls-Ironton area, but not all those companies were part of the infamous “Ethylor summer” that wiped out the local economy in the ’50s. I got sent to an industrial park outside of Ichor Falls on business.
I checked into this dismal hotel, the Hotel Umbra, that looked like the decor hadn’t been changed since 1930. The lobby wallpaper had gone yellow from decades of cigarette smoke, and everything had a fine layer of dust, including the old man behind the front desk. I hoped that the room would be in better shape. Mine was on the fourth floor.
Being an old place, the hotel had a rickety cable elevator, the kind with the double sets of doors: one of those flexing metal gates, and a solid outer pair of doors. I shut the gate and latched it, and pressed the tiny black button for my floor.
Just as the outer elevator doors were about to close, I was startled by the face of a young woman rushing at the gap between them. She was too late; the doors shut, and after a moment the elevator ascended.