Friday, August 3, 2007

Tales from the OPL - "the Sedaris type"

I love my job at the Orem Public Library. Let there be no mistake. I really love it. Part of what I love so much about it is the public part. It's funny, well maybe not funny as much as great that us library workers all refer to those we serve as "patrons". An accurate term really, they all are tax payers. It's beautiful. The library is the one place that students, elite business folk, families, illegal aliens, and those weird types that you always see walking home from a gas station on state street with cheap nachos and a 90 oz drink can all be considered patrons. There have been many times where I have found a satirical quality to this term at work. But today's tale is not one of an ironic use of the word patron, rather it is more a tale of an awkward conversation with one.

An evening not long ago, perhaps a week or two, I was working the fiction reference desk in the South wing basement. It was a slow night and I wondered if I was going to have any real public in action to pass the evening. Right when it seemed hopeless a young man approached my desk.

He appeared unlike the average Orem resident. His hair was cut to a stubble exhibiting a mosaic of tattooes covering the skin around the crown of his head which was reprised on his tan forearms in similar patterns. The shirt he wore was tight but not in the same way as a blond Provo High popped collar type. Instead, it was fitted in the way that you would see on a charming Banana Republic clerk. Around his neck hung a thick beaded necklace that fell right above the neckline of his shirt which seemed to form the utter compliment in hue and design of his overall composition. He was a 'lone artistic ranger' in the Orem community and I was refreshingly intimidated.

"Hey" he started, "I'm not sure if you're who I talked to about this. I've got a weird question."

I wondered if it was sincerely something weird like when that old Asian guy who brings his entire modem and Windows '97 computer monitor in and asks for a Chinese translating hook-up.

"Well, let's see what it is." I coaxed him.

"Have you heard of David Sedaare-is?"

Hmmm...SedAare-is I thought...Sedaaris....ah! Sedaris.

"Yes, the This American Life contributor? David Sedaris?"

"Un hun. Yeah. That's him. I just finished his Me Talk Pretty one Day and thought it was cool. Is there something else around here like that?"

That is a hard question to answer, I thought. There's a lot of stuff that makes Sedaris read like he does. Is this guy the cynic or the intellectual satire? Well, judging be his "something else around here" line, I'm going to assume cynic. Maybe, though, he is like me and just wants the self-reflective thoughtfulness of a This American Life episode. I decided to give him all of the above.

"Oh I'm sure there's something around here like that. Gosh there's Nick Hornby who has been read on the same NPR show as Sedaris. His stuff has the same kind of humanely funny tone to it."

He took a scrap of paper and a golf pencil from the desk and started to write the names down I was suggesting. I started to look up these names on the computer catalogue to see if any were checked in.

"Then there's also Sarah Vowell, she is a historian with a raw cynicism that can be really funny if you can read it rather than listen to her reading her stuff in that nasally voice of hers. Oh and you might like David Rakoff. He's a gay writer like Sedaris with that same humanistic qual-"

"Oh" He stopped me. "I'm not necessarily interested in gay writing. I mean it's not like I only read gay writers." He finished the last part with some hestitancy and his tattoos were starting to go flush.

"Right." I assured him, trying to overwhelm this awkward conversation turn we had just encountered with complete understanding. "I mean, Rakoff is great. He's got the same interesting...political...or uh...humanistic perspective as Sedaris. Just another contributor to that radio show I was talking about earlier...."

I looked from my computer search to him and he quickly shifted his dumbfounded expression to his little paper he had briefly forgotten. I tried to respond with absolute confidence to defy whatever "delicacy" the conversation now held. It was hopeless. He looked back up at me appologetically as if to try and sincerely coin the cliche "not that there's anything wrong with being gay."

"Uh thanks" he started.

"Oh no problem. I hope that gets you started with some ideas. Good luck."

I meant the last part as "good luck" with the search not with the being gay part. I mean, there's nothing wrong with being gay.


allyson elizabeth said...

My roommate read that book and I've been eying it as it's gathered dust on top of our microwave for weeks. I think I'll have to read it.

T.R. said...

Also read "River Teeth" by David James Duncan. I thought of Sedaris when I read it.

mary c. said...

Good luck on your long run tomorrow Cate! You can do it.

Wow. I can feel the awkwardness oozing out of that guy. Poor lone ranger.

Oh man that's such a good story. You should make a story-time section just for library tales.

badgermiddlemas said...

David Sedaris is hilaris("ou" purposefully omitted.) I love his story about him as a Christmas Elf at the mall and his narrative of the Nativity. So what have you been up to? I haven't talked to you forever. -- Scott Middlemas

Andrew said...

Speaking of Sarah Vowell (and you may already know this since I found out at a library and you work at one), I believe she is coming to SLC in the near future. I should check the date.

McDirty said...

Every time I hear Sedaris on This American Life, I initially think it's a woman with a very strange voice. I just never get used to it.

jo said...

Wow! I knew the library would be an excellent job. I guess I just didn't know HOW excellent.

Deborah Barlow said...

Cate, Great vignette. People who like Sedaris (like the entire country of France) also love Stephen McCauley, a novelist based in Cambridge (and, in the spirit of full disclosure, a good friend.) And that's a recommendation for Sedaris-loving kids wandering into the library as well as librarians.

Loki said...

Just used "In Ashes" in my 101 class this week.

I am enjoying your blog.