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Monday, March 27, 2006

Eating in the Library

Sign on the table in Butler Library at Columbia (not my home library, but one that I can use while I'm enjoying my leave in New York for three more days):
In consideration of others
NO Food
Drinks only in
spill-proof containers
NO cell phone use
Unattended food and drink items will be
Items on the table in front of the Columbia student across from me:
  • cup of coffee from some place called Blue Java
  • plastic bottle of Sprite
  • open plastic container of pineapple chunks
  • one open and partially empty packet of sugar
  • one used coffee stirrer
  • several brown napkins partially soaked with coffee
  • Invitation to Computer Science (a party to which I was apparently not invited)
Now, even though the sign says that this no food and spill-proof-contained-drinks-only policy is "in consideration of others," I'm not personally put out in any way by the pineapple chunks or the rest of it (unlike if she were eating, say, a tuna sandwich with roasted red peppers and sundried tomatoes, like people eat at the Lincoln Plaza movie theater). But didn't libraries used to worry about bugs destroying their books? Why doesn't the sign read "In consideration of our books" or "If you eat in the library, disgusting bugs will eat our books"? Maybe because, of the 11 people closest to me, not a single one of them is actually using a library book. Unlike olde Hieronimo, whose face is buried in the STC and who may runne madde againe if he doesn't finish with this particular project soon. (Update: I have now finished with the STC and I am not madde againe ... whew.)

While we're on the subject, here's one of my favorite Anglo-Saxon riddles (in a translation by William Klein); I like it because it seems to originate in a time when people didn't really know what riddles were:
A moth ate songs—wolfed words!
That seemed a weird dish—that a worm
Should swallow, dumb thief in the dark,
The songs of a man, his chants of glory,
Their place of strength. That thief-guest
Was no wiser for having swallowed words.

It's a bookworm (or perhaps, the scholars tell us, a moth)! You wouldn't have guessed in a million years, would you? I mean, just because the first line uses the word moth and the second line the word worm, that doesn't mean it gives away the answer or anything.

  • At 3/27/2006 06:22:00 PM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    I wonder also if it might be because those claims of olde about the fragility of books were apparently overstated. According to Nicholson Baker in Double Fold, that particular advertising campaign from late 1980s and early 1990s wasn't as accurate, or at least the crisis wasn't quite as acute, as all those "Handful of Dust" signs implied.

    That being said, I in no way support or condone brazenly eating food in libraries. Just think what it might do to the Dells.


 Scribble some marginalia

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