Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Course Overload #17: "Can You Hear Me Now?"

It’s crunch time, kids. You know, the time of the semester when all of your professors get together and custom tailor the due dates for all your massive papers to give you, and only you, the most consecutive aneurysms. It’s as if there’s a quota for exploding students’ heads that must be filled, or no one gets paid and Christmas will be ruined. And you don’t want to ruin everyone’s Christmas, do you?

Well do you?

It was somewhere during crunch time last week that I found myself in a jam: I needed to finish the 25,000 page epic that is John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, but I had no time to go home and barricade myself in my room for the next 67 hours to do so. With no millionaire relatives about to kick the bucket, it looked like I was going to have to take the hard way out and actually complete college. And that meant reading the book, crunch time or not.

Ah, the library. The second floor is my quiet place. Whenever I need to read a book or perhaps perform impromptu surgery on a wounded classmate, that’s where I go. As I opened the door to the second floor, I noticed the big pink sign that said it was reserved for quiet study, and no cell phones are allowed, etc. It was the same sign I’d been staring at since freshman year, so I didn’t think much about it.

I found a seat near the window overlooking Wonka Hall and pulled out the 13th volume of The Grapes of Wrath. Thankfully, I didn’t have carpal tunnel syndrome quite yet from all the typing and writing that the end of the semester brings, so I could actually lift the book myself without having to resort to paying the nearest child or elderly woman a nickel to lift it for me.

I figured it out – if I kept reading until 5 the next morning, I’d finish the novel. That would leave me just enough time to take a seven minute nap before I started my history paper. “That’s almost double the amount of sleep I got last night,” I thought to myself proudly.

But just then, the door opened and I listened as someone walked in, stomping the whole way. It was as if whoever just walked in was trying to be as noisy as possible for some reason, because they would win some kind of contest for being the loudest in the library or something.

By now I was already praying that he was in the wrong place; that perhaps he was looking for the Stomping Room but wound up in the library by accident. But I knew deep down inside that he was there intentionally. As I pleaded with God to have him sit somewhere far away, he sat down in the cubicle in front of me. The first thing he did wasn’t to open a book, or pull out at notebook. No, because that would have made sense. The first thing he did was pull out his cell phone.

“Hey,” he began. “I was thinking that tomorrow, we could ride around this town, and… I don’t care if the cops chase us around, we’ll just let them…”

I thought to myself, already unable to concentrate on my reading, “Maybe he’s dyslexic, and when he saw the sign that said, ‘no cell phones,’ he read it as ‘cell phones on.’” Yes, that was the only explanation. The sign that’s been on the door since I was a freshman is quite clear. What other part of “reserved for quiet study” could be interpreted as “talk loudly on your cell phone?”

Cell Phone Guy continued for what seemed like hours, the whole time my concentration sliding away like a polar bear on ice skates. “Right… I know it’s gone, but maybe something can be found to take its place… Listen, have you ever considered vodka on your cereal in the morning instead of milk?”

It made my inner child cry.

Finally, seconds before I was about to stand up and beat Cell Phone Guy senseless with volumes two through 27 of The Grapes of Wrath, and perhaps a copy of War and Peace for good measure, he stopped talking. Just like that. The veins in my head slowly ceasing to pulsate, I returned to my reading.

…For about 13 seconds. My concentration was again lost as a slow, methodical tapping noise came from Cell Phone Guy’s cubicle.

It made my inner child violently ill.

Rather than be arrested for a grizzly crime, I decided it was time to move. Grabbing all of my stuff, I migrated to a far corner of the library; the only one where Cell Phone Guy’s poisonous pen-tapping parade of pain could not reach me. Sitting down next to a girl wearing what appeared to be a weather balloon as a coat, I sighed with relief and cracked open my book once more.

Within seconds, as if she had some sort of radar, the girl picked up her cell phone and began dialing. I began threatening her under my breath, claiming I’d make her listen to 67 hours of country music if she made the call, but it was too late. I heard the ring across the room. It was ringing the theme from John Carpenter’s Halloween. I instantly knew who she had called.

“Where you at?” asked Cell Phone Girl.

“I’m in the library,” replied Cell Phone Guy loudly. “You know, the quiet study floor.”

“So am I!” exclaimed Cell Phone Girl. The stomping began once more and continued until it was right behind me. “How’s it going!” screamed Cell Phone Guy. I sat and watched in stupefied awe as they proceeded to have an earsplitting conversation on their cell phones while standing five feet away from each other.

It gave my inner child an aneurysm.

I stood up and began screaming. As a librarian reminded me that I was in a quiet study room and screaming was not allowed, I ran out the door, leaving my books behind. I just kept running, until I passed my friend Sarah on her way to dinner. “What’s wrong?” she asked.

“I’ll destroy them!” I replied, with the look of a wild animal in my eyes. “The cops will come, and they’ll blast their sirens…”

“Sirens are so romantic,” interjected Sarah.

“…and they’ll ask, ‘Where are the bodies?’ and you’ll tell them, ‘There aren’t any bodies, because Matt destroyed them.’”

And then I’ll have a very long, quiet time to read my book.

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