23 February 2009

Confessions of a Philosophy Scholar

I had quite the episode of what I have named "Histrionic Scholar Syndrome". I was in the library, wanting to get some work done. I had e-mailed myself the draft of the thesis and I was planning to borrow a laptop and grab two books I needed that are actually in our library.

I got the laptop from the circulation desk and took myself upstairs. I found one of the books I was looking for and the other was not on the shelf. 'Who,' I thought to myself, 'would have checked that book out of the library between 11.00 last night and 10.15 today?'

I went and hunted for an unpopulated place to sit because there was, outrageously, someone sitting in my usual spot. When I found another place, I opened the laptop and switched it on and while I was waiting for it to start, I opened up my book and flipped to the back to look in the index, only to find there was no index. Horrors.

'Oh well,' thought I, 'I can look up the page numbers I need once the computer switches on.' I put the book away and opened the browser, only to find that the computer was not connected to the internet. I tried disconnecting and reconnecting, restarting the darn thing, walking over to a different part of the library - nothing helped. After twenty minutes, I gathered my things together and went back downstairs.

At the circulation desk, they told me that the internet was only working on the ground floor. 'Fine,' said I. I went around looking for a spot to sit downstairs, which is difficult because the university writing center is down there and they make a lot of noise. I found somewhere rather dissatisfactory and tried again. Still nothing.

At this point, I was still relatively calm. I packed up the laptop and took it back to the circulation desk, whereupon a laconic young man informed me that the internet was only working on the ground floor by the periodicals. 'Okay,' said I.

I used to sit behind the periodical stacks quite often but I stopped when they put in a group study area because it became too noisy, so I hadn't been back in that part of the library in a while. I went over, with the aim of finding a seat and putting the computer down and then getting my things. To my extreme dismay, I found that they had taken out all the desks and tables and replaced them with beanbag chairs.


So I returned the laptop, checked out my book and asked them about the one not on the shelves. I was informed that it was 'not checked out' and when I told them that it was not on the shelf or in any of the return carts, I was told that it might have been stolen or that it might be in somebody's study carrel without having been checked out. There was nothing they could do about it. 'Thank you,' I said, and stalked out of the library and into the cafe to get some coffee.

Coffee having been acquired, I went to sit in the glasshouse, which is by far the nicest place to sit on campus. There is a fish pond and many tall, green plants. It's always warm there.

I opened my book and started flipping through. I couldn't find the section on Jessie Taft. There was no index. One of the books I needed was missing. I had wasted an hour trying to get a laptop to connect to the internet. Some selfish student, probably one of the same ones who thinks that underlining library books in pen is an acceptable activity, had stolen or secreted it away for his or her exclusive use. The librarians at the circulation desk did not have the common courtesy to tell students borrowing laptops that the internet was down or even to put up a sign. I was sufficiently angry that I saw stars.

I took my coffee out to the nearest designated smoking area and flounced down on a bench. Partway into the cigarette, I realized that I was thinking 'I need to finish my research! My research is being compromised by the incompetence of others!'

It occurred to me that I was acting in a manner more traditional to dramatic sopranos than philosophy students. This made me laugh. I could just see myself giving the librarians a dressing down in a grand Wagnerian style. Thus, histrionic scholar syndrome was born.

I felt much better after that, although I still haven't figured out what to do about that lost book.

The book in question, pictured at right


  1. ggggggrrrrrrr!!!!!!

    now here's the difference between you and me, katherine: i wouldn't have seen stars, i'd a SHOT AT THEM! i'd a gone dang near BALLISTIC (all the while, knowing full well that going BALLISTIC wasn't helping anything one iota - on the contrary. in other words, i need anger management.


  2. Maybe I've been living in the south too long (ha - I'm from here and so is the family)! I'm always getting fussed at for being angry. Women aren't supposed to show their anger; neither are men, really. We're just too darn polite or repressed or culture bound or something.
    I can tell you, though, if the incompetence had been personal, I would have kicked up a fuss. The funny part, for me, was that it was systemic rather than specific, and yet I had the histrionics anyway!