Over Here, Over There

It’s really ironic, you know. On Friday night — something like two or three weeks ago — we were taking a bus from the Cleveland Airport terminal to the car rental facility, where we would be renting the car that we’d be using for the next few days. Sitting on our side of the bus were Jennifer, her parents, and me; and sitting on the other side were a middle-aged couple. No one else was on the bus.

Naturally we started talking and goofing around; I find it hard not to start talking to strangers in restaurants, airports, on the bus, and so on, and once I get started, Jennifer usually gets drawn in as well. So we started talking about Midwestern food with this middle-aged couple. And, because this is the way these things always work out, it turned out that this couple had very recently lived in Davis, not too far from where we now live. And so I found it very ironic that here we were in the midwest, three-quarters of the way across the country, and we were talking about the quality of Peet’s Coffee in downtown Davis.

What a world, eh?

Have you ever been to Ohio? There’s this tiny town, the Town that Time Forgot, called Lakesite, right on the edge of Lake Erie, and this is where we went to celebrate Jennifer’s mother’s family reunion. Lakeside is a tiny, tiny town, pretty much owned and operated by the Methodist Church. There is not a single chain business in the entire place, and you can probably guess that I approve of that (although we did have to go out of town, to an IGA Market a few miles away, to get food). We rented bicycles and rode around on them for most of the time that we were there; I met cousins and second cousins and was shown off as the new addition to the family; we enjoyed a thunderstorm of mildly epic proportions; I spent a good half hour riling up the young nephews to truly epic proportions befoe we went to a concert of classical music in the town auditorium; and we ate a lot of ice cream. I mean a LOT of ice cream. The Whistlestop Ice Creamery makes the best hot fudge sundae on the continent, I’m not kidding you.

I’ve never been to Ohio before, and I’ve certainly never been to any of the Great Lakes. At one point during the reunion on Saturday afternoon, I decided to go off and wander down by the shore of the lake and poke around and see what I could see; and I found what I assumed was a fossil of some sort of mollusc-like creature. I think it was a fossil. It could just have been an old shell with hardnened sand on the inside. It could just as easily have been a really old, dried out dog turd, really, for all that I know, but I choose to believe that it was something far more exotic than that. Better to think that I was part of the earth’s ongoing symphony of life’s renewal, rather than investigating canine diarrhea. Maybe I just need to read more natural history books.

I hope it wasn’t a dog turd. It lived in my pocket for a few hours, and then next to our bed in the guesthouse we stayed in; it’s probably still there, since I left it behind.

The most interesting part of the trip for me was the fact that I got pulled for a random search not once, but TWICE: on in Sacramento International Airport, and once in Chicago O’Hare. The first time, Jennifer was searched as well, but they missed the pocketknife she had in her purse. In Chicago, they opened up my backpack all the way, poked around in all of my clothes, and examined each of my books. I’d only brought a couple of science fiction story collections and a book about book collecting; I found myself wishing that I’d brought one of the books I’m reading in preparation for the class in Islám that I’m teaching at the church next month (I’m still not sure how I got talked into that; but the leaders of the church have apparently learned that they can appeal to my ego and get me to do anything, since the Sunday school coordinator came up to me the other day after service and said something along the lines of, "Hey, since you’re so good with kids, would you be willing to help out with children’s Sunday school this fall?" — no, I won’t be teaching Islám to the kids, that’s an entirely different thing; maybe I’m just babbling at this point). Despite the guards’ assurances that they did not think I looked like a terrorist, it’s hard not to feel… well, special.

Back here on the West Coast, I think I’ve finally settled. I swear, it’s like a sixteen-year-old kid swearing, "I think he (or she) is the one!" I think that I can be a librarian.

Here’s my rationale.

First of all, I thought back to the jobs that I really enjoyed in my life, and realized that there were basically two that I liked, but for very different reasons. I enjoyed, first of all, being a video store clerk (speaking of which, if you get a chance, check out True Porn Clerk Stories — thanks for the link, Aristo#), because I enjoyed talking to people about movies and helping them find the movie that they wanted. Thinking about that, I realized that I really enjoy working closely with people to get them the resources that they like.

But I also like books, and I love learning. I finally came to grips with the fact that no, I won’t be able to focus on one field long enough to really get a Master’s degree in it, so ecosystem engineering is out. Really out. I could probably have gone through with RS/GIS sorts of work, but my interest is in wildlife and habitat conservation and preservation — and with GIS, I’d probably end up in highway patrol or something.

But the librarian thing… Yes, there is a master’s degree involved, and the schooling is not all that easy, but you are expected to know not just a wide variety of topics, you’re expected to know how to learn more and find out more about other things. I can live with that, certainly.

And with the growth of information technology, the focus of libraries is changing; there are a whole new set of challenges for libraries today, from the freedom of access (always a challenge) to developing innovating new ways of accessing information and displaying it that won’t intimidate users who prefer to card-file. My experience and interest in web technologies will come in handy here, and it’s actually made me interested in web development again.

And the library ethos — that information should be available to anyone, any time — is one that appeals to me and meshes perfectly with my own ethical system. Plus, there is a severe shortage of librarians in California, a shortage which is not likely to resolve any time soon.

So, after talking to half a dozen or so librarians across the country, both in person and on line, I’m pretty sure that this is the way to go. I’ve downloaded the application for the MLIS program at San Jose State University. I’ll be gathering the paperwork and making the phone calls and writing the letters, and hopefully starting classes in the spring.

Evilpheemy tells me that I should be a writer, and that’s something else I am working toward as well (two of my stories are still making the rounds, and more are a-comin’, and Jennifer and I have just begun collaborating on a novel). "Get a job to pay the bills," he told me once, "and just work on your writing."

Evilpheemy’s wisdom is something that I have learned not to question. After all, he, more than anyone else, is responsible for the chain of events that led to me marrying Jennifer. But I do need something else besides just a bill-paying job. Something that I can do with honor, that will let me interact with people regularly, that will let me keep learning.

And I think — I’m pretty sure — that this is it.