No longer a place for solitude and study
Given the rather busy environment in my office area - coupled with my need to do some research on my dissertation - I sought out what I believed would be a quiet refuge in the university library. Surely in the library I would find the relative solace by which I am better able to think on days in which I am sleep-deprived.
Of course, with the first floor of the University of Toledo's Carlson Library converted to a digital commons, I did not expect to find a noiseless environment among hundreds of AIM-using, mp3-downloading, and WoW-playing undergrads. I chose instead the third floor, which used to be my favorite tranquil respite.
Unfortunately, a group of boisterous young men engaged in everything except quiet study, and the crinkling of potato chip bags and tinny hip-hop beats from a laptop computer proved to be deal-breakers for me. Next stop: fourth floor.
This area, though, contained quite a few young women with cell phone conversations and giggled collective discourse about recent parties. I tried moving to a more secluded corner, only to be interrupted by some clod on another cellphone: "Hey. What y'all doin'? Yeah. Yeah. That shit smells rank, dog! Yeah. Yeah. I'm bout to jet. Yeah. Hunh! A-i-i-e-e-e-t!"
The fact that the dolt was a skinny white kid with dreadlocks only heightened my irritation at the intrusion: can there be a more ridiculous hairstyle than a suburban dude trying to look like Peter Tosh circa 1976? By the way, kid: the word is pronounced "STAIR-oids," not "STEER-oids," you semi-literate cretin, and most intelligent folks do not pronounce the word "feel" as they do "fill." Your repeated use of the phrase "Ah FILL you, bro" might be misinterpreted as a statement of sexual desire - just some information in case you ever want to engage in self-improvement.
I finally found an open group study room and closed the door to insulate myself from the uproar, achieving an hour's worth of peace. Yet I regretted the fact that I did not have the foresight to bring with me a set of earplugs to drown out the noise of hundreds of boorish, self-absorbed twits who believe that the library is just another location for social gathering, and whose utter disregard for the handful of people actually studying speaks volumes about the me-first attitude of too many Americans.
Now, I am far from a library purist, or one of those noise Nazis who used to populate public libraries, shoosh-ing even the slightest unintentional sound from a fidgety eight-year-old. I do not expect total silence, nor do I frown upon the occasional quiet conversation between library patrons. Heck - I even smile when I am at the public library and I see some parent with a screaming urchin, recalling the days when my progeny disrupted someone else's reverie.
However, the noise level at the library today by students who ought to know better bordered on the sort of dull clamor one might expect in a shopping mall or in the concourse of a sports arena, punctuated with occasional yelling voices and the beeps, chirps, and song snippets from electronic devices.
Am I a social anachronism, a person so out of step with a changing world as to seem a curmudgeonly throwback? Or is this lack of library civility and decorum evidence of a larger decline in human interaction, a bellwether of civilizational degradation?
Or should I just keep searching for a serene corner and spend more energy on tuning out the rowdy louts?