Tag Archives: rudeness

Welcome to the Library! Now, Please Shut Up.

7 Nov

Naperville is supposed to have the best library in America. Now, I’m sure that this ranking is determined in such a way that there are at least three asterisks. Still, it’s a pretty good library. There are three branches, all of them fairly convenient to my house. I can check out a book from any branch and return it to any other. They even have these totally automated checking out thingies that make cool beeping noises when you scan your books. When I go to the library alone, I get a secret thrill over not having to share the scanning fun with my kids.

We use the library at lot since we’ve been trying to live like church mice instead of fat cats. Just about every book or movie we want is there for the picking. Even if we have to wait a bit, the online hold system will let us know the minute our media is available. My son has assembled a large enough music collection that he believes he is entitled to an iPod with a much larger memory. I laugh at him.
Even with all of its wonderful conveniences, I miss the library of my childhood. It probably didn’t have near as many books; I don’t recall it being all that big. The catalog was kept on index cards. The music was all on vinyl. I have a particularly fond memory of my sister, headphones on, belting out “da na na na na na na na” for the entire library’s amusement while she listened to the theme song from “Peter Gunn.”

The fact that my sister could cause a ruckus gets to the root of my problem with the Naperville Public Library.

It’s loud.

The library my sister and I used as children was quiet. It was as quiet as, well, a library. One strolled the stacks silently. If you happened to be at the library with a friend, or sister, hand signals and really exaggerated mouthing of words stood in for talking. Whispering was reserved for communications at the circulation desk. Any noise louder than a sniffle was met with a “Sh!,” hissed from the nearest librarian.

Walk into the Naperville Public Library and you would hardly know you are walking into a library. There are people talking in the lobby. There are people talking at the library catalog computers. There are people talking in the stacks. There are people talking at the tables. And they are all talking with their regular talking voices.

This is how bad things are at the Naperville Public Library: there is a Quiet Reading Room. Having a quiet reading room in a library is kind of like having a coffee drinking room in a Starbucks. I understand why they need the room, though. People talk on their cell phones in my library.

When my son was little, we went to the library often. I would take him to the children’s department and read him books. See, it’s ok to read books—quietly—in the children’s department. Lots of the kids can’t read yet. Even when they can read to themselves, kids still like to be read to. I like to be read to. I don’t think you’ve had the complete Harry Potter experience until you’ve had the books read to you by Jim Dale.

At the risk of sounding like a crank, parents today just don’t care about proper library manners. My kids make fun of me when I talk like this. My son sucks in his lips and pokes out his lower jaw, giving himself an oldman-ish toothless grin. Then he says, “Back in my time . . .” It’s very funny and I get his point, but when it comes to libraries, I’m not bending.
Back in my time, children didn’t scream in the library, even in the children’s department. They didn’t run in the library either, or chase their siblings. Elderly patrons didn’t fear for their hips because a rug rat could come barging out the front door at any minute. And parents didn’t shout at their children to get them to stop running.

Back in my time, no one wrote in a library book. I’ve checked out books that I really wanted to read and found it impossible because some blockhead thought it would be ok to write in the book. Even though said blockhead wrote very lightly and in pencil, as if that would make it ok, my eye was inexorably drawn to whatever blockhead had underlined. Reading the book became an exercise in analyzing blockhead, pondering who would underline this particular sentence when I would have underlined that one. I knew it was time to return the book when I became angry that blockhead didn’t see the book my way.

Back in my time, no one dog-eared pages. I once thought that the books I was reading that looked like they’d been to the kennel were used books, maybe donated by some charitable book lover. Recently, though, I checked out a brand-spanking new volume that was still on the best-seller list. I know the library got this book fresh. There were dog-eared pages. For crying out loud, ANYTHING can be a bookmark. Sure, fancy bookmarks are fun but a magazine subscription card works as well. So does a Target receipt or even an unwrapped mini-pad.

I realize that everyone in Naperville pays taxes to support the library, but, people, that doesn’t mean you own the books, can talk in the stacks or can let your kids use it as a playground. While I refer to the library as “my library,” I know that I share it with hundreds of thousands of other people. Back in my time, everyone knew that.


Adoption–and Stupidity–are Forever

13 Jun

When my daughter was in kindergarten, her teacher developed a semester-long unit of study on Antarctica. Being the helpful soul that I am, I suggested the class sponsor a penguin. They’re cute, they live in Antarctica and they are endangered. The teacher agreed and the class collected money for the sponsorship. They sent the money off to whichever  “Save Antarctica” organization it was that was collecting children’s pennies for penguins.

Some time later, my daughter asked me, “ Mommy, when will we get the penguin?”

“What penguin,” I asked, having forgotten the penny collection.

“The penguin!” she said, vehemently, apparently believing that additional verbal force might force my brain into remembering.

“I’m sorry, honey,” I said, “I just don’t know what penguin you’re talking about.”

“The one we adopted, Mommy! When do we get to bring him home?”

My daughter wasn’t trying to be cute. The penguin-saving organization called their sponsorship an “Adopt a Penguin” program. In our house, when you adopt something, you take it home and then you care for it and love it forever. My daughter was thinking it was about time we flew down to Antarctica and brought that penguin home, just as we’d flown to China to bring her home. I’m relieved that my daughter’s school didn’t adopt a highway. I don’t think it would fit in our living room.

My daughter has been home for nearly eight years now and one thing I’ve learned in all that time is that people can be pretty darn stupid when it comes to adoption. Actually, people can be pretty darn stupid about a lot of things, but adoption really seems to bring out the insensitive jerk in a whole lot of people.

We may get more than our share of stupid adoption comments because my daughter is Asian; my husband, my son and I aren’t. If you have eyes that work, it’s pretty evident that our daughter was adopted. My son is particularly annoyed by people who, on seeing him with his sister, ask if she was adopted. “No,” he likes to say, “my parents converted to Chinese after I was born.” I will admit, with shame, that I have used a similarly smart-assed response to one too many questions about how I came to be the parent of an Asian girl.

Actually, asking if my daughter is adopted is annoying to me because no one ever asks me if my son is born. That sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? My son was born, of course, but I’m really glad he isn’t born over and over again. Adoption, however, is something that many apparently believe happens repeatedly, as if my daughter wakes up every morning and we have to become a family all over again. She was adopted. It happened once, just like being born. Let’s move on, people.

I’m pretty sure people who adopted children from the United States that look like their parents don’t get some of the super stupid questions that we who adopted internationally do. I was once asked if we planned on teaching our daughter English. English, for crying out loud! Chinese, I could understand. I don’t speak Chinese. My husband doesn’t speak Chinese. Our son speaks some Chinese, but didn’t then. I wanted to say, “Of course, we’re going to teach her English. Are you going to stop being an idiot?”

When my son was born, a switch in my brain was flipped and I became vigilant about protecting him. With my daughter, the protection factor went into overdrive. Perhaps it’s understandable, given the moronic comments adoptees must endure. Because society forces it on families built through adoption, we see potential adoption-related issues in every situation. Recently, a friend’s daughter confessed that she was very worried about being labeled different at her school. She was in tears over her anxiety. My friend assumed, of course, that her daughter’s adoption was at the root of the problem. Nope. Her daughter didn’t want the other children to know she doesn’t like pie.

The real stupidity about adoption comes out over reality. I like to think of myself as real. I’m pretty honest and down to earth. Plenty of people have complimented me on how real I am. But when it comes to parenting my daughter, I become an imaginary being. Apparently, some people believe my daughter was adopted by fairies because I keep getting asked where her real parents are. Her real parents are right in front of you, Ding Bat, and we’ve got the papers to prove it.

As put out as I get when someone asks the real parents question, it really ticks me off when I note that I am her real mother and I get, “Oh, you know what I mean.” No, I don’t know what you mean. I refuse to know what you mean. Because what you mean feels pretty mean to me. It feels particularly mean to me when it’s said in front of my daughter.

Imagine telling a little girl that her father really wanted a boy. Or walk up to a kid and tell him that his mother wasn’t really sure she wanted to have a baby. Even if you know that little girl’s father really did want a boy and that mother really wasn’t sure she wanted to have a baby. You can’t imagine it, can you? But children who were adopted hear how their real parents didn’t want them all the time. They hear it from adult strangers and strange adults. Those are the easiest comments to deal with because I’m usually there when it happens. School, however, is another story. So I’ve given my daughter words to use in response. She lives with her real parents; her birthparents couldn’t take care of any baby so they made a plan for her to be adopted.

I feel pretty good about my daughter’s attitude toward her adoption. On a routine car pool trip recently my daughter had this conversation with her best friend:

“What would you say if someone asked you who your real parents are,” she asked Best Friend. (I swear I did not prompt this discussion.)

“What?” her friend asked. “That’s really weird.”

“Yeah,” my daughter said. “My real parents are my parents.”

We’ll continue to get stupid comments about adoption. We’ve heard them all from “Didn’t you want your own children?” to “How much did she cost?” Usually, I ask why someone wants to know because there are lots of people who are considering building their own families through adoption. But, every now and then, I have to let loose with a snide reply, something along the lines of “She cost too much? Well, how much did your car cost?”

I hope you’ll excuse me now. I have to go feed the penguin.

© Copyright 2011 by Janice Lindegard. All rights reserved.

Take A Letter

3 Jan

I do not make New Year’s resolutions as a rule. It’s not that I don’t like resolutions. I think resolutions are fine things and I make them. I just don’t tie them to January 1. I have already committed to running a 5K race in 2011. I’ve told several people and I even posted it on my Facebook wall. Anyone who wants to join me is welcome. There are a few other things that I’ve promised myself I will make happen in 2011, but I decided on them months ago.

I’m more inclined to reflect back on the year that has passed. This year, I find that a lot of people really ticked me off. Unfortunately, most of them are people I don’t know. Some of them I’ve never even seen. I know, though, that these people didn’t bug the crap out of just me. In the interest of letting go of my ire and beginning the new year afresh, I offer this open letter to the most egregiously anti-social people I encountered this year.

To the grandfather at the hotel swimming pool who deposited four children under the age of six into the water then sat poolside with his coffee: Gramps, I am an excellent swimmer. My daughter is not, ergo, when she swims, I swim. I noticed that not one of the children you put in the pool could swim. Newsflash, Grandpa. A floating noodle is a very poor lifeguard. So, put down your coffee and get in the water. While you’re at it, grab the other adults on the pool deck and get their butts in the water, too. It gets lonely being the only adult in a pool full of potential drowning victims.

To the woman in the carpool: Lady, what part of “don’t get out of your car” do you not get? Your child does not need one last hug. Your child does not need you to hand her her backpack. Even a three-year-old can walk to a classroom, take off his coat, put away his backpack, get to his seat and start his day without any help from anyone. The person with the separation anxiety here is you, not your kid.

To the other woman in the carpool: The “no left turn” sign applies to you, too. It’s not optional. That’s why the “no” is in BIG BOLD LETTERS. You do realize that the line of cars waiting to turn into the lot is growing longer and longer because of you, right? People are honking at you because they are angry with you, not because they applaud your decision to declare your independence and flout the carpool rules.

To the person who owns the Sienna parked in the spot reserved for fuel-efficient vehicles: Wow! Lucky you! When I owned a Sienna, just last year, the best I ever got out of it was 19 mpg. Either Toyota has radically changed the Sienna engine, or you’ve got some really big. . . huevos. I can understand your confusion. I’m sure you get better mileage than the Jeep Grand Cherokee that was parked there last week.

To the person who owns the Odyssey parked in the spot reserved for compact cars: I fear you are either stupid or blind. The “mini” in minivan is a relative term. You own a minivan, a smaller version of a full-size van. Just as a mini-elephant would still be an elephant, your minivan is still a van. I believe though, that you are blind. There is a sign in front of your car. It says, “Rear must not protude beyond white line.” Just a thought here, but maybe you shouldn’t be driving if you can’t see the BIG WHITE LINE your car’s rear is protruding beyond.

To the clerk who puts the price tag over the directions on the package: I was standing at the end of the line when they were handing out X-ray vision. How can I tell if I want to pay the price you’ve plastered all over the item if I can’t read how to use the item? Oh, and tell your buddies at the newspaper that I can’t read through the ads they sticker over the headlines, either.

To the guy on the treadmill next to me: I promise not to sing along with Selena Gomez if you promise to stop grunting. People are looking at you, dude. They’re worried. They think you’re going to drop any minute.

To the other guy on the treadmill next to me: I promise not to complain about grunting guy if you promise to never run next to me again. One word, man: Mitchum.

To the woman who loves the Lucy running vest with the bow under the hood: You say you only run in skirts? And you’ve been looking for something “girlie” to wear with them? Look, Girlie. There is no “girlie” in running. When I run, I wear bright colors so that they match the colors in my face. If there were a moisture-wicking running burqa, I’d be all over that. The only other person I know who runs in skirts and wants a hoodie with bows is my eight-year-old daughter.

Finally, to the people who read my blog. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It is a great pleasure bringing you my thoughts every week. I resolve to keep doing it in 2011. May the coming year be one of peace and prosperity for all of us.

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