13 May, 2006

Automatic lock-in

I got locked in the library today (for those not in Arizona, that's Hayden Library, with its bizarrely templar exterior and catechumenical underground entrance). Yes, as my office is in the basement (that's two floors below ground-level), I have no way of seeing outside when everybody's packing up. And they did pack up, apparently: very, very quietly. I'd forgotten that with finals over, the campus buildings now shut at 5 on a Friday. I realised this fact the minute I opened my door, and the full horror of a half-lit and deserted library-basement encompassed me. It felt vaguely Cask of Amontillado-esque, truth be told. For any academic, the library must be a site of death-fantasies; there is such a wealth of possibility. I've imagined bibliothecal demise in so many ways; crushed between miswired automated stacks, crushed beneath misbalanced nonautomated stacks, drowned by overactive sprinkler systems, scorched, bombed, invaded by Persians, struck down with apoplexia at half-hushed chatterers, mortally bored by Kant, slaughtered by papercuts, acid-burnt, or, best of all, poisoned, very slowly, by the sinister fingers of bookmold, with death arriving at the precise moment of permanent departure.

I soon had the sense to call the campus police, or rather, get my (amused) wife to do so on my behalf. "Fall asleep?" one of them asked me. "No," I replied sternly, "I have an office." Now I rather wish I'd half-inched something valuable from the collections—it was the perfect opportunity for such a crime. Ah well, at least I'll sleep soundly.

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