6 April 2023

When your system goes down, book yourself into the library

| Sally Hopman
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Looking for books in a library.

Why you have to love a library – it’s just all there in front of you. Photo: Mark Strizic, State Library of Victoria, 1967.

I love living out of town, especially when I get to work from home.

I don’t love technology, but do warm to it when it lets me scribble stories on it, at home, whilst farm animals wander by my work window and wonder what sort of breed I am. They’re not the only ones.

That wasn’t the case last week when I settled in to wave at the dozen or so colleagues from all over the place on my screen for our morning meeting, to tell each other what we were working on that day.

Nothing. Not a cracker, or even a crackle. My Internet was more Internot. I had nothing.

Possessing the super-brain that I do, it eventually dawned on me that I could call my editor to say my computer was having a dodgy day and that, if it didn’t fix itself, I would come into the office.

I stared at the laptop, called it names, gave it a whack, called it worse names. But nothing. I knew if I started scribbling by hand with a, you know, pen and paper thingy, it would come good.

I wrote with a pen and paper until my hand felt like it belonged to someone else, and whacked the laptop again. Then I turned it off because I was becoming really cranky but, more importantly, was starting to scare aforementioned farm animals.

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Then I saw the text on my phone. Apology from Internet provider – system down. Will be down for a while. We’re trying to fix it.

This is the provider I chose because when you rang them, a human answered and – wait for it – was helpful. It was also the only provider who, well, provided Internet access out here, which helped with the decision-making.

Bugger, I thought. I’ll have to go into town. With most of my friends at work and with my poor technical skills when it comes to breaking into their houses and their Internet, I settled for the town library.

Have you ever felt, walking into a room, that you’ve come home? That’s what libraries do for me.

I used to go to the one in Yass a lot, but hadn’t for a while and forgot what a joy the place is.

In one of the most old-fashioned places you’ll find on the books, literally, was the fastest Internet I’ve ever used – I kept having to take a breath – way better lighting and furniture than home, and just the nicest people working with and talking about books.

I pretty much had the place to myself that morning. I sat at what felt like someone’s dining room table, tapping away at my laptop, sucking up the free wifi like it was the sweetest air and I had just run a marathon. (Thump, sound of me falling off chair at the idea of running anything – except maybe a tap).

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All the library needed was a few farm animals moseying around, but I could find them in the books that surrounded me easily enough.

I loved this place. I loved how the staff spoke so quietly but smiled so loudly. How they couldn’t be more helpful to the luddite in their territory.

I loved all the distractions. They even had newspapers that you could pick up and hold and read with absolutely no tablet involved. (Except maybe a Panadol if you read too many too closely). And magazines. So many magazines. I fell on to them, reading everything within a few metres radius, only stopping midway through Horse and Hound or Horse and Hoof or Horse and Something magazine when I realised I had my credit card out and was starting to buy a horse or a hound. At least it wasn’t a hoof.

Even when a woman and her sniffle came in, sat down opposite me, and proceeded to swallow jelly beans as if they were manna from heaven. Bit rude, I thought, until I saw they were those healthy ones with glucose you get from chemists and not the ones that rot your teeth in one swift swallow. I decided not to throw something at her.

I wrote my stories, sent them wherever they had to go, and started on the books. I’ve started to write one or 50 in my time, but hadn’t been around so many organised, finished ones in too long.

The end.

Original Article published by Sally Hopman on Riotact.

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