I step off the No. 18 bus at Eighth and Walnut streets downtown. This is the morning after New Year's Day, and there's snow on the ground.
It's windy and cold as hell. I decide to go to the Main Public Library to warm up.
Remembering its tech center on the second floor, I take the elevator up wanting to use one of its computers. For 90 minutes, you get to use one that's top notch, fast and free.
The librarian assigns me workstation 62, which takes me less than a minute to find. I'm taking off my winter coat, putting on my reading glasses and listening to an older man at the computer next to mine talk on his cell phone.
"Fuck that," he's saying into his phone. Then he says it again.
A woman behind me is looking for workstation 68. She has brown hair, brown eyes and is wearing a heavy winter coat. She's loud.
"For the life of me, I can't find this workstation 68," she says to anyone who's listening. "I don't think it exists."
A young guy, who I'm guessing is a librarian, helps the woman find her workstation.
"God damn, right in front of my nose!" the woman says.
The young guy asks her to please be quiet. She is for a while.
Trying to ignore this, I turn to my computer. I log on to my e-mail account and start checking for messages.
The older guy sitting next to me is still talking on his cell phone. He's still cursing.
Another older man comes into the tech center and walks up to the loud woman at workstation 68.
"Where you been?" she says. "We have to be at the lawyer's office in an hour!"
The woman goes to the bathroom and the man takes her chair at workstation 68.
I know this because I'm staring at them. I can't believe all the noise they're making.
To the table at my left, I watch a young mother and daughter sit down at one of the workstations. The little girl is cute. I'm guessing she's 5 or 6 years old.
I'm still checking my e-mail messages, and I can't help but overhear the mother telling her daughter that she has to be very quiet in the library. The little girl is nodding her head yes, like she's afraid to say a word.
The guy next to me isn't. He again says, "Fuck that," and the young mother looks my way. I'm hoping she isn't thinking I said it.
The woman who was sitting at workstation 68 has returned from the bathroom. The man with her says he's going downstairs.
"No, you're staying with me!" she says, and I can't help but notice she's slurring her words a little.
I try to go back to my e-mail, but my mind isn't on it. What in the world has become of the Main Public Library downtown?
The older man next to me with the foul mouth gets up and puts on his coat. He's ready to leave, and I'm glad.
He's still on that cell phone, still cursing and starting to talk louder. The guy who I think is a librarian is looking at him but doesn't come over, probably thinking what´s the point since the guy is leaving anyway.
I look over at the young mother and daughter. The daughter is engrossed, looking at something on the computer. The mother is looking at her surroundings, maybe thinking the same thing I'm thinking.
The woman at workstation 68 is talking loudly to the man with her -- something about that lawyer they have to see. The young librarian walks over and tells them to be quiet. This lasts for maybe 30 seconds.
"That guy's an asshole," I hear the woman say.
The young librarian walks back over.
"Shhhhh!" the man with her says.
"Sorry, I'll be quiet," the woman says.
This time I know she's clearly drunk.
I watch the young woman and daughter get up from their workstation. I watch the mother help the little girl put on her coat.
The mother is clearly upset about what she's exposed her daughter to. I find myself becoming angry.
Anxious to leave myself, I decide to just walk over to CityBeat and check my e-mail there.
I sign off my computer while listening to the woman at workstation 68. She's still slurring her words while the guy with her is telling her to be quiet.
As I get up and put on my coat, I give the young librarian who's keeping an eye on the people at workstation 68 a look. I walk over to him.
"You know that woman is drunk," I say.
"Clearly," he replies back.
I walk away. I leave it at that.
I can't say I spend a lot of time at the library downtown, but I found my morning there after New Year's Day disturbing.
I remember years ago when visiting, if someone was making too much noise, you would hear the sound "Shhhhh!" People were courteous and respectful of one another. Now I'm not so sure.
I can't help but wonder if librarians have turned into babysitters for adults who have no manners. If it's the case, you can't exactly call that progress.
CONTACT LARRY GROSS: firstname.lastname@example.org.