A Word on Gifts

There is something about the giving of a gift that seems to (or should) denote more than just someone perceiving what someone else had their eye on and the other person merely getting some object that they wanted. I've never been much of a habitual gift giver, but on occasion if something strikes me as being perfect for someone or the occasion requires I've been known to act. It's not such an odd subject to ponder on this time of year, but this year I've had some fun and meaningful gift exchanges.

Near the beginning of the month I was up in Elko for a cousin's homecoming from Argentina. This cousin's father, my uncle, married into the family when I was pretty young. Judging by the cleanliness of his cars and the impeccable state of repair of all his machines it was clear early on that we shared some similar interests. Thankfully he was willing to sit at family gatherings and patiently discuss cars and all things relating to machinery with a pretty young kid who was more interested in learning then he was actually knowledgeable at that time. Over the years we've shared a lot of fun conversations and have even worked on a few projects together. They day we were getting ready to leave my uncle came up from his garage and presented with this old Snap-On ratchet of his. 
He said there weren't too many people in the family who enjoyed working on and discussing cars as much we two did and he wanted me to have this ratchet of his. Needless to say I was pretty taken aback as these are really great ratchets and really there is nothing I love more than a good tool. I know my tools really well and as cheap or worn as some of them are I value them pretty highly. So my uncle's gesture was really meaningful. I mean what can I say? I've got a great family.

One of the fun gift exchanges I participated in this year was with my friend that I share a shop with. After Christmas last year we were down at the shop talking about how neither of us would probably ever get a car for Christmas and we decided for next year we would give ourselves a budget and each purchase a car for the other. The budget was $500, the cars had to run and be usable, and........ well really that was about it.
After searching around I happened upon a 1982 Chrysler LeBaron convertible and since my friend is a huge Seinfeld fan I knew this car would be perfect. He got me a Suzuki Samurai that had been on it's top a couple of times by the look of it, but honestly both cars run pretty well. He refuses to put the top up and has been driving around in the snow and even took his family of 7 around caroling. I've had the Samurai on two wheels at least once and nearly stuck a couple more times, but it's perfect for the snow (I can't say the same for the convertible, but that doesn't seem to be bothering my friend much). I really had a great time with this.

We don't do much in the way of employee Christmas festivities down at the laundromat, but my employees always make a point of buying little things and gifts and exchanging them with eachother and bringing more Christmas treats down then can feasibly be eaten by all of us. They even fill up a stocking with things for me, nothing grandiose but they are always really thoughtful items. Each year they seem to be spending about the equivalent of what I give them as a Christmas bonus sharing gifts and treats with each other and it always makes me realize what great people I have as employees.


Look Ma! I'm a librarian (sort of).

I grabbed my cart of books and headed towards the stacks as I do most Tuesday afternoons. I usually start with fiction as they are the farthest away from the front desk. Then I proceed with the mystery novels, western, non-fiction and eventually work my around to the juvenile fiction and childrens books. The book carts were particularly full this day so it took me awhile to get around to the end of my route. In the childrens section there was a young kid who looked about middle school age (might of been high school, but I'm rarely successful at determining someone's age) who was sitting sadly in a pile of books with a spray bottle and rag and was very slowly wiping the cover of one book after another. The library from time to time gets kids who have been remanded to some kind of community service by the court for some youthful act of indiscretion. They usually come in a for a day or two, work off their court ordered penance and are gone. They rarely speak and heaven knows I never speak to them. This particular offender of the law was more outgoing than most I'd encountered. He'd been watching me going around shelving books I guess and as I got into the childrens section he started to make fidgety small talk and couldn't seem to wait to ask me something.

     "Hey, how's it going?", he asked.
     "Fine. How's it going with you?"
     "Awful! I've had to clean hundreds of these books, but it doesn't look
        like I've made it very far."
     "Well, you'll have that I guess...."
     "Hey, can I ask you something?"
     "I supposed."
     "How long have you been here?"
     "Oh, I don't know, maybe 5-6 years now."

Honestly, I was doing my best to ignore the kid and so I really didn't immediately pick up on the context of his last question. As I recall I had spent the earlier part of the day out doing some job site visit and was pretty dirty that afternoon stomping around in some dusty work boots and my bright orange high visibility shirt. Not to mention the fact that one doesn't usually see a younger guy shelving books in a rural library so I guess I can understand the question in light of what this kid was seeing. Upon hearing my answer this poor kid's face just dropped. I continued shelving and when it finally dawned on me what he was thinking I had to chuckle. I told him that I was a volunteer and that I wasn't there working off any court ordered community service. He seemed very relieved after hearing that, but after thinking about it for a minute he had to ask, "so why do you volunteer at the library?"

Some of you will recall this post about my library escapades and I'm sure you'll be happy to know that my biblio-tendencies followed me to rural Nevada. However, whereas the staff in Provo had no idea what to do with me, in Ely they pretty much let me do whatever I'm willing to try. I mostly come in and shelve for an hour or two. Occasionally I end up helping an elderly person access their e-mail or I'll check some books out for someone (my nieces, nephews and younger relatives get a big kick out of that one). It's fun when I get asked by someone for a book recommendation. Now and then someone will ask for help finding something and in some rare instances I'm actually helpful in finding it for them. Probably the best perk of volunteering is that I get to peruse a lot of books and add them to my list of things I'd like to read so I'm never at a loss of what to read next. I also check my own books out (and subsequently waive the inevitable late fees). Shushing rowdy kids is kind of fun too. Mostly it's nice to be able to take a little time out of my work routine to just be in a quiet place and hit auto pilot for a while. About a year or so ago they had a vacancy on the library board and they asked me to apply. I declined but for some reason thought it would be something good for my mom to apply for since she's on the verge of being an empty nest-er. After more cajoling than seemed reasonable to me at the time she agreed. She never sounds very excited about it, but I think she secretly enjoys her monthly meetings. I'm well aware that I'm far from being an essential cog at the library, but nonetheless I feel I should be supporting things I value. In Nevada we don't have any Carnegie Libraries or much in the way of grand elaborate public institution dating back from the 1800's, but in almost any town that I pass through across my state - no matter how small - there is always a library. I find it interesting that these libraries are usually the nicest buildings in those towns and that they are almost exclusively in existence due to the sacrifice and dedication of the people who live there. And least you think that the library has outlived its usefulness as an institution I will tell you that the library I volunteer at sees more people in a given day then almost any other public building in town. There is something, and I think there will always be something, about a good book.


A Crowd of Introverts

I had an interaction over the weekend with someone I'd only recently met. As our conversation progressed this person made the observation that I seemed to be an introvert (and it should be noted that this person seemed to be a raging extrovert). While this was not the issue we had gotten together to talk about  - and it really only came up as a passing observation it got me thinking. This person probably made this observation based on the fact that I seemed to be very uncomfortable and in truth I was. Not really because of anything this person was doing, but we were sitting in a packed In-N-Out Burger (you all know my feelings on that place anyway) and here I was talking with this person I didn't really know. Crowds, mediocre burgers, and personal conversations with people I don't know well are all things that I don't usually find to be enjoyable but why should that be the case? And is it really a problem?

Now anyone who knows my family, both immediate and extended, will be well aware that we are by-in-large a group of pretty private people. I vividly recall instances of being in the check-out line with my Aunt who when the checker would ask for her zip code would respond with a dialog that would proceed something like this: 

"Why would you need that?"
"That's none of your business."
"You don't need my life history just so I can buy eggs."
"I'm not giving you my zip code so you can either take my money or I can talk to your manager."

That being said it's not like my family and I are a quiet group of people who just sit around hoping no one talks to us (obviously). We are a loud group and when we get together we mostly just talk. We love talking actually (much to any of the in-laws consternation), but we don't tend to do that with people we don't know. We are certainly not a shy bunch. Amongst the family are teachers, public officials, health care professionals, and most of us have dabbled in public performance of some kind or another (some have also managed to do some pretty embarrassing things publicly and lived to tell about it [you know who you are]). I think this quote I found online pretty much sums us up:

One thing we are, even with each other, is guarded. We are unwilling to let others (sometimes even ourselves) see our weakness or our fears or our despairs. (I know my family is probably sick of me talking about vulnerability by now, but I am right and we all know it!) We certainly aren't reserved about expressing our anger, annoyance, or inconvenience, and that is just us. We have loads of personality and personally I find us hilarious. That being said, you can see how these traits can make it difficult to meet and connect with people (I mean what self respecting introvert would want to do that anyway, am I right? Anyone?), but seriously being an introvert shouldn't be an excuse for not doing those things. So I (not speaking for the rest of my family, but they probably get the subtext here) should endeavor to be a little more open with people, and while not trying to make myself into an extrovert (as that will never happen) need to work on being less guarded. So in summation:

Yes, I am an introvert. No, I am not shy.  

 (Funny cartoon, but really, we do have personal space issues. Hug us anyway.)