In life, there are a lot of rules. I mean literally dozens of them. Every day you are told how fast you’re allowed to drive, how many items you are allowed to steal (none, FYI), how many items you can have when you go through the express checkout lane, whether you are or are not allowed to wear white based on that day’s proximity to Labor Day… the list goes on and on.
Someone at one point decided to say that “rules are made to be broken.” This is not a great rule to live by. If you are to go into court, for instance, and tell the judge, “I know I’m charged with 23 counts of insider trading, your honor, but rules are made to be broken,” I think the verdict would not go in your favor.
Today, I encountered one man who truly lived his life with this attitude. Because of this, I experienced a roller coaster of emotions one rarely experiences inside of a library unless one is reading Where The Red Fern Grows.
I had gone to the public library in search of a quiet space for writing. I ended up setting up in the library reading room, a large room with a window that overlooks the cityscape. Best of all, it has a sign posted at the front:
You are entering the quiet reading area. Please respect those around you.
Most people respect this sign. Sure, occasionally you get the guy nearby who eats Pringles at a volume that would drown out an explosion at a nitroglycerin plant, but it seems to be a very quiet room. I sat down and began to work.
That’s when the phone behind me rang. It was not a faint ring, but the stock ring tone that comes equipped on phones playing at full blast. It was very distracting, but not nearly as bad as when he answered it.
“Hey. Where have you been?” he asked the person on the other line. “I’m at the library on Church.”
I glanced around, expecting to see a librarian running full speed to tackle the man. After all, he was in the quiet reading area and was neither quiet nor reading. Alas, there was no librarian in sight.
“You didn’t hear about him? He tried to stab a guy,” said the man. I immediately grew concerned. Who is this stabby gentleman and is everyone okay? I was very worried.
“No, everyone is okay and they filed an order of protection.” I immediately felt relief. Stabby McStabberson had not hurt anyone and would not be able to. “Yeah, I lost your phone number,” he continued. “My phone got stolen while I was at the City Mission. No, now I’m at the library on Church”
Now I felt sad. This man not only was without a home, but his phone was stolen while he was there. Add that to the fact that some sort of acquaintance was involved in some sort of attempted stabbing incident and I was very tempted to turn around and give that very loud man a large bear hug.
“No, I do have the first and last month’s rent. I just need to get over there.” Now I was confused. If he had the rent, why was he at the Mission with Stabby Stanley and his friend Carl the phone thief? Should I feel bad for this guy or not? Also, why had he been allowed to have this entire conversation in the quiet reading area?
“Yeah, I’m at the library on Church,” he told the mystery caller. “No, the library on Church. It’s on Church. Yeah, the library.” This continued on for the next 10 minutes.
If rules are made to be broken, this man took the rules and smashed them, stomped all over them, then lit them on fire. There is a reason every rule exists, though. In this case, it would be to keep people like me from knowing about every single bad thing that has happened in your life. When you are revealing the worst parts of your life, maybe you should not do it in a room where everyone else is quietly reading.
Now, if anyone has a second to go give that man a ride, he would really appreciate it. He is in the library on Church.