On Monday, I could have been swept up in the excitement and the frantic decision-making that thousands people around here were dealing with. Which Mardi Gras parade to attend? What kind of king cake to get? What alcoholic beverage to get?
But none of that was on my agenda. I was excited because my wife was out of town, and I could do whatever I wanted without fear of contradiction or suggestion to do something else.
So, I decided to go to the new East Baton Rouge Parish Main Library. OK, stop laughing. Actually, it was my second choice behind going to my favorite big-box bookstore, the one that rhymes with “cooks a billion.”
But I decided to see what my tax dollars had bought. Let me tell you, this is not your father’s library. It’s gigantic. It’s like a minimall.
My first experience was trying to figure out where I should go. I wandered around the first floor where there seemed be a lot of children — and high school-themed stuff. There was another colorful area that appeared to be for young readers. I wanted no part of that.
So I caught the elevator to the second floor. After I found a place I felt comfortable and could sit down, I immediately discovered why I tend to like the bookstores. I couldn’t sit with a cup of some sissy-sounding coffee and put my feet up in the chair across from me. Yep, I do that.
There was a young girl sitting at the table next to me. She looked up from her book and seemed to approve of me. She was 11 or 12, I guess. Just then, a big guy came to her table with a laptop, some papers and stuff and sat across from her even though there were many other free tables.
“Can I sit here?” he asked her. The girl looked puzzled, but nodded OK. This appeared weird, so I decided to keep an eye on this.
As I longed for a cup of coffee and a cookie, I plunged into writing on my laptop, taking brief moments to scan the big room. I noticed there are a lot private rooms to have meetings or just hang out by yourself.
From the outside looking through glass walls, the people inside looked smart and appeared to be having insightful conversations. Then I saw a friend in one, and I changed my mind.
I glanced over to the little girl’s table and another adult walked up. The girl looked over the top of her book and seemed to ignore them.
Then I took a closer at the girl, and guess what? She wasn’t reading that book at all. She hadn’t turned a page. She was looking down into her right hand under the table, going to town on her smartphone. I was amazed by her dexterity.
Just then, my phone rang, and I had to answer it. I jumped up and went between some bookshelves and whispered. That wouldn’t happen at the bookstore.
I finished my conversation and returned to my table as a newly arrived adult at the girl’s table was considering taking my chair. If looks could injure, this guy would have been on a gurney headed to an emergency room. No words were spoken, but he got the message.
As I settled in for my final hour at the library, I continued to look around. I was very impressed with the place. There were nice amenities and folks willing to help. One assistant helped me do something with my computer and another kind of overly helpful guy buzzed around in case the world needed something.
Finally, the little girl got up and walked to another spot and sat down. The committee across from her soon got up and left. I wonder if they were spies.
I left shortly afterward with a big new hiding spot to get stuff done.
By the way, go and see what Baton Rouge tax dollars have built.
Edward Pratt, a former Advocate editor, is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.