Terminal Girl


She sat across from the man who brought his own computer into the library. His connection was free. She had to sign for hers, and in doing so she gave up her identity, stored somewhere for some criminals or thieves to use later to steal from her. Becky was forced to use Microsoft Word on the Library computer. Not because she adored it, but because her teacher required her to use it because thatŐs what teachers do in a free country. And not the version that Becky had bought and paid for at home. She had to use a newer version so she could open the documents created by others who were using the newer version. This was called free enterprise instead of open platforms, although this too was available at the Library.


Being a veteran with ParkinsonŐs disease was liberating because she wasnŐt wanted by society, but she could still pursue her MasterŐs degree in computer science. There were grants available to help pay for it, and the VA hospital was there whenever she could get a ride to keep her appointments. So she was still alive until the government shuts down and stops paying for her meager existence. She was guaranteed an equal opportunity, but not equal outcomes, and this was justification to someone that Becky should vote for them.


Her husband Stan worked at MacDonaldŐs across town, but they didnŐt own a car. His retarded mother had one, along with a license to drive it, but Becky didnŐt drive. She had a walker to help her make it home from the library to another part of town. StanŐs mother was really retarded, not just a figure of speech.


So now she sat trying to work on the computer. It seems like whenever she summoned the courage to work on something, it wanted to update itself to protect her from criminals and thieves who supposedly wanted to steal her identity. She would almost gladly give it to them in exchange for the lost time in her life given over to these protective measures.


Perhaps while she waited, Becky would go and talk to Kim the librarian, since they never seemed to do anything here in the library but wait on people like Becky to ŇrentÓ movies. Some people read books too, but more and more they just get movies to watch, or audio books to listen to in their SUV during the long commute to their jobs, 50 or 60 miles away from here in a city where industry exists, or at least some economy that could afford to pay them a ŇlivingÓ wage. Some accounts suggest thatŐs how productive society lived. Becky didnŐt work, but she had a bachelorŐs degree in computer science.


Maybe she would check her email first. The Democratic Party always needed 5 more dollars to be able to represent her in congress, or to prevent the Republicans from moving her farther into the left margin. It used to be that spam was relegated to fake Canadian pharmacy ads and Nigerian oil conspiracies, but now it was Move On and a plethora of similar sounding organizations that either wanted something to do with birth control or legalizing marijuana, and promoting handgun ownership. ThatŐs right, all we wanted to do was fuck, smoke dope, and tote a gun everywhere we go.


Real people donŐt write email anymore. Nobody can communicate beyond a twitter account nowadays. If you canŐt say it in 140 characters or less, it isnŐt worth saying apparently. The English language has been reduced to combinations of 3 or 4 letters or numbers representing the former English words that were of course derived from Latin or French or some other language, but now you had to know which globs were acronyms and which were actual words in the new language. The older you get, the more meaningless and seemingly irrelevant it all becomes.


It looked like Kim was free now, only talking to someone across the counter. Time to go over and make some small talk while ŇMicrosoftÓ was still updating.


ŇHey, why donŐt you guys upgrade the software on these computers before handing them over to the public?Ó


Kim was saying something to a woman holding an e-reader about how the e-books from the library were free of charge, but if she bought them over the net, she might as well purchase real books that she could hold in her hand instead of this electronic garbage. The woman wasnŐt buying it. She had just bought this device and wanted Kim to show her how to put her credit card info into it so that she could conveniently order online.


Becky was mildly annoyed at having been ignored. What she didnŐt realize was that Kim could smell BeckyŐs own brand of body odor quite well, and was really hoping she would just go away.  A smell that strong is hard to ignore.


Kim was genuinely annoyed that her minimum wage paying job required her to provide technical support for Kindle readers, job hunters, student paper writers, food stamp applicants, and basically all manner of tired, poor, struggling masses yearning to use a computer for the first time.


All the talking in the library irritated Jim. He thought the library was supposed to be a quiet place. He sat across from the computer where Becky was with his laptop, wasting time on FaceBook, posting photos of his motorcycle, using this free Internet connection to the fullest. People were always telling him he should get satellite connection out in the woods where he lived, but it cost too much. It only took a few minutes to ride into town, and use the libraryŐs wifi.


Jim didnŐt mind that Kim worked here as an added benefit to him. If she ever slowed down, Jim would assail her with his stories of the long bike rides he had taken, and they shared an interest in organic gardening it would seem. He didnŐt care if she was married or not. His crush on her didnŐt go beyond the constructs of the regional library system. He lived alone with his cats. Cats always seem to want something. And they are creatures of habit. Sometimes that was all they wanted was to fulfill their habits. That was where Jim came in. He was their enabler; he was their "go to guy." But he sensed it was really deeper than this.


Becky, feeling somewhat rejected, walked back to her computer terminal, now finished with whatever it was upgrading. She began searching for papers related to her topic for a term paper she was writing. It seemed the purpose of academics was to share your ideas with experts so that they can tell you what your ideas are called. Sometimes they tell you which dead philosopher thought of it first. This is how they teach you to never want to think for yourself ever again.


There was a commotion coming from the terminal at the far end. Someone was rustling papers. Sabrina, the childrenŐs librarian, discovered the boy abusing himself at the far end of the computer terminals. ŇCall the police,Ó she said with little response. After realizing that a patron was masturbating back there, she finally got the head librarian to call the cops and have him arrested. He had been looking up pornographic content and reacting to it in a most non-librarian kind of fashion. Yeck!


There seemed to be nothing else that could go wrong in the library and then the printers stopped working.  They would have to call the tech support guy who never wanted to come to the library. He was one of those agoraphobic guys, who feared the outside world enough to never leave his house. He would be a lot of help.


Becky never got caught up in these problems because she felt like she had enough of her own, with a husband who worked at Mickey DŐs, a retarded mother-in-law, and no car of her own to get around in. Oh, and she was pregnant. At this point however just trying to read in peace without getting caught up in all the printer problem cacophony, lines now reaching from the front desk to the door with people wanting to get a piece of paper with their stuff on it.


Kim was trying to appease the sudden influx of angry people and wishing she had a hand phaser. Her husband was supposed to be working on that, but he was probably slacking off with his tower of synthesizers in the basement. He held the ambition that he would be a recording artist, though he had no training, experience, or talent. In her attempts to humor him, he never gave her credit for supporting his dream. His job was to support her, and he tried to never forget that. He could probably fix the printer, but nobody dared to ask him.

Copyright © 2012   Robby Glen Garner