Writers Seek Observational Delicacies

Sometimes all it takes is experiencing a physical space to get the creative juices flowing. The Vancouver Public Library was today’s unintentional catalyst and may I say that there is no finer space for creative imaginings.  The library, or at least the entrance, is right up there with an airport or the Hastings Street bus route when it comes to providing observational delicacies.

The drama began upstairs on the third floor. I was looking up Female + Mid Life Crisis. I know. And, I’m not even joking. I’ve become a life-sized cliche.  Borrow me.  I’m a human book. What would you like to know?

The librarian didn’t even crack a smile when I asked her to remind me how to get to the academic sources that would let me explore if anyone had done research on  female mid life crisis and what they’d discovered.  There is no way, if I was a librarian, I would not have had a wise crack in response to such a question.  Can you imagine how crazy some of the requests they get must be? They should make a list.  It could be very funny. They could then Tweet them. And, as I was twirling that little gem around my brain, wondering about all the combinations that would lead me to whatever nuggets of insight others had already gleaned on mid life transformations,  a loud man, slightly manic, was doing running commentary on his own catalogue searches.

I deemed him, all by himself, to be a half-time position. Unpaid of course.

“Excuse me. Excuse me. I’ve run out of minutes. I don’t want just anybody looking at my personal e-mail.”

“No sir. Of course not,” said the librarian/saint who, whether she liked it or not, was now at his beck and call. When she was a student, I wondered, working towards her MLIS degree, did they warn her that the most challenging part of the job would be dealing with the mentally less than healthy who spend their days in the library? Did they tell her that the skills of a social worker were as important, maybe moreso, than  information technology or literary history?

In due time, I moved outside, across from the main entrance, to eat a piece of tasteless pizza. It was almost better than a front row seat at a local amateur theatre, up close and impersonal, as a cast of hundreds, a perfect flash mob of silent zombies criss-crossed towards the entrance. Young and old. Moms with babies. Toddlers in hand. Black hoodies. Black eyes. Long stringy, gray hair. Jean jackets. Tattoos. Shiny black patent shoes. Suits and ties. ESL students. Food hanging in beards. Every gait imaginable, and the most memorable, arthritis-ridden stiff legged peg legs dragging book bags like anchors behind them, as if they were in curiosity’s desert hopeful that this mirage would finally contain the knowledge they are thirsting for.

Find a place where humanity is teeming and observe, then write about it. It’s a good exercise. Not one that I’ve completed here. Here is more about the concept.

If you could find a place to observe in preparation to write about  that space, where would you go and why?

I’m just curious. Share it with us.