There’s another weird, old guy who’s sitting across from me. He’s a regular at the library. What’s distinctive about him is; at all times, indoors or out, he’s not only wearing a batting helmet or crash helmet on his head, he also has the Darth Vader kind of protective visor he wears on his head. You can only see his eyes through the slits, and wisps of gray hair. And his demeanor is that of the classic Grumpy Old Man. Almost like a cartoon character. The other day I was sitting at the computer right next to him. And this young black woman was sitting at the computer on the other side of him, with her one-year old baby. And the baby keeps crying. Now I, personally, have no problem with the sound of a crying baby. I even find it kind of soothing; it’s a natural sound and it’s kind of like hearing somebody singing the blues. But I can understand how other people might find it annoying. The Grumpy Old Man keeps complaining about the baby, and the two of them keep jawwing back and forth, arguing and bitching at each other. Old Grumpy goes to the front desk and complains to the librarians several times. Finally, the black woman has had enough, grabs her baby and her stuff, stands up and prepares to leave. But before she goes, she spits at Grumpy, a direct shot right to the face. Fortunately, most of it just hits his protective head-gear. . . . And I couldn’t help wondering: Maybe that’s why he’s always wearing the crash helmet. Because other people are always trying to bean him on the head. . . . Just another day at the public computers.
Course, I’m one to talk. This one time I was using one of the public computers on the Berkeley campus. And nobody was noticing me. So I couldn’t resist. I clicked on this porno site. And on the site is this big color photo of this woman in, well, let’s just say it was a particularly crude and graphic pose. And then — wouldn’t you just know it? — the screen of my computer locked up and froze. I guess they had the computers rigged to specifically do this, to prevent people (like me) from going on porn sites. So now I’m sitting there in public, with all these people milling around, with this hideously obscene image frozen on the screen of my computer. So I’m in a panic. And I’m frantically pecking away at the keyboard to try and un-freeze the screen. But nothing works. So I’m draping my jacket across the screen in a pathetic attempt to try and hide the image, but that only calls more attention to the situation. I can sort of feel people giving me side-long glances out of the corner of my eye. . . . So I quickly decided to do the wise and prudent thing. I grabbed all my stuff and skulked out of that room as fast as I could. I didn’t go back to that computer for a long time.