Thursday, 20 December 2012
A few days ago I was at the main library in the nearest city to where I lived; I didn’t have the internet at home so I was planning to use the web for an hour. The library was busy so I had to pre-book – I got given my computer number and the time allocated for me to use it which was around forty minutes away at 4.15pm. To kill time I perused the bookshelves then sat and read a newspaper; when the time got near I climbed the stairs to the first floor where the computers were.
I made my way over to my terminal and the monitor read: ‘Time left: 2 minutes, 7 seconds’ in large white figures and it was counting down each second. I would just have to wait another couple of minutes. Sitting right in front of the computer, side-on to it and facing each other, were a couple, probably in their late-sixties. They were extremely grim and dirty-looking. The man was wearing a thick grey jumper and warm-looking green coat even though we were indoors and it was a sunny and warm day. The few hairs he had clinging to the top of his head were dark and extremely greasy-looking; they were swept back to the top of the back of his head into a kind of knot but then the hair spread out again to the lower part of his head – but instead of naturally flowing down to a stop or being neatly trimmed, it stopped in a sharp square well short of his neck. He looked utterly ridiculous. The woman, who was sitting directly in front of my monitor, was extremely fat and ugly-looking with thick, tape-repaired glasses. She had a few warts on her face and single grey hairs sprouting out from under her nose and on her chin. They clearly weren’t using the computer but I wasn’t going to move them out of the way until the time ran out; but then, as it got to under a minute to my turn the woman delved into a Tesco carrier bag and pulled out some sandwiches wrapped in cling-film. She passed one to her partner, opened one herself and started taking big hungry mouthfuls.
When the countdown on the monitor got to zero it was exactly 4.15 and ‘RESERVED’ appeared on the screen. I approached the couple and told the woman that I needed to use the computer; she just grunted, barely appearing to register me, and pointed at the screen with a mouthful of sandwich – bringing my attention to the word ‘RESERVED’.
‘Yes, reserved for me!’ I exclaimed.
She grunted again and then in no particular hurry, they gathered their stuff together and disgruntledly and very slowly left the spot – her face seemed to say: “what a pain in the arse you are, could you not use a different computer?”
I pulled a chair to the screen and sat down to start my session, greeted by a sharp smell of dirt and body odour.