Chaos House

Each week I tutor in my client’s neighborhood library.

“It’s a little shady” is what someone being kind and wearing blinders would say.

“Chaos House” is what the regulars call it.

Highlights Week 1: active drug dealing outside the front door; children’s area so loud we move to the adult area; adult side with most tables occupied by men of questionable residency, asleep or with hands down pants; physical altercation over a man refusing to pull up pants–including boxers–beyond his knees.

Week 2: Major Improvement! Drug dealers stopped (moved inside without drugs). Vomit next to table only issue.

Week 3: Joined at table by schizophrenic. Approached by stranger to fix her pictures so she can show her sister how fly she look.

Week 4: Children’s side features full hour of ukelele lessons for roaming band of 15 toddlers. Man sits at our adult table to empty every thing from his pockets and deconstruct electronics, then falls asleep. Overweight woman wearing three pairs of pants unable to secure a single pair, exposing everything from waist down to the troubadours and my 11 year old.

Through all this the Greek chorus of only moderately degenerate regulars narrates the scenes from the back table over the dulcet tones of their video poker.

If it wasn’t so sad, it’s be the perfect place for a reality show. In a way, it’s wonderful to see so many people use the library as a refuge. There are plenty of people just quietly sitting reading or using computers. But it is not a lounge for people who want to hang out, eat, talk on the phone, etc… And as great as is it to have children’s programs, there is no space there for quiet academic work. The staff turn a blind eye to everything but the fights and nudity, and even then it’s a half hearted warning. What’s a transitional neighborhood to do? Provide the services they’re meant to provide or cater to the needs of the most desperate and (unfortunately) reliable clientele?