Updated: May 15
You’re not allowed coffee in the library. That’s the one rule. So long as you’ve a library card. You’re not allowed coffee in the library. That’s that. Sometimes, when it’s early in the day and the guy at the front desk is feeling dozy, he’ll let you away with a ‘keep cup’. One of those ‘recyclable’ cups that cafes in town give twenty cent off for using. Sometimes, when you bring a flask and there’s coffee inside you can lie and say it’s water. The guy at the desk won’t ask if he can see it. Flasks are sturdy and complicated, they’re twice as hard to close as they are to open. He doesn’t want to witness the embarrassment of some student screwing off a flask only for coffee to spill everywhere amid lies of it being water. Sometimes, people get away with it. Most times, they don’t.
I’ve found my favourite place in the library. On the first floor, in front of a computer that is at least twenty years old. I’m right beside the desk. I would say I’m right beside the entrance, but the entrance is also the exit. They’re on opposite sides of the desk, so when you’ve experienced the humiliation of being told you can’t enter because of your coffee you then have to do the walk of shame around the entire desk to leave.
I like sitting here. I like the noise. The constant clacking and clicking of keyboards, along with the chatter of the man at the front desk. It’s much better than downstairs in the library; amid the hundreds of silent students. The silence makes me overthink, or paranoid that my earphones are blaring music. It’s much much better than the other library, the one I used to go to where the postgraduates come to study. They sit across from me, silently judging with seven books annotated and opened before them. I got jealous, and had to leave.
The man at the front desk changes every hour. They take turns sitting there. Having said that, I don’t know why I still refer to several people as the one ‘man at the front desk’. They’re all quite different, with varying levels of strictness. Some of them will let you away with eating, whereas one or two of them erupt upon the sound of a bag of crisps being opened. There’s one that will give out to you for walking too fast, and one of them hates it whenever someone says hello to them. Although they all meet in the middle when it comes to coffee.
Pope Clément VIII was requested to try coffee as it was believed to have been a satanic drink. Once he tried it, he believed that it was so delicious it would be a monstrosity to only let infidels have exclusive access to it. So, Pope Clément VIII blessed coffee, which commenced the popularity of the drink. I feel the same way about coffee. Although, I don’t think I could ever put myself under the amount of humiliation that these library users do.
Yesterday, a girl walks in with an arm underneath her jumper.
“What’s under your jumper?“ asks the man at the desk.
“I’m after breaking my arm,” she insists in a North Dublin accent. You can see her wrist quiver underneath.
“Give us a look,” says the man at the desk, “wouldn’t they give you a cast for that, surely?”
“It’s not so bad,” she attempts to wince, “I just can’t move it from underneath.”
“And tell us this,” he demands, “if you’re not able to move your arm from under your jumper, how come you’re shaking underneath like you’re trying to stand something up.”
While this is going on, I see a swamp of people fly by without showing their library cards.
“What do you really have underneath that jumper?” The man at the desk looks the girl dead in the eye.
“Coffee,” she responds, hanging her head. She turns around to leave through the exit. I never saw her again.
Most people aren’t as stubborn as she is. Once the man at the desk asks them what they have in their hands or bag, they admit ‘coffee’ and immediately leave.
Others, however, are plain ridiculous. Last week, a girl walked in with a takeaway cup from the coffee machine outside. It was practically impossible for her to get in.
“It’s water,” she insisted. Angling the cup, as if she was measuring to see if she even believed it herself.
“So us it so,” requested the man at the desk.
She prepared to peel off the top, but then realised she couldn’t even fall for her own lies.
“It’s from the machine,” she explained, “it’s a kind of brown colour, but I’m not sure why.”
The man at the desk raised his eyebrow. The girl had given up.
You’re not allowed coffee in the library. That’s the one rule. Although, there’s always a chancer.
“No coffee,” the man at the desk shouts while pointing at a takeaway cup.
“It’s tea,” announces the man with coffee in hand.
“Whatever,” shouts the man at the desk, shooing the man with tea in hand away.
You’re not allowed coffee in the library. Or tea, for that matter.