Saturday, February 21, 2009

I Made a Scene in a Coffee Shop (Part II)

Words and pictures by Graham Roumieu

OK, time to think fast. I dig into the depths of my wallet and locate my old Hennepin County Library card. I shuffle down the street to go to the Walker library for the first time, ever (I know, I am bad. And my mom is a librarian so that makes me twice as bad). Once I go through the logistics of reestablishing myself in the library world (name, address, phone number, intro to the new scanner for books – "You mean I don't bring them to you at the desk to check out?"... blank stare from the man at the desk), I go to the woman at the reference desk. 

The reference desk woman is pretty. She has shockingly white teeth, red lipsticked lips, and dark glossy hair pulled back [what am I writing here, a romance novel?]

"Hi. I am, umm, looking for this book. It is about Bigfoot, I think? It is like, supposed to be really funny? I have tried two bookstores and I am having no luck and I thought maybe you would have it?"

"Sure, I can try to help you find it. What is it called?"

"Um, it's something like, Bigfoot, I Not Dead?" 



The librarian was suddenly laughing. And she kept laughing. Do librarians laugh? Is that part of the librarian brand? Pretty soon I am laughing, too and it just feels weird to be sitting at at the reference desk laughing together about this book title. But, get back to work reference lady and find me my book! She did an extensive search, and when I saw her brow crease the same way the bookstore brows did, I sighed with a heavy heart. I start thinking about how I have walked the whole way here and I have no car near by to drive myself to Barnes & Noble (which is where I am thinking I should have gone in the first place instead of trying to be a cool Uptowner...)

But, wait!

How odd, she says, but this author has actually written more than one book abut Bigfoot. And we have one copy HERE at this very library. Well, give it, give it, give it! I gotta read it for Canada. She goes to get the book. Nice – It is called In Me Own Words: The Autobiography of Bigfoot. Finally, success.

After spending an uncomfortable amount of time at the book scanner (yes, I know it is a simple piece of technology but it didn't beep to let me know that the book had scanned properly) I started walking back home with my Bigfoot book in hand. Now that I had accomplished my mission, I was more aware of the fact that I was walking around busy Uptown with a monkey hat on my head and a Bigfoot book in my hand. BFD, right? Well, yeah, but, then again, I seem to run into a lot of people in Uptown when I am not very well prepared.

Suddenly I was having one of those moments where I felt like every person walking by on the sidewalk looked familiar, and they were all doing a silent visual critique of the fact that I was walking alone with ears on my hat. They all seem to just know that I have blown through a whole afternoon to find some damn book on Bigfoot. Then this girl walked by who definitely went to my junior high. She DEFINITELY did. I just could not remember her name, so I looked down and kept walking.

I came up to an intersection and there was a girl waiting to cross the street. She has nice hair, I thought, and of course low and behold it was Jill from college. Jill from college had been at the paper store and had not found anything good. I rambled out some excited sentences about my library book and Jill coaxed me into her car because it was cold. She drove me to Dunn Bros further down Hennepin and closer to home which is where I got out and said goodbye. Here it was, Jill from college had showed up out of nowhere and drove me like three blocks while we had this tiny conversation... it was so random and urban.

Dunn Bros. Scene of the crime. Scene of the small scene I made at a coffee shop. I order a chai latté, I find an inconspicuous corner, and I crack open the Bigfoot book. It only takes a page or two for me to realize that I have made a mistake in deciding to read this ridiculous book in public. The book is a graphic novel with stuttering phrases from Bigfoot pontificating about his feelings, his opinions, his political career, his frustrations with his cat, and his tour in 'Nam. 

I only get a few pages in and I am hiding the book upside down on my lap and I am trying to take deep breaths because I am giggling and there are a lot of unusually quiet people sitting close to me. Plus, there is a small music ensemble setting up their equipment, which just makes the situation feel more serious. A normal person would have assessed the situation, dumped her chai tea into a to go cup, and dashed out of the coffee shop in order to go snort foam out of her nose in the privacy of her own home.

But, thing is, I cannot stop reading this book. I have the same level of electric tension in me that I get each Christmas Eve while sitting next to my brother in church and I simply cannot move for fear that I will burst out into inappropriate yelps of giggles. My brother is absolutely the most terrifying person to sit next to in church on Christmas Eve because he will stop at nothing in his attempts to make me lose my composure through the use of his vicious humor torture techniques, such as, shaking the hymnal while we are signing, begging that I draw my 'Farmur Joe' cartoon on the church bulletin, or pointing at the Baby Jesus in the creche and saying, "Who dat?" This behavior inevitably gets me so pent up in a silent, squelched laughing fit, that the entire pew starts to shake. THAT is when my mom will literally reach over and pinch us on the arm. My brother and I – both successful young adults with meaningful careers and contributing to society, are subjected to "The Pinch" or, at least "The Eye" every Christmas Eve at church. 

This is how I feel at the coffee shop. I am trying to contain myself but there is no one around to pinch my arm to stop me from losing it. I start laughing so hard by the time I get to the part in the book where Bigfoot shaves himself that I no longer contain it and I am just totally laughing out loud all by myself. I text Steve that, "I'M DYING!" and I start choking on water. I am starting to feel like a random who has stumbled in from the street and has made everyone feel awkward. I swear that I see one of the musicians roll his eyes and that is when I force myself to vacate the premises.

It is not like I exit gracefully, though. No. I go over to the trash and dish bins and down the second half of my tepid chai latté like a kid drinking Coke on a summer day. I just stand there, gulping it down with zero coffee shop savvy, most likely looking like some female version of Bigfoot trying to act normal with all the cooler animals of the forest. I walk home and nearly slip on the ice twice, heady with all that unreleased laughter. At home, I page through the book again and it is still funny, but not as funny as it was while there were people around. I decide that I have to Skype Steve and read a few pages aloud and show him the pictures. Then I start laughing again.

See, that's the thing. Perhaps you know what it is like to have been kicked out of the library because you were laughing so hard with your friend while copying his AP history homework, but once in the hall by your locker, you have forgotten why everything was so funny. There is something about having people around you that makes it easier to laugh at stuff, especially when you are supposed to be keeping quiet.

I very much recommend that you take a look at the work of the author/illustrator of the Bigfoot books. You will cry laughing. Promise.


1 comment:

  1. i hate to be the one to steal a man's thunder (especially a man so great as steve) but it was my copy of "i not dead" that led to your afternoon of complicated liquid/orifice relationships. to be fair, after getting three pages in he knew exactly who needed to be reading it. i am a firm believer in uncontrollable fits of public laughter and have been kicked out of more than a few institutions of education and several medical offices (which is awkward when you are the one receiving treatment) for that exact reason. it made my day to hear you liked the book.