Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Library at Urinetown

Frank: There's a bum sleeping in the car outside
Estelle: What do they do in there ?
Frank: They do everything, they URINATE in there


Beginning in the 1980s,screams for social justice intersected with our nation's shrinking tax base and the United States of America made the almost unanimous decision to empty its various state mental wards of schizophrenics who could be stabilized with drugs.I say , almost unanimous. There are some people, best exemplified by my senior law partner, who crave order in public spaces more than they do either a tax cut or some type of philisophical freedom of movement for all individuals. This is not a particularly unusual outlook on life, but it is not often voiced for fear of appearing politically incorrect. We have had entire nations run under this premise. Spain did it for about 50 years. Italy and Germany experimented with it, but manged to pervert it to the point where it was intolerable to the majority of the world. The former mayor of New York, Rudy Gullinai, made a name for himself by clearing the Manhattan streets of anything approaching aggressive pan handling, and anyone who does not say that a stay in the Big Apple is better now than it was in 1979 is simply lying to you.

It was these few individuals, like my partner, who spoke up, really whispered, that many believe now that we should have listened to. The question was asked then, what if the escape valve is opened for these unfortunates and they are unabale to effectivly compete in what is really a fairly brutal society ? "You just don't know what is going to happen" they'd muse. but the problem was that you knew exactly what was going to happen and sure enough, it happened.

The fact of the matter is, it is difficult to open the doors for schizophrenics and tell them to "be sure to take your pills" on the way out. Many had no place to go, most had no mony at all, and a even a pork chop could have told you, there was a pretty damn good chance that they were going to stop taking their medication. Which is exactly what happened. Thus, the "homeless" problem was created in this country.It has been going on now for two decades. Oh, we had homless before, but they were much reduced in number since the depression. We had public institutions, including jails and mental wards that took care of them, brutally in many cases, but they were not freezing to death on the streets. as they do now.

At any rate, those homeless who still know enough to come in out of the cold, often try to come in out of the cold. The same public who threw them out in the cold (some because they felt sorry for them, some because they were tired of paying for them) was not particularly crazy about letting them back in. So their has been a real tension in the land over what to do with all of those people freezing to death out on the sidewalks, and worse, bothering me for spare change as I matriculate down the street each day. "What", Scrooge would have proclaimed, "are there no workhouses?". No there are not. So many of the homeless choose to exercise the same rights that other citizens of a town exercises and that is to make use of whichever public facilities are open. That brings us to the library.

Many towns, including my own, have large public libraries, open seven days a week.While most citizens use the libraries to do such things as check out books, there is nothing to prevent a citizen from coming into the library when it opens, finding a comfortable seat, and staying until closing time.Especially if it is 20 degrees outside. Cities and Libraries pass ordinances which they hope will skirt the bounds of constitutionality, but still leave the reading publc somewhat inclined to enter a library to look for a book. Such rules as "no bed rolls", "no sleeping" and "no eating", while perfectly valid rules, are actually aimed at arming librarians with the power to oust their long term guests if need be.One of the problems is that most people don't go to library school because they are particularly good at confronting the schizophrenic. So many libraries today are, in a certain sense, dominated by the homeless.It is with this in mind that I relate the following story.

I am informed that an obnoxious odor was perceived in the 200 section (Dewy Decimal System) at our local downtown library last week. Investigation by the Library cops turned up the fact that hundreds of books, costing thousands of dollars of the citizen's money, had been urinated on.
Now this was no "accident" as my first grade teacher Mrs Harrison once called a suspicious yellow puddle next to the desk of one of my classmates. No, the range and height of the of the spray left no doubt that this was done intentionally, probably by a single urinator. Whether all of this amounted to a political statement, a literary comment, or the work of a mad man, no one was sure. althought there were suspicions.

As the spoiled books were carted off and the shelves disinfected, talk turned to one particular suspect. And, as if by magic, the librarians looked up and saw that very person boldly advancing thorough the door, haggared and wild eyed. "Yes" he screamed, "it was me!" "and I'm back". With this, the lone peeer (peaer?) turned and ran out onto the streets of Austin, only lightly pursued by the the rather disolute clean up squad. Except for a single "incident report" ,the details of this outrage have been kept out of the press and away from the public at large, which , while understandable, seems rather unfair to those wanting to make an informed choice as to which books to check out from that particular section. The perpetrator of his outrage has been "banned" from the library, a slap on the wrist (or penis) leaving him free to urinate in other public places as well as private yards here in Austin.

All of this was inevitable, indeed predicted ,by my senior law partner many years ago when the floodgates were opened. None of these things happen in facist countries where order is revered. None of these things happen in socialist countries where the tax base is enlarged to whatever is needed to take care of this type of issue. No, this problem, urinating on library books, is a particular problem only for representative liberal democracies like ours, who want unlimited personal freedom and the minimum of taxation. It is a peculiarly American problem. It is a problem that is created by ascribing the ultimate amount of personal freedom and dignity to each individual in society, and then turning our backs on those who can not handle that freedom.Think about that the next time you check out a book.


Blogger Lynyrd Koan said...

Thanks for urinalysis of the situation, Wade.

3:19 PM  

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