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December 13, 2007

Two seemingly unrelated items I complain about. And after this I will go yell at some kids to get off my lawn.

Seemingly unrelated item #1 that I will complain about:

Last week R. and I walked to the library after lunch. I've decided that to make my endless commute more bearable, I'm going to learn a foreign language, and R. wants to learn Japanese so we've been spending lunchbreaks once a week in the foreign languages department of the library, checking out audio CDs. It's a great break from the day and learning a language has made my commute more interesting ... plus, I can listen while knitting. If it's not a complicated knit, of course.

Last week we walked into the International Languages Department which, in addition to housing books and audio books also has a large area of internet kiosks. Many of the screens are large and in plain view of every passer-by, including groups of schoolchildren who come each day to the central library.
Some guy was sitting there, at the public library in the middle of the afternoon, looking at giant pictures of naked vaginas. Both R. and I gasped and looked at each other, like, "Did we just SEE that?"

He was just sitting there right by the books with his screen in full view of everyone on the floor flipping through picture after picture of hardcore pornography. You couldn't miss it if you tried. Right there between the audio books and the foreign language dictionaries, he was viewing pictures of naked female genitalia, the real big gyno-cam shots.

I was shocked, I admit it. It's one thing what you do in your own house, but in public? At the public library? Where schoolchildren of all ages roam around?

What happened to decency, people? Is it just gone forever?

Personally, I think if you want to spend all day and night locked inside your house looking at porn, go for it. What you do in your own house is your own business. But those terminals at the public library are in full public view. of me. And kids. And come to think of it, aren't my tax dollars supporting that? I AM SO NOT OKAY WITH THAT IDEA. Get your porn on your own dime, buddy.

Also, wow. I usually think of myself as pretty tolerant and liberal and so on. So where did that come from? Maybe later I'll go picket something. Or buy a hummer.

There's no way to get around it though. I was offended, and disgusted, and sad, too. I'm a walking, talking real woman standing RIGHT THERE there having to see a dirty old man (and he was a dirty old man) look at vaginas and get off from headless pictures of naked twats right there in my freaking public library.

I told this to the front desk clerk, and she agreed it was awful and she herself hated it and many of the staff had often complained as well, because apparently that sort of thing happens all the time.

"It's not like it used to be at libraries," she said, shaking her head. "There are little kids here too! It's just disgusting, but they tell us it's public property and nothing can be done about it."

Is this true? I know I have lots of librarian readers. Is it true that any old person off the street can walk in and start browsing hardcore porn in front of all the other patrons? Do I have to stop going to the library, now, too if I want to keep my day free of naked vagina pictures?

And am I being old-fashioned, antiquated, ridiculous?

I'm not a fan of censorship, never have been. But I am a fan of behaving decently and with respect around both books and children. And audio books. What is wrong with this world? What kind of country do I live in where men think it is perfectly acceptable to look at hardcore pornography at a public library -- especially one that is always crowded with large groups of schoolkids?

What the hell has happened to people?

Seemingly unrelated thing #2 I will now commence complaining about:

Most of you have already experienced the trauma and heartbreak which is my government-issued Driver's License photo. It's kind of the definition of "butt ugly" and also "Aileen Wuornos: Portrait of a Serial Killer, in Oompa Loompa Technicolor."

My government-issed passport photo isn't too great, either, my head looks like a big smooshy marshmallow with a wig on top. I also had bangs in that picture, and I would be happy to show it to you to boost your own self-esteem, but I forgot to take a picture of it. You'll live, trust me.

Having said all that, my passport expires soon and I need to get a new one. I have decided in 2008 that as God is my witness, I will GO ON A FREAKING VACATION. Or three. I didn't quit smoking for nothing you know, that came with a price, and that price was socked away in the bank and I am going ... somewhere! One day!

(Also, perhaps there is a correlation between all the complaining and the need for a vacation?) (Moving on.)

Having lived with a butt-ugly passport photo for ten years and a disturbingly orange and scary driver's license photo for four, I decided that I would do whatever it took to get a glamour shot of a new passport photo. Yes, I know. I have my priorities in order. Please judge silently to your photogenic selves. Some of us have issues AND THERE IS PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE.

A few days ago I got all made up and got my hair did and so on and went to the FedEx-Kinko's place where they take digital pictures (so you get to approve the image before it's printed. I am all about the approval process.) But on this trip I learned a new and potentially crazy thing about my country:

It is now unacceptable to SMILE in your passport photo.

Do you know what I look like when I am not smiling? When I am not deflecting the largesse of my cheek area by a toothy grin?

It looks like this, folks:


So, in conclusion, I can never return to that Fed-Ex Kinko's store again because I made the poor lady there take like ten pictures of me, all of which looked like some frightening flash-bulb crazed deer-in-headlights marshmallow head. I walked out empty-handed, no passport picture, no self-worth, and with only the sounds of snickering Fed-Ex employees to usher me out the door.

Also in conclusion, the government of my country thinks it's totally legal for you to view hardcore porn in the library, yet I will be denied a passport for smiling in my picture.

God help us. Help us all. Now get off my lawn, you meddling kids!

Posted by laurie at December 13, 2007 8:59 AM