So I (still) have a strange relationship with numbers

My husband's in China (on what I just realized is his birthday), four of the five bulbs in my kitchen light fixture are burnt out and we're out of milk. I bought a treadmill this morning and now I can't get it out of the van until my husband comes home. I'm too dispirited to even work up a decent head of surliness, but I did manage to go in and shelve books today, so I'm replaying a post from very early in my blogging days.

I was working in the school library this morning. I do the basic library stuff -- check books in and out, catalogue new books, fix hurt books, but mostly I shelve. it's sort of tedious and repetitive and back-breaking, especially the lower shelves, but after a while it becomes sort of a Zen exercise.

It's kind of interesting seeing the books that go out and come back on a regular basis (Harry Potter and Geronimo Stilton in fiction, fast vehicles and puppy and kitten books in non-fiction), or putting back one that I haven't seen get any play before (in which case I kind of root for it -- is that weird?). Oddly, I find the numbers of the Dewey Decimal System taking on resonances, personalities almost. Not just that I don't like the numbers on the bottom shelf, although that's true. For some reason, some numbers are appealing and some are unsavoury. 398.2 is fairy tales -- three shelves of them, it takes up more room than any other number. 001.9 is a couple of UFO and scary story books that look really cheesy, which makes the number seem sort of appropriate -- it's almost nothing. Not to mention how close it is to the Chicken Soup for the Dippy Happy Marshmallow Mermaid Soul (sorry, is my cynicism showing?).

For some reason I really like 551 and 552 -- natural phenomena and geology, respectively. The numbers seem somehow nicely balanced to me (also, I do like rocks). 567, on the other hand, is a horrid quagmire of dinosaur books, and the shelf seems to have some evil force field around it that actually prevents anyone from being able to put the books in correctly. Don't tell Bonnie, but whenever I get these books, I mash them all together, pick a point on the shelf and just jam them all in -- there's no other way, I swear. 736 through 750 is a series of incredibly skinny or imposingly fat books, about drawing and crafts, which also resist proper ordering, but in a more benign fashion (you know, that flaky artsy vibe -- it's chaotic, but not malicious). 811 is a sort of jolly number which seems utterly appropriate for Shel Silverstein. 597, 8 and 9 are animals in the wild, and they seem to serenely float into the proper place. 636, on the other hand, is pets, and they're much less cooperative. 629.133 is a messy, unwieldy number that shelters a phalanx of flimsy sideways-bound books about airplanes and sports cars, and I find the whole business sort of tiresome.

I adore all of the 900s, and I have no idea why. Today I saw some rare 400s -- they were gleaming new, as if they had never been touched. There seem to be an inordinate number of non-fiction books bearing the letters PAR under the number. I haven't conducted extensive enough research to ascertain whether there are just a disproportionate number of authors whose names start with PAR, or if there's one manic dude out there churning out books on hurricanes, dolphins, backhoes and Van Gogh (he'd be a hit at parties, I guess. Or incredibly pompous and boring. One or the other). There's also a lot of SJO, which makes my brain hurt a little -- no offense to the eastern Europeans, but S and J are two letters that just don't belong together in my book.

I go in at about nine-thirty, then I go get Eve when her SK class finishes at 10:45 and she hangs in the library while I finish. Bonnie lets her put away the picture books, because you only need to know the first letter of the author's last name. I can hear her muttering to herself and singing as she shelves them. I wonder if she's developing her own baby neurosis about the alphabet...(B is awesome! I love B! On the other hand, I really wish L would quit looking at me like that....)


clara said…
(disregard my previous comment re: surly thursday, I hope you are re-spirited soonest)

Not in a library setting, but in general I do have an affinity for certain numbers and ... disregard for others. 9 is my favourite. 4, 5, 6, not so much.
Nicole said…
I love numbers, and I love that you have an affinity for certain ones. My very first job was in the library shelving books. Love that Dewey Decimal system. xo
Nicole said…
Also I'm sorry your treadmill is stuck in the van. When things like that happen, I think with great resentment "Why did I get married if I have to take out the recycling MYSELF?" Because I'm a princess who hates taking out the recycling.

Taking out the garbage/compost? No problem. Shoveling snow? (Usually) no problem. Picking up dog poop? No problem. DON'T MAKE ME TAKE OUT THE GODDAMN RECYCLING THAT IS A BLUE JOB AND I AM PINK.
Anonymous said…
this made my day: "I'm too dispirited to even work up a decent head of surliness"
StephLove said…
I had a summer job in high school, along with a bunch of other teens, boxing up all the books in a public library that was undergoing renovation and then unpacking them as different part of the library shelves became available again so for a while I knew the Dewey decimal system quite well, too. It was kind of a fun job, I'd often start reading when no one was looking.
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Julie said…
i LOVE this post. so happy you brought it out of the archives. it was before our days together. :)
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Sasha said…
Well, as tough as it is to follow up the deep, personal connection of the previous comment, I'm gonna try.

Did you get your treadmill out? Let me know if you need a hand - my DH is back and I'm ready for any excuse to leave the house :).

I shelved books at the university library - and yeah, backbreaking at times but definitely Zen too. Actually, the biggest hazard in that building was static shocks - pushing those carts around was BRUTAL for that, I had to touch every shelf as I walked by just to keep the charge down to a minimum, and still got zapped every single one.

They used LLC (LC?) numbers of course, so my numbers were letters. The place was too big to notice which items were getting more action, but I do remember having favourite sections. It's bothering me now that I can't remember the sections. H was history? Maybe? I remember the psych section, but I don't remember the letter. T was tech, I remember this only because there was so little of it (I went to Trent - one of your more liberal of liberal arts schools - that's how I managed to score a BSc without ever taking a class on Fridays).

So I don't remember the letters, but I do remember this quote, from the dedication in a book called "My Parents Never Had Sex":

To my parents, who had sex - once.
To my daughters, who know I've had sex - twice.
And to my husband - who knows better.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane :)

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