We were finally doing research that involved more than Google. We felt like adults, except for the fact that we were skipping work. That really undermined us feeling like adults. As we drove to the library, Ryan told a story about a guy writing a poem as our motivation for this new leg of the adventure. I won’t share the story or the poem here as I would prefer to forget both. But the point was if you do something dumb and make something great out of it it can’t have been that dumb. If you don’t, then you look like a couple jerks skipping work for no reason. This was our chance to step up to the plate and show the world we were serious about writing a book. We are doing research like you are supposed.
We walked up to desk announcing that we were expected and we were ushered off to the side to wait for our library escort. We were feeling good. This is what you are supposed to do when you are writing a book. We were on the right track. Jean stepped off the elevator and we stepped forward to introduce ourselves. She knew we were coming and knew our topic of study, so she had put books aside for us. Stepping into the elevator she warned us it was going to be hot. Ryan made a joke, which Jean either didn’t hear or chose to ignore. After getting to know Jean in our ninety minutes in the museum, I’m going to say she ignored it.
We stepped off the elevator, staying close to Jean, least we get lost in the catacombs of the Wings over the Rockies Museum. We were feeling really good. We were being taken to part of the museum most didn’t know even existed. Through a long hallway, past a bucket of mop water that had been sitting for two weeks, until we came to the library. To say it was different than we expected would be an understatement. It was a lot less like a library than we had expected. It was more like people had spent decades combing through yard sales and the books somehow wound up here. There was no cohesion to the collection of the mixture of books they possessed. As far as I can gather, the books are all donated, which accounts for the sense that they don’t belong together and why they might have half an author’s works, but not the other. Despite the hodgepodge collection, Jean had set aside a mountain of books for us to read through and one magazine. She was very particular about the magazine as someone on the volunteer staff sneaks them out for her boyfriend and surreptitiously returns them before they are noticed missing. But Jean misses nothing, so she had to bury the magazine in the stack of books, unless it were to wander off before we could read it. Jean was oddly protective of our research efforts. She asked what we were doing and before we could manage three words she told us most people don’t want to share what they are doing, because they are afraid someone will steal their idea. She assured us, as far as she was concerned, there was nothing to worry about. She was strictly a researcher, not a writer.
We picked up our books as she cleared us a space to work. Ryan and I each grabbed a book and stared at each other. Neither of us was sure what we were supposed to do. We were at the library, but we weren’t sure of the order of operations, how we were supposed to go about researching. We opened our respective books only to be interrupted by Jean. This would be how the day would go. I forget what the first interruption was for. This might have been for the history of the broken air conditioning in the library. We mulled the history of broken air conditioners as we spoke, wondering if that would somehow tie into Leo’s story. Deciding against it, we got back to work. Only to be offered a tour of the library collections a few minutes later. There are bits and pieces scattered across four rooms in the upstairs of the museum, none with working air conditioning and none organized to Jean’s satisfaction. In addition to the newspaper clippings, magazines, and books, are mountains of things left unsorted. To Jean’s satisfaction, they are at least in the correct rooms.
Given our absence from work, our time was limited. That and Jean is only there for a few hours, so it was towards the end of our time that we finally got to work. We sifted through the books that Jean had provided for us. Stacks began appearing from the singular stack we started with. Books with useful information. Books that weren’t helpful. Ryan was furiously scribbling notes. I had preemptively excused myself from this as I did not think to bring pen or paper. Ryan tried to be proactive. He brought paper and pen. Pen being the important word. Only one of us could actually take notes. So I skimmed books and handed things to him to make annotations. Carefully handling the books in the manner that Jean had prescribed upon entering the library. A task Ryan struggled to master and was repeatedly chastised for. Out of the books and magazines provided for us, there wasn’t much fruit for us. We had established most of the information previously through internet searches. But ultimately it seemed like the story of the Devastator was a dead end.
We packed up and headed out to the car. We sat for a moment in silence, because we both had a question, but neither of us was prepared to ask it. Then it came out. Did we just waste two hours of our day? Despite all the prep work Ryan put in, finding the library, contacting Jean, it all seemed to amount to nothing. Was this going to be our legacy? Just a couple of jerks who skip work. It seemed like a colossal waste of time. It was fun skipping work and putting in time to do hard research, chasing a dream. But it really seemed like a lot of nothing. As we worked through what the past two hours had been, Ryan offered a glimmer of hope. We had established that this would be a book about the trip of getting to know Leo. All wasn’t quite lost, Jean would have a place in the story. She is a part of this story now. And the trip to library is a part of our learning to write a book. This is a chapter of our story. The story of two jerks who skip work, so they can write a book and try to make something with their lives. Even with that optimism, I couldn’t help feeling like I had just driven forty eight miles for nothing.