Marvin Goes To The Library

Remember Marvin, the desperately depressed robot from Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy?

Well, I just witnessed an interaction with a real life “Marvin” (or perhaps “Mavis”, since she was female).

I was in the library avoiding the chaos of the house construction to work on Book 12, when an elderly lady came in accompanied by a younger woman.  It was unclear whether the younger woman was her daughter or merely a hapless stand-in, but in any case their mission was to get some audiobooks for “Mavis” (the older woman).

Mavis was blessed with one of those voices that is perfectly pitched to carry with maximum efficiency – quite an attractive voice, but very… audible.  And she had one of those dry British accents:  the kind where you suspect the speaker is making fun of you but you can’t respond in kind because you’re not certain.

So I couldn’t help overhearing.

It started as soon as Mavis came in the door:  “My daughter got me a bunch of books but they’re all science fiction and I hate science fiction.”

I missed the first bit of the exchange because I didn’t immediately recognize the comedic value, but here’s a transcript of the conversation after I started paying attention:

Daughter:  “…How about Robert Ludlum?”

Mavis:  “I don’t like Robert Ludlum – I never understood the Bourne thing.”

Daughter:  “How about Danielle Steele or Debbie Macomber?”

Mavis:  “I don’t like girly books.”

Daughter: *Reads off a title, something about joy*

Mavis:  “I don’t fancy that; I don’t have any of my own.”

Daughter:  *reads off another title:  Ten Steps To (something)*

Mavis:  “Well, I don’t believe in that.”

Daughter:  *reads off *A doctor’s guide to (something)*

Mavis:  “Pooh.  It’s too late for me.”

Daughter:  “This one’s about Zimbabwe…”

Mavis:  “Oh, no, I don’t want to read that.”

Daughter:  “Well, do you have any authors that you’re interested in?”

Mavis:  “No, not really.”

Daughter:  “Do you like Shakespeare?”

Mavis:  “No.”

Daughter:  “This one’s about the Persian war…”

Mavis:  “I don’t like old stuff like that.”

Daughter:  “How about…”

Mavis:  “Are those scary? I don’t like scary stuff.”

Daughter:  You said you like biographies; here’s one about Oprah…”

Mavis:  “I don’t like Oprah.”

Daughter:  “Here’s Marley and Me; it’s about a dog…”

Mavis:  “I’m not into dogs.”

Daughter:  “Would you like this one?”

Mavis:  “No, probably not.  Well, I’ll take it anyway.  I’m getting tired.”

Daughter:  “Here’s a book on end of life…”

Mavis:  “Oh, good, maybe it’ll tell me how to end it.”


I fully expected her to moan, “Oh, what’s the use?” in Marvin’s gloomy tones.

And then…

Super-Librarian to the rescue!  In only a few short minutes, the brilliant middle-aged librarian determined Mavis’s interests and loaded her up with biographies of Katharine Hepburn and Steve Martin, and an account of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.  Mavis brightened visibly.

As they moved toward the checkout counter, Mavis’s voice receded:  “You know, I enjoy biographies.  I liked the Schwarzenegger one.”

Librarian:  “You like Schwarzenegger?”

Mavis:  “Oh, yes!”

So, just in case there was any doubt… librarians rock.  But Mavis’s over-the-top gloom and doom gave me my chuckle for the day!

P.S. If I ever get that negative, please remind me of Mavis – it’s sure to make me laugh.



34 thoughts on “Marvin Goes To The Library

  1. I’m curious – how did the librarian come to help Mavis? Did she just happen along and hear the conversation or did Mavis or her daughter go ask for help? (This presumes you were paying close attention at that point!) I’ve been in both positions, as a mother making suggestions to my kids and as fussy kid shopping for clothes with my mother. I hated everything my mom suggested. The funny thing was that if she just bought me clothes I liked them. But go in a store, or open the catalogue, and boom – Negative Nelly. I’m lucky she didn’t just sell me.


    • I’m sure my parents considered retroactive abortion a few times, too, but not over clothes-shopping. We each got an allowance of $20 per month, and that had to do us for everything we wanted, including buying our own clothes. I remember one time my mom came home from town, handed me a light nylon jacket and said, “I bought this for you.” Heart sinking, I checked the price tag. I can’t remember whether it was nine or twelve dollars, but it was about half my allowance. I thanked her and got out my wallet, but was completely thrilled when she said, “No, it’s a gift. Just because.” I have a shitty memory and I don’t recall most of my childhood, but I’ll never forget the thrill of that cheap navy-blue jacket. It wasn’t even my birthday!

      Unfortunately I didn’t pinpoint the exact moment at which the librarian got involved – I was too busy scrambling to type out the dialogue before I forgot it. I suspect she overheard Mavis’s carrying voice and embarked on a mission of mercy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You were such a good kid! No whining, just “thank you” even though you hadn’t asked for it or picked it out! And your mom was great, too, for making it a gift. Like mother, like daughter 🙂

        Re the librarian – she did a great job, whichever way it went.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Retroactive abortions? I prefer the term post-natal. After all, EVERY OTHER KIND is legal, why not that one? Heck, THIS one actually makes sense.

        Corrupt politicians? Perfect candidates. I could go on and on, but you see what I mean. Y’all know how I get…

        Liked by 1 person

          • Several years ago, we were pretty involved with the international student community at the university in the city where we lived at the time. We were introduce to one student, a girl from China, first. Then a girl from Taiwan. We would invite them to our home, cook American food for them, get to know each other, help them with “American” things like arranging for utilities when they rented an apartment, helping them study for their driver’s license (quite an adventure, that!), and the mundane things we do that completely baffle others.

            Soon after that, our Friday evening meals sort of took on a life of their own. Each asked if they could bring a friend next time. SURE!! That’d be GREAT, we said. So then we had four.

            Then the new ones asked if they could bring a friend. OF COURSE YOU CAN!! So then we had eight. You see where this is going.

            The next Thanksgiving, I cleaned out the garage, scrubbed the floor back there with hot soapy water, hung painter’s drop cloths over all the dusty stuff on the shelves, and set up borrowed tables and chairs out there, TOO. Cuz the whole house was full of tables and chairs as well. By that time, the regulars would show up at the front door, knock, and five minutes later the furniture in the living room would be stacked neatly in the bedrooms and our place was converted from a small, modest, garden home to FREAKIN PARTY CENTRAL!

            Liked by 1 person

            • Sorry, hit the wrong button, I guess. Anyway, that Thanksgiving we fed sixty people from seventeen different countries at our house. The weather cooperated by being warm enough we could also set up tables and chairs in our tiny back yard as well. Cars were parked solid around two full blocks, they said. Some of the guests, unable to see our house number painted on the curb, walked into our next door neighbor’s house carrying armloads of food and laughing and talking the whole time. They were halfway to the kitchen before they noticed they were in the wrong place. After a brief explanation, the neighbor lady helped them carry their stuff over to us and stayed for the party. She may have been the sixtieth person or the sixty-first. I dunno. We sorta lost track around that time.

              We have a cherished photo of the party at Christmas that year. Thirty-five people are in it…and twenty had already left by that time.

              On my brother-in-law’s birthday the next year, he had Happy Birthday sung to him in eight languages.

              We still are very close to many of them. We have ‘grandchildren’ all over the world now.

              Our first one, the girl from China, has two Master’s degrees and a PhD now. Her husband also has his PhD, and they and their two children live in Houston. They want us to move there when we retire so they can take care of us. We’ve had several such offers. 🙂

              In 2006, we went to China for their ‘family’ wedding, the big ceremony and celebration (they were already married before they came to the US, just hadn’t had the big family thing yet). We were very flattered, we told them, but we just couldn’t get away for a trip like that. One thing led to another, she started crying, then my wife started crying, and then I did.

              We asked the date of the wedding.

              “Whenever you can get here. Everyone wants you here, so they will arrange their schedules around yours.” She was calling from China!

              We completely lost it.

              Five minutes later, we were off the phone and my wife was booking airline reservations. Gad, we had a marvelous time!

              We love our kids.

              But the next time we go to China, I’m going to drive.

              Liked by 2 people

              • Wow, that’s wonderful (for you and your family/guests), and heart-warming! I love having a big houseful of people to feed, too. Our new place is designed to accommodate long table extensions.

                I’m definitely with you about the “driving to China” part, though – the thought of all those interminable hours on the plane (and in airports), surrounded by hordes of people, just makes me shudder. Did I mention that from our new place we can’t see another human habitation? Ahhh… 😉

                Liked by 1 person

              • When my immigrant father was in university in North Carolina he had a place like that to go to. He corresponded with those people and those he met until either they died or he did. I think it was an amazing experience for everyone.

                Liked by 2 people

                • Indeed. One of the ways I was involved was with fixing their cars. Mostly they ended up buying some junker from another student from their country who was graduating and leaving town…and paying exactly what the first student had paid. Years ago. And then taking the car to a local mechanic who would rip them off just because he could. That stopped. I bought so many car parts that the started giving me a commercial discount. A NICE one. I was always reimbursed, of course. I firmly refused any sort of payment, of course. So the would go all out for our parties and bring their favorite comfort food from back home. Believe me, I was well paid for me efforts. Our get-togethers were great fun.

                  Liked by 1 person

          • “…struck by how white everyone was” – isn’t that the truth? It was funny when I moved from Calgary to Halifax in 1988 – I didn’t notice until I’d returned to Calgary, but suddenly the realization struck me: I had missed seeing Asian faces in Halifax! There might have been Asian people living there, but I never saw them. Like your daughter, I wasn’t really thinking about it until it changed.


        • I think there might have been some of that going on, too. The daughter didn’t really seem to be trying; just grabbing random titles. Either she didn’t care enough to try harder or else she already knew that no matter what she picked, it wouldn’t be good enough. The relentless gloom was amusing in a vignette, but it wouldn’t be much fun to live with (for either participant).

          Liked by 1 person

          • Relentless gloom. Good call. That’s what you get on a long trip with family you don’t get along with about eighteen hours before you get impending doom. Been close to that myself a time or two. Distant family it was. But not distant enough.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Concur on that, Lisa. Rock solid. I like it. And if Diane doesn’t jump on that, I think I will. Gad, the wheels are already turning!

    The real-life (if ya wanna call that living) Mavis sounds like an old–and female–version of Eeyore. In that signature slow, sad-sack, terminal-level-depression voice, “We’ll probably all just die…”

    Yep, Eeyore, we probably all just will…sometime. In the meantime, I’m gonna hang around for a while. After all, Book 12 has GOTTA hit the e-readers SOMETIME. Just sayin’…

    And I thee you’ve paththed the ninety perthent plathe on the progreth line. And plotting hath eathed up almotht to the latht little line. I thyudder to think of the thcreaming you mutht have done to get it there thith week, what with all the dithplatement, inconvenienthe, and thuch. Alath, for the miththing wordth. I gotta athk. Have you found a thwell plathe to thuthpend your heavy bag tho you can thock the thand out of it yet? Jutht thayin’… 🙂


    • Thadly, no. The heavy bag ith thtill packed somewhere in the depthth of our thipping container. I’ve been thwimming, but it’th jutht not the thame.

      And yes, hanging out at the library has been helping. Especially on days like Monday, where a 6-man crew turned up to do the siding, decided they didn’t have what they needed, and vanished again without doing a damn thing. Frustrating!

      But thomeday thoon it’th gotta happen… both the houthe and the book! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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