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?”
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.
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.