Monday, February 23, 2009

This Post Is A Security Risk

I was in Manchester library last week. It is a cavernous, domed building, and it is beautiful. I've been in there a few times now, just to sit and read. I love big libraries, listening to the muffled sounds of people working, shuffling the books from the shelves, each in pursuit of his or her particular brand of knowledge. It is a bit like being inside the Internet, only without so much porn.

When I lived in Paris I used to go and sit in the Pompidou Centre library for whole days, to avoid the cold anonymity of the city outside. In a library you can find familiarity in books, and silent solidarity with the people sitting all around you. I love the curious looks people sometimes give each other in libraries. In Paris I read the entire work of Jane Austen in a fortnight and then moved on to the Bronte sisters. I found it endlessly comforting.

Last week I decided to find some books on fairy tales. I perused the shelves until I found some that looked interesting, and took a seat at a table in the main dome. I had just started to make some notes and indulge in some library-echo listening, when my phone flashed. I took the call in the stairwell, leaving my coat and small suitcase tucked underneath the chair.

It was Ben, with bad news. I spent a while on the phone, to him and then to my sister.

When I returned to my seat, my bag and coat had gone. The women sitting on the desk nearby leaned over.

"Were you sitting there? Sorry, we didn't see. The security man came and took your bag and coat."

I went to the Information Desk. The woman was on the phone, and gestured that she would be with me in a minute.

Five minutes later she listened as I whispered my plight. She sucked her teeth briefly.

"If security have it they'll have taken it round to the back. You have to go outside."

Clutching a biro-scratched map I stepped outside, internally grumbling.

Why'd they have to take my bloody coat? It's February, for fuck's sake, and they're making me run a freezing gauntlet as punishment for leaving my stuff unattended for twenty minutes. I can understand then taking my case, but my coat? Did they think there was a bomb in the pocket? Fuckers.

Consulting my map, I climbed the steps to the security booth.

Two middle-aged, rotund men looked up from their heavily-pawed copies of The Daily Sport and smirked.

"Someone took my stuff." I said. "I was on the first floor, and stepped out for a phone call, so security took my bag and coat."

I waited. The closer one raised a greasy eyebrow.

"It wasn't taken, love. It was removed for security reasons."

I stared at him.

"You should never leave your items unattended."

A pause.

"Security reasons" he added, in response to my blank expression.

I shivered. "Sorry, I wasn't aware that my coat posed a security risk. I will be more careful in future. Can I have it back now?"

After a bit more telling off and some light perving I escaped with my things.


This week I am going to London, as Ben has a gig on Wednesday. Unfortunately on Friday we are going to a funeral, at which I am singing. I am very, very nervous about this. The nerves are outweighed by the feeling that I do want to do it, but still. Since I was asked I have been lying awake at nights, thinking about it. Not really worrying, just thinking. I feel it is the least I can do, so I want to do it.

But, yikes.

When I am back up in Manchester I am going to go to the library every day and leave innocuous things on a desk, to see what security deem as a "risk". A scarf? A scale model of the security booth? A dead pigeon? It will be an interesting experiment.


Blogger Pochyemu said...

I'm sorry they took your coat and I'm sorry you have to go to a funeral. These things never expected and/or fun.

I have something that might make your day just a little bit better:
I know (kind of) one of the producers of these nights (usually in East London) and they always have a lot of people turn up. They are also always looking for new performers. You might drop them an email?

2:03 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mmmm taking your coat is a bit silly but you never know what people might have in their pockets. Maybe you should be a little more grateful considering the fact that I know 2 people who have had their bags stolen at Central Library. At least security took yours, not a thief.

11:14 pm

Blogger Ys said...

I didn't know it could be a security risk to leave your belongings in a library!? Glad you got them back at least.

Good luck with singing at the funeral. I hope it goes well for you and that the day isn't too sad.

1:57 pm

Blogger Léonie said...

Pochyemu - Thank you! That looks like a cool night, I will definitely look into that.

Anon - I could be grateful, but I choose to be sarcastic instead. I sincerely doubt that they took my coat for any other reason than jobsworthiness. They did their jobs, but in a really stupid, annoying way. Thanks for your well-meaning advice, anyway.

Ys - I understand why they took the bag, but it amused me no end that they differentiated between "taking" and "removing for security reasons". Coats, apparently, are very dangerous in the wrong hands.
Thank you for your luck-wishing, as well, I appreciate it. x

2:26 pm

Anonymous smidge said...

Maybe you could leave a post it next to your coat next time "this coat is not a security risk, i give you permission to frisk it down if required"

2:24 pm

Blogger Clarissa said...

Oh! Leave a book! A book! A book will be a big security risk! Especially if it has big, explosive ideas!

8:22 pm

Blogger Jonathan said...

Leave a copy of the Daily Sport, and put a slip of paper inside saying something rude :)

2:09 pm

Blogger justme said...

Coming late to this, so I hope the funeral went ok. I am sure you will have been wonderful. There was a singer at the funeral of a friend of mine. It was so beautiful, but I remember thinking at the time, that it must have been a really difficult thig to do.
So I hope it went well and that you are ok.

5:59 pm

Blogger Miss Devylish said...

Your adventures in the library in Paris sound so romantic I want to run out and read all of Jane Austen this minute.. Sorry about your bad news sugar.. I wish you strength singing at said funeral.. that can't be easy. And extra luck at keeping your things from security next time. ;) xo

7:56 am

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5:47 pm


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