Thursday, June 19, 2008

You can cancel my Library card

I had just boarded the 62 Hardy North bus on the way to visit a friend who is gravely ill and being treated at Banner Baywood Medical Center in Mesa. It’s about a 2-hour trip.
No sooner had I settled into my seat than I got a call from the man’s wife, who said the doctor’s were performing a procedure and that he would not be allowed any visitors for 24 hours.
Since I was already on the bus, I decided just to ride along to the end of the route, which happens to end at the ASU campus. From there, I made my way over to the Mill Ave. District.
It was about 3 p.m., and one of those blistering hot June days. The first few weeks of summer are the worst, I think, because it takes about a month or so of 100-plus temps to get acclimated. You could tell that nobody on Mill Ave. was acclimated. People moved very slowly. It was so hot, in fact, that I saw a dog chasing a cat and they were both walking.
Normally, when I visit Mill Ave., I head to the Borders to drink coffee and look through books. But it was so hot that coffee didn’t seem all that appealing. So I stopped in at a bar/ restaurant on the corner of 5th St. and Mill Ave. to suck down some ice tea. There were only a handful of folks there. Several men were sitting at the bar, flirting clumsily with the 20-something blonde bartender. A family sat at one of the tables enjoying a late lunch.
The name of the establishment is called The Library. If you are at all familiar with Mill Ave., you have probably heard of it. It struck me as an interesting motif for a restaurant/bar. After all, most people don’t associate a library with food and drink. In fact, most libraries discourage the presence of food and drink.
Of course, I have no formal training in marketing, so what do I know.
Anyway, the motif was established by the presence of lots and lots of books. Book cases lined all the walls.
So here we have a theme for the bar/restaurant. OK. Now, consider the efforts made to carry out the motif with all those books. Naturally, you would expect the wait staff, bartenders, etc. to be dressed as, well - I don't know - librarians, maybe?
How silly of me.
The wait staff, I can assure you, were not dressed that way. It was at this precise point that the theme was abandoned.
I looked around. I did not see a single severe-looking lady with her hair pulled back in a tight bun, clothed in an ankle-length gray dress with cat’s-eye glasses and sensible shoes. No one hissed, “SSSHHHH!!’’ as the conversation swelled at the bar.
Instead, the wait staff, made up of what I can only assume were co-eds. They were dressed as if they were cast members in a particularly tasteless porn movie about wayward Catholic school girls. By that, I mean they wore plaid skirts so short that modestly - if they had had any - would have prevented them from bending in even the slightest manner. Some of them work knee-high stockings. The ensemble was completed by a sleeveless white shirt, tied at the bottom to expose a bare midriff and unbuttoned in order to expose as much cleavage as the law permits. The law permits a lot, by the way.
It was overt sexuality and I suppose there some valid marketing research encourages the ownership to insist on that sort of uniform. I suspect the girls don’t spend too much time bothering about how they are being objectified. Hey, the tips are good. The general strategy seems to be: Let's exploit our young staff so they can, in turn, exploit the customers. Everybody wins!
Shoot me if I ever get into that business, OK?
Now, I know I am going to be dismissed by some as a hopeless prude at this point, but the whole scene struck me as tacky, demeaning, juvenile. So, as the middle-aged guys at the bar tried out their best and crudest lines on the little blonde bartender, I started looking at the bookshelves.
But rather than being a suitable diversion, it only made things worse.
Maybe it is my writer’s sensibilities at work here, but I started thinking about what those books represented to the people who wrote them. Without a doubt, each of those books was the fulfillment of something extremely important to the author. Each volume was a testament to the endless hours of toil, of doubt, of lonely struggle. A book is the window to a writer’s soul. It is something very personal, very intimate. It is the author’s passion and purpose. It is the realization of a dream, a validation of an original idea. A triumph.
But here, as the patrons ogled the wait staff and the wait staff wriggled and giggled and the air filled with clumsy innuendo and booze, the books on the shelves served only as props to fulfill a silly theme.
Any book lover would be offended, I think.
I know I was.
Fortunately, there are other, better places to have an iced tea.

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