The Time Warner Man

May 4, 2011

A Time Warner Man came to the house yesterday to tackle what has been an intractable problem: fade to black, voice signal disrupted. This was the fourth visit—all by different service people. You know the story. But this guy—Sherif—was different. He made himself comfortable on the couch and picked up the remote. Within seconds, he had found the problem—a setting wasn’t right—and so we started to chat about the various historical offerings on television—miniseries, documentaries—as he continued to test the cable and the box. “I also read a lot of books,” he said. “I approve of reading,” I said, and he laughed.

I don’t why I find it particularly touching when an ordinary, working, blue collar person likes to read. That shows my academic/class bias, and it makes me uncomfortable as I admit it here. I know from years of journalism how interesting, complex and compelling most people are. That all said, I still find it touching when someone from a less privileged background than mine becomes an autodidact, becomes smart through life experience, and books. Reading, talking, telling stories—all of it makes us smarter. Sherif is a clear thinker; he problem solved our problem when no one else could.

But that wasn’t the end of his story/history. “I go down to DC often and I always spend a few hours in the Library of Congress reading history books or historical documents," he said. I have a Library of Congress Library Card. What’s great is that all electronic devices are left at the door and you can’t take out any books. So I just sit and read, and read.”

Now, this is news to me. I had no idea such a card existed, and that it is free to every citizen of the United States: http://www.loc.gov/rr/readerregistration.html

“What do you do when you can’t get down to DC?” I asked.

“I go to the Morgan Library here in town,” he said. “Or to another library. We’ve got lots of libraries.”


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