Monday, January 21, 2008

Quiet Spaces

When I am not out or cleaning house on the weekends, I have fairly simple recreational tastes—I like to read. I like a good book, a quiet space, a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, and a comfortable place to sit and read for a few hours—even a couple of hours.

Sounds pretty simple and straightforward, yes? Regrettably, it is not so simple.

This weekend was one of those weekends when I just wanted to collapse and read. The most obvious place might be at home—after all, I have a comfy chair (hehe), a bottle of wine in the fridge, or coffee to be made. I don't live in a particularly loud neighborhood. However, my parents are working on my house on Saturdays, fixing problems with my bathroom ceiling. Mind you, I'm grateful to them for doing it, as it saves me having to hire expensive workers. But the sound of my father swearing and banging around doesn't exactly make for a quiet atmosphere, plus there's the obligation to be social. Even if they weren't there, I would most likely be distracted by "other things I could be doing", or by one of my two narcissistic indoor felines.

So the house was not going to work. I thought about other spaces. There are a few cafes that I like to spend time in, but these are not quiet places. I did not necessarily want a meal, so going to a restaurant was out. There are coffee shops all around the County, but they are usually filled with teenagers. As a rule, teenagers are not a quiet bunch, and the atmosphere is usually replete with loud music. Going to a pub has the same problem—there are a lot of people talking, and the music is loud and can be distracting.

When you think “quiet” you might think “library”. Seems obvious. But libraries are not necessarily quiet spaces. There is much debate about the nature of library space—should it be a place of quiet or a place of instruction (which means “not quiet”)? Frequently, it is the latter. There are quiet study spaces in many libraries. But one cannot curl up with a cup of coffee in these spaces—and they do not provide accommodations that I would deem “cozy”. For the most part, libraries are food-and-drink free places; if they do allow it, it is in a designated cafe area. And that gets crowded. Inevitably when I have visited these library cafes in public libraries, there are always parents with children hanging out there. I have nothing against children visiting the library, but kids as a rule don't tend to be very quiet. If it was summertime, I could find a nice space outside, but not when it's 29 degrees out.

So, I was at a loss to find the perfect space to curl up in. You might think I'm being fussy about the “quiet” requirement, but I tend to read fairly heavy things. Right now I am reading Umberto Eco's “The Name of the Rose”. I took Latin for 7 years, but it still takes me some concentration to read the Latin sentences and phrases that pepper this book. There's also a lot to follow. So it's not something I can meaningfully read when I'm distracted.

I cannot believe it is so difficult to find a quiet reading space that allows allows me the simple creature comfort of a beverage. If anyone has any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

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