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Cave dwellers, find your own study space

This article was originally published in print on the 23rd March

As a Mediterranean human being expatriated in a land of long, dark winters, you can understand the joy I feel when, around this time of the year, the sun reappears again. A blue sky and bright sunshine can single-handedly bless and make tolerable weeks of miserable university work as we try to survive midterms and, for some of us, a dissertation hand-in.
The early wakes and the long nights suddenly become bearable as the warmth of the sun touches your skin, the daffodils finally bloom, and your seasonal depression begins to evaporate under the warm rays of the sun.

So with a new-found inspiration you convince yourself that you can do it: you can drag yourself again to the library even though the vision of the building makes you physically sick at this point of the semester. You choose a nice, beautiful window desk facing the meadows to soak in all the vitamin D you can and at least have the comfort of looking at cute dogs in between crying breaks. That sun keeps you going as an engine and as fuel for the soul.


Until you see them arriving; the tricky thing about spotting our subjects is that they can take multiple forms. Shapeshifters and masters of disguise. You may even smile at them as they sit in front of you, occupying the other desk next to the beautiful window soaked in natural light. You see them as a fellow sun-addict who carefully chose that location to benefit from capturing as much sun as possible.


But then, after a few seconds, once they have settled in, they reach for the blinds. Your heart stops. You see the sunshine, the Meadows, the cute dog – your freedom – disappearing all at once as they completely pull down the blind. You can see the real world still peaking through the cracks of the shutter. But they don’t stop: that’s not enough, they study those small remaining sights of hope with disgust. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear them recite the words from the doors of Hell in Dante’s Inferno: ‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter here’ as they make eye-contact and turn the blinds off completely to create a grey block of hopelessness between you and the sun.


You are left there speechless, betrayed, heart-broken, fuming.
Why? With an almost empty floor, why do you choose to sit in front of me and put me through your masochistic, claustrophobic routine? There is a beautifully artificially lit basement in the library where I am sure you should be able to find other members of your species. A basement that will drain the little desire you have left to be alive without even going through the effort of pulling down the blinds as there are no windows to cover. A basement where you can soak in other human beings’ desperation and alienation as no one has emerged from that dark dungeon in days, months, years: hard to tell as there is no sun to determine time.


I will campaign to create a sun-security function in the library desks capable of targeting those people who in the 2.5 seconds of intermittent sunshine per day close the library blinds. We just need a hatch and a system that promptly removes them and plunges them directly into the dark, dark, desperate lands of the library basement or Dante’s hell… whatever comes first.

Image courtesy of ‘Grumpy window man’.

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