Friday, May 8, 2009

Nine days of rain

Sounds like the title of a horror movie. Or perhaps a biblical prophecy. But nah, it's just a description of life in New York so far this May. Seven straight rainy days as of yesterday, and more is forecast for today and tomorrow. Enough already!

If it weren't enough, there's this: yesterday the university administration announced that they will definitely begin layoffs shortly. No one knows where the axe will fall, or when, and we're all very nervous. If I stay rational I ought to be able to stay calm, because I have pretty decent seniority and our union contract has good layoff language, which means that I should be able to keep my job. Or a job, anyway; even if the bosses decide to slash my job, even if they dump this whole department, which after all makes them no real money, according to the contract language I should still be able to shift into some other position at no loss in pay. That's the theory. The practice, who knows. Companies everywhere are swatting union contracts aside like gnats, and unfortunately my local's leadership is of the sell-out accommodationist variety and would no doubt happily agree to a contract reopener and/or just let the language slide in the interests of "labor peace." Oy. Well, we shall see.

In the meantime ... when the going gets tough, the tough go--book shopping! Yes, my response to the stress of layoff fear was to spend yesterday's lunch hour on one of my manic rounds of libraries and bookstores to gather up reading material. I spent almost nothing, finding some wondrous picks on the $1 shelves outside the Strand, using my still-extant Xmas gift certificate at Shakespeare & Co. for more freebies, and checking out armloads on library loan. Now I've got a great grand tottering pile sitting here on my office windowsill at work, and will tote them home one by one over the next weeks.

I don't know why it comforts me so to have a huge and varied stock of available reading on hand. You can't eat books. They won't pay the rent. My parents were children of the Great Depression, and I grew up being constantly admonished to turn off lights, eat everything on my plate, re-use, conserve, etc. Some of it took, some of it didn't, but I suspect that this compulsion to gather and hoard books, this horror at the prospect that I might ever be without a tall, meaty to-read stack, somehow has its roots in that old Depression training. Now that the new Depression is upon us, we'll get through it together, me and my books.