The Reading Room

Library of Congress

Me: I have an all-day training session at the Library of Congress.
The husband: Oh, that will be fun for you.
Me: It’s in the Madison Building though.
The husband: You should go for half of it and then spend the rest of the day in the Main Reading Room. Take a page from my book on attending teacher training conferences.
Me: Hahaha. But hmmm. I have never been to the Reading Room. Can I get in there?
The husband: Your badge will get you in.
Me: It will? I’ve never tried. I can get into the main part where all the people are researching and all the tourists look down on them from the glass cage up above, like specimens?
The husband: Yeah. You should check it out, you’d love it.
Me: They’ll really let me in?
The husband: Yes. And then you can dance around like Belle.

That’s what sold me. Taking a lunch hour to be in the largest library in the world, a place with limited access and practically unlimited volumes of knowledge and wisdom (and Harry Potter!) was really an opportunity it would have been silly to ignore.

So after the husband and I ate our leftovers on the Library of Congress patio (Madison Building) I strolled over to the Jefferson Building (there are four Library of Congress buildings, btw. The Jefferson Building is the main one, the one people picture when they picture the LoC.) and tucked in through the carriage entrance.

I told the kindly gentleman at the information counter that I was there for the Reading Room and showed my Congressional staff ID. Amazing what that little bugger can do for you! He directed me through the winding halls of the building and soon I was at the entrance to the Reading Room. The kind but no-nonsense security guard told me I was supposed to have checked my bag in the cloakroom downstairs, since I wasn’t there on official business. I asked him what would constitute official business and maybe I could make an argument for it, but I was just a staffer there on my lunch hour. Congressional staff? Do you have your badge? Go ahead.

Go ahead I did. With a kid-in-a-candy-store grin on my face, I floated as if on a cloud walked through the “mountains of books, cascades of books!” I even took some of the winding secret staircases I came across.

Bliss.

With no direction but feeling like I should pull at least one book from its shelf, I wandered until finally, there it was. Who’s Who in 20th Century Great Britain. Baroness Margaret Thatcher had passed away just that morning. The husband and I had (middle) named the little oyster after her, and it seemed only fitting to pay a small tribute to her in this way. I pulled the book from the shelf, searched for Thatcher, and read the small blurb that, of course, as yet only included her birth date and marriage dates. I left the large volume open on the research table and went back to work.

reading room

Enraptured though I was, I did not, in fact, dance around like Belle. Maybe next time.

belle

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Plant here

The center of the free world and I couldn't even take the picture straight. I blame the tour group breathing down my neck and stressing me out.

On Saturday the husband took me on an America date* (not what you think, see below). Thanks to his staff badge, I enjoyed a private tour of the Capitol and a brief run around the Library of Congress. I was dismayed to learn that there is more than one LOC building and immediately declared that having an off-brand LOC is crap.

In the Capitol, under the Rotunda (right, the husband?) and above where George Washington was supposed to be interred, is the white marble compass inlay you can see my lovely feet perched on the edge of in the photo above. This is the archetypal center of the free world.

My goal is to sneak Dietrich into the Capitol and add his paw to this family photo.

In other news, I drove today! I saw the county permit guys coming down the road checking parking permits so I hightailed it out of there.

No, not true at all. We needed Kleenex and hot chocolate and I know where Target is and how to get there, so I took a deep breath and set off. My sweaty palms only slipped off the wheel once, and it was at a stop light, so not all bad.

It probably took me an hour to do 15 minutes worth of shopping and although I was wandering around totally lost in one of the most recognizable stores in the First World, no one bothered me. I think they all knew I’m not from around here, thanks to the fact that I was the only person in the store who left the house dressed as if it is December.

Me: I bought Christmas cards today. They are really cute.
The husband: Oh great.
Me: Turns out I bought the ones that are meant to hold money. Now won’t THAT be a holiday surprise for our friends and family. “Merry Christmas! Have all the cheer that this card can hold for .44 cents!”
The husband: Hey, that’s a lot of cheer.
Me: I feel lame. Nowhere on the packages does it say “Intended to hold money, moron.”

* Many moons ago, the little sister had a crush on another little kid in daycare. His name was Kyle and he was going to take her on dates with all the money he had. All the money he had consisted of a grimy little pile of Major Magic indoor amusement park tokens, obviously worth nothing but 1/50 of a large stuffed bear containing asbestos. Regardless, Kyle was going to take the little sister on dates with this money, this “America money.” These would be called America dates. Owing to the fact that America money was (is? ha!) worth nothing, the dates had to be free. Since then, the family has referred to free dates as America dates. An America date is anything from sitting on the patio furniture in Target for an hour to smelling the Christmas trees at a farm when your apartment complex doesn’t allow them in your unit. The only rule is that no money is spent because no one accepts America money. Except Kyle.