This is the State Library of New South Wales. It is the oldest library in Australia, opened in December 1827. The same year that Beethoven died and long before the Super Nintendo.

I am currently right here typing this post, I particularly like coming here whilst my WiFi at home is still in the process of being fixed. It is certainly cheaper than finding a coffee shop for WiFi, I don’t need to buy anything and this has helped me out a lot. The problem for me with libraries is that they are too quiet, this makes it very hard for me to focus. How can I work when I am terrified that typing on my keyboard is causing a distraction? Every sneeze, every pen hitting a table, every scrunch of paper is intensified by a factor of a thousand. If I owned a library, I would probably have a policy in place making people refrain from being overly quiet.

‘Hey, you! You are being too quiet, it is distracting people. Make some more noise like your considerate neighbours or you’re out.’

Maybe not as strict as this, but you get the idea.

But back to the point of my post. Jokes aside, this kind of behavior leads well into what I am about to say. My laptop was on half battery. The only seat I could find was one next to a guy on his laptop and he wasn’t using the socket. The tables are roughly 12 feet in length and there were numerous seats empty away from him, but they were useless as they did not have a power source. As I sat down, he took a good second to look at me and rearrange his phone and notepad. I could see for whatever reason he was distracted by my presence, this would be understandable if I was a celebrity or if I rode in on a horse. My rather anticlimactic entrance meant that his reaction was a little strange. As I started to unzip my laptop bag he looked at me again. He took his earphones out and so did I, wondering what he was going to ask.

‘Excuse me, there isn’t anyone sitting on the chairs opposite.’

Now don’t get me wrong, I love a random fact. Although this one sounded more like a hint than anything else. His observational skills were on point, but it came across a little rude.

‘Thanks, but I need to charge my laptop.’ I said. ‘Oh okay’, he replied and in went his earphones.

Now this wasn’t exactly a heated exchange, but it made me think. Why would anyone say that? Was he suffering from claustrophobia? Was he someone that dislikes other guys sitting next to him? Regardless of what it was, this isn’t my problem. If he liked the space he could see in front of him, he shouldn’t be persuading anyone to move but himself. This would be different of course if the library was empty apart from him. If I was to then choose out of the hundreds of seats to get a little close, this would understandably set alarm bells ringing. But my point is that if you have a problem, sometimes this is your problem.

There are a few exceptions, we all have a role to play. If I hadn’t washed in a week, I would be more open to being told to move. If I started to stroke his face, the same. Sometimes, we are the ones that need to address our own insecurities and make sure we are not projecting the blame onto others.

This is very much needed today, with so many conflicts of interest. From triggered social justice warriors causing riots at universities and those that are easily offended by simple discussions and debates. It seems like even the most ‘compassionate’ sectors of society are becoming increasingly intolerant, and I do feel this is the case trying to have debates with certain people from time to time. It is worrying how conversation will become affected by the ease in which offence is caused. Not being offended should be a personal responsibility, something we process internally before jumping to the conclusion of being a victim.

Not that this occurred in the library, but it is how my thoughts evolved after upsetting someone when I sat next to them. But it is something I have experienced recently. Have you had similar thoughts? If we live our lives with the aim of not offending anyone, we wouldn’t be able to leave the house. That is pretty scary.

58 thoughts

  1. Thanks for the post. Love the look of that library. Its date reminds me that I never finished The Fatal Shore or any other history of Australia.

    Your encounter reminds me of a few I’ve had lately. Seems to me the most important thing is to keep the communication open if a problem seems to exist. Maybe ask one more question to see what’s going on with the other guy. Not that I do that most of the time.


    1. Thank you for reading, it is a beautiful library and I enjoy blogging in here.
      Regarding your encounters, I strongly agree that communication is key. I would have more willingness to chat if I wasn’t in a library, I had a similar encounter and a much longer conversation in my post ‘I was attacked by an agnostic feminist’ which can be viewed here.

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Being offended is a choice we make, & we can choose to be….or not.

    We are lucky in our small city that our library is not ”quiet”. Its not rowdy, but we speak in normal tones & accomplish whatever we are there for without all the shhhhhhhhhh.

  3. Golly …. this made me think! Ok so I have a confession. I am always the one who is offended, but also to confuse things, I am so worried about offending others. I am highly anxious about personal space, there’s no point in fact of even going there … the list is endless. I thought everyone was like me?? This is enlightening because this is why I’m so often upset… people upset me. Any suggestions or help appreciated… clearly!

    1. Thanks for stopping by. What is it exactly that upsets you? It really depends on the cause. There are things that you could be genuinely upset about, such as intentional bullying purely for the reason to distress you, or instances that are not as direct that may upset you despite there being no conscious intention. I am eager to know and I will go from there 🙂

      1. Thanks you … It’s never intentional and I know that. I just see it as thoughtless, lacking in awareness and kindness. An example would be someone who accidentally knocks into you in the shopping centre/mall. I go out of my way to avoid people … so much so that I end up zig zagging my wY through. Then I end up being irritated that it’s just me that is avoiding a collision … why can’t others do the same. Victim behaviour? I was always taught that children should be seen and not heard and I hate to bother people, ask for favours, anything. So the fact that you’re listening is both wonderful as your post made me wonder if I was a bit loopy, but also I’m worried that I’m irritating you, making a bother of myself.

      2. Don’t worry too much. I have done this in the past and actually annoyed people by worrying that I am annoying people! I am sure you will find that many people will actually like that you aren’t so apologetic in situations. One of my previous managers told me this and I stopped saying sorry for the little things.
        Also, we do live in a world in which many people can be arrogant or inconsiderate. I guess the best thing for this is to ensure that we are considerate and be the difference we want to see in the world. If you are less clumsy than others, well done you! You are more aware in certain situations and it is a strength. Make sure you relish and take advantage of this and not let it aggravate you 🙂

      3. You’ve made me feel much better! Thank you … I’m always saying sorry, but can see it could be quite annoying! Thanks, I appreciate the time you’ve taken. ☀️☀️

      4. Anytime 🙂 I am pleased you feel much better. Don’t worry about others too much, they have themselves to worry about them! Focus on you 🙂

    2. You may have a higher empathy level than the majority of people and deeply feel other people’s closeness where they are barely aware of it. Depending on what you want to do this can help or hinder you. You are not the only one that feels this way. I can walk beside a busy main road and want to talk to the person with me. My daughter has to walk that same road with earbuds in and listening to her music as the noise really gets to her. Celebrate and enjoy the differences. We would be a boring lot if we were all the same

      1. We certainly are a diverse bunch of people! It would be impossible to keep everybody happy at all times, so lets remember this when we feel frustrated. Thanks for the wise words here 🙂

  4. Where I am, there’s a designated Quiet Zone in some libraries and some trains (during rush hour). I think this makes both noisy and quiet people happy. 😉

    On the other hand, I think people who are a little too touchy have always existed. It’s just social media is making them more visible than ever because we allow it and we’re in almost all of these networks. That’s why I unplug sometimes. But you’re right about the choice of being offended by something. I remember one drag queen said about another drag queen: “If the tweets you’re getting are bothering you, put your phone down. You don’t have to look at it. Look at something else. No one forced you to read them.” Something along those lines. It’s almost masochistic, if you think about it – looking for a way to feel offended.

    1. I also believe that these people have always existed, it is just that social media now means we have a whole world full of trolls, or simply touchy people, on our computer screen. There have been a couple of people however that I have engaged with in real life recently that clearly were agitated for reasons I feel were unjust, I wonder if attitudes have changed as a result of online engagements? Has the internet meant that we see communities develop online with certain beliefs and opinions at bigger and faster rates and people are being introduced to a new way of thinking much more easily?

      1. Of course. The internet is a big feedback loop. The more you look at a certain topic, the algorithms are in place to give you the same topic over and over. That’s how Twitter or Facebook gives you suggested pages or people to follow. Thereby encouraging and maybe strengthening what you already believe. This translates IRL as people who get their information online, feel that their existence is affirmed and get offended by people who don’t agree with that.

  5. Really enjoyed your story. Think you brought up an excellent point about choices and consequences. We can choose to be offended. And the consequence…. we isolate ourselves from others every time we eliminate or exclude someone because of our own issues.
    Also Congrats on 3000 followers! Way to go! -Jill

    1. Thanks Jill, I strongly feel that being offended easily means there will be consequences such as isolation, or at least a lack of willingness for people to try to engage in conversation with us. I have been reluctant to talk to certain people for this reason, when a conversation turns bitter because of a thought provoking point. I try not to be that person offended by anything thought provoking, although I admit this can be a challenge.

      1. I hear you, Sam. I have been in that place myself. I think the best thing we can do is try to remain open to different perspectives, and not take things to personally. I also think from reading your blog, that you are doing a pretty job of that already. I personally am enjoying the many thought provoking conversations provided by your blog. 🙂

      2. I am happy that you enjoy the posts I type up 🙂 I try my best to be as open as possible, but I admit it is hard. Watching debates helps me though, as I see some great debates and see how those having the conversations have such self control. It can be very impressive at times!

  6. Hi. Interesting. I hate to offend people but when it comes to libraries the rule is silent and that’s why I would go there in the past. I along with many others can only really concentrate in quiet especially when I am dealing with complex thought. There are plenty of noisy places where you can talk, sing etc etc. The only alternative for people like me is to work through the night! Not good but if the library rule is upheld brilliant. People like yourself can always put your headphones on!

    1. I would never rebel and create noise in a library, I respect the rules I just find the conditions hard to work in. We all work best in different conditions!

      Thanks for commenting 🙂

  7. This was quite an insight into what it’s like at a library—I actually was gathering some library-related information for a ‘project’, and I guess eerie quiet really slipped my mind… after being out in the noise so long, we’re just not used to the silence!

    1. I am not used to such quiet. I am too fidgety, I move a lot which is a nightmare for quiet library, I like a coffee shop level of noise and liveliness!

  8. Ah! That’s me for sure! Libraries are often too quiet. In some German libraries they even give you earplugs. I can’t focus if I feel like I’m sitting in a vacuum.
    About getting offended… a lot of people gets offended because they understand things in one way only. They don’t think that what a certain person just said or did has no particular meaning, and they immediately jump into the conclusion “I met 10 people doing the same and they meant something bad, therefore this new and completely unrelated person means the same”
    I saw an example few days ago. Someone complained about her German colleagues been racists because they often asked her where she was from. That’s curiosity, not racism. Racist should be “What are doing here? Why don’t you come back?”. But she didn’t say people was asking her to come back, telling her she wasn’t good, or suggesting she should be somewhere else, she only said people was asking her where she came from. And sometimes expressed surprise because she’s Canadian and they thought she was from somewhere else. Well, last time I found myself in a similar situation they laughed. I didn’t mean to be racist and they didn’t get offended because they understood that I was just surprised. They chose not to be offended.
    And by the way, I do get asked a lot where am I from. Often followed by other questions such as “Do you like it?” “How is over there?” “Do you find any differences?” “How did you come here?”.
    It’s not racism. Just curiosity.
    On the end, feeling offended is a two way road. There must be someone with the intent of insult and someone willing to get insulted.

    1. I feel you. I have often had similar remarks, one very lately, in which a pleasant conversation gets very hostile. My rule is that if people are willing to sit and have a chat with me, they aren’t a threat. Therefore I am much more willing to listen to their point of view, even if I disagree with it. When people get snappy during something as simple as a conversation, they are the problem!

      1. I think people is getting too sensitive. Particularly in the States, but in other places too. Everything annoys them, everything offends them.

    1. Yeah I didn’t get a good feeling from the guy. Thank you for the kind comment on my post, I appreciate it very much!

    2. Well, just today, I was sitting in a hostel in Dublin having breakfast. A black guy came with his tray and sat down. I tried to be polite by retiring my stuff so he had more space for his breakfast. All in all, I was taking too much of the table. The guy said nothing but stood up and went to sit down somewhere else. It’s not like he has more room over there, it’s just that he obviously misunderstood my gesture.
      I feel sorry for him.

      1. So as you mentioned he was black, do you think that he felt like you didn’t want to sit next to him for this reason? As he didn’t mention anything to you, maybe that wasn’t the reason. Or like I said in my post, maybe he processed the situation internally, realised you weren’t being offensive and decided not to be offended, just move somewhere else. I hope that is the case 🙂

      2. As he said nothing, I can’t know for sure, but it impressed me like he understood as I didn’t want him around or maybe that I was afraid of him stealing my stuff. I know in many countries there’s a black person == criminal equation. If he comes from one, he would understand this even if he disagrees. He certainly didn’t look like someone used to travel and live among crowds and foreigners. He rather looked… intimidated.
        I remember long ago, walking a very narrow lane in South America, someone was walking in my direction and I tried to give that person some room as he seemed to be in a hurry. He said as he passed by my side “I’m not going to steal you!”. I turned and shouted “I was giving you room, idiot!”
        Right. That wasn’t a polite reply, but it bothered me to be in a society that understands simple gestures as aggression.
        I guess I can’t be polite 24/7

      3. Funnily enough I have jogged past people at night in quiet streets, and sometimes I am tempted to warn them that I am behind them before I get there had they jump. I wouldn’t say it in retaliation to someone moving though. Just to prevent someone feeling uncomfortable, particularly the elderly.
        It is a shame that such stereotypes exist. We cannot be polite 24/7, however as long as the intention is to be as polite as we can be, this is all we can do 🙂

      4. Now you mention warning someone because you’re jogging behind….
        I live in Germany and I always know a “just landed” person because they turn looking back to check who’s behind.
        Germans and people who’s used to live in Germany don’t do it. We just don’t need it.

  9. Synchronicity hits again as I had just put up a blog on character motivations and the belief systems you give them to the story before I checked out your blog. Beliefs can tweak what happens action/reaction wise. It can add multiple layers to the characters making them more interesting to readers. The episode in the library can be used in your writing at some time. It shows two different beliefs happening that could have escalated but ended up being defused. Maybe his sense of personal space was larger than yours at that moment.

    1. Maybe it was, however personal space is always going to be limited in a public place!
      I am going to be writing non-fiction, so my book won’t involve characters, although I would be able to fit this in. It is this kind of encounter that helps inspire me to write 🙂

  10. Thought provoking post. Reminds me of the times I used to go to the SL to finish essays on my laptop.

    I had a similar experience while eating out last year. I was about to sit down on a small table when the guy pointed out that there’s an empty seat nearby. I still tried to sit down but the seat didn’t impress me so I forgot about it and sat down elsewhere. End of story.

    I wrote an entry in 2016 titled Nightmare on Jorge Street. It’s a short postmodern take on what could happen if you’re not careful.

    Keep at it!

    1. I had the opposite experience in Belfast. The place was full except a table with few persons sitting but room for more. I asked if they minded me to sit there. They not only were happy to have someone else sitting but they started a quiet conversation with me.
      I still don’t know their names, or anything else but the bits they commented at that moment.

      1. People can be nice, that’s for sure. I need to remember to post about these experiences as much as the not so friendly encounters!

    2. I guess if someone does it to genuinely be nice and allow more room for both it isn’t so bad, I am not sure if your was similar to mine in the sense that he was trying to move me knowing that I had already seen the empty seats. I hope yours wasn’t as rude!

  11. First off, I love your humor, and use of the phrase “social justice warriors” as that is something I’ve only ever heard my boyfriend say and it made me chuckle! But, more importantly I really enjoy your writing and I have to agree with you on this. I think the idea that now I need to not only keep myself from being offended (which is my sole responsibility) but now must be in charge of not offending the general public is a direct result of the “give every kid an award for just showing up” phenomenon! 😆
    I look forward to reading more.

    1. Go onto YouTube and search ‘social justice warriors’… you will not be disappointed! Thank you for the lovely words, I am delighted you enjoy reading. I will keep talking on these topics when I have personal experiences, I hope I can create more posts that you enjoy 🙂

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