23/12/2009

What Is Normal, Anyway?

I went to the library the other evening.  As I went in, a woman was standing at the counter venting to the long-suffering staff about something.  Because I walked in half way through, I don't know what her complaint was (I have a feeling she was annoyed at getting fined for returning books late), but I was in time to hear this pearl of wisdom:
"a normal person doesn't read more than one book a week"
I guess I'm not normal then.  Are you?  I have three kids, a moderately demanding job and a whole bunch of things that need doing around the house (I'll tell you about my laundry obsession another time), but I still find the time to read two or three books a week, roughly.  Of course, it depends on what those books are.  If I'm indulging my fondness for Mills & Boon, then it could be more.  On the other hand, I also have Iain M. Banks' Matter waiting for me on the shelf, and I have a feeling that could use up a couple of weeks just by itself.

What I found amusing was this woman's blithe assumption that she is normal.  As it happens, I know her vaguely.  She is an incredibly busy person.  As well as having two children to look after, she is very active in the local community - I'm not surprised if she doesn't manage to read a book a week.  I've met people who think a book a year is good going.  It's all a question of what you class as important.  What she's saying is, "normal" people don't think that books are that important.  Well, some of us do.  Who's to say that's not normal?

As an aside, our local libraries have had a major renovation this year and now they open much longer hours.  As a regular visitor, I think the ability to visit them in the evenings is excellent (I used to have to go on Saturdays) but I've heard through the local rumour mill that the staff are less happy.  Partly because they don't want to be working at eight in the evening (and I can't blame them) but mainly because they were bullied into agreeing to those hours by a rather unpleasant man who just happens to be one of our local councillors.

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