Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Gulp

I had a strange conversation with my director this morning:

Director: Susan, (long pause) you read a lot of books.

Me: Yes, I can't help it.

Director: When you move, you can leave your books -- your novels -- here.

Me: Leave my books here?

Director: You can leave your books here (another long pause) if you don't want them.

Me: Uh, well...okay.

Director: You can bring your novels to the office.

Me: Ummm...okay.

Director: Have a good day.

Me: Uh, yeah...you too! Bye!

I was a little panicked. "You can" is the way my director usually frames his directives. I've always figured in the Asian indirectness and translated them to "you must" and we've gotten along fine. But my books? Have library, will travel. No way am I leaving 300+ books behind!

After another cup of coffee, I was able to put things into perspective: Still Asian indirectness, but this time, he's asking for a favor, not wanting to seem greedy. He's doing what I do, and here's what he really said: "If you have any books that you don't want anymore, I'd be happy to take them off your hands." Yes, my director and I are greedy bibliomaniacs, but you have to speak up here. I still cringe when I remember the Kiwi student who knocked on my door a few years ago: "Hi...I was on my way to the rubbish bin with these books, and then I remembered that you like to read. Want them?"

I also recalled that my director continually hones his English skills by reading novels. He's delighted when he comes across an idiom, and copies it in a notebook he keeps at the ready. I saw one of his notebooks when I first came to the school. There were pages of idioms from what I think of as the "hardboiled" school of writing, [example: "He was looking for a sock in the jaw."] and underneath each idiom, a line of Korean writing, presumably giving the literal meaning: ["A punch. Not the item of clothing."] When my director was on sabbatical in California a few years ago, he hit used bookstores with a vengeance. Although our reading tastes are markedly different, I had a wonderful time checking out the shelves in his office during my first few weeks of work, before I got that first paycheck.

Calmer now, I'm looking at my shelves and discovering novels that I've read and can bear to part with. [Stand to part with. Not the animal.]

15 comments:

Eva said...

Loved reading this post Bybee! :)

wereadtoknow said...

Quite the entertaining post - you handled the situation much better than I would have if someone had asked me to leave my library behind!

Jessica said...

You should tell him "You can leave your notebook in my office if your desk ever gets too cluttered," and then scan it. You could probably publish that thing!

jenclair said...

Could have been a cultural impasse, but you seem to have figured it out! Whew!

Lesley said...

Thanks for the morning laugh!

Mandi said...

Can I just say? You are incredible.

thatsthebook said...

Great story. I can picture the look on your face when he said you can leave your books for him. It's fantastic.

Literary Feline said...

What a great story! :-) Maybe you will find something on your shelves for your director. I'm sure he'd appreciate it.

Bookfool said...

I was thinking along the lines of what Wendy said: Maybe you could choose a book or two to leave behind as a token. Obviously, you're not going to give him your entire library.

That was fun reading, btw. You're quite a storyteller, Bybee.

Jeane said...

How interesting. It sounds like he would appreciate them, very much. I'd panic if someone asked me to leave them my entire library, too (before I'm dead, that is).

GFS3 said...

I have the same feeling of panic when ever someone wants to borrow a book. I feel like I'll never see it again (which, quite frankly, is usually the case). But I can't complain because I'm horrible at returning books.

Maree said...

That was funny. Your last line made me laugh out loud :)

Susan said...

I didn't find this funny so much as scary! I like your reasoning though - at least that had better be it, that he wants you to leave behind what you don't want any more, rather than you to leave behind everything! *shiver* a waking nightmare!!! though, please don't find too much to give to him, because sure enough, you'll find you gave away too much and two years from now have to buy it again. It's funny what we want to reread as we get older, at least that's what I find.

Bybee said...

My director has been a wonderful boss to work for. I've got a total of 18 books that are now his to read and enjoy and make notes about.

V said...

wow~ that must have been really scary.. cus if something like that happened to me.. i'd freeze and just walked away.. I think I would have.. unless it was someone I knew well.. and if that person knew me well.. they wouldn't really ask for my books unless I offered... ;)