killing time

New York Public Library | photo by Jennifer Perillo

In the city that never sleeps, where noise is the neighbor you can’t shake, the quiet room at the New York Public Library is an oasis. It’s better known as the Rose Reading Room, and until today, it’d been decades since I found my way there. I remember that list visit clearly, but only in the sense that someone extremely nearsighted can see when they’ve misplaced their glasses. You know, those memories where you find yourself squinting to make the moments come back into focus. Alas, they seem to be buried in a haze, the hopefully important parts sharp enough to recognize.

On that, let’s call it a winter afternoon, it feels like I had the weight of the city on my shoulders, a heavy coat and backpack in tow, I decided to find a book to read. Back then, that entailed finding the Dewey Decimal System number. I wonder if the kids of today even know what that means? Note to self: ask kids when I pick them up from school.

The information, once procured, was written on a slip of paper, and handed to a clerk. You were given a number, and a light would come to life on a large board above the desk, indicating when your book had been retrieved. There would be no bellowing out of names or numbers, it being the quiet room, after all. This was the procedure for curling up with a book in the Rose Reading Room, as much as one can cuddle in a hard, wooden chair. I don’t know how any of this works nowadays, and wish I had paid closer attention on my visit today. Second note to self: must visit the NYPL at 42nd Street again before moving in June.

I made my way to the library, in search of a quiet place to do some work. I had a few hours to kill before meeting a friend for lunch. Where did that phrase “time to kill” come from exactly? Kill is a rather savage way of looking at it, foreboding, and suggesting nothing good could come from such an act. Depending on how one chooses to spend their time, there is the possibility of it being rewarding and productive. Perhaps we can start a trend, with a more positive sounding phrase. I’m open to suggestions, so feel free to chime in.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, at the library. In the quiet room. And what a spendid hour it was indeed. As I sit here at my kitchen table, clacking away at the keyboard, the birds are in the background, playing back up to my neighbor’s piano lessons that take place every day for hours on end.

In New York City, one must work hard to find peace, and quiet. Thankfully, there’s a room nestled in a building on a rather bustling street in midtown Manhattan that provided the solace I needed. Nothing was harmed in the making of that tranquil hour.


  • Heidi

    I thought the same when I saw your title and I am very sensitive about saying that also.

    Time to fill does sound better.

    Moving in June? I must have missed something?

  • Peggy Sherry

    Do you find a very tiny allegory in that “you are looking for a little
    peace on very famous street named in a very famous Christmas movie”? I believe life is full of miracles, some requests can never
    come true and they are not meant to. Many wishes come in a serendipitous way, fate allowing us to still believe.
    All the while miracles are happening and they are of a prevention
    sort “the what could have happened”. We never knew we were being held in arms of a guardian angel. A thought to you
    on a sunny day.