A short time ago, in a library not far from here, a librarian pondered the mysteries of his profession. Submitted for your perusal: These are the continuing adventures of Mr. Library Man.
Q. Dear Mr. Library Man: Do librarians have any extraordinary qualities?
A. While librarians often look normal, we do have some special abilities. For example, most people put their pants on one leg at a time, but librarians jump four or five feet in the air and swoop down into their pants all at once.
Q. Library Man: Do librarians have a secret handshake?
A. Don't tell anyone, but we do. At special ceremonies, librarians bump their right forearms together as a sign of solidarity (some baseball players known as the Bash Brothers stole this move from us). After the forearm bump, we touch thumbs and twist them as a symbol for the Dewey Decimal point.
Q. Yo, Librarian: How's it going with your quest for the world's most perfect metaphor?
A. Dear Reader: Just as physicists search for a grand unification theory that unites quantum mechanics and relativity into a single working model for the universe, I'm still searching for a figure of speech that unites clarity, profundity and beauty into one bolt of pure enlightenment. Metaphorical sparks are everywhere, but the perfect turn of phrase is elusive.
A byproduct of my search, however, is a wicked collection of mixed metaphors. All of us have started a sentence we weren't prepared to finish, and the results can be revealing. "It's not rocket surgery" or "He's not the sharpest cookie in the drawer" are good for a laugh. The sports world offers a rich vein. Years ago, tennis player Andre Agassi assessed his own progress: "I've only scratched the iceberg." And Brad Miller, the Sacramento Kings' center, once explained, "It's not going to be peaches and gravy all the time." Who could argue with that?
Q. Dear Library Person: In a previous column you wrote that librarians eat Wheaties for breakfast, so you're claiming all librarians eat the same thing?
A. Thanks for giving me this chance to clarify.
I should have mentioned that some librarians move into management positions. They become supervisors and library directors. These administrator librarians eat eggs florentine with herbed potatoes for breakfast.
Q. Hey Library Man: I always seem to find very attractive librarians working the reference desk, but I'm intimidated by how smart they are. Do you know any good librarian pickup lines I could "borrow"? -- Bo
A. Dear "Bo" (if that's your real name): The librarian mystique -- prim, proper and brainy by day, but transforming into wildcats after sunset -- can be intimidating. But don't be too bashful. Remember, Laura Bush was a librarian, and she settled for a smarmy frat boy who never read anything thicker than a Cliff's Notes pamphlet. His opening line was probably "Are you with me or against me?" or "If it's a date you want, bring it on."
Q. Dear Mr. Library Man: I think you're probably a peace-loving, tree-hugging counterculture McGovernik. Do you admit it?
A. Dear Reader: This kind of name-calling limits our abilities to engage in positive, constructive conversation. But if you happen to be a plundering, toxin-spewing McRobberbaron, then I suppose discordant discourse is part of your job description.
Barker is the librarian at Mark Twain Junior High School. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.