Straw Breaking the Camel’s Back

Dear UM Undergraduates,

I’ve accepted that it’s part of the social landscape now for you to walk into a wing of a library that is supposed to be used for study and instead use it as an open-air forum for your cell phone conversations, and I’ve accepted that some of you don’t care what you discuss on those cell phones in front of God and the world, whether it’s your bets on major league baseball playoffs, your breakups with the latest frat boy, your failure to convince your mother to loan you money for your trip to Cancún, your rage at your professors for assigning you so much work, your inability to skip a class to be at your girlfriend’s tryouts for some collegiate activity because you’ve already skipped four lectures in a row, your cretinous roommate and the noises that emanate from her alimentary canal, or your numerous and fascinating sexual dalliances.

But I must draw the line somewhere. One of you walked in this afternoon while I was sitting at the reference desk, and as though it were a perfectly normal and indeed necessary thing to do, opened your laptop, turned on your laptop’s MP3 player and speakers, and without so much as a hint of awareness that this might be anything but an act for which you deserved praise and applause, started playing — no, broadcasting — Alphaville’s “Forever Young.” I will admit to a split second of curiosity as to how a song that was released before you were born wound up on your laptop, because I thought that nowadays any song older than a few weeks is automatically suspect if not anathema, but I figured it was probably a track on the latest “OC” soundtrack or something.

I was limitlessly grateful to this young woman for cutting off the next MP3 on her playlist (a vapid re-recording of “Strawberry Fields Forever” by some anonymous latter-day stand-and-model outfit who wouldn’t be fit to lick the soles of Lennon’s shoes if he were still alive) before it got beyond the :30 mark. Thank you. However, in the future, if you feel the suuden, overwhelming urge to play Alphaville in a library, please use a set of headphones.