Do you ever call up the public library information desk? I never have, but I always think of doing it. I’ll wonder about something and think, I’ll bet the library information person could answer that . . . but I don’t call. Because that seems like kind of a lazy way to find things out. I think the person would say to me, “You lazy slug! Come to the library and look it up!” So I just keep wondering.
I have a friend who works at the library, sometimes “on the desk.” Since it’s her story I’m telling here, I’m going to call her . . . Easy Writer. So EW gets a call one evening from a young man with a very heavy accent of some ethnicity that she has thus far neglected to specify, but if she reads this and wants to email me with an ethnicity, then she can. Otherwise, just fill in the accent of your choice. EW tells me the caller was speaking very quickly, and she always feels bad when she can’t understand someone, doesn’t want him to feel self-conscious. But still, she has to have him repeat the question a number of times.
The caller is asking, “Do you have the American Almanac?” EW finally gets this.
“We do have a copy of The Farmer’s Almanac. Would that help?”
“Are there animals on the cover?” He asks hopefully.
“Yes! Yes, there are some animals on the cover,” says EW, thinking she’s found what he was looking for.
“What animal am I?”
“Excuse me? What animal are you?”
He then tells her his birthday, in early February, and asks again, “What animal am I?”
EW figures that since he’s associating his birthday with an animal, he may be asking for a Zodiac sign. (Hmm, that’s new. Instead of the old, “What’s your sign?”, now it’s “What’s my sign?” But I digress.) She tells him that he would be an “Aquarius,” and she offers that they have a copy of Sidney Omarr’s book for Aquarius.
“What animal is that?”
“Aquarius isn’t an animal. It’s the ‘water bearer.’”
“Does it have a fish tail?”
“No, you’re thinking of ‘Pisces, the fish.’” EW could tell he was disappointed not to have a fish tail. She offered to look up what animal he was in the Chinese zodiac, but no, he wanted what was in the American Almanac.
Then he decides to take another avenue toward discovering his animal. “Is the otter in the groundhog family?”
EW is nothing if not thorough, so she looks up “mammalian taxonomy” and discovers that the otter is in the family MUSTELIDAE, and the groundhog is in the family SCIURIDAE. The caller has no appreciation for the thoroughness of her efforts.
Turns out he wanted to be a groundhog all along. He was born near Groundhog Day, so it only seems reasonable that he should be allowed to be a groundhog if he wants to. And while it would have been nice if the American Almanac had confirmed it . . .
When EW told me this story, I thought it was just a funny story. Writing it out now, I see the progression that the caller followed to get where he wanted to be all along . . . from water to fish tail to otter to groundhog. I see that the caller wanted what most of us want — someone to confirm, to make it official, that we really ARE what we’d like to believe that we are.
So, what animal are you?