Last Thursday, as I mentioned, I spent all day at a library conference.
First, of course, I woke up at early o’clock, dressed in the dark; realized I hadn’t charged my phone; found the cord in the dark; hopped in the car and plugged in the charger; realized I had a tablespoon of gas in the tank; drove to the BP, filled the tank, and went in and overfilled (because I might have dozed off for a moment) an extra-large to-go coffee cup, while I was at it; drove to the designated library branch through the drizzling dark; put my coffee on top of the car as I reached back inside for my phone; grabbed the coffee with too much enthusiasm, popping off the lid and sending hot liquid all over my hand and pants . . . just as the rain started in earnest.
And then we drove the hour to the conference. Except for not being too sure our lights were on, or off, it was a pleasant drive—once I remembered how to adjust the mirrors.
The conference was great, as always. I learned useful stuff* and met new people and completely missed the two former co-workers I was hoping to see. I bid on far too many items at the silent auction— if I win all of them, I’m so screwed—and talked with several vendors who either offered products and services that might be perfect for my department, or proved that we already have what we need.
And I fell in love.
See, most library conferences cater to all kinds of librarians, and some of those librarians are children’s librarians. So in the vendor rooms, amid the microfilm machines, the database providers, the book distributors, the tee-shirts with READ on them, the furniture manufacturers, the 3-D printers (which was Cory Doctorow amazing**), the archival products, the cataloging modules, and all the intellectual playthings . . . there are toys.
And this year, there were puppets.
Animal puppets, bird puppets, insect puppets, people puppets, amphibians, reptiles, astronauts, royalty, fairies, and even a dump truck puppet. And on one display, the miscellaneous puppets.
Which is where I saw him. His eyes aren’t quite aligned. His ear-horns are slightly off-kilter. His colors are . . . bright.
And then I saw him smile.
You guys . . . there’s a squeaker in his tongue.
But I resisted. And visited between sessions. And named him Philburt. And maybe moved him to the back side of the display so he wouldn’t be so obvious . . . which is when I fell in love again.
My reasoning went like this: Philburt needs a friend, right?
Especially a zany friend with difficult hair and a taste for earrings.
Except I work all day, so other arrangements needed to be made.
So I bought both before my last session and put them in my Conference Tote Bag™, where they peered over the edge and drew commentary and questions about our children’s department, and then more commentary—in the form of puzzled expressions—when I admitted that I worked in genealogy and reference.
But I don’t care. I had Philburt, and . . . his friend, who didn’t have a name for a few days because this is one puppet who isn’t into gender labels.
So I asked Jane. And she said, “It has to have burt in it.”
“No, but if we ever get a dog . . . ”
We stared at him for a while, and then Jane started to grin. “Zerbert!” she said, giggling.
I blinked. “Perfect!”
And it was.
Naturally, we tweaked the spelling a little, since we figured such a fashion-sideways creature would appreciate a little flair.
They live on my desk, though they’ve been spending a lot of time hanging with Sunny. She helps them have these insanely weird conversations about cheese and “All Star” by Smash Mouth,*** with voices and nose-bumps, and I’m planning on recording those on my phone from now on, because I can’t stop laughing long enough to get a good grip on my pen.
These two aren’t the only reason the conference was absolutely worth the early wake up call and the first-degree burn and wet pants—because library conferences are a blast, really—but they’re in the top five, easy.
*I attended a talk on giving effective presentations (which was, indeed, effective), one on promoting government advocacy and locating relevant information through websites and social media (which was fascinating), and one on workplace safety (which was amazing).
**The woman I talked to showed me some pencil holders and business card stands that she’d just printed, patted the shiny, shiny glowing machine and said, “We’re giving some of these away this afternoon.” My jaw dropped and she laughed said, “Oh! No, I mean this stuff!” and pointed to the printed items. I was so bummed.
***Zyrburt prefers the Spice Girls, which was a surprise. I was also surprised that Sunny knows who the Spice Girls are and had a conversation with Jane about her use of my Netbook, Smash Mouth, though, is all on me and I’m not sorry.