I was volunteering at the Manitoba Libraries Conference today and I learned… not a lot about library stuff. This is because I was working the registration desk in the afternoon and almost everyone had registered in the morning. I pointed people towards the rooms for their annual general meetings and stuff, but there wasn’t a lot of complex work to do. Selah.
That actually turned out great because I was working with this nearly-90-year-old guy at the desk. He was the kind of old guy who just liked to talk. He talked about victory gardens in World War 2. He talked about Henry Morgenthaler, and about the creation of the Canadian health care system. He talked about an 1100 year old bible with marginal notes written in French from some museum in London. He talked about the Mackenzie King diary and how he found the errors in the digital copies made by the National Library. He talked about his daughter giving basic law school lessons in Laos: “You see, they used to have a Napoleonic code and then the communists got rid of it all. Now that people are allowed to own things they need lawyers to teach them how contracts and wills work.”
He told a great story about a colleague of his from Finland who went to a conference in Tokyo in the early 1970s. By train. There was problem after problem with visas and all these things to get through Russia and China. Once he was on the train and they were crossing Siberia they kept on having to stop to let trains loaded with tanks pass them “on their way to the Chinese frontier.” He told me about getting kicked out of an art exhibition in Madrid because Franco’s soldiers were setting up machine guns.
He talked about the importance of early child development and how all the fundamentals we need to be able to learn are pretty much set by the time we’re three, so when those get messed with, it’s catastrophic for a society. He talked about how in Canada, the more educated you are, the cheaper your healthcare is, which is why early childhood education, “especially in our northern communities” is so important.
He’s got some chip in his car that monitors his driving habits because he’s part of a study to try and “keep old fogeys like me off the road.” He wasn’t angry about it, just talking. He’s got a little bit of old man drift to him, but you could tell he’s a smart guy. He was a doctor, now retired so he has time to be on library advisory boards. He told me about some of the rural boards where politicians get on the board to make policies and proudly proclaim “I’ve never read a book in my life!” and he’s there to try and counter that.
So yes, I didn’t do a whole lot, but got to hang out with the guy I’d like to be in 60 years.