Yesterday the library of La Casa Encendida was full. It tends to fill up on Sundays, because it’s one of the few work places in Madrid which is open all day on Sunday. As I was waiting for my turn, I overheard a conversation
— “You know which is the best library to study in Madrid?” (this caught my attention, of course). — “Hmmm, Pedro Salinas?” (I could barely contain my contempt) — “No, stupid. It’s the library of la Universidad Complutense. There’s so much space. It’s a shame it’s not open to the public on weekends. Yeah, they ask for your Complutense ID on weekends, rest of the week is free access”.
I was tremendously intrigued. The Complutense University is quite close to my house, I just had to check it out. The next day, after some fumbling around my bike on foot paths through the campus I reached the library. As in Mexico, much of the public education buildings are graffitied with leftist slogans. My heart wrenches when I see this: public property should be sacred for people of leftist inclinations. But I am a guest in this country so I observe these things with detachment.
I might as well add equal disappointment in libertarian groups I’ve met in Madrid. They espouse science as their highest ideal, yet when faced with difficult questions which don’t fit their ideology (say, environmental issues) they go to extremes to avoid or minimize the issue. I recognize the behavior from fundamental Christians: when faced with difficult questions they behave exactly in the same way.
Back to the topic: the library at UCM is massive. It has all kinds of work settings: a spacious hall where you are allowed to talk (for group studies), Ikea Poäng Rocking chairs all over the place, small private study areas, large tables for social yet quiet work. It’s difficult to convey the size, it surpassed the largest study space I’ve been in Madrid, perhaps by a factor of 10.
But, I couldn’t connect to the internet. I approached the help desk, and the lady gently asked me if I had a UCM card. “No”. “Ok, from which university are you coming from?”. Erm, university of life? “Sorry, I thought this was a public access library”. She was gentle enough to make an exception, and gave me a login and password which would work for the day.
The bustle of university students made it an interesting day, but not very adequate in terms of focus. At lunch time I went out to the grass and produced a tupperware of chickpeas. It was the most boring meal I’ve prepared myself, ever. It wasn’t even unsavory, it was simply so bland it was remarkable. I inspected into the sensation of blandness: there is nothing to hate, nothing to love. It was so boring I felt more compelled to swallow and get done with it faster. Chewing was a waste of effort. I don’t even know why I’m wasting time describing boring chickpeas.
I went back into the library to finish the task I had set myself to do, but I felt an outmost resistance to it. I felt the blandness of the chickpeas in work, and felt I had to go back home to add some spice to work. I was in a bad mood, and I couldn’t recognize why. Then I remembered I had ceased smoking. Perhaps it was this.