2015-04-16 / Sandy Days, Salty Nights

Misuse of library computers

Few subjects make me so uncomfortable as pornography. Even typing this, I blush. It’s the voyeurism of it, the watching two people (sometimes three; sometimes more, I suppose) that makes me squeamish. I like to believe that certain acts should be kept private.

Of course, I try not to judge what people do on their own time. It’s when they consume pornography in public that things get dicey.

Unfortunately, I’ve been running into a lot of this lately. I blame my printing situation.

For years I haven’t owned a printer. I travel too much, for one thing, and anyway printers always seem to be running out of ink or jamming or going offline — some trouble I don’t have time to fix. Instead of investing in this technological dead weight, I’ve learned to acquaint myself with the public library system wherever I go. I adore libraries, not only for their shelves of books, but because most offer computer workstations where for 10 cents a page I can print just about whatever I like.

Of course, before I access any library computer, I inevitably have to sign a disclaimer, a litany of warnings detailing inappropriate action that I promise not to engage in. I’m always in too much of a hurry to read these restrictions, but I imagine that watching pornography on library computers is high on the list of forbidden activities.

Which is why, I assume, the men I see on library computer workstations seem to be such music buffs. They’ll watch the same racy music video again and again, in slow motion, zoomed in to the best parts. Ariana Grande seems to be a favorite, especially the video where she shoots laser beams out of her brassiere.

Standing in line at the library help desk one day, I watched a man play this video through twice. At first I assumed he really liked the song, then I noticed his rapt posture, his jiggling leg, the way he gaped at the singer. When I realized he wasn’t watching for the music, I made a little harrumphing noise. These people, I thought.

Earlier this week, I found myself back at the library, parked at my usual computer workstation. I needed to print out a donation receipt for my 2015 taxes, a confirmation for a trip I’d recently booked and a return form for two bras I’d foolishly bought online. In order to print the return label, I needed to log in to the site where I’d purchased the underwear — an Italian brand known for its steamy lingerie. It never occurred to me that this might be inappropriate. After all, it was legitimate personal business. Right?

I’m not sure the older gentleman at the terminal next to mine would agree. He glanced in my direction as I filled out my return request for the bras and searched for the right form to print. I saw him raise his eyebrows as I scrolled through the lingerie site — image after sexy image — and then I heard him give an indignant little harrumph. Was that for me? I turned to him, and I swearIcouldread his thoughts.

These people. ¦

— Artis Henderson is the author of “Unremarried Widow” published by Simon and Schuster.

Return to top