You think books are harmless? You think book cannot kill? Let me tell you something.
Last week, as I was at home indulging myself with a PhD examination on a bright, sunny morning, I got an email from Reception at work. My bookshelf had come off the wall. My first reaction was, “Hell, I must interrupt my pleasurable pastime and go to the office”. My second reaction was, “What a nuisance, I have just sorted all the books, and it will take me ages to put them back”. Third reaction, “All my Alice and Moomin mugs will be broken”.
I didn't go to the office that day because it made no sense: what could I do other than watch the ruins? I suppressed all thoughts of it, but yesterday I felt that I had to go, out of propriety. (Mind, I could have been away on holiday or conference).
My first reaction as I opened the door was, “It doesn't look all that bad”. The holes had been painted over, the books were in neat piles all over the room, the Alice and Moomin and Peter Rabbit mugs had miraculously survived – a few other mugs of less affectionate value were broken, as well as some picture frames.
The porters saw me coming and gave me a full account of what it looked like when they discovered it. “Did you have your books in any particular order?” asked one. “Luckily no one was there when it happened, another said. It would have killed them”.
Fifteen minutes later it hit me.
This bookshelf with its sharp corners and its tons of books could have killed me. Or a student. Or a cleaner.
It doesn't help to know they have filed it as a “serious incident”, that an inspection stated that wrong fittings had been used, and that they will give me a new and safer bookshelf. It's like having been in a minor car accident, and cannot keep imagining what could have happened a second before or after and turned it into a major accident. A fatal accident. I may not have been here to tell the story.
Image: Colin Thompson