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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, June 24, 2024

Michael Goetzman | Spotlight

There I was, in the library, sleeping with my head against an open logic book, tumbling through some sporadic dream episodes, waist deep in a placid, slow wave snooze when, all of a sudden, the turtle in my dream turns to me and, in an uncharacteristically stern voice, says "Attention please! Attention please! The library will be closing in fifteen minutes ..."
    Looking down with crossed eyes, I noticed that the crevice of my logic book had filled with drool, creating a tiny stream of — knowledge? To my surprise, the turtle's voice continued: "Please bring all materials you wish to check out to the circulation desk now."
    Trying to shake off that disorienting groggy sensation of sleep inertia, for a second or two I seriously considered the possibility that the turtle had transcended the dream/reality barrier to tell me to get the hell out of the library. Since this was my first time hearing the voice in the library, I was intrigued by the source.
    Frequenting Tisch thereafter, I would listen to the voice, surmising the austere being it belonged to — wondering if it roamed the library like a ghost, and just how it managed that strict, no-funny-business tone while retaining a sort of friendliness.
    My curiosity peaked one night, and I decided to ask the bored-to-tears guy at the circulation desk if he knew anything about the man behind the voice, the God by the Quad, the Wizard of Oz-some.
    "Hey man, I've got a weird question for you..." I began. He gave me a condescending smirk as if to say, "Try me, jabronie." So I asked if he knew who the guy was; the question didn't faze him much, but, by the looks of him, I don't think anything could. He didn't know and didn't care, but directed me to the library's administration office with a languid point of the arm.
    The genial woman at the office's front desk referred to the man behind the voice as "Mr. X" and generously made a few calls for me. She informed someone, who I believe was Mr. X's secretary, that I hoped to speak with the man. I left unsure if I would be able to; the woman at the front desk told me I would "need to be cleared" before speaking with him and that she would contact me in the near future.
    I was informed via e-mail a few days later that I had passed muster and was "cleared" to contact Richard Fleischer, code name Mr. X.
    When the day finally came to call him, I was a little nervous. The week or so leading to this moment had imbued him with a certain mystique that made me apprehensive as I entered his phone number.
    I counted every ring. Thirteen painstaking rings — no machine. He picked up, and I spoke hurriedly at first, but eased as the questions formed themselves. I asked him how long the library had been using the recording. "Seven years at least, if not longer," he responded evenly. To the best of his knowledge, he has had no predecessors — he is the first and only voice of Tisch.
    Remembering the time he first recorded the announcement, he said, "My goal was to alert everybody of the library's closing and be forceful in tone, to verbally appear stern." I assured him that he succeeded in doing that. Laughing, he added that he has recorded a number of lesser-played announcements that only a fortunate few have heard.
    After imagining who or what the voice might have belonged to, you can imagine my surprise when the Wizard of Oz-some told me that he runs the library's media center during the day — working his magic behind the aisles of films and divvying out myriad movies to the masses. It makes so much sense, but who knew?!
    Now, every time I hear that stern old recording, I wake up and wipe the drool from my cheek — recalling his warm laugh recorded in my memory.

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