Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Hostile Hospital, Chapter 4

I had the genius idea while getting ready to read this chapter that perhaps I should put the Christmas tree lights on. I like to have them on at least once a day. Then I thought it’s a bit too bright with the main light on, so I turned it off. Now the tree lights look lovely but I’m having to squint at this book. Oops.

What Happens?

The Baudelaires have volunteered themselves to help in the Library of Records. They report to Babs who is just a voice on an intercom and believes that children should be seen and not heard. They are then given directions to the Library of Records where they meet Hal, a short-sighted man with a unique filing system. He recognises the Baudelaires from somewhere but it takes him a moment to remember where exactly.

Thoughts as I read:

I really like the picture that kicks off this chapter. It’s a perfect illustration of how the hospital is only finished on one side. The last chapter likened the unfinished half to a line drawing and it’s quite well done here. The two halves are mirror images of one another, except one is neat and finished and the other looks like the front has been cut away so you can see inside. A nice touch is that even the trees in front of the unfinished half look unfinished; they haven’t got any leaves on them!

The chapter opens with a reminder of how unpleasant it can be to stand outside of an office; citing the principal and the dentist as two just so unpleasant encounters. We’re then reminded of all the other offices that the Baudelaires have found themselves standing outside of over the last few books and how none of these meetings have gone well for them. I know they want to get inside a Library of Records, but if they feel this way about going to someone’s office you have to wonder why they volunteered in the first place!

It’s only once they’re outside the office that Violet voices one of her worries; she’s not sure if they should be taking this risk. Klaus points out that this is the only way they’re going to get into the Library of Records which is followed up by Sunny saying ‘Curroy’, meaning ‘Besides, the Quagmire triplets are far, far away, and we have only a few pages of their notebooks. We need to find the real meaning of V.F.D.’

The conversation continues as Klaus wonders if the Library of Records might be able to explain the tunnel that led from Dark Avenue to the Baudelaire mansion (I think Klaus is setting rather too much store by the Library of Records here). Sunny adds ‘Afficu’ which means ‘And the only way we’ll get into the Library of Records is if we talk to Babs, so it’s a risk we have to take.’ Once again Sunny has kind of taken charge of the situation. Violet’s been getting more and more unsure of herself through this series and now it’s Sunny who is making sure that someone makes the big decisions, it’s just as well because if she didn’t they could stand dithering outside this office forever!

One of the first things that Babs says when the children go inside is how she’s been reading the paper about the murderous children on the loose. The children are safe though, Babs isn’t actually in the room. Instead she’s talking to them through an intercom on the desk.

And she’s as bad as all the other adults we’ve encountered in this series. As soon as she learns that the children are children she tells them to be quiet as they should be seen and not heard. Ironic considering she can’t see them right now. She then asks them a question about the most important thing in the hospital (I’ll give you a clue, it’s not making people better) and snaps at Klaus when he tries to answer. Apparently that was a rhetorical question.

For the curious, the most important thing they do in the hospital is paperwork, obviously. Babs is sceptical about the children’s suitability for this role as they are unlikely to have administrative experience. Sunny points out ‘Hend’ meaning ‘Actually, I worked as an administrative assistant at Prufrock Preparatory School’. Babs neither understands, nor cares, children are supposed to be seen and not heard remember. She then explains the way to the Library of Records and asks them if they have any questions. Obviously the children do have questions, but they’re smart enough not to voice them.

As the children head off for the Library of Records we learn a little more about the hospital. There are intercoms and signs everywhere. It’s a bit risky as there are people around who might recognise them so they have to keep on stopping to look at the maps of the hospital on the walls so no one sees their faces. They’re just now beginning to realise just how dangerous it will be to head back to the van at the end of the day; personally, Library of Records or no, I would’ve been out of there as soon as I got off the bus. Violet wonders where they can stay each night and Sunny suggests ‘Half’ which evidently means the unfinished half of the hospital.

Klaus is unnerved by this. I don’t blame him, in my head the unfinished hospital is kind of like the abandoned hospital in Frighteners. Violet points out that it can’t be any worse than the Orphan Shack, to which Sunny adds ‘Danya’ meaning ‘Or the bedroom at Count Olaf’s house.’ These are both fair points.

And so they come to meet Hal who works in the Library of Records. He wears teeny tiny glasses and can’t see much even with those on. This is convenient because it means there’s one less person to spot the Baudelaires. Violet translates Sunny’s ‘Wolick’ as ‘we’re very happy to be of assistance’ and they’re all invited in to see what their work will involve. Apparently in this world you don’t need to go through any disclosure process or training to be let loose with people’s personal details. Fun!

The first room they come to contains nothing more than an intercom and a bowl of fruit but the next room is where the magic happens. From the description it sounds something like Warehouse 13, except it’s filled with filing cabinets. Oh, and the documents are filed using Hal’s very own brand of filing. And none of the documents are for reading, they are there to file, not to read.

So we are educated in the ways of the Library of Records. Paperwork comes in, paperclips are removed, they figure out where it should be filed while reading as little of it as possible, then they tell Hal so he can unlock the filing cabinet.

“You only have to read a few words to see that these paragraphs are about the weather last week at Damocles Dock, which is on the shore of some lake someplace. So you would ask me to unlock cabinets in aisle D, for Damocles, or W, for weather, or even P, for paragraphs. It’s your choice.”

I would laugh at this, but when I’m organising my books or DVDs I sometimes have fairly arbitrary categories so I’m not really one to talk. Klaus doesn’t share my organisational hang ups though, so he points out that this may make it difficult for other people to find this information. Hal brushes this off and asks the children to start straight away. He also needs ‘some sort of sharp object’ to open the cabinets he’s lost the keys to; Sunny’s reply? ‘Me!’

There’s a tense moment where Hal is sure he’s read something about the children, but he can’t think what or where he read it. Klaus is worried that this means Hal is onto them after reading The Daily Punctilio but Hal tells them that the paper never prints anything right and so everyone is relieved and can relax a little.

They’re all about to set to work when Hal suddenly remembers where he read about the Baudelaires. It was in the Snicket files.

Oooh, now we’re getting somewhere!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Let me know what you think. :-)