I was at my law school for a continuing legal education seminar and was required to attend a meeting in a particular conference room at the law library. I gave my purse and books to a colleague for safekeeping and went to the bathroom. When I came out, the layout of the library had changed and I couldn't locate my colleague. I began to walk around looking for the main circulation desk.

The building was circular with a central elevator and several open staircases. I walked up and down stairs and around each floor, over and over. The floors became more crowded with students each time I passed through. Every chair at every work table was filled. Soon, people were milling about in all the open spaces and through the stacks so that I had to constantly say "excuse me" and nudge my way through an unfriendly crowd of law students.

I could not find the main circulation desk, though I passed by several departmental desks that were attended by librarians, who increasingly noticed my pacing and searching. A librarian stopped me and asked what I was doing; I said I was looking for my colleague who had my purse. She gave me a small wooden box that fit into the palm of my hand. It was made of oak and had smooth curved sides. She pressed it into my hand with force and stared at me for a long moment.

Breaking away from the librarian's gaze, I continued searching for my purse. On my way up a staircase, I dropped the box. I looked down and watched it fall in slow motion through the open staircase, free-falling several flights and smashing to pieces on the ground floor below, directly in front of the main circulation desk.