I thought librarians were kind, bespectacled people; quiet and demure, always ready to toss in an extra day or two of grace for those forgetful souls who neglect to check the due dates on their borrowed books.
Last week I came close to being photographed and fingerprinted. I got off lightly with a reprimand, public humiliation and a psychological tarring and feathering instead. I had one overdue book. Well…there may have been one or two unpaid fines showing up on the computer, too. But did she have to be so loud?
I had finally made the effort to venture out to return two bags of well-read books. Once I arrived at the library turnstile, I slid the pile of books into the ‘return here’ slot and made my merry way into the library in search of more reading material.
The librarian smiled as I plopped my new books on the counter. She tried to zap my library card with her technologically correct magic wand. Nothing. Her computer jammed. Her smile slipped away. She eyed me suspiciously and in a megaphone-like voice said, “Your library card privileges have been suspended. Come over to the other side of the desk.”
“Uh…” I glanced around feeling a multitude of eyes upon me as I meekly followed the sergeant-major librarian to the guilty section.
Beads of perspiration formed on my forehead. “Why…uh…can’t I use my…uh…library card?” I smiled a sickly grin. “Just a minute!” she hollered. “I’ll check on this computer to see what the problem is. Aha!” she cried, managing to attract everyone in earshot. “You owe us money. You have an overdue book out.” She continued to speak in shrill tones. I suddenly recalled a notification I received earlier that week. “Dr. Seuss!” she screamed. “You have a Dr. Seuss book out.” I felt a fool. I wanted to scream out, “It was a biography of Dr. Seuss - not Green Eggs and Ham!” to all the now tuned-in patrons who were pretending to browse amid the nearby books.
“It’s in the book depository,” I whimpered. “Wait here! I’ll check,” she ordered. I saluted and stood to attention. Moments later she returned clutching the delinquent book. “You owe us sixteen dollars and forty-five cents!” “Sixteen dollars and forty-five cents?” I gasped, feeling a little like green eggs and ham, myself. I thought it a bit of a stiff fine for one overdue book. “The computer is showing fines dating back to last November and December,” she wiggled her finger at the flashing screen “Oh…uh…yes…well, okay…I remember now.”
My face was crimson and my salivary glands felt paralyzed. “Would you like me to pay?” The sergeant major only raised her eyebrows and punched a few computer keys. “Will you take a check?” I inquired, fumbling through coins and coupons. “Yes! We’ll take a check. Your fines amount to sixteen dollars and forty-five cents,” she repeated once more with emphasis.
I gave her my check and, without uttering a word, she signed out my new reading material. I thanked her and she dismissed me.