I don’t visit libraries very often. Inside are books, periodicals, National Geographics, shelves, computers, whispers, intellect and tables of content. And of course, there are librarians. They never smile. They always talk in serious monotones, never an intonation higher, never one lower. And they will mercilessly rip the optic nerves from your eye sockets if they suspect you have mishandled or mistreated a book.
I once arrived at the library checkout counter carrying a stack of seven books resting against my massive chest, the top book tucked under my chin to steady the load. I clamped an eighth book underneath my right arm and ribs.
What are you doing?” she asked, with spite so powerful that I was forced to look away because my corneas began to smolder.
“I’d like to check out these books, ma’am. What’s the matter? Has my library card expired?”
“As of this moment, sonny, you no longer own a valid card. That privilege belongs to civilized patrons of this library,” she sneered.
The library’s warden went on to lecture me about several policies and regulations I had broken. She actually used the word “violated,” implying I had dirtied the place, smeared a pestilence over its shelves and brought shame to the institution. She proceeded to cite my violations.
First, “all books should be carried with the bindings facing out, away from your body, in case you stumble and send the books sprawling to the floor." This technique apparently reduces the chances of dog-earring the pages. Second, “the natural body oils from your chin will, over time, degrade the bookcover’s fabric and leave a heathen stain.” Third, and the vilest of my crimes, “the perspiration and body odor from under your arm is now imbedded in that eighth book.” She informed me that I might as well have urinated on it.
She pointed out a grand total of twelve violations, seven over the limit. To further belittle me, she explained that three of my abuses were “category ones,” which made the other nine inconsequential, since my major violations qualified for the “strike three” penalty – lifetime banishment from any branch member affiliated with the American Library Association.
She finished my reprimand by sequestering “her” books and telling me that I could now look forward to a lifetime of stupid. As she turned away to head into the deep rows of book stacks, she laughed hysterically and added a little skip to her stride.
However, I enjoyed my own little chuckle during the drive home, knowing that the worldwide web would continue to serve my educational and literary needs. I wondered how anyone in the library profession could have forgotten about the Internet.
When I arrived home 12 minutes later, my computer had been confiscated. My wife described the women who kicked down the front door and seized our PC and smart phones as “extremely bold, emancipated and very quiet.”
(next post: conclusion of “Phobias” and the attack of the staple gun)