I went to a different library branch today than I usually frequent to pick up a couple of nerdy books about Chaucer. I hate going to a different branch, even though almost all of the town libraries have more convenient hours of operation than my local does. I hate it! Those strange, unfamiliar librarians! Those strange, unfamiliar floorplans! Those strange, unfamiliar Belarussian seasonal workers emailing home that are not MY Belarussian seasonal workers emailing home!
The worst is the librarians. My relationship with my regular librarian is like many people’s relationships with their bartender. She knows me. She knows what I like. She runs me a generous line of credit. If she feels I deserve the penalty for overdue books, she lets me pay when it’s convenient. If she feels I don’t deserve the penalty, she makes it go away. Poof!
How does she differentiate, you ask? Easy. Fines on books she doesn’t approve of, like the latest Janet Evanovich or Anne Perry or any Martha’s Vineyard-based murder mystery, she charges me. But if I need a few extra weeks with Anne Lamott, Philip Pullman, Marge Piercy, or maybe Joe Ellis (even though I told her about his nefarious past, he’s still an outstanding historian), then she quietly clicks delete when they come up as overdue on my account.
She’s also an old hand at theatre, so she pimps hard for the shows I’m involved in, and she taught English Literature at a prestigious college near my prestigious college, and she occasionally lectures on art history. Get the picture that no other librarian in town could possibly hold a candle to her?
It doesn’t help that the librarians at this other branch today are of a particularly snooty brand. But I squared my shoulders and went in, figured out their stupid, foreign floorplan, and found the books I wanted. Then I stood patiently at the circulation desk while the librarian yelled at the Belorussian students emailing home, because they hadn’t “signed in.” The Belorussians made the excellent point that it shouldn’t matter that they hadn’t signed in, since there were several other computers available and nobody waiting, but the snooty librarian was having none of it. So the Belorussians shrugged, ignored her, and went back to typing in Cyrillic.
I already had one strike against me because I was wearing a Yankees shirt, something I rarely do around here out of sensitivity to the fragile psyche of Red Sox nation, who can’t seem to see an interlocking NY without either flying into a rage, sputtering in umbrage, or breaking down in sobs (seriously, despite last year’s historic win, some people’s knees still buckle at the mention of Bill Buckner). My nemesis librarian was wearing a little enamel pin of a teddy bear wearing a Red Sox jersey. A… teddy bear. And she turned her nose up at me. She probably wears blinking little Christmas tree earrings in December, and oversized Tom the Turkey applique sweatshirts in November. Seasonally-themed clothing and accessories make my eyelids itch.
My second strike against this librarian was recorded when I realized I had left my library card at home (but my usual librarian never needs my library card!) and so she had to look me up in the computer system.
Then she saw the fines.
Ooooh, you have over eight dollars in overdue fines… I can’t let you take these out until you pay this balance!
I don’t know what came over me — maybe I just wanted to confirm the opinion of several that I am secretly a gangster hiding from my nightclub-owning past — but I responded by leaning way in over the counter at her, narrowing my eyes meaningfully, and telling her that I had an arrangement with the librarian on my side of town, and that we would take care of it… between ourselves. Then I just silently, balefully, stared back at her.
After a blink, and then a more rapid double blink, she scuttled back to the keyboard, scanned my books through, and hurriedly stacked them next to the metal detector near the exit.
Things to do today:
Terrorize little old ladies who volunteer at the village library.