Sunday, March 18, 2007
My gaffes help lighten their days
(First appeared in Orlando Sentinel March 11, 2007)
Embarrassing things happen to me at libraries.
Once I absent-mindedly returned my DVDs to the library rather than to Blockbuster. Lisa, an aide at my local branch, thoughtfully corrected my gaffe. She dropped the movie off at the video store on her way home from work.
"Lots of people do that," she told me later when I confessed my error. "But don't worry, we got a good laugh out of it."
While I might be amiss at choosing the correct item to put in the appropriate return slot, I'm a whiz at providing amusement for the library staff. One time I stopped at the same branch to return a couple of books and borrow others. When it was time to leave, I stepped up to the checkout counter where Wayne, another library aide, was awaiting me.
"What do the police say when they pull you over?" Wayne asked as I approached the counter.
"Huh?" I muttered.
"When the police pull you over," he probed patiently, "they ask to see your drivers license and your what?"
An amused grin inched across Wayne's face. On my own face was a blank stare that reflected my cluelessness. Raising his left hand, Wayne waved the official document in front of my eyes. Realization struck like an anvil.
"Agh!" I groaned, staring at my car registration.
"I know," he said, no longer trying to hide the cheap laughs my blunder afforded. "You left it in the book you returned."
He was right. I did leave it. By mistake, of course. I put my registration in the book temporarily, intending to put it away properly when I got into the car. But I got busy and forgot.
After that, I tried being extra careful, more attentive and less preoccupied. Still, I made silly mistakes. Once I dropped off a bunch of books only to realize that one of the books might have been borrowed from a library in a different county.
Most libraries in Central Florida have reciprocal borrowing programs. For no fee, residents of one county can borrow from libraries in adjacent counties. Because I adore libraries and travel extensively, I have a wallet containing library cards from four counties.
I have to be diligent keeping track of the titles I check out because books must go back to the right county. I also have my scattered moments and the books can get mixed up.
That's what I thought happened a few months ago. After dropping off the reading material at my local branch, I headed home only to realize I may have left one wrong book. From the car, I called the library on my cell phone. I asked the aide to see if the book was there. She couldn't find it. I insisted it must be somewhere in the library, so she checked again. Still nothing.
"Please look again," I begged, but still no book.
That's because I hadn't dropped off the wrong book after all; I only thought I had. It was at home on the night table where I had left it.
That's why, before entering the library the other day, I paused to clear my mind and focus. I really didn't want another embarrassing encounter.
"Hi, Wayne. Hi, Lisa," I said.
After exchanging small talk, I searched for a good read. About 15 minutes later, several novels and an audio book in hand, I was ready to check out.
"What's the limit?" Wayne asked, holding up the card I had handed him.
"What'd you say?" I asked, unsure I had heard correctly.
"Your card," he repeated. "What's its limit? Ten thousand dollars? More?"
In Wayne's hand, just out of reach, was my MasterCard, the same color, size and shape as my library card.
All my cards -- library, charge cards, gift cards -- live in my pocketbook in a single compartment. It's easy to pick up the wrong one by mistake.
I've handed the grocery clerk my library card before. Why not "pay" for my books with my credit card?
Sighing audibly, I admitted defeat, "And this time I was trying so hard not to do anything stupid when I came in."
"But if you did that," Wayne said turning to Lisa for confirmation, "what would we do for fun on Thursday nights?"
Lisa smiled and nodded, as Wayne and I exchanged cards.
It may be unrealistic, but I look forward to the day when I can venture out in public without doing embarrassing things. Some people go to libraries for peace and quiet, others for study or knowledge. I suppose my mission -- at least there -- is to entertain others. We all follow paths in life. Someone has to play the clown.