Pet Peeves

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By Mark Crantz

I was in line at the Laguna Public Library. I heard the guy in front of me say to the librarian, “I’m here to return the library to the village of Laguna Beach.” The librarian answers, “May I see your library card, sir?” The guy says, “Sorry I don’t have one.” The librarian cringes. “Then pray tell, how did you check out the library in the first place?” “I’m not sure, but I’ve had all 3,565,000 books since 1970.”

The librarian takes a deep breath and breaks from her softly controlled library whisper to shout, “####. You’re way overdue.” She hits her calculator from the same year, 1970, and pronounces the overdue bill for $6,506,125,000.” The guy shrugs his shoulders and says, “I don’t have it. Would you waive the bill if I told you that I was a friend of the library?” The librarian doesn’t hesitate. “I wouldn’t shave off a dime if you told me you’re Johannes Gutenberg and invented the printing press.”

I’m stuck in line wondering why I’m always behind these troubling transactions. I suppose there must be difficult checkouts behind me that I just don’t know about. It doesn’t feel that way. For instance, I always pick the wrong cash only lanes on the toll roads. Always, there’s a guy’s head in the car in front of me bobbing up and down looking for enough spare change between the seats, on the floorboard, and in the glove box to make the amount due. Then an eternity later, when he has gathered enough coins of the realm, he throws it at the change machine. It’s then that he realizes that he forgot to roll down his window. The bobbing recommences.

Actually, I read in the Indy about this troubling library transaction that’s before me now. City officials are trying to beat a Jan. 20 deadline to exercise a purchase option detailed in a 1970 agreement with the county for construction of a library at Glenneyre Street and Laguna Avenue. The agreement covers the building and parking spaces around it.

The librarian explains to the guy that she’ll accept a cashier’s check, credit card or wire transfer. The guy asks, “How about bitcoin?” The line behind me grows out the automatic doors. The doors are opening and closing in sync with toddlers trying to get in for their reading hour. The crying children are an accelerant to the the heated return. “Bite bitcoin,” shouts the librarian losing her cool. “Let’s start over,” suggests the guy.

Nobody in line is happy to start over. I start to cry along with the children. The building itself seems to be weeping from noise not heard since its 1970 construction. The guy from the County is unflustered. “Ma’am, you don’t understand. We own the library since 1970. You checked out the books and never returned them to the county. I’m here to collect. You owe us $6,506,125,000. But I’m happy to tell you…we accept bitcoin.”

 

Crantz tells the Indy that he loves the library. His books are never overdue.

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