“...And so this post will serve to say that we’re okay with all of it, really! The Library would just be a big empty building without you! We’re glad you are here.”—
Some things you don’t need to apologize for are:
- I don’t have time to read
- I don’t like to read
- I haven’t been to the library in a long time
- I’m sorry to bother you…*
- I have fines.
- I can’t find…
*Especially this one. Do not feel sorry for talking to a library staff member! You are the reason we are here! We are glad to hear from you!
“We think because we have words, not the other way around, and the greater our vocabulary, the greater our ability to think conceptually. The first people a dictator puts in jail after a coup are the writers, the teachers, the librarians -because these people are dangerous. They have enough vocabulary to recognize injustice and to speak out loudly about it. Let us have the courage to go on being dangerous people.”—Madeleine L’Engle
This is a bit longer and more heart-warmy than I normally post on this blog, but a friend thought I was crazy for not posting it here. So here goes!
You know those shows where someone throws a dart at a map and goes to the town they hit and randomly chooses someone from the phone book and finds something remarkable about that person and does a story about them? Well I had an experience like that, but the remarkable person just wandered into my library looking for donuts.
Let me back up.
An older man walked up to me at the reference desk and this was our exchange:
“I’m looking for the nearest place to get Krispy Kreme donuts. See, I’m 83 years old and I thought it was time for a Krispy Kreme donut.”
“Good idea!” I said, and typed my query into the vast Interwebs. “Ohhhhh…looks like the closest store is 134 miles away.”
“Is that right! I was willing to drive a little ways, but….” he said, dejected.
“Sometimes they sell them at grocery stores and gas stations. Let’s check!”
I did another search to no avail, asked some coworkers, called the corporate number and found that stores that carried them were even further away.
“Well, thanks for trying,” he said, looking miserable.
I hate not giving people the answers they want. So I said,
“Lucky for you, I’m going to Los Angeles this weekend and they’re bound to have some there. Tell you what, call me on Monday morning at 9 and ask me if I have some donuts for you.”
“I couldn’t ask you to do that!” he said excitedly.
“But you didn’t ask. Plus, you’re 83!” I said, writing down my name and the library’s number for him.
After a marvelous trip (a picnic in a sculpture park, a night at the symphony, brunch with friends, shopping, a Sarah Silverman sighting, ooh), I stopped at the Krispy Kreme in Burbank and ordered Bob a dozen glazed (and some chocolately ones for me).
Sure enough, on Monday morning, Bob called. “I have a dozen little sumthins for ya!” I said happily. He came straight over.
When he arrived, he was very grateful and thankful and pulled out a neat stack of money (not a wad, a stack) and offered to pay. But I’d already thought up a great idea to avoid an awkward money exchange.
“I won’t accept money, but if you would tell me one interesting story about your life, over a donut,” I said, licking my lips, “you’ll be off the hook.” So we broke all the rules and started eating donuts in the library as he told his story.
Bob was the editor for his steel company’s magazine in the 1950s when the Cold War was brewing. The United States government decided to send 11 people to Russia as a sort of cultural exchange (read: to spy on them). They sent an athlete, a businessman, and some others, and decided to ask one magazine editor—Bob was nominated. Not only was he an award-winning editor, but also a freelance photographer who’d won all sorts of awards. He went to Russia for six months and took 3000 color shots of everything he could get his sights on, including the Kremlin, sometimes hiding his camera in his jacket and coughing to cover the sound of the shutter. When he got back to the U.S., the government took possession of 250 of the pics, he made a documentary film about his experience, won several civilian awards, and was asked to speak and show his film all over the country.
“You’re a SPY!” I said.
“Oh, I’m just a dying man who wanted a donut.”
“Well, now you’ve got eleven. Now get out of here and save the world.”
“Call me if there’s anything I can ever do for you, you hear?”
And turning to my coworker, he said, “Isn’t she remarkable?”