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“He thought her beautiful, believed her impeccably wise; dreamed of her, wrote poems to her, which, ignoring the subject, she corrected in red ink.” ”—
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (published May 14, 1925)
Today’s a good day to correct with red ink or buy flowers yourself… or re-visit an old classic like Mrs. Dalloway. Or if you’d like to learn more about the inimitable author, visit the Library’s Berg Collection, which is a lovely spot to learn a great deal about English and American Literature. In any event, have a perfectly Dalloway day!
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?”
Love my library job...
- because I get to order YA books and get it into the hands of teen readers
- because the programs I plan involve such disparate elements as collage and laser guns
- because not only does my baby son get to visit me at work, he can check out the newest picture books at the same time
- because I don’t pay library late fees
- because public librarianship, for me, offers just the right blend of introverted and extroverted work, and of physical and mental work
So I just got a voicemail from a librarian in Virginia who wanted information about one of my programs and in my head I’m thinking, “My Digital Storytime? Circulating preloaded ereaders? The Early Literacy Summer Reading Club just for babies?” No - she wants to know about my book club for 3rd - 5th graders. Ugh - can’t we talk about a program I’ve done that was wildly successful instead of the one that was just me begging kids to show up?