It was the fourth snowy day in a row, the same year Mel Lastman called the military in to help snowplow. At around eleven a.m. the public library called to tell me the book I’d put on hold had arrived.
I was still in my PJs, and given the weather, I should have stayed home, but the book I’d ordered was a self-help book. Yet another of the many I read that promised to fix something I had deemed unacceptable about myself.
I pulled up my clodhopper boots and threw on one of my husband’s huge Eddie Bauer parkas. The hood was lined with wolf fur, and as I tromped down to the St. Clair library, slipping and sliding, I could see nothing on either side of me. When I stepped inside the doors, I threw my head back to remove the hood and a wave of heat smacked me in the face. A man lying between the doors looked up and said, “Shut the goddamn door.”
I knocked off as much snow as I could and walked into the library. It was packed with runny-nosed toddlers and some stressed-out woman animating a story for them. There were people sitting at the computer, and others talking to them.
Quiet is not longer a tenet of library-going, and most days there is no reading going on at all.
I grabbed my book from the bins and in the check-out line discovered I had forgotten my wallet, which contained my library card and all identification. But the woman at the counter had checked out all my previous self-improvement tomes, and as I got to her I whispered,
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“I have forgotten my ID.”
“You have no ID? Well, I can’t check you out if you have no ID.”
“Yes, I get that. See, I’m Deborah Kimmett. I was in here last week checking out The Power of Now.” She stood there like the woman in the American Gothic painting. “Before that, I got Codependent No More, The Erogenous Zones, The Habits of Highly Effective People. Come on you checked me out, remember?”
“You could be anybody. Anybody could say they are Deborah Kimmett.”
Why would anyone claim to be me?
“Yes, I know I could be anybody, but I am not. I am Deborah Kimmett. If you look at my record…”
“I don’t have time to look…”
I looked around and no one was behind me. “Please, I don’t want to have to walk back home.”
“Show me your ID, or move along.”
I am not proud of what I did next. I resorted to name-dropping.
Technically when you name drop you are supposed to drop other people’s names.
But I began dropping my own name. “Deborah Kimmett — I have several books in your system. If you look me up you will see that I am published in this library.”
This was an outright lie. I had one book in their system. My play Miracle Mother was lent out in two libraries in the Toronto system and I received about $69.00 a year for it.
She snorted, “If I made an exception for you I’d have to do it for everybody.”
I looked around the room. The woman who had been acting out the storybook was now trying to chew the lid off a childproof bottle of Tylenol. And the homeless man was being removed by security. As I put my book back in the holds stack, I felt a rant coming on. I walked back up to her.
“Yes, wouldn’t it be awful if you let people read self-help books without a library card? What if all the people improved? What kind of world would be it?”
“Shhhhhhh! You keep your voice down. Shhhhhh.”
“You keep your voice down.” I said this under my breath because when a librarian says “shhh” I am wired to obey. But I hit myself on the chest and continued to do a stage whisper as I exited. “I am Deborah Kimmett, I am an avid reader and a published Canadian author. Is this how you treat the very people who are the reason you have your job?”
As I tromped back home I was fuming. Why I’ll have her fired, and if they won’t fire her I’ll have “the several books” I’ve written removed from their system.
One play. I had one play in the library system.
When I got home and took off my coat, I caught a glimpse of myself in the hall mirror. I had ketchup on my chin (which turned out to be jam when I licked it off), my hair hadn’t been combed since God knows when, and I still had my teddy bear flannel pyjamas on.
I had gone to the library with my pyjamas on.
So, I grabbed my identification and go to the library, stepped over the man who was somehow back sleeping between the doors. When I got to the lady behind the desk, I said, “Yep, it’s me. I am back.” Her anal sphincter drew itself into a knot. “Look, I’m sorry for losing it. I know you must have a lot of nonsense dealing with the public and I am really sorry I lost my temper.”
“Yes, you were very rude.”
There was not going to be a happy reconciliation. I handed her my ID and said, “Again, I am sorry.”
She opened the front cover, adjusted her carpal tunnel brace, and brought the stamp down like a hammer. “Due February 13th.” As she handed me the book she smirked and fired one last shot over the bow, “Here you go, MARGARET ATWOOD.” Then, she goose-stepped off to the non-fiction section.
Insert comedic rim shot here. Librarian 3. A well-known Canadian author. Zero.
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Blog first published in 2010.