Sometimes a simple walk is what’s needed. Stirs the blood, heats the brain to productive temperatures, invigorates the senses. Take today’s, for instance. Broke out the door earlier than expected, but not too early. Plan was to knock out my five clicks at a good clip, then get back home to dive into the day. You know exactly what I’m talking about … places to go, people to see, things to do.

My first three miles went better than “clock work,” ahead of schedule and feeling great. Every jogger and walker I met this morning seemed to have an extra spring in their step, faces radiating that distinct “we-love-the-Northwest-on-days-like-this” smile. The world couldn’t have been better.

As I moved along my phone ping’d with a message that our local library had a book ready for me to pick up, one I had reserved and charged to my account online. “Great!” I thought. “This is perfect.” By adding two extra blocks, I’d be there with no extra sweat, fetch the book and be on my way. Save fuel by not having to drive there later. But sometimes a simple walk can get …  complicated.

When I got to the library, there were lots of cars in the parking lot and moms were escorting little munchkins inside. Nothing unusual, because our public library is always chock full of people. And these kids were orderly — another indicator of a wonderful day. I followed right in the main door behind them and headed for the “ST Hold” shelf where my reserved book was waiting with my name on it. As I passed the service desk, I noted two other adults; a man walking three yards in front of me in an official uniform, likely a service employee, and an attendant at the desk to my right. About then I thought the day was continuing its perfection, since the hordes of kids seemed to have disappeared in the back somewhere.  And then ….

“Sir,” she says. JMPh-1

“She’s talking to the other guy,” my mind advised. “Keep going.” But the other guy did, too.

“Sir! … Sir! … SIR!!!!”

Having been a compliant child, I’m still somewhat of a compliant adult. Within reason. The voice had authority in it, so I turned to the woman who had apparently addressed me and said, “Yes?”

“Sir, are you going to Story Time?”

Amused at her question, I asked, “Story time?” I couldn’t see the capitals in her question and hadn’t the foggiest notion of her meaning. My thoughts were on power-walking, the day’s tasks and a library book, not events for munchkins. And then I thought, “Silver-haired, older man — and you ask if I’m going to story time? Am I in a nursing home?”

“Yes. Sir! Are YOU going to Story Time?!” She displayed ever more bombast, impatience.

“No ma’am. I’m just here to pick up my reserve book and leave.”

Maybe it was the southern “ma’am” thing, a lifelong habit instilled by other authority figures of long ago, that got her going? “You can’t do that, SIR, because the library isn’t. Open. Yet. So unless you’re here for Story Time you’ll have to leave!”  She pointed to the door with an emphatic arm stroke that would seriously hurt, were I in range.

I made another crucial error of judgment at this point — stupid me! “All I need to do,” I explained, “is pick up the book held for me — which I just got a text notice of — and leave. I checked it out online. May I do that quickly and be gone?”

“No sir, you may not! The library doesn’t open for another 20 minutes, so you’ll have to wait outside. That’s the RULE!” She was an excessively large woman, but now she inflated to enormous stature as she left her chair.

“Miss Rottenmeier?” I asked myself. But to the Ugly Attendant I said with a straight face and no ire, “Well, rules are certainly more important than people, for sure.”

“No sir, that’s not the point!” she said. Emphatically.

“What is the point?” I asked her, wondering, “Not have breakfast today? Not had your coffee yet? Fight with the hubby?”  I restrained myself.

“Well, if I let YOU do this, then EVERYONE will want to do it!”

“Ma’am, EVERYONE’S not here, only me. And I’m not going to tell anyone.”

“Sir, you have to leave now!”

Out the door I went in compliance, reflecting to myself, mumbling and grousing in my mind — under my breath — about taxes that finance libraries, silly “reasons” given and that are counter-intuitive, and automatons who are apparently not inclined toward productive thought. Why are the people at the bottom of an organization so often the ones who are most difficult to deal with — the gatekeepers who are self-appointed enforcers and who love to say “No”?

Recalling that the library doors had been literally wide open and I had not used force or nefarious means to get into the library, my mind argued with her through my shut mouth. “Never mind good CUSTOMER SERVICE.  Always better to make a customer wait until the exact time of opening than to just let the designed efficiency of the system function with the early bird and move him on out the door as a HAPPY CUSTOMER. Damn sure don’t wanna break any rules!”

See what I mean? It IS complicated. What about the RULES?!

Smile!  And have a great day!

© 2013 by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights reserved.

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One thought on “Story Time?

  1. “Well, rules are certainly more important than people, for sure.”
    “No sir, that’s not the point!” she said. Emphatically. You exposed the truth, and it caused her stomach to churn.

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