I opened the book return door and slipped a few unreadable books inside the bin. Clank, the big metal maw swallowed poorly (or scarily) illustrated and stupidly (or scarily) written children's books, a couple adult ones, too.
I dropped a copy of Hurry and the Monarch in, too. We'd all enjoyed the book featuring a monarch butterfly and a tortoise. I was sorry to return it. It was just about due. I paused before putting a batch of crappy CDs (do any libraries have really great music CDs?) into the bin. It was marked BOOK RETURN, not audio visual.
"Pathological adherence to the law," an acquaintance once said of his wife. The phrase stuck with me, perhaps because it describes me, or at least part of me.
I'd already violated several small New Jersey town library taboos. I parked my big honkin' truck facing the door and in manner that blocked parking spots, including a handicapped one. I dropped books in the bin while the library was open. Then, I lied (big taboo) and also made the ultimate transgression.
I knew the returns counter was just inside the door - this is the library I went to as a kid. So, I opened the library door, said, "Here's CDs. I didn't realize you were open." Lie. The library staff glared at me.
My kid was in the car. What could I do? Leaving a child in a car is The Ultimate Taboo. Yet, my pathological adherence to the law lead me to lie and leave my kid in the car for about 5 seconds. My pathological adherence to the law was driven me to think about this event at least 4 times today and relive it in written form.
When I returned to the car, Beren face was covered in tears. Was he terrified to see me go into the library briefly? What happened?
"You put my favorite butterfly book in the trash!" he gulped. The librarian came outside in her sweater and opened the bin, retrieving our books. I considered asking if we could have Hurry and the Monarch back.
Instead, I rolled our honkin' truck to the other end of the parking lot where the librarian could shoot daggers at my back instead of my forehead.
I explained that that was a Book Return and not the garbage. I described the difference between bookstores and libraries, using a couple Hopewell hot spots as examples. "So, when we go to Bobby's bookstore, we buy a book. It's ours and we take it home forever. When we get a book from Anne at the library, we borrow it and bring it back."
"It shouldn't be!" Beren exclaimed. It took awhile to talk him down. It's ok. When I worked at Barnes & Noble in Manhattan, I was frequently asked, "Where's the photocopier?", "Which books are circulating?" and simply, "Is this the library?" If adults who can survive in the Big Apple don't get it, then I don't expect a four year old to understand.
I suggested that we write down Hurry and the Monarch and any other library book we really liked. "No!" Beren said.
We finally drove away, dissatisfied that injustice had occurred but no longer crying.
Later while Jared read bedtime stories, Beren said, "Let's keep this one forever and not bring it back."
Hopewell, count your blessings because the local circuit with the library (Does any other library have such incredibly friendly staff?), Boro Bean, the Bear and the Books, Sticks and Stones, and two public playgrounds (one includes a stream), is not repeated elsewhere in the universe.