Monday, December 21, 2015

The Overdue Library Book Notice is the Perfect Representation of All My Life's Failings

Ah, the overdue library book notice. Nothing quite so perfectly encapsulates and represents all of my life's failings.

This is the second overdue notice I've received for Ms. Sue Has No Clue! by Dan Gutman, pictures by Jim Paillot. See, after the first one, I tried to throw money at the problem, only to have it thrown back (politely) in my face.

"Let me just renew this for you," the friendly librarian at Juneau's newest, nicest public library branch smiled warmly. "We're not allowed to accept payment for books until . . . " I zoned out on her stated condition (the only information that mattered) and tuned back in when she said something about maybe finding the book at home or at school.

I turned to Paige, who for an 8 year-old is honestly pretty good at plucking random objects on demand from the swirling, whirling, gyre of shit that churns within our home like an apocalyptic Category 5 hurricane viewed from outer space.

This time though, she shrugged hopelessly. "Think honey," I said urgently. "Think hard. Where did you last see that library book we took out last month?" Of course I'd already asked her this question ten times before unsuccessfully attempting to buy off the Juneau public library system.

"I don't knoooow, moooooom," she whined. I sighed in exasperation and whispered loudly so that the librarian could hear my model parenting: "See? This is why we can't have nice things. And by nice things I mean library books."

But I knew it was at least partially my fault.

I should have known better than to introduce a public asset such as a library book into our shit hole of a home. What goes up must come down, but what goes in does not necessarily have to come out. Our house is like the Hotel California in this way. You can check out a library book anytime you want, but you can never leave the house with it in your hand again.

We left the library having kicked the can of this problem another two weeks down the road, and I didn't think of it again until yesterday, when I received the second overdue library book notice for Ms. Sue Has No Clue!:

Being in an existential sort of a mood, I began to contemplate a deeper, Magritte-esque meaning here. The overdue library book notice n'est pas simply an overdue library book notice.

It was also a succinct and accurate representation of all my life's failings: My failure to raise a child who respects books long enough to keep track of them for even a day; my failure to keep track of library books myself; my impulse to simply open my wallet in order to solve any minor dilemma; my failure to be on top of any deadlines unrelated to my job; my disrespect for a quaint but nonetheless important cultural institution; the chaotic state of our home; a general life-long theme of forgetfulness, misinterpretation, and overall proverbial boat-missing.

All of this coalesced into a formal reprimand from the library, and if it was not apparent earlier, it surely is now why I need therapy simply to deal with the banal vagaries of daily life.

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