The Brand New Library Book That Stressed Me Out!
Opening an old library book is like being the first cop at the crime scene; you’re never sure what you’re going to find. You might find pages ripped, folded, or even torn out. Pages can be water damaged (at least we hope it’s water). Red stains can be blood or catsup or both. Brown stains can be… I don’t want to talk about it. And those tiny yellow-green pieces of debris that stick to the pages? Ugh. I wash my hands a lot after reading old library books.
But new library books are different. New library books are exciting. The books themselves are flawless and unblemished. There won’t be any water damage, or folded pages, or red stains, or green-yellow specks that stick to the pages. I might not have to wash my hands immediately after reading a brand new book from the library.
And today I checked out a brand new book from the library! At first, I felt great about my selection. It’s a recently published book, a bestseller. I’m kind of interested in it. I don’t have to pay anything to read it. There probably won’t be any unpleasant, unsanitary surprises waiting for me. But then I realized something.
Being the first to check out a brand new library book can be a high-pressure situation. If anything happens to the book, I’ll get blamed. I can’t drink coffee or eat spaghetti around the book. I can’t fold the corners of the pages as bookmarks. I can’t walk outside in the rain with it. I can’t let anybody in my family do those things either. It’s my responsibility to return the book in the pristine condition in which I checked it out. If I were the third (or even the second) person to check out the book, I could blame somebody else for any new blemishes. I would have plausible deniability. But when you’re the first person to check out a library book, there is no deniability.
I gave a speech to my family about how to treat the new library book. It was a guest in our house. The librarians and future book readers would judge us by the condition of the book when we return it to the library. Nobody else was to touch the book, I declared. Nobody was to move the book, breathe on the book, not even look at the book. Nobody else was supposed to be in the same room as the book (except me). If our house caught on fire, my family was instructed to rescue the library book first, and then the dog and the family pictures.
I had a couple close calls with this brand new book. As I was reading, I felt a sneeze coming. In a nick of time, I tossed (but did not throw) the book to the couch on my right, and then I sneezed to my left. I washed my hands afterward and returned to the book. The next reader to check out this book might not appreciate my efforts, but I did what was necessary.
Later, somebody in my family left a cup of fruit drink next to the brand new library book. When I asked who had done such a careless thing, nobody would confess. I was outraged! Somebody had snuck into the room where the brand new library book rested, in clear violation of the orders that I had given, and placed the cup within spillage range of the book. If the cup had been knocked over, the brand new book would have been drenched in purple. I couldn’t have returned a brand new book drenched in purple to the library. I would rather have paid for the book than suffer the humiliation of returning a brand new book drenched in purple. It would have come out of somebody’s allowance, I can promise you that.
I don’t like these high-pressure situations. I try to avoid them as much as I can. My heart rate goes up, and I don’t think clearly. Book reading should be relaxing. I don’t want to be tense when I read a book (unless the book itself is so good that I get tense). I don’t get like this when I’m reading brand new books that I myself purchase. After all, I treat my own books casually. I use them as coasters, paper weights, and back scratchers. They’re my books. I can do with them as I please. I might read them again, but I probably won’t. I have my limits, though. I don’t bleed on my books, and I don’t fold the corners as book marks, and I have never rubbed anything green-yellow onto my own (or anyone else’s) books. I pride myself on good hygiene.
After getting stressed out, I realized there was only one thing I could do. I locked the brand new library book in a safe until I’m at a point where I can read it some more or return it to the library. Now the book is safe from sneezing noses, coughing mouths, bleeding hands, and fingers that like to rip and fold. It’s even safe from fire. I just hope I can remember the safe’s combination.