What if I pay you in pebbles?

11 Dec

Yesterday I stopped by the library on my way home from work to pick up a book. My least favorite librarian, Rita the Regulator, was manning the check out desk. I’d actually surmised that before I set foot in the library, when I called from across town to see if they would be able to use my license rather than my library card.

This is how she answered the phone: “This is the Z- Branch of the District of Columbia Library. This is Ms. X- speaking. Go ahead.”

Um: Go ahead? Are we on walkie-talkies?

Anyway, fifteen minutes later I was in line, waiting to check out a book. Rita was informing the young woman in front of me that she had two fines she’d need to pay before she could borrow another book.

“If you’re going to pay cash, you’ll need to go to the main library – the Martin Luther King branch. Or if you’re going to pay here you’ll need to bring in a certified check or money order. Or you can go online if you’d like to use a credit card.”

The woman looked stupefied. “Well, how much is the fine?” she asked.

“Ten dollars,” Rosie told her. “Five for each item.”

The woman paused, looking thoughtful, then asked, “Will you accept canned goods?”

SERIOUSLY? I think you’ve gotten your wires crossed, ma’am. This is not a high school dance, a pub crawl or an office holiday party. Where else do cans constitute currency unless you’re ten years old?

Original Image Source: http://www.christmascharitiesyearround.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Canned-Food-Drive-2012-resized.jpg


To Rosie’s credit, she didn’t berate the woman. In fact, her literal interpretation of the world must not leave any room for humor, because she simply said, “No. I’m sorry. We cannot accept cans.”

Good to know. 

10 Responses to “What if I pay you in pebbles?”

  1. thesinglecell December 11, 2012 at 9:34 am #

    Hahaha “Go ahead.” Like “over.” I love when one kind of crazy meets another kind of crazy and their brains kind of short-circuit. You walk around thinking that crazy people can relate to each other and understand each other and then there it is, evidence that you are not correct in that assumption. PS what kind of madcap policy does the DC library have about fine collection? What the what? That’s a lot of hoop-jumping. And does this woman just walk around with $10 worth of canned goods stashed on her? That’s kind of a lot of beans.

    • pithypants December 11, 2012 at 10:39 am #

      Right? I hate dragging canned goods home from the store. I have a limit of two cans at a time. So I’d have to pay on the installment plan, making five trips to pay off that fine. MUCH easier to just go to the bank, get a money order, and come back. Or hoof it across town so I could pay in cash. Or… yeesh. It’s like they don’t actually want to collect fines.

  2. The Byronic Man December 11, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    What about pelts? She should have asked if they take pelts.

    • pithypants December 11, 2012 at 10:37 am #

      Good point. Because DC is known for its trappers.

  3. dianeskitchentable December 12, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

    Whoa…how long do you have to be overdue to rack up those fines? The 2 libraries I go to don’t charge fines at all anymore, they just say “well bring them back when you’re done reading them”. If there’s a wait list for the book then they’ll call you.

    • pithypants December 13, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

      I think DC looks for revenue at any opportunity. Although – to be fair – they have a 30 day courtesy window where you can bring it back late and there’s no charge. So she must’ve kept these things for MONTHS. In which case, I think it’d be more effective if they just slapped her on behalf of the other people who wanted the materials.

      • dianeskitchentable December 13, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

        omg – over 30 days late? Slow reader or big books? Yeah, that would be someone who asks about paying in canned goods.

  4. hollybernabe December 17, 2012 at 3:21 am #

    I feel sorry for that woman. I’ve been where she is. It is easy to forget to return or misplace something, especially if one has kids and the kids decide to read what you have. My daughter is a voracious reader and starting to read grown up books. On more than one occasion I’ve had to ask her to look for a book she’s borrowed, lol.

    To ask to pay in cans probably means she doesn’t have cash at all and is likely very poor. If she’s on public assistance, she can buy food using food stamps. If she can pay with cans, she may be taking food out of her mouth, but at least her debt to the library is paid and she can use the resource. I’m not surprised she had two books out so long that it added up to $10 in fines. At my library, the fine is 25 cents a day (no grace period that I’m aware of). In three weeks, she would be over $10. So…yeah. Poor lady.

    • pithypants December 18, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

      Actually, don’t have your heart broken, Holly! I wouldn’t [knowingly] pick on someone in need. My library is in the heart of GW University’s campus, and the woman in front of me looked about 19 and well-dressed (North Face + Lululemon gear), so I’m thinking she was looking for an alternative payment plan.

      • hollybernabe December 18, 2012 at 11:42 pm #

        LOL! Well, I guess she doesn’t know if she can (pun intended) use an alternate payment plan unless she asks… 🙂

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