Library Fines

library bookshelvesFor the first time ever in my life I got a library fine.  It wasn’t much, only thirty cents.

It was totally my fault.  I took a book out and simply assumed that the loan period was three weeks (which is normally how long one can keep the book).  But this book has hundreds of holds on it and for these highly-in-demand books, the loan period is two weeks. I could have checked — and there are multiple ways of doing this online — but I didn’t.  

When I brought the book back this morning and asked to pay the fine, the librarian looked up my account on his computer and said, “Never mind, you’ve never had fines, so forget it.”

His leniency actually made me feel bad.  I know that the library imposes fines only as a means of making sure that users return their books.  The fines are so small that I don’t, for a minute, think that they are a source of revenue for the library.

I felt bad because I had broken the commitment to return the book on time when I took the book out.  It’s all part of good citizenship, just like not littering, sorting the recyclables from garbage, not spitting, and thousands of other obligations that we have as citizens. We may not think much of fulfilling these obligations, but they are really what enable us to live harmoniously in a community.  It is never about whether we will get a fine for breaking the rules.

 

 

Any Human Heart (William Boyd)

Two passages from the book that resonate with me:

That’s all your life amounts to in the end: the aggregate of all the good luck and the bad luck you experience.  Everything is explained by that simple formula.  Tot it up — look at the respective piles.  There’s nothing you can do about it: nobody shares it out, allocates it to this one or that, it just happens.  We must quietly suffer the laws of man’s condition, as Montaigne says.

Here’s a dark thought for a dark night: we all want a sudden death but we know we’re not all going to be provided with one.  So our end will be our ultimate bit of good luck or bad luck — the final addition to the respective piles.

Coffee spoons

Picture of Ground coffee spoon and brown coffee beans in the background.

 

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;” T. S. Eliot The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

The drip, drip of the IV — that’s how I measure out my life these days.  It is my life and J’s life too that is draining away with each drop.  I have told friends and family that I would take it a day at a time (later amended to a step at a time); in reality, the unit is no more than one drop of the trial medication at a time.  As long as the drops continue, there is hope — not of a cure, only of more time borrowed.  Today, I felt the threat that the drops may now stop.