This article is reprinted from a previous blog. I killed off that blog because it had become sentient and tried to take over the world. Enjoy.
We were expecting a new baby and my lovely bride’s nesting instincts kicked into high gear. She didn’t want to bring a new baby home to a dirty house, so she called a maid service and told me to take the kids and get lost for about four hours.
I had planned a day in the park, but Mother Nature had other ideas. Cold rain and sleet pelted the city all day. Then I had a great idea: I’d take the boys to the public library! I hadn’t been to a library in years and was looking forward to the experience. My kids quickly found books and quietly settled in for a good read. Not possessing a library card, I headed for the front desk.
The bespectacled gentleman behind the desk kindly directed me to a table covered with application forms. It was fairly standard – name, address, phone number, e-mail. I quickly filled out the form and signed my John Hancock on the bottom, signifying my understanding the library police would find me if I was late returning a book.
I returned to the desk where the same gentlemen carefully inspected my form.
“Would you like internet access, sir?”
“Then you’ll have to fill out the back, too.”
“Oh, okay.” I flipped the form over. With the exception of a question asking what password I wanted and what level of internet access I desired, the form was almost identical to the front.
I went back to the table and wrote in a password I could easily remember and checked my desired access level. I returned to the gentlemen behind the counter, who inspected the back of the form.
“You need to write down your name, address, phone number and e-mail address.”
I was a little perturbed, but didn’t show it.
“All that information is on the front of the form. Do I have to fill out the name and address information again?”
A few minutes later I was back with my library card form, both front and back completely filled out.
The diligent municipal civil servant carefully eyed both sides of the form for well over a minute, turning it over several times and strumming his fingers nervously. I was getting nervous, too. Did he know about all my overdue books from 4th grade?
“Sir, I need your full middle name on this line.”
“That’s my legal payroll signature block. Why do you need my full middle name?”
“I’m sorry sir, but that’s our policy. I need your full middle name.”
I sighed and added the rest of my middle name to the initial.
“On the back side, too, please.”
Keep your cool.
Once again he studied the library card form. Chewing on the end of his pencil, he flipped the form back and forth.
“I need to see a picture ID.”
I pulled out my active duty military identification card and handed it to him. He didn’t give it a second glance and handed it back to me.
“Do you have a driver’s license?”
“Why yes, I do.”
“May I see it, please?”
“Why? Won’t my military ID do?”
Resigned, I pulled out my driver’s license. Being in the military, I had a different permanent home of record than my current duty assignment. Since I renewed it in the mail, my license had no picture. He looked at me, looked my drivers license, back to me, then back to the license.
“This is out of state and doesn’t have a picture.”
“I’ve been stationed here for almost three years. I’m rather fond of my photo on my military I.D, would you like to see that one again?”
He handed my license back.
“Is this address correct?”
“The one on the front or the back of the form?”
Alarmed, he quickly turned the paper over, then shot me a nasty look - smartass.
“Do you have something with your current address on it?”
“Yes, you’re holding it.”
“No, I mean something official.”
I fumbled through my wallet. Funny, but nowhere among the countless unpaid credit cards, membership cards, and receipts did I have anything with my current address on it.
“No, I guess not.”
“I’m sorry then, but I can’t issue you a library card.”
Here I stood, able to produce two legal forms of ID, one of which was the ID card of an active duty military officer in the armed forces of the United States, and I couldn’t get a public library card.
“You’re kidding, right?”
“I don’t kid about things like this.”
“Let me try this again,” I said calmly, “What do I have to do today so I can get a library card and check out some books for my kids so they won’t go home heartbroken?”
I really think the guy wanted to help. It was either believe that or strangle him.
Looking out the window at the downpour he smiled and asked, “Did you drive here?”
After running through the parking lot in the pouring rain, I returned with my car registration; definitive, legal, soggy proof I actually lived where I said I lived. With a self-satisfied smile the Dewy Decimal Defender presented me my library card like a war medal. I looked over my shoulder hoping someone was taking a photo for posterity.
“Is there anything else I can do for you, sir?”
“Actually, yes there is,” I said, stuffing my new library card in my wallet next to my soaked automobile paperwork. “Get a job at voter registration.”
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