As the title suggests, I can’t say no even when I would very much like to say hell no. I am sitting at the library, minding my own business, when a woman approaches me. She is short, skinny, wears a long skirt, has a scarf on her head, has a look between a fundamentalist Christian and a hippie, and just generally has that look of a poor soul.
“Excuse me, do you have a library card?” she asks. It doesn’t occur to me to lie to her as I warily say yes. “Can I use it to get on the computer and finish a letter I was writing?”
“Well yes sure,” I answer, scanning the room for my mom in hope of her guidance.
I envision all the illegal things she could do with my account.
What if she’s a predator and I get blamed for it?
What if she’s committing credit card fraud and I get blamed for it?
What if she’s a hacker and I get blamed for it?
What if she’s threatening people and I get blamed for it?
What if she’s about to take over the world and I get blamed for it?
What if my head explodes from worry?
But I hate to offend others or not help them, especially when asked. Later she comes back and I have to use my card again to print out her work. I really want to cop a look as it prints, but I am mindful that that would be rude, so I will never know. I think I stole 35 cents from her, though, which is now on my library card (and conscience) because she inserted a dollar in there and I think her copies only cost 65 cents. I guess the only ethical thing to do is hope I see her again sometime when I have change. Boy, I annoy the shit out of myself. Lucky most of this sort of stuff I can hide in my head. It isn’t even that I fear punishment for short-changing someone, it’s just that nervy feeling that I’ve done someone or something wrong.
I think since I’m writing about library cards and offending people I will tell two incidents from when I was back in college earning the Fries-with-That degree. Now Downtown, where the community college is, is Homeless Central and the bum population all knew I was good for a dollar or two (I just sorta look like the kind of person who will not tell someone to get a job or to f off). I always was of the mind you shouldn’t be mean to them, that most of them are mentally ill, what if no one would help you out, and that if they ask for it? It would be unkind to say no even if all they were going to do is get drunk or weren’t even homeless. Yes, I am a sucker.
Anyway, a man I hadn’t seen before approached me, said he just got out of jail, and talked me out of a couple of dollars. He wanted me to shake his hand. No problem except his hand had many cuts, not scratches, big ass open wounds. Blood of the human variety is perfectly horrifying to me and hurting someone’s feelings is perfectly horrifying to me, so I was totally at a loss. Quick decision made and fast as lightning I tap the tip of my fingers at the part of his palm that seemed the least bloody for one second tops, but was certain I had HIV for the next few years. Being an avoidant sort more than a hypochondriac, in I worry I have a dread disease but really, really don’t want to know for fear I couldn’t take the news. My best friend, however, says if I had anything, it would have showed up several years later in my blood cell count the last time I consented to a general blood test 4 years ago (I have only been to gynecologists twice in my life….the first time I screamed, the second time I was only silently horrified….I will go again if I ever become sexually active and the way that is going I’ll probably be 50).
As for library cards, there was the time I nearly didn’t graduate due to my college library card. It was 2003. Time for math, time for math. I think I was about 26, old enough to know better. Seriously, when God handed out common sense, yours truly was absent. My therapist is kinder. She says I have common sense, I’m just naïve. Truth told, I’m a naïve dumbass, albeit a well-meaning naïve dumbass.
I was in the school library and as I was about to check out, a girl I didn’t know approached me. She didn’t have a library card, had a paper due the very next day, and begged me to check out a book for her.
It only gets worse from here. Dumbass.
I told her sure with only the slightest apprehension. She said she could show me her driver’s license.
Now what did I say? It’s pure Dumbassian. Someone please cut down these trees so I can get a good view of the forest dumb.
“Oh, don’t worry about it. I trust you.” I imagine this is where that girl probably heard the rattling inside my head, pretty hollow in there. Did I tell you I was a DUMBASS? I will reiterate it now, lest you forget:
So the weeks rolled by and I got a letter from the school library. It would seem that girl hadn’t returned the life-or-death-necessary book and with fines I owed my institution of higher learning $50.00 I sure as hell didn’t have. I had to pay up or they wouldn’t graduate me. Fuck an A!
May this be a lesson to you, Lisa Ann B. Just because you wouldn’t do something like that doesn’t mean everyone wouldn’t do it. Noted.
A few months went by and my brain filed the incident under “experience,” the 50 bucks and diploma under “Things to Do When I Can Afford It,” and the state of my intellectual prowess under “Dumbass.” I went and got the mail, and voilà, there’s my diploma. Apparently the girl brought the book back a few months late and either paid the overdues or my favorite professor got them to forgive the fines because he had tried before to get me forgiven altogether. Perhaps I am the first person to graduate college and not even know it. Life is funny that way.