Sunday, August 11, 2013

Flashback (Flashbook?), 1982. "Now, listen. You really want to read this book, and I'm NOT going to let you leave here without it!"

I figured that after almost 10 years, I had shared every single one of my book memories on this blog.  Wrong!  I was in Hastings on Saturday looking at the biographies, and I saw this book, which triggered a memory:

During the spring and summer of 1982 when I was 19, I worked as a part-time library clerk at Nye Library, Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  Most of the time I shelved books, dusted the shelves and kept them in order, but on weekends, when we were really busy, I was allowed to work at the circulation desk.   Seeing what people checked out and answering questions about how to find materials suited me right down to the ground.

One Saturday, a young soldier came in and asked me if we had a copy of No One Gets Out of Here Alive.  After looking, I told him that it was checked out and there was a long waiting list.  He seemed very disappointed.  "Oh, that's too bad.  I really wanted to read that book.  I'm a big Jim Morrison and Doors fan."

It just so happened that No One Gets Out of Here Alive was the last book I had bought (at TG&Y) and it was also book I was currently reading.  Even as the soldier and I spoke, it was sitting in my Stone Mountain handbag in the back room.

I had an idea:  "I actually have a copy of that book.  It's here.  Would you like to borrow it?"

"You mean, borrow YOUR copy?  Oh, no, ma'am, that's okay.  You don't have to do that."

"No, really, you can read it and bring it back when you're done.  Wait."  I turned to go into the back room.

"Please, ma'am.  I can't take the book you're reading."

I am 100% sure that I had no thoughts of flirtation involving this guy.  The only hookup I was interested in was the one that would happen between him and the Jim Morrison bio.

"Now, listen," I said.  "You really want to read this book, and I'm NOT going to let you leave here without it!"   I wasn't a sergeant major's daughter for nothing.  I'd heard examples for years from my father about how to talk to young soldiers. Was I going to have to take him by the hand, make him understand?

 Before he could say anything further, I went back and got the book and laid the fat little mass-market paperback on the counter next to him with a decisive thunk.

"Well, if you're sure..."

"I'm positive.  Take it.  Bring it back when you're done.  Bye.  Have a nice day."  A line was forming behind him.  The full-time circulation clerk was giving me pointed looks. 

Still looking dazed and saying  "Thank you ma'am" and promising to bring the book back as soon as he was finished, the soldier headed towards the exit doors.  If he had the perception that people are strange, I'm sure I added to it, but hopefully in a good way.

I only stayed at that job for a couple of more months, so I never saw the soldier or my book ever again.  (I've never finished No One Gets Out of Here Alive, either.)  I'd like to think that he came back to return the book and was disappointed that we couldn't have a nice chat about how much he liked it.  I also like to think that I influenced him to break on through to the other side and think nothing of giving books away to fellow readers in need.

[Edited to add:  I was 20 that year, not 19. Oops.]


Jeane said...

What an awesome story. I've never given a book to a reader in need, but you've sure inspired me! I like to think he returned it...

Care said...

awwwww. I'm sure he MEANT to return it... Great story. You are the coolest.

Unruly Reader said...

Oh, I'm liking this story so much. Way to lay down the law in the name of literary happiness! I hope he still has the book and remembers that moment fondly.

ettible said...

This post brought back such great memories for ME! My dad's favourite band was The Doors, and he had this book on his nightstand for . . . well, 17 years of my childhood if it came out in 1982. I always thought the title was so romantic (and scary).