Rules Girl vs. The Damaged Library Book

I’m a Rules Girl.

It’s not a point of pride. It’s not a choice. It’s who I am. It is bone deep. Soul deep. The very thought of flouting order makes me incredibly anxious. I wish it were otherwise. How I long to be impulsive, a free spirit, one who can leap over boundaries with abandon and anticipation of the non-rules-following delights that await. That’s not to say I don’t have my tiny forays outside of regimen and structure. I’ve taken two free samples when the dictate is clearly for one. I’ve crossed against the light. On rare occasion, I’ve taken more than 12 items into the express lane at the grocery store (though only with assurances from the cashier, and profuse apologies for my own presumption).

In addition to being a Rules Girl, I’m also a book-loving, avid reader girl, which means borrowed books receive the greatest of care. I’ve never failed to return a library book, and I’ve always returned it in the condition it was given to me.

Until last week.

In brief*: read book in bath. Successfully extricated self from tub, dried off and got into TARDIS pj pants, turned to retrieve book and knocked it into tub. Froze. Panicked. TO THE INTERNET! Shoved book in ziplock, stowed in freezer. Realized that was absurd. Found no better options. Lamented not being able to finish book. Scolded self. Refocused. Spent two days hoping the freezer trick would magically work. Got an email that the book was due to be returned. Freaked out some more. Confided in a friend. Was assured that this was, in fact, the worst of all transgressions. Sucked it up. Went to the library.

Two clerks were at the front desk. Fortunately, no patrons were there to witness my shame.

Me: Hi. I need to make compensation for a water damaged book. I’m sure I’m not the first one to have to… I mean, I hope I’m not the first…

Clerk 1: Yes. You’re the first one ever.
Clerk 2, simultaneously: You’re not even the first one today.

Me: (basically) Right, then. Here’s my money. I’m totally ashamed. Oh gods, why is this not done yet?

Clerk 2: It’s common. You put everything in one big bag, and your water bottle isn’t closed all the way…

Me: …

YES. That is exactly what happened.

Clerk 1, handing me my receipt and my change: So you have another book checked out due back on the 5th.

Me: Yes. Which I will return to you unscathed.

Clerk 2: We’ll see.

So that crisis is resolved, and my panic has been set back to everyday levels. I’m almost certain I haven’t been added to the Library’s Most Needed To Be Kept An Eye On list. Still, I feel as if I’ve failed the rules on a basic level. I’ve betrayed the trust of the library, and I’ve betrayed books on the whole. I’ll be doing inner-community-service for some time.

Rules are rules, even it they’re mostly the ones I make for myself.


*our definitions of ‘brief’ may vary


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