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Aaron Johnson: The library card

Today I went to my local library.  

I like libraries. Libraries smell good for some reason.  

I stopped by to pick up a book of short stories and to get a new library card. My address had changed since my last one and they needed new information.

The lady behind the sheets of plexiglass asked for my driver’s license and slid an information sheet across the counter. As I filled in blanks, she transposed the information from my license to her computer terminal. She finished her data entry about the time I came to the first question that gave me pause.  

There on the info sheet was a blank for my email address. That certainly is not an unusual request since most of the civilized world, and parts of Georgia, communicate by email. It was the comment in parenthesis that was highlighted in bright yellow that caught my attention.  

There beside the email blank, in bright yellow highlighter was the word “required.” My email address was “required.”  

I asked the kind lady and she assured me it was required. She even went so far as to tell me that if I did not have an email, I could not get a library card.

After asking a few obvious questions about the requirement for an email address, I realized it did not make sense and the kind lady would not be able to make it make sense for me. I gave my email address.

After providing my email address the next line that followed asked for a password.  

Do you remember life before passwords? Remember when just your name and address would unlock the wonders of the cosmos? A password for a library card just seemed to be beyond reason.  

For just a moment humor me and think of the usefulness of a password that I wrote on a sheet of paper that will be filed away so every person in town can see it. My bewilderment was growing.

We then moved to the phone number section. It asked for a cell number, a home number, a work number, my wife’s number, and a couple more I can’t remember. Four blanks for phone numbers and I could complete only two.  

The library card is in serious jeopardy by now.

The next line asked for the name of my cell phone provider. I looked at her and asked why they needed that information. The kind lady said, (and I swear this is what she said) “So we can text you.”  

Any reader who really knows me is fully aware of how my tolerance for stupid evaporated with the fourth coronary bypass in 2019. “Seriously?” I asked.  

The next question just jumped out before I could stop it. I asked, “Do you know the cell service provider of everyone you text?” The kind lady did not reply.

The next blank asked for the name of someone I knew. Honest to goodness, just someone I knew. I have a lot of friends in Germany. So, I listed Hans and some German sounding last name.  

After turning in my paper and expecting a pass or fail response, she asked for Hans’ phone number. It was foreordained; I was not getting a library card. I started, “Country code is 011…”  

With that she stopped me, “Wait, someone in town.”  “It doesn’t say that” I replied. The kind lady was just a lady now.

At this point my desire to read any of Washington Irving’s short stories just evaporated. My phone was in my truck, which I thoughtfully left in the parking lot, and all the numbers were safely stored therein. The part of my brain where I used to store phone numbers is now busy with passwords.

By this time, I was in need of a short vacation and a few hours of therapy.  

I thanked her for her help and told her I would pass on the card right now. “It looks like I’m dying pretty soon anyway. I will never get the full use of the library card. And I doubt I would pass the physical or FBI background check,” I explained.  

For the time being, I will just keep ordering books online and continue to build my library. I don’t need a card for that one.

Aaron Johnson is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News. He is pastor of Christ Redeemer Church in Guntersville.

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