I went to the library yesterday to pick up three books I’ve reserved.
One was Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl—a classic, nonfiction book about holocaust. The other was Artemis by Andy Weir—his recently released book after The Martian, which I love. The last was The Woman Who Fooled the World—a nonfiction book by journos Beau Donelly and Nick Toscano, telling the story of con artist Belle Gibson, who made millions by claiming that she had healed her cancer by eating a healthy diet. Thing is: she never had cancer.
I was excited, because all three books have quite a number of reserves.
I walked to the reserved bookshelf, and found the first two books easily. But I couldn’t find the latter.
Weirdly, I found the book’s reserved docket on another book. So I showed that docket to the librarian.
“I couldn’t find my reserved book,” I said, “but the docket’s here.”
“That’s weird,” she said, taking the docket from my hand. “Have you checked the surrounding books? Sometimes we make mistakes.”
“Actually, this docket is inside another book that someone reserved.” And then something clicked in my mind: the most logical explanation was that someone had taken my reserved book from the shelf and borrowed it, and put the docket on another book.
“Let me check if we have other copies of the book.” She walked towards her computer, asked for my library card, and typed some words. I was becoming annoyed. The book was freshly released. There were a lot of people on the reserves list. There was no way they had another copy lying around somewhere.
“We don’t have any more copy available at the moment,” she said. “But what I can do is to remove your record on the reserved list and place it there again.”
“Does that mean I have to go back on the queue to borrow the book?”
“Oh no,” she smiled apologetically—she must had picked up the slight edge in my reply, “we’ll put you straight on the first queue, so once a book becomes available it will be yours.”
“Oh, okay, that sounds better,” I said, still annoyed, but better.
“Sorry for that,” she said. “This happens sometimes.”
“It’s okay,” I said, perhaps not so sincerely. “Thanks for your help.” Then I proceeded to borrow the first two books.
I was still annoyed when I got into the car, and when I arrived back home. I thought about the hassle of having to go back to get the book once it becomes available, and feeling disappointed as I need to wait longer to read a story that should have been available now.
I couldn’t believe that being unable to borrow a book would annoy me that much.
Then I realised why I was annoyed: I thought that book was my right.
I felt like I was entitled to the book, and someone else unfairly took it from me. It didn’t occur to me that it’s just a book, and that I have paid nothing at all to get the book anyway. (Actually that’s not true. I’ve paid my taxes.) I would still get the book next time, you know, perhaps after another week or two of waiting. It isn’t the end of the world.
But somehow missing my turn on borrowing a book made me irritable.
And it happens every time, doesn’t it?
I remember witnessing a few people became visibly angry at a shopping mall when a store ran out of the free goodies they were handing out. They had been queueing up for a while (it was for a free fur tail keychain), and once they got to the front, the store had ran out.
The people were angry because others got it and they didn’t. And they had queued for it.
I wondered then if the people working on the store were trying to summon their zen-like attitude to refrain from shouting back at the customers. I wondered if the customers knew that since the goods were free, the store was not obliged in any way to secure them a keychain that they might or might not use in the future.
And here I am, pouting over a book that got away (temporarily), instead of counting the books I got to enjoy from the library for the past few months (22 to be exact).
So let’s remember what Prince Naveen said on The Princess and The Frog (yes, I’m quoting Disney):
You know, if you are going to let every little thing bother you, it is going to be a very long night.
Thankfully I’ve cut the long night short. Hopefully I’ll remember this next time it lurks around the corner.