Lost Children: A Library Epidemic

Children get lost almost constantly at the library. It seems like I deal with at least one a day, in various levels of hysteria over not being able to find their parent. Natch not the middle or high schoolers, who are often there on their own anyway, and usually not the very young toddlers, who spend their entire time at the library manfully trying to run away of their own accord to do exciting things like tear all the books off the shelves and see how far they can run towards the door before their mom or a librarian will step in. It’s usually the late-preschool through even fifth grade age group that genuinely freaks out, I guess because they’re old enough to understand abandonment and how scary the world actually is when your support system is suddenly snatched away from you.

Of course, their parents are always in the library, usually pretty close by. Often they’ve said something like, “You stay here and read for a moment; I’m going to the bathroom/get a boring adult book/argue with that librarian over whether or not I owe the library 15 cents for half an hour.” But even if the children have heard and acknowledged that information, after a few minutes of calm, they still freak out. For instance, yesterday a boy came to me in tears and after much coaxing he told me he couldn’t find his dad. Then after a little more coaxing he said his dad had told him he was going to the bathroom. This led to us both standing awkwardly outside the bathroom.

Me: Maybe you could poke your head in and say “Dad”?
Him: (shakes head, hugging self tightly and staring at the floor)
Me: Okay…. well…. I guess I could open the door slightly and call his name? Can you tell me his name?
Him: (shakes head again)
Me: Can you tell me your name? I can make an announcement for your dad to come to the front and get you.
Him: (shakes his head again)

Finally his dad came out of the bathroom. His son ran to him. The dad had this look like “Ummm…. what? I was gone for like five minutes.” I don’t think parents understand how big the library seems when you’re small, or fast time passes when you’re panicking. Also how, while it’s good that they teach their kids not to talk to strangers, it’s super annoying when I just want to know a first name so I can say something over the PA like “Will David’s dad please come to the front of the library” and have done with it.

I remember this panicky feeling from being younger. Or from a month ago when I too was abandon at the library. Steven and I had gone to Chapel Hill Public to get books and natch did not stay together due to his suspect literary preferences. After checking out my books, I wandered around looking for him in all the usual places (Cooking, Computers, Bad science fiction). Not finding him, I did a more thorough sweep of the entire library, including children’s section. Chapel Hill Library is almost painfully small, so I was pretty sure he was not in the building. They were having a book sale in the basement that day, so I went downstairs and wandered through the conference rooms piled with books of cookbooks from the 80s. But still no Steven. I waited in the lobby for a little bit, thinking he might be in the bathroom, and finally decided he must be waiting by the car. I had a little bit of trouble remembering where we’d parked, but, again, the Chapel Hill Public Library parking lot is not large, so I walked around the entire thing, with no sign of Trixie. Natch thinking she was hiding behind an SUV and I was not being careful enough, I walked around it four more times until I finally decided that STEVEN HAD TAKEN MY CAR AND LITERALLY ABANDON ME AT THE LIBRARY. I was the lostest of all lost children.

Naturally my first instinct was to go to the librarian, crying and unable to speak. I didn’t have my phone with me and did not have very much money either. I finally decided after deliberation to return the books I had just checked out and begin the long, long walk home.

Then Steven drove up and said that he hadn’t been able to check out because his fines were above five dollars and he’d tried to secretly go in search of an ATM because he was too embarrassed to tell me about his fines. I have no idea which part of this scenario is the most ridiculous. The part where he TOOK MY CAR WITHOUT TELLING ME or the part where fear of telling me about library fines is a semi-legit excuse.

5 responses to “Lost Children: A Library Epidemic”

  1. Uncle Bill says:

    Are you sure that the two of you are not already married?

  2. Steven says:

    To be fair, I *WAS* certain there was one right around the corner. Is it my fault the gas stations in Chapel Hill are the suck?

  3. Uncle Bill says:

    Steven,

    Yes, everything is your fault. You’re a man. Get used to it.

    (And where did you find that apple?)

    ; )

  4. Don’t feel too bad Steven, I had over five dollars in fines one time on a single book.

    DELINQUENT SOLIDARITY

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