Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fun With Library Books

So The Pook and I went to the library last weekend, and I checked out about 9 books of my own to read.

Oh, stop with the pretending to have a heart failure. I've always loved the library.

Except... I'm a germ-phobe.

I haven't always been a germ-phobe. Or at least not to the extent that I am now. And let me just say that my levels of germ-phobiness don't even approach those of many other people I know. I will, for example, touch the door handle when leaving a public restroom. Usually. Unless it's visibly foul.

But the library... I hold the library responsible for my germ-phobiness. Yes. I do.

You see, a few years ago I was a single mother constantly struggling to make ends meet. I was not at liberty to drop a hundred bucks a paycheck on new books (we won't talk about how much I was spending on my comic collection at the time). So we went to the library all the time.

And so one night, I'm sitting in my favorite chair at home, sipping a beverage and reading a book -- a Faye Kellerman detective novel. And I smell... something. Something like cigarettes. So I check the window, figuring someone from my apartment building must be out front smoking right near my window. But the window was closed.

So I sniff my own clothing -- I've never smoked a day in my life but maybe I went someplace that day where someone else was smoking and it got into my clothes. You know how that goes.

But still nothing.

And then I realize... It was the book.

The whole damn book.

Not just the cover, but every single page. Permeated by the smell of stale cigarette smoke.

And then I start examining the book more closely. And it's filthy. Filthy. It's filthy, and it stinks.

So I thought I'd just read it faster, and try not to touch it. Rest it on my lap, or on the table, and just use one finger to turn the pages. But soon, I felt like the smell of the book was bleeding into my hands. And every 20 minutes or so I was getting up to go scrub my hands clean. But I was really creeped out by thoughts of germs and bacteria and god knows what else crawling all over me.

I finished the book, and the others I had checked out at the same time.

But from that point forward, I've become this person who won't even touch a book in the library unless it looks relatively new. I inspect the edges of the pages to make sure they are properly colored, not deeply yellowed with age and dirt. If it passes those two tests, I flip through it to make sure there are no mysterious stains inside. And then, if not, I'm willing to add it to my check out pile.

Sadly, there are times when even this level of examination doesn't work, and I come home and get 67 pages into a pretty good read and suddenly, there's what appears to be a booger in one of the margins. Or a mysterious food particle in the crease between pages.

And it grosses me out. I mean, there's no better way to say it. It's gross and nasty and it kind of makes me hate people. I mean, what kind of person wipes a booger into a library book? Or any book for that matter? What kind of person thinks it's okay to eat over a library book, which by its very definition means it's shared with other people?

A gross person, that's what kind.

I don't even lend out my own books, because I see how other people treat books, and I can't have my own books come back to me in that condition... if they come back at all. My own father bends back the spines of his books. Bending back the spine of a book destroys it. Eventually the pages will fall out! And don't even get me started on the people who think that it's a good idea to turn down a corner of a book's page to mark their place. Um, how about trying a bookmark, people??

So of course dirty, smelly library books are going to send me into fits of rage.

But I think I've coped pretty well with this latest batch.

Until, that is, I found something mysterious on page 72 of Ruth Rendell's No More Dying Then. And then I became hyper-aware of how smelly the cover was, and my palms started to itch, and I was sure I was going to come down with pink eye or something equally disgusting if I kept reading.

But I did keep reading, and it was an entertaining book. And you should all be so proud of me for conquering my fear.

Until the next time.


Kim Butler said...

NEVER become a librarian, especially in a school. You would not believe the number of times I wash my hands in a day. And I will refrain from telling you about some of the things that I have found on returned books. It's stomach turning, believe me.

Shannon said...

What's really sad is that being a librarian is truly my dream job, but I'm not sure I could overcome the germaphobia to do it...

Kate said...

I'll get some bookmarks the next time I go to the book store... sorry. :) That's happened to me with the whole stinky book thing. You start picturing so hag smoking over the book (like the Ma's Roadhouse woman, who I only know about because The Soup is always making fun of her)... I picked up an Elizabeth George novel in Seattle a while ago that is signed by the author. Made me think of you. I'll send it to you.... sorry, some of the page corners are creased......

The Wife said...

I turn down the corners of books. When I'm marking them for a quote, I sometimes turn down half the page to make sure I don't lose the place. I've got tons of bookmarks, TRY to use them all the time, but they always fall out. Without fail. Hopefully I'll have my eReader back up again soon. While I may not abuse a library book with nasty hands/food/smoking/boogers/bending back the spine, I fully admit to turning down the corners. AND I eat while reading my own books, so they sometimes have weird stuff in them (cheeto stains at the beginning of one sex scene, for instance...).

Shannon said...

Cheeto stains at the beginning of a sex scene = AWESOME.