Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Bureaucracy Tales #7,639: The Man, the Book, the Photo and the Librarian.

I'll get back to food very soon (if the mice don't eat it all) but in the meantime, here's an anecdote about a friend who went to Shanghai for ten days. So sit back, put your feet up and listen, all of which I realise is impossible, but you get the drift.

He had borrowed one of those tour books from the library; you know, the ones that tell you where to eat, where to go shopping and how bad the government is if it's a Western capitalist democracy and how good it is if it's run by a guy like this.

Anyway, he turns up in Shanghai with his tour book and has the notion to photograph himself holding up the book right there on The Bund at Yan'an Road, so that the view behind him is exactly what is on the cover of the book. Neat.

Then he comes home, and the book has to go back to the library. So he takes the book to the library and thinks he will leave a copy of the photo in the book as if to say, Hey, this book about Shanghai has been to Shanghai!

But instead of simply dropping the book in the slot, he thinks it will be a lark to take the book in and show the photo to the librarian. They might even display the book on the counter with the photo, like a little advertisement. Cool.

So he hands the book over and shows the photo to the librarian.

No reaction. No smile. Nothing.

Then: That will be $1.60.

Friend: Pardon me?

Librarian, again, deadpan: That will be $1.60.

Friend: But the book isn't even overdue.

Librarian: That's the prescribed fine.

Friend: Fine? For what?

Librarian: For taking the book out of the country.

My friend was gobsmacked, lost for a reply.

So he hands over a two dollar coin. The librarian, deadpan, silent, hands back forty cents change.

Friend (on receiving his forty cents change): Thank you very much.

Life is too funny. Sometimes you just don't realise it.

(I just want to know who set the penalty of $1.60 for taking the book out of the country, and by what process they arrived at that particular figure.)


Lucy said...

$1.60. It's a weird price alright. And how did the librarian automatically recall the exact price of the fine at such short notice?

Weirdos. Everywhere.

Tara said...

That's hilarious!

And how exactly do they know if someone takes the book out of the country? I mean, nobody (except maybe your friend) is going to dob themselves in for it and it's not like they're going to put up electronic alarms for library books at the airport, right next to the magnetic scans... or are they? idiots... what a pathetic fine..

And I spose it is $1.28 for taking it out of the state?

Anonymous said...

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becky said...

Having worked at a few libraries in the United States, I'm rather appalled at the charge for taking a book out of the country. As long as you return a borrowed material in similar condition, who the heck cares where it has been? And if I had been the librarian to whom he had returned the book, I would have through the picture was great fun! Honestly, I think most libraries would take that idea and just run with it. Can you imagine a bulletin board featuring all sorts of similar pictures. What a great way to promote a travel section.

kitchen hand said...

Yes, Lucy, that was weird. I'm sure fining someone for taking a book abroad doesn't happen every day.

Tara, he didn't even get a sentencing discount for the admission. Where's plea bargaining when you really need it? (It's probably 63 cents for taking it out of the metro area!)

Anonymous, how did you get in? Word verification was meant to turn you away at the door. I'll talk to security.

Becky, I agree. And yes, it would have made a nice little promotion. I would have liked to have seen a sense of humour in the librarian as well.

Tahir said...

I must say, that librarian sounds very depressed. Even if she felt it was her duty to collect the fine (duty??) I would have expected at least a giggle or appreciative smile.

So sad.

I usually lurk here, so now that I'm actually out of the shadows...thanks for what you write! I adore it!

Diane said...

He was fined for taking a guidebook to the country it describes? ::blink::

He should have told the librarian that he was from the Ministry of Factchecking for Foreign Guidebooks, and had a special dispensation for international travel.

kitchen hand said...

Thank you, Tahir, you are too kind. Yes, the librarian did sound like she was having a sour day.

Diane, exactly. I would have tried that, or taken the book away again and dropped it into the slot later.