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Who was that masked man? The loan arranger | Marcel Strigberger

Friday, April 09, 2021 @ 2:46 PM | By Marcel Strigberger

Marcel Strigberger %>
Marcel Strigberger
Shhhh. I’m returning a library book. It’s slightly overdue.

The Omaha Public Library reports that someone just returned a book they took out over 50 years ago. We’re talking July 29, 1970. My question is why did this book rogue wait a half century to return it? I have a few thoughts.

Firstly, maybe the guy was a lawyer. He was retiring from practice and he was mindful of the local code of professional conduct. He thought, “Hanging onto this book is not conduct becoming of a lawyer. I had better retire with a clean slate.” A noble scenario.

Lawyer or not, just maybe his conscience got to him. Pure unbearable guilt. I am thinking of Rodion Raskolnikov, that iconic Dostoevsky Crime and Punishment character. After killing that pawn broker, he was beside himself and did not know how to handle the dilemma. I can see that library felon going through similar guilt pangs. “Do I confess? I can’t go on like this. I’m spending half the night counting sheep. You think Raskolnikov had problems?”

Maybe he was afraid of repercussions; i.e. the punishment part. Were they out looking for him? I don’t know much about Nebraska, but it is a wild west state, and it would not surprise me if they would have a vigilante of sorts. You don’t return a library book and after a while a gang of book club readers go out hunting for you. If they catch you, they hold you down and paint a scarlet library card on your forehead. Who knows?

But why wait 50 years? Could it be the lout ran off and sought refuge in Canada? That would work. I Googled it and I saw no evidence of a treaty between the U.S. and Canada allowing for the extradition of fleeing library dodgers.

Another clue for the lengthy delay might be found in the book’s title itself: Coup d’Etat. Perhaps the gentleman checked out the book with a view of overthrowing the government of Nebraska. After reading the book a number of times, he said to himself, “Nah…This isn’t going to work.” He then figured the book was otherwise not of much use to other readers with similar ambitions. No sense getting their hopes up. I’d say in that case he acted out of altruism.

And of course how could we forget COVID-19? Can it be that he was ready to return the book after 49 years but in March of 2020, he said to himself, “Hey, this is a pandemic. How can I even think about going to a public library now? I’ll wait a bit. What’s another year?”

And now in 2021 he looked into it further and he discovered that one can simply return a library book by dropping it off in the return book slot. His anonymity was assured as he no doubt wore a mask. (COVID-19 aside, you will recall Nebraska is a wild west state.) Kudos to him.

Thinking about it further, I wonder what library fines he could have faced. They can add up. The fine was a nickel an overdue day back in my local Montreal library in 1972 just before I moved to Toronto. Wait a minute. Whoa! It just occurred to me that the copy of Les Misérables in my basement may just be a loaner from that library, which I may have forgotten to return before relocating to Ontario. The fine now must be, even at a nickel a day, with interest, astronomical. What do I do? I’m certain there must be an extradition arrangement between Ontario and Quebec. I started Googling it and so far I got, “In Quebec nous prenons library book delinquency seriously.”

I am now reluctant to set foot in Quebec. I feel like Jean Valjean. What if they have a determined sleuth on the case? There is no way I want to risk being chased through the sewer system of Montreal by some bibliothèque Jabert. Egad!

Any suggestions? I don’t want to spend the nights counting moutons.

Marcel Strigberger retired from his Greater Toronto Area litigation practice and continues the more serious business of humorous author and speaker. Visit Follow him @MarcelsHumour.

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