Tuesday, March 29, 2005

#30 - Debt Is as Debt Does

Being a normal family, Mrs. Woody and I deal with debt. It's not that we're big spenders, by any means (and I do mean any means). We've just had circumstances over the years that have kept us in the gunsights of a couple of credit cards. Fortunately, both cars are paid off (210K miles on the Honda and counting!) and things are looking up. I measure this in the decided lack of nag calls from creditors. The smarmy ones where the friendly computer calls you and expects you to "hold" for a "very important message" from one of their representatives. I've written elsewhere about computerized phoning, which I consider to be a terrorist activity subject to provisions of the Patriot Act.

Anyway, we have debt, but it's not a real issue at the moment.

So, explain to me why having a fine on our library cards can cause such a panic?

I have successfully put off any number of creditors over the years. I've been harangued by the experts. I have stared down (figuratively, of course... they never show their faces) such luminaries as Bank of America, Ameriquest, and MBNA. I have pooh-pooohed Discover and American Express. I can even hold off my utilities for a week or two until my next paycheck arrives and I can keep them from disconnecting us.

But levy a fine on my library card, and the world comes to an immediate and complete halt.

It's no secret that Mrs. Woody and I are dedicated homeschoolers. That is to say, Mrs. Woody is a dedicated homeschooler, and Woody provides vital services such as being a taste-tester of questionable culinary creations. Mrs. Woody is, however, the Headmistress of our academy, and the Woodyettes are her devoted students. Part of Mrs. Woody's game plan has always included a weekly trip to our local library. Our particular branch has a terrific children's librarian named "Miss Regina," and she does a weekly story night that the kids love. We also have a steady supply of library books in our house. The Woodyettes (7 and 5) are both avid readers. They're very much into series like "A to Z Mysteries" or "Magic Tree House." "American Girl" is a perrenial favorite. They've been reading "Little House...," "Nate the Great," and all things Potter.

Last night I took the girls to Story Night. While they listened to Miss Regina read stories about dinosaurs, I was at the checkout desk pleading for my life. "I have come to redeem myself from Purgatory," I said. The librarian chuckled and said, "Here to pay a fine, hm?"

I was in no position to quibble. Our library cards are the only things standing between us and an Amazon.com-induced bankruptcy.

I gladly - even gratefully - paid the fine. It was unusually hefty since we got caught in a web of circumstance that prevented us from getting our books returned for something like two whole weeks past their date. Still, seeing how excited the girls were at being able to check out some books that they really, really, reeealllly, pleeeeeeeze Daddy can I get this one, pleeeeze, pleeeeze, pleeeeeeeze! wanted was worth every penny. All 1,920 of them.

You can't put a price on a reading child.

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