Monday, November 25, 2013

Calla Lillies at the Library

When things go missing at the Library I have learned not to jump to the conclusion that they have been stolen. My pessimistic nature used to lead me down that path over and over, whether with supplies (which I am in charge of here), items on the request shelves (even more than I used to, the patrons heavily gravitate towards the idea that their request has been stolen), or simply the items on our shelves that are supposed to be in, but aren't. Too often these missing material mysteries were solved with no thief at the end of them. Optimists of the world rest assured that sloppiness, human error, freak accident, and incompetence will blow petty thievery out of the water any day of the week.

Nevertheless, something here at my Library has gone missing and I cannot resist thinking of theft, despite all my better instincts.

Pens disappear from the front desk all the time. No, this is not yet the theft part. I don't attribute missing pens to outright theft. At most it's a kind of kleptomania that I'm content to categorize as accidental. The rare occasions (very rare) where I actually catch a patron walking off with one of our pens (where the caught people just seem so innocent), always reflects this accidental nature. Well, either that, or the thieves are excellent actors. But whatever the cause of all this pen disappearance, after many years I finally decided to adopt the common and well respected fake flower technique, wherein one attaches a fake flower soundly to a pen and it prevents people from casually walking off with it. A bit less than a year ago I was in a craft store and found some very nice fake orange roses on sale. They were even fake bedewed! Investing my own money I bought them and taped them to, mostly, our more expensive pens, all the sharpies and gels. They worked great. Our pen attrition rate vastly slowed and the only, minor, problem was that the little kids loved to pick the very convincing fake water droplets off the roses. Still, time takes its toll on everything, as well as maybe some of that drop picking, and after a long enough time our rose pens were either falling apart or faded away, so I decided it was time for a new crop of fake flowers.

Feeling the expense was fully justified, this time I ordered through the Library. The easiest way to do this was through Amazon. I found it difficult to find the sort of thing I was looking for, but after exhaustive searching eventually I settled on some fake, white calla lilies.

I will spare you my ordering travails, or the story about how I only got half the number I asked for, but when they arrived I was certain I had made the right choice. It turns out there is something wonderful about these calla lilies. It's not just that they look real, which they mostly do, but it's their weird magical quality of feeling real. These fake calla lilies are irresistible to the touch. And that is why, when after we had had our lily pens out at the front desk for only a few days, and I went to the desk and saw a pen with only the remains of the tape that held the flower on, I felt as if I had been robbed. Someone had taken a calla lily!

Yes, yes, perhaps my fake flower was not stolen. Surely there is some other explanation. All my experience tells me that there is a hidden, non-theft explanation for the disappearance of the calla lily. But in my heart I feel that someone just had to have one of those lovely fake flowers. They couldn't resist its radiant charms, and they stole it. They are leaving all our pens behind, just as I hoped, but they are walking away with our  beautiful and (slightly) more valuable flowers.

Well, what can I say, I sort of blame myself. People are not totally terrible, but I have clearly thrown in their path an overwhelming and unreasonable temptation. As Henry Ward Beecher said: "All men are tempted. There is no man that lives that can't be broken down, provided it is the right temptation, put in the right spot." A beautiful fake calla lily, right out at the front desk of an institution where people are roughly free to take what they want, clearly, it's all too much.

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