The man on the phone at the library wants to renew his three books. After I wait for him to get his card, and after I tell him that yes, he has to read the whole barcode number, I endeavor to renew his items. One of them won't go- there is a hold on it.
"Is there only one copy of it?" The man asks. Perhaps he is thinking that if there are copies on the shelf I could then renew it for him anyway. Technically I couldn't, but I suppose there would be options. So I look the book up. There are several copies, but none are available, and there is also a waiting list for the item. So it's a no go there.
"What is the punishment for late items?" The man then asks, clearly weighing his options as regards keeping the book.
"Only the burden of your own guilt." I reply drily. Then I laugh to keep things light, but not because it isn't true.
Like in the vast preponderance of all malfeasance in this world, the burden of our guilt is indeed the only price to pay.