Monday, May 20, 2024

No exit


I've always loved the print payment system at my library. For many years now all of our printing and copying operates on the honor system. Near any station where a person can do any of these activities sits a humble metal lock box. People throw in any money they owe for any printing. By all accounts I have ever heard, our costs are fully covered by a system running on faith in the decency of the public.

I have always attributed this wonder to two things:

1. People are more decent than we think.

2. Institutions charging 20 cents a copy are casually ripping everyone off.

In short, not everyone pays for their printouts, but enough do and there is a ton of slush in the system to resolve that. Usually the slush in systems like this goes to corporate executives and shareholders. Here it goes to the indigent and street hustlers.

Today I had two library patrons to whom I had to explain how our system works. Neither of them had any cash, so I looked each of them deep in their souls. "Go ahead and make your copies." I said. "It is simply on your honor to come back at pay for them some time in the future." They both seemed pretty confident they would be back. For me? Who knows?

They may be back one day with their fistfuls of quarters. I hope so. But, perhaps they will spend all eternity locked in a plain white room with Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk, all with nothing interesting to say, and nothing to do but reflect.

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