little me and the library card
About a month ago, I decided it was time for my son to have his own public library card and take more responsibility for the books he checked out. We went to the library, and got the card all set up, and he presented his five or six books to check out. At that point we were informed that until we verified his address, he would only be able to check out three books at a time. I didn't have anything handy with our address, so we decided to wait until next time, going our way with only three books.
Today we went back to the library, this time with BOTH his library cards (unbeknownst to me, he had already gotten one last fall with my wife). His old card had been verified and had no limit to the books he could check out, so I figured they could cancel the new one and thus there would be no need for another address verification.
Of course it wasn't that simple.
First of all, there is still one more book out on his new card - one we could not find this morning - so they could not cancel that account. I thought maybe they could transfer this book to the other card, but no. So the end result was that they wanted to cancel the old card and just use the new one. Fine, I said, can you remove the three book limit? No, they said, you have not verified the address. But the address was verified for the other card, and it's the same kid, and the same address. What's the problem? That's not our policy. We must verify the address for every card we issue.
Hmm. So whose address are you verifying? Your son's - it's his card. So I should bring in something with his name and our address on it, right? No, just your checkbook or a piece of mail with your name and address. But that's verifying MY address, not his. I'm sorry sir, that's our policy.
This is crazy, I thought.
I made one more attempt to evoke some common sense from these library people, to no avail. We ended up with three books checked out (not the four my son wanted) and I left the library in a fine righteous pique, determined not to bend to their rigid bureacracy, and to live with the three-book minimum on principle.
Once we got to the car, however, I decided that wasn't fair to my son, and it would really be easy to take my checkbook back in and verify the address (mine, not my son's, but I guess that's unimportant). So I did that, and grudgingly apologized for being difficult.
Driving away, it hit me like a two-by-four between the eyes - I had been acting like a little kid who couldn't get his way! So what if my common sense approach was reasonable (to me anyway) and their address verification policy is inconsistent - their policy is their policy and it was not that hard to comply.
Eckhart Tolle talks a lot about ego - the "little me" he calls it. This little me - this egoic self - wants to be in conflict with other people and situations so it can feel superior, or sometimes so it can feel victimized. Today was a little of both for me - i wanted to be "right," and i wanted to feel cheated and put upon by those terrible librarians for making me walk all the way out to my car for my checkbook. In retrospect, my behavior was immature and ridiculous - in Tolle's words, i was acting "morally superior to reality."
What now? I cna look back on the situation and laugh, and hope that next time little me wants to be in charge I can notice it before he starts driving, and take away the keys.