“On Library Fines, Lost Debit Cards, and Target Therapy”
45 minutes. I lasted 45 minutes trying to “keep it all together” — including trips back and forth from the van looking for that overdue book, that elusive library card, loose change, and refuge from the world — before I surrendered, once again, to my ADHD. If reading this exhausts you, imagine doing it a dozen times a day. If you can relate, we should probably get drinks sometime… but be prepared to pay in case I don’t have my wallet.
It is 6 p.m. and I have just dropped off my oldest daughter at her half-hour drum lesson — just long enough, I think, to run two errands:
1.) Library to return an overdue book
2.) Bank to get cash
Let me interrupt by saying that I should know by now to plan just one errand for 30 minutes, if that. I do have ADHD, after all. In fact, I probably should have just sat in the waiting room at the music school reading a magazine article about how to freshen my foyer entrance for spring. But for some reason I just can’t shake those high hopes for my own productivity.
I head to the library with a Mittens book that is six weeks overdue. Along the way, I realize I will need a debit card to pay the gigantor fee that is still growing from another book called The Way Things Work. I should have read this book to understand the mechanics of my brain so I could avoid future late fees.
So I search for the debit card. I can’t locate it, even on the van floor where my backpack (the one I bought six weeks ago to organize my life) is in a heap of papers, card, forms, spilled syrup from McDonald’s breakfast. I start stressing that I should probably find a new system. I envision a new purse. My heart rate increases with the possibility of something new! I envision myself as a CIA agent in jeans and a t-shirt (and implants that will finally make my waist look tiny). I debate whether the CIA-agent me would carry a gun in her purse. I feel suddenly very conflicted.
I look for the phone case that contains my debit card. Nope. I look for other blue wallet that “might” contain it. Nope. I look for blue credit card. Nope. I decide to go into library anyway to return Mittens. I will get something done, darn it.
I enter the library, and instantly forget (or deny) exactly why I’m there. I bee-line to the computer to look up self-help books with daily inspirational quotes. Instead, I located How Couples Should Manage Their Money, which looks like an interesting book I may or may not return on time. I begin looking up and down the quiet aisles for that book.
Along the way, I find a book called Moms with ADD. I pull the book off its shelf and cradle it closely, hoping for easy-to-follow checklists. At this point, I realize I’ve forgotten the Mittens book in the van. I check my wristwatch for the time.
It’s gone! I then remember that I took it off earlier to charge it but couldn’t find the charger. I check the library clock. 15 minutes until the end of the drum lesson. I’ve still got time. I retrieve Mittens from van. I think about Amazon. Why, oh why, I wonder, would anyone purchase a kid’s book when they could lease it for a nominal fee for a desired period of time from the library? I laugh aloud. An old man in tidy suit gives me a quizzical look. I quickly pretend I’m laughing at the title of a book.
I head to the front desk with Mittens and the Moms with ADD book. I ask the kind librarian, whose outfit coordinates as well as the dining room and kitchen in an HGTV home makeover episode, if the missing Ways Things Work book might have been returned and not checked in? She smiles and encourages me to “go look.” So I head downstairs, impressed with how encouraging and gracious the librarian was when she said, “We will wipe all fines clear if we messed up!” My pulse quickens with the thought of receiving $6 back.
I lug five copies of the The Way Things Work up the steps from the children’s section back to the hopeful looking librarian. None of these copies is the missing copy. “You’ll find it – I know you will,” says librarian. I ask to check out the ADD book. The kind librarian says, “Of course! Oh, oh, looks like you’ll have to pay down your late fees to get under $5.” Oh, indeed.
I run to the van to scrounge for loose change. I find $3. Yes! I run in to the library and to pay down my fee. The librarian asks for my library card. Hmm…it should be right in here. Not in there. Hmm. Librarian says with a mother earth toned, non-judgmental disappointment, “Oh. You can use your Driver’s License.” I’m amazed by the inner peace and healthy glow the librarian emanates from reading and organizing books inside an imitation castle for 40 years. I consider buying my first shimmery skin highlighting stick, or whatever it’s called.
I tense as the librarian looks up my history. I know that patrons can use their driver’s license only once per year to substitute for their library card. They take this policy very seriously. I know this policy is meant for people like me. “Oh, shoot. Looks like you used your driver’s license once already.”
I laugh inside, I haven’t seen THAT card in a while anyways! I believe (firmly believe!) the library card is in my car. I do not even question why I can pay $3 but not check out a book without my card. I look at the clock. It’s 6:30.
Can I return after I pick up my daughter to get the book? “Of course, I’ll set it right here.” I’m still very impressed with how kind this librarian sounds and how her finger nails are smooth, rounded, and covered in clear nail polish. I rush to the car to pick up my daughter, who is not sympathetic to tardiness.
As I return to the driver’s seat after retrieving my eye-rolling daughter, I spot the debit card in one of the slots in the van’s front console. Miracle! I casually say to my daughter, as if I’ve had full control of the card the entire time: Time to get your cash.
I withdraw money from the ATM and feel successful that I’m only four weeks overdue in my payment to my daughter (whom I pay $30 per week to do the entire family’s laundry because the tedious thought of laundry makes me feel like death is near).
I wonder if the day will come when my three daughters do not have their heads tilted, arms crossed, and eyes searching the heavens for a mom who has it all together. I suddenly sing in an old-man southern accent to my daughter, whose face is pressed against the glass, “Ya know, drummer daughter o’ mine, it’s time to unwind those arms and that frustrated mind and tell your gran-daddy about your day before life passes by and we’re left alone drinking wine at the bar, wasted to nothin’ by time.” My daughter turns, stifling a laugh, and punches me in the shoulder, “Mom, you’re so weird. I can’t imagine another mom like you.” And then we chat in old lady southern accents about our days the whole drive to the bank and home.
I stop the car suddenly, realizing I must return to the library. I plunder every crevice in the van searching for my library card. I can’t find it. I return home. Moms with ADD lays abandoned on the library counter. I suspect Moms with ADD is probably used to it.
I imagine the nice librarian has put the book tenderly back into its spot. I imagine the librarian calmly hanging up her sweater at the close of the evening and putting on slippers, washing her face properly and flossing.
The next morning, I find the library card and a Target debit card cuddled together in the middle counsel of my van, like they’ve spent a secret evening together, laughing at the memory of my flustered hands sweeping over them, missing them each time.
What the Shrek? I holler to the morning, biting back on my penchant for swearing.
At least this morning, I think, smiling and imagining the librarian enjoying her dainty morning cup of coffee, 11/12ths of my cards are in one location. As I cruise down Rt. 31 to work, I daydream about the New Purse — the one rated highest by professional organizers and accountants, by former First Ladies and debutantes, by well-put-together sisters-in-law, Great Aunts Named Florence and Dorothy, and, of course, Dewey-Decimal loving librarians, the one she will probably find on clearance at Target (because she needs to save money to pay library fines), the one that will finally make everything okay.
I go to Target that afternoon. I leave that glossy heaven with $55.78 in vases, dried flowers, quaint pics of bunnies in gardens, and bins to freshen my foyer for spring. No purse.
Updated on July 28, 2021