I know I say I always keep my promise, but some promises are meant to be broken. You know only you will listen to my “sounding offs” and not get bored, so here goes.
People seem to have got certain areas of this beautiful state pretty much sewn up. Apartheid is alive and well and living in the USA. Remember I told you that Toby said there was no way I could borrow any books in a library in the suburbs. I did not tell her, but as far as I’m concerned a Public Library is exactly what it says with PUBLIC being the operative word. The word “can’t” as you know is not in my dictionary and, if it is, I have never seen it. So I went yesterday to borrow a few titles.
I turned up there in the afternoon. The staff was 99% white, but there was a light-skinned black chap sitting behind the counter. I asked him, what policy do you operate in your lending? This woman not too far from him said: “You would have to have lived in the area for six months.” I told her I was staying at the “Y” and that I was unlikely to be there for six months. Nevertheless, I would like to borrow some books.
She called her manager. I asked her if the rule was rigidly applied to everyone or just people like me. She said, “I always ask people to prove that they live in the area.” So I told her that I can prove that I live in the area. But she said, “Because you live at the YMCA that’s different.” I asked her if I were staying at the Ritz or The Hilton whether it would make a difference. “That’s our policy,” she said. Well, your policy is misguided, I told her.
All the time, I was getting more and more annoyed because the whole system stinks. And when I get annoyed, I usually say too much. So although I had my Hi-Tech membership card with me and the library had dropped the six months limit and now wanted only proof that I was staying at the hotel, I had to go outside to cool off.
While I was sitting on the very handsome bench outside the building people kept coming in their cars and throwing books in the two very large containers positioned out there. It was clearly not as if they were afraid of people running away with the books because you did not have to enter the building to return them. Once I was sufficiently cooled off, I went back inside. The manager did not come out this time, but another woman came out instead.
I showed her my card from the “Y.” She took it and said, we’ll need a letter to confirm that you’re staying at the YMCA. I pointed out to her that the card does say, RESIDENT, and room number 529 and there is my name and the telephone number of the “Y” on it as well. If you really feel the need to check, I said to her, I have my passport on me for identification as well, and I want some books today because I really have no time for nonsense.
She took all the documents as I continued to talk. I told her, the little I know about computers and the fact that there is a computer link to all the Illinois libraries, and since I am a member of the Chicago Public Library, it would be easy for her to tap my name out and see if I am a trusted member of society.
She said, our computer has broken down today, but our lending policy is that anyone can borrow as many books as they want. I said, good. In Chicago, I was allowed only thirty. She said funds for this library are provided by the taxpayers in the Niles suburbs not by outsiders. So I told her, I’d have to hurry up and buy a property in the area so I can pay taxes to qualify but, in the meantime, since it is a public library, I will have a few books immediately.
She gave me a dirty look and walked off about her business. Needless to say, I obtained my library card and looked around for a couple of books. On my way back to the checkout desk, I saw a thin volume with Bill Crosby’s smiling face on it, and took that one, too.
My day was by no means finished.
I paid $53.89 for five UK calls and about six local calls, and I was not happy. I was here last year and made much more calls in a month to Texas, New York, Florida and the UK, but never paid this much for them. So, I telephoned AT&T, after being fobbed off by several in-charge people who none of them could answer a simple question—If I had placed a call from an ordinary telephone instead of a hotel phone, how much would it cost me?
I just could not get a straight answer out of any of them. Finally, after about half an hour of beating around the bush, the last manager I spoke to said the charge would be $10.84 to the hotel. So I would be proved a liar, and everything rigged to change the facts. That’s how these people operate. Others cannot win, and God help us all.
Should some bold politician pass a law to ban certain things, they do everything in their power to get around it. Like the greengrocers in the East End of London, who used to put all the nice fruit on show and put rubbish in your bag, well sealed. And although they charged you more than their own people pay for better stuff of the same weight, you end up unable to eat what you bought.
I got around that by buying the largest fruit, which was usually the best, and asking them to write down the price of each item on one bag. In those days, my brain was a Ready Reckoner, and I had added up the items before they could write them down. They used to hate me at first. They never did like me, but they always showed me respect. They had to charge and write down prices so that people could check to see exactly what they were buying. They must not be allowed to get away with these things.