being in a library doesn’t make you smart

Like most libraries and bookstores, my place of employ employs a magnetic alarm system at the exit.  All items in the library are targeted somewhere or another with a little magnetic sensor that, if not de-sensitized by the circulation staff, trips the alarm and a loud and embarrassing-for-a-library-lobby beeping begins.(1) S.W.A.T. teams arrive from the air and on foot and tackle the offending patron on the spot, after which he or she is subjected to a Carbonite freezing process then displayed on the library walls so that potential donors can see the lengths we go to in order to protect their investments.

There's copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover in his back pocket.

Since the entrance and exit are just a wide succession of double-doors, there are also gates meant to prevent patron from exiting through the entrance doors. As you can see, there are huge red signs telling people in plain language that this is not the way out. Most people, these days, don’t really look up very often because cell phones have a way of capturing the eye way better than any bright, red object could.(2)

Like most libraries, my place of employ is finding itself a bit short, finance-wise. So the entrance gates, which haven’t worked well in years, aren’t likely to be fixed any time soon.(3) What this means is that the mechanism that’s supposed to sense when someone is standing on it doesn’t work and the gates don’t lock when someone is trying to exit the wrong way.(4)

So those of us who work here have to stop people when they exit the wrong way, usually by politely intoning, ‘Excuse me, sir?’

Yesterday I was walking through the lobby, not even looking at the doors, and I heard a young man a little far off say, mockingly, ‘Excuse me, sir?’ So I turned and had a look. Sure enough, one young man was standing just past the alarmed exit gate and was mock-busting his buddy who had walked out through one of the entrance gates. I thought about just letting him go, but decided since I wouldn’t have even known he’d done it if his buddy hadn’t spoken up, it was all but destined that I have a little fun.

By the time I got to the gate they were both outside.(5) They’d stopped just outside the door, though, so I walked out and, matching his buddy’s voice as closely as I could, I said, ‘Excuse me, sir?’

His buddy laughed, but he wasn’t impressed.

‘Seriously?’
‘Yes, sir. You walked out the wrong gate. Will you come back in and exit through the exit gate?’
Seriously?’
‘I afraid so, sir.’(6)
‘And what if I don’t?’
‘Well, the last time a guy refused I chased him all the way across campus and called Campus Security who drove a cruiser on the sidewalk to get him. We lost him though, but I staked out the union at lunchtime and found him again and called the police and they came and got him and searched his backpack right there in front of everyone.’(7)
‘FUCK!’ he yelled.
He buddy chimed in: ‘Sounds serious, man.’
‘Always,’ I said.(8)

Begrudgingly, he walked but into the library, hemming and hawing and generally being a petulant shit. ‘Man, fuck this place and your dumb gates!’ he said. I followed him in and waited for him to walk back out through the gate. ‘And fuck this library!’ he said.

I kept quiet and waited.

‘What? You think I stole a book?’ he asked, making quite the production of exiting through the gate. ‘I don’t even fucking read!

Because the best way to be a badass is to yell about how you’re a moron.

After I recovered from that scathing verbal lashing, I fixed the entrance gate he’d walked through and mentioned to the circ staff what had happened.

Turns out he hadn’t taken anything – and I didn’t think he had. But he sure left some pride behind.


  1. Said desensitization occurs through the forced viewing of ultra-violent movies and video games, along with everything ever made from a Nicholas Sparks book just to make sure the item in question will never, ever want to fall in love.
  2. I hear that stop signs are unionizing again cell-phone makers.
  3. Or at all.
  4. Well actually, someone up somewhere decided just to remove the pads that activate the mechanism, obviously favoring a system that doesn’t work at all to a system that only half-assed worked.
  5. There’s no such thing as ‘high-tailing-it’ when you’re my size.
  6. I like to try to sound like an FBI agent during these exchanges.
  7. True story. Even I was surprised at my level of dedication.
  8. See note 6.
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