The Library Theif

My life has not always been all sunshine and dandelions. In fact, the first 25 years were bad enough to leave me with lingering complex PTSD.

But even in the worst of times, the library was a haven for me.


Ralf Roletschek 
CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It was a place my mother could ditch me guilt free while she buzzed off to do whatever it was she did. For a time I was someplace quiet. Someplace no one was yelling at me, insulting me, blaming me, forcing me to do things beyond my physical abilities, or molesting me. It was QUIET. No one would even TALK to me (people who spoke to me terrified me for fear I would somehow say something that I would pay for later). I could RELAX. I could browse books! I could find lots of books on all kinds of subjects! I could pick all the books I wanted or could carry anyway. It was a safe place.

Yesterday afternoon that all came to an end for me.

I walked the 3 and a half miles down to my nearest library. It’s actually a rather pleasant walk. Much of it is tree lined despite being beside a busy highway. I see birds and often even rabbits, ground squirrels, even a great big lizard once! I strolled down in the heat, enjoying the shade and tugging my wagon along behind me. I admit, I was looking forward to getting to the library and sitting down in the cool to rest for a minute or two. I saw a bird and wanted to take a picture. That was when I realized my phone had shut itself down (too hot I think) and would not reboot. No biggie. I’d cool off in the library for a minute and it would cool off, too. Then I’d let the hubby know the phone was off and on and make sure he was doing okay.

Me and my wagon – TERROR of the library

That’s me and my wagon up there. The day they refused to let me on the bus. That’s another story I’ll get to in a minute.

So yesterday those packages weren’t in my wagon. Just two books in a Henderson Library book bag I bought last week. In case you didn’t know, I’m five feet tall (almost), weigh about 135 lbs, and am 61 years old.

As I have many times before, I walked through the front double doors of Gibson Library with my wagon. Stopped at the book drop and dropped off those two books. Walked straight through the next double doors and up to the hold shelves. Found the three books I had on hold. Walked over to the self serve check out and scanned my library card, and the books. Put them in my bag and my bag in the wagon. All just like I had done many times before.

And then I walked over and sat down. I took out my phone. It had shut down because it got too hot and I wanted to text hubby, make sure he was okay, let him know I was at the library (the first of several errands) and that the phone was going off and on.

A Security Guard in uniform walked up to within about six feet of me and loudly told me I would have to leave.

What?

Yes, he said, I don’t know HOW YOU SNUCK BY ME (!?!) but you cannot have the wagon in here. We are not set up for anything THAT LARGE. (So – no motorized wheelchairs, no walkers, and no baby carriers either then?). (And let me add this isn’t some teeny tiny strip mall library – it’s a big building with wide aisles and large public spaces)

Well, okay, can I finish texting my husband – he interrupts me – No. You have to leave. Right now. Do you want to talk to HER?

Her who? By now, the security guard has his hands on his belt and it looked to me like he had a weapon under his right hand that he had unsnapped the holster to. This is Las Vegas. A LOT of people carry loaded weapons around on their belt in plain sight. Especially security.

Now thoroughly confused and a little bit scared, I jumped up said, “Okay, okay, I’ll leave.” and bolted out of the library as fast as I could limp (I have a broken toe). I was worried enough that I just kept right on going – walking about a half mile further to the Target store where I had an order to pick up – before I stopped to sit down (outside) and then texted my hubby to let him know the phone was off and on.

Afraid to really even enter the store, I walked in, got my ship to store order (including a weighted blanket that overall weighs 30 lbs), and basically speed limped until I got a mile or two away. I sat down under a shade tree by the highway, hoping the police would not come arrest me for … having a CART.

By then my phone was finally staying on and I could text hubby about what just happened. He was upset. He called the library. I was pretty freaked out to tell you the truth. Actually, I still am.

I can’t tell you how the conversation went with hubby and library. The library branch manager called me today, and my understanding was (from hubby) they were going to apologize. I did, eventually, get a mild “I apologize, this is not on script for the security and I will go over their script. But I assure you they have no weapon at all, not a taser, not a gun.” After I hurt her widdle feewins by using a ****BAD**** word. And, apparently, it is not on script to rush me out as if I were on fire either.

But in my heart, the library has been stolen from me. I was thrown out by security the moment I sat down. Clearly I am not welcome. I was thrown out in such a way, with such wording, that anyone listening would surely think I was some sort of theif, vagant, or trouble maker who “SNUCK IN PAST SECURITY” – as if my face was on a wanted poster by his desk. Someone so AWFUL they had to be gone IMMEDIATELY and could not have a moment to send a text message. As if I were smuggling AK-47s in my HUGE WAGON and had a big knife tucked into my… what..my hat band?

Snuck in? I limped right past him, in my big cowboy hat, dragging my wagon. WTF was HE doing?

I will never be comfortable and relaxed in that library again – for sure. Possibly, never again in any library. One of my few true havens has been stolen from me forever. I’ll be hyper-vigilant, like I am most of the time, expecting to be attacked, accused, threatened for no reason. Being “good”, doing what I think I’m supposed to do, doing what I normally do, what I’ve done exactly the same way dozens of time before, behaving as well as I know how, being perfectly NORMAL as far as I know – NONE of that means that I won’t be attacked and forced to leave IMMEDIATELY. How can I even walk in, knowing I might be stopped at the door, or grabbed the moment I stop moving to be accused and thrown out?

I didn’t know I was doing anything wrong. I wasn’t doing anything I had not done many times before. So how can I know, then, that I won’t be doing something else wrong? Maybe hats are illegal now? Maybe they changed the policy and I’ll be thrown out for…for…being short? Wearing boots? Having two bags? Wearing blue?

No. I can’t see myself ever sitting down to “relax” in a library again. Or even walking into one. Maybe I’ll stand outside and shout in to the security guy, let him come out and strip search me and inspect my packages before I go inside? Make sure I’m not breaking any rules I don’t know about. (Bet you if I do that I’ll be a “troublemaker” and get told to leave before they call the police)

A few years ago I broke my collarbone. I was told “no big deal, just don’t get it caught” and nothing was done to repair it. I eventually figured out that “don’t get it caught” apparently refers to tendons, ligaments or nerves that, on occassion, cause bolts of agony to shoot up and down my arm because I “moved wrong”. I cannot lift much with my right arm, I cannot tolerate a big heavy bag of books on my shoulder or in a backpack. So I can’t carry more than one or two books. I need the wagon. No wagon – no books for me. Maybe one or two skinny ones. Do they have that category? Can I search for skinny little books I can carry in your search engine? Books under a pound?

But, ahhhhh… here’s the deal. Here is what pisses me off and makes me a bit suspicious of this policy that was supposedly in place all the time I’ve been walking in and out of that library with that wagon past security.

Several MONTHS ago I bought the wagon to replace the third shopping cart that had broken under the burden of our groceries/books/etc. Because the shopping carts are increasingly fragile and carry maybe 20 pounds – MAYBE – and cost $80 and up, hubby and I shopped and found this marvelous little folding wagon you see above for $60 and with a weight limit of 150 lbs. I should be able to get my groceries home.

And, you know, can’t carry as much as I used to in bags and backpack.

All was well for a few months. I took the cart for groceries. Got on the bus. Took the cart to the library.

Then suddenly a few weeks ago I was told I could not get on the bus with my wagon – it was too big. But then the next bus driver let me on. And the next one said he didn’t know what I was talking about, asking if I was allowed on. We did complain about the first driver and got a message back from RTC that they had a policy in place since 2012 that wagons were not allowed. Yet I have many times seen them on the bus in the last three years. In fact, I ASKED one of those folks where they got theirs because we wanted one. I’ve seen people get on with TWO of those wagons, one full of kids, one full of groceries. But suddenly NOW it’s pot luck. Sometimes the driver lets me on. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they do but act as if I’ve got a wagon full of shit and they are doing me a huge favor.

Now, suddenly this week, I cannot go in the library with my wagon. They claim their policy was in place since 2005 I think it was.

Here’s what I think.

June 1st Las Vegas intends to completely open up and go back to business as usual. We want those tourists back!

And we DON’T want those tourists to be exposed to the (literally thousands of) homeless people.

There is a bus policy that you can’t sleep on the bus. It is pretty obvious if you ride as much as I do that this is enforced rather selectively. You can’t sleep on the bus while a person of color. You can’t sleep on the bus if you seem to be homeless. It seems through observation that the basic point is to keep homeless and the poor off the bus.

I think the sudden enforcement of these cart policies is the same thing. Harassment meant to keep the homeless out of sight.

I was wondering. Because suddenly the homeless people I see don’t have carts anymore. They have like 100 boxes and bags but no cart. One poor woman got on the bus looking like the mayor of Halloween Town with bags hanging from her bags, her belt, her shoulders, elbows, wrists and around her neck. Another man had this enormous like fishing net a good five foot in diameter full of things like pillows, sleeping bag, etc.

Because if they had a cart…they wouldn’t be allowed on the bus…

Kind of like this suspicious character…

I mean Nyanko-sensei of course

You would think I would have simply bowed down to the injustice the powers that be in the USA heap upon the homeless and even the simple low income class by now. It’s been 30 years or more since I was outraged that the homeless were swept off the steps of the largest, most elaborate Baptist Church in Tulsa by the Tulsa police, because the Christians were complaining about them begging churchgoers for help on Sundays.

Dwayne Reilander, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Nope, I’m not over that one yet either.

So the library branch manager finished her call with “Well, I don’t know what I can do to make you happy. The security guard went off script and I will go over the script with him again. What else do you want?”

“An apology would be nice.”

“Well. I apologize but.. ” blah blah blah, my fault. Umhmm.

You know what, there really is honestly nothing you can ever do, ma’m. Nothing will retrieve that feeling I once had of safety, security, peace in a library. I will always be looking over my shoulder, wondering if I am doing something wrong, if security is going to come over and rush me out the door like I was some horrible, dangerous criminal.

It’s just gone.

William Orpen, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Let me have one last laugh. So – basically the deal is they don’t want poor people here. If you have a cart – meaning you are walking or riding the bus – you are poor.

And yet yesterday the local news was blabbering on about how they want more people in Las Vegas to use public transportation and how it would lower air pollution and make the highways less congested and blah blah blah. But – wait – if you take the bus to go shopping you have to carry everything on to the bus in bags – and if you have plenty of money I bet you regularly leave the store with more than two bags, one in each hand…for a family of four, that’s what, two days worth of food? Maybe? But you can’t have a cart!

Tdorante10, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Nope, yer gonna have to juggle those bags! Hope none of them tear before you get home…

Of course, no one who has a car (i.e. a six figure income or more in this town) is getting within a mile of the public bus. Be real. The tourists take Uber or Lyft. In fact, the RTC has been complaining about Uber and Lyft taking all their business.

So – again – have a cart – poor = BAAAD. Have a CAR to take your groceries out and put them in the back seat – acceptable.

Be an old hippie like me who would take the bus, or bicycle, or walk (and use a CART) just to be that much more green – BAAAAAAD.

Public perception and greed rule. Always. Welcome to America.

For me, just one more brick in the wall. One more reason to become more of a hikikomori. We’ve spent the last year doing little more than going to dialysis, grocery shopping (me only) and not much else. The last week has made me wish we could just live that way all the time. And have the groceries delivered.

You think this was a rant – don’t even get me started on the difficulties of getting a delivery actually to our home.

Don’t let the bastids grind you down. Blessedbe.

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