Many years back, when I was a young thing fresh in the land of university, I had taken on the task of finding myself the appropriate books for each course. Of course, being the struggling student, I put off buying each book new; the network of buying and selling used textbooks is one we are acquainted with.
For a certain book, the library had a waiting list that would span the circumference of the planet a few times, and somehow it was always on hold. On the one fateful day that I had been visiting the library, while standing at the Returns counter, my gaze happened to fall upon the cart of books sitting behind the counter. The cart of books that had just been returned, and were waiting further sorting pertinent to their individual fates.
The cart upon which the one textbook I had been wanting and waiting for sat.
I cast my eyes this way and that. No one seemed to notice the fireworks going off around that book. Then I did some mental pacing. That book was right there, and for all the good it did, no one yet knew about the waiting list that spanned the circumference of the planet a few times. Not yet.
Casually, nonchalantly, I made myself known to one of the library helpers standing behind the counters. I politely inquired if I could possibly have one of the books sitting behind the counter. Yes, she told me pleasantly, which book would I like?
YES YES YES, I mentally did a few cartwheels and fist-pumped to high heaven, THIS BOOK IS MINE.
That one, I pointed calmly. She handed it over. I caressed the title lovingly. You are finally mine, I telepathed to it.
I quickly scouted the area, sure that any time soon, a phalanx of men in black suits would approach with a marching band, ready to commend me and present the Nobel Prize for Innovative Thinking to me.
Anyways, so I did what was expected, and took the book to be checked out. Just a few minutes and I'd be outta there, with the book that no one would see ever again until I was through with it; planning to renew and renew my hold on it until the cows came home.
Beep. The computer hiccuped.
'Uh, you have an overdue fine. Unfortunately, because it exceeds a dollar, you can't take out any books until this fine is paid. You want to pay it now?'
My eyes bugged out of my head. WHAAAAAAAAAAT? OK fine, keep calm and let's pay it.
Well, wouldn't you know. That's the day I had no money on me. Nothing but two cents worth. Funny. The thing about the library, it's not the bank. There's no ATM machine, and they don't take plastic. Cash and change only. Thank you for your consideration. ONLY? ONLY I don't have any moneyyyyyyyy!
I stood there, the world swirling about, the ecstasy of my apparently premature triumph ebbing away. All I needed was a little less than two measly dollars, can you believe that? $1.75 standing in the way of me getting the book; in the way of my capacity to study from the textbook; in the way of my passing the course; in the way of my life as a university student, and who will then become a failure and be traumatized for the rest of my LIFE! The enormity of that small amount struck me hard in my heart. It almost shattered.
The alarm reaction that activates during potentially life-threatening emergencies is called the fight or flight response. If you are caught in ocean currents, your almost instinctual tendency is to struggle toward shore. You might realize rationally that you're best off just floating until the current runs its course and then, more calmly, swimming in. Yet somewhere, deep within, ancient instincts for survival won't let you relax, even though struggling against the ocean will only wear you out and increase your chance of drowning. Still this same kind of reaction might momentarily give you the strength to lift a car...
Let us take a moment to remember that this is the Diary of the Besharami, and all thoughts, acts, and behaviours herein shared are to be taken with this knowledge and precludes material which may shock, embarrass or render the reader such like.
I refused to give in.
All I needed was $1.75, right? Not much. And when you consider it, it's just a collection of a bunch of quarters ($0.25). A quarter to the average middle class person is not actually considered to be all that much. We would drop a quarter and not really miss it.
In the space of ten minutes later, I stood at the counter with $1.75.
Now I have to let you in on the secret. What I did is something I shouldn't be proud to be telling anyone. Mind you, I didn't steal a wallet, nor rob a child of his lunch money. What I did do was circulate about the library, and approached females browsing alone. I then smiled sheepishly and abashedly, in a hushed voice, asked if they would be able to spare a quarter.
If you happen to be a female living in the Americas who is not a misanthrope, agoraphobic, or lutropublicaphobic, you will likely have some semblance of an idea about the psychology of my queries.
For everyone else, here is the dirt: In being approached by a younger female, who is asking for exactly and only a quarter in a state of embarassment, one will assume that that female is experiencing an emergency involving the female reproductive system.
The public washrooms/restrooms/toilets in this city boast vending receptacles attached on the wall of the female washroom which provide feminine hygienic products for those in need, all at the cost of a quarter. The males reading this may be familiar with the sight, as they have their own version vending contraceptive products. Do not ask me how I know.
Aaactually, on second thought, I am going to have to explain that since with that last sentence I have condemned myself to your inclination to believe that my besharampan extends to possessing this knowledge via my own personal sin. Well, excuseee me. Contrarily, I am familiar with the existence of condom-selling-boxes in the gents because one of my friends, back in the day, used to bug me, the way friends do, by stealing possessions of mine (to wit: shoes that I remove while studying) and hiding them in the mens washroom, assuming that I wouldn't dare go get them. Little did he know. Pshh.
So yes, what I did was ask random women for 25 cents, and they gave me, thinking I needed to buy feminine hygienic product ASAP. I didn't coerce nor did I steal. They gave of their own free-will. And, in the process, I amassed the amount of money I needed to pay my fine and get the book. True story, yo.
As I left the library, I almost heard the sounds of that marching band....