Blooper Reel

I have a failing for bloopers programs, those entirely too jolly shows featuring people who fall down a lot. I don’t know why: perhaps it makes me feel graceful. Or grateful: my parents never did buy me a skateboard, an object which seems to have been designed to get the user on television, generally upside-down or clutching some part of their anatomy while their friends laugh uproariously.

They do seem, in this era of posting everything one does online, to be getting more and more violent. I am often struck by the thought, “Those persons went to a lot of trouble to do themselves damage.” Fortunately, I don’t know people like that.

The reason I don’t know people like that is that they slip their books in while I’m not looking. If the Newberry could just afford High Definition Security Cameras, I could be hosting my own show.

Just yesterday, I was examining a box of books in which everything was wrong. This box came in at some point in mid-July last year. Yes, I was just getting around to it in April. This, butterscotch burrito, is why we ask you not to donate books in July: we’re getting ready for a Book Fair and we can’t get around to your boxes right away.

The second mistake was packing their books into boxes at least two feet by two feet by two feet. Those were the smaller boxes; they had bigger ones, too. In July especially, this helps guarantee your books will not be looked at. The rest of the year, we may do such boxes first, just to get them emptied and out of the room, but in July, they are shuffled away and stuck at the bottom of a pile of other late donations.

As frequently happens, the boxes were not filled all the way to the top. Yes, this does help me lift the monsters, but it also makes them difficult to store. ESPECIALLY IN JULY, when they are shuffled off to a neutral corner, placed at the bottom of a pile with other boxes and bags piled on top of them. The box begins to crush, you see, and if the books have not been carefully packed, many of them will suffer damage as well. It is nearly impossible to pack books carefully if the box is not filled: however precise you are, the books will move and shift whenever the massive cardboard vault gets moved.

As I say, I was going through these boxes, packing the books inside into smaller boxes so they could get a chance of joining the fun THIS July. That’s when I discovered the next mistake. This is one to which I believe I have only alluded before, deeming it unnecessary to state it as a general rule. I shall now remedy this omission.

If you are going to give us a very large, half-filled box of books in the middle of July…if you are going to give us a very large…IF YOU ARE GIVING US A BOX OF BOOKS AT ALL, TRY NOT TO PACK GLASS ITEMS IN THE MIDDLE OF IT.

They had put a paper towel around one or two, for padding. Let me just see what we have here. A picture frame, with glass panel, a large souvenir ashtray, a crystal bear, four delicate wood carvings from gift shops in tropical locales, a tiny imitation leather slipper also from an exotic gift shop, two glass bottles with metal stoppers, a small wooden curio or game, a plastic action figure, and a souvenir champagne glass from a presidential inauguration: all packed between hardcover books in a vast and now largely collapsing cardboard box. This is not the way professional curio packers do it, chopped liver crème brulee, even with paper towel cushioning. I eased my fingers through the box, murmuring “This is going to be bad. This is going to be very bad.”

Oh, and there was one further mistake. Not a single thing in the collection was broken. The action figure had lost an arm, but I just popped it back into the socket. This wasn’t so much a mistake as a confirmation of my general rule that if you EXPECT something to go badly, it won’t, just to confuse you.

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