What Are the Odds? | Newberry

What Are the Odds?

One day, perhaps, banana boxes will be banned and people will be forbidden to bring me coffee table books in garbage bags (the bruises on my shins will fade.) I will no longer be given textbooks with missing covers and Technicolor highlighted pages, and people who use pencils for bookmarks will send their damaged volumes elsewhere.

And will your Uncle Blogsy be out of things to complain about? Oh, have faith, my little marzipan and marshmallow meatloaf. Uncle Blogsy is made of sterner stuff.

There are things in my little world I haven’t begun to whimper about in this blog. One of them is the Columbia Viking Desk Encyclopedia. For those who have not seen it, this is a dandy two-volume set that combines the appeal of a dictionary and an encyclopedia without taking up yards of shelf space. As its title implies, it was designed to be part of a ready-reference library on your desk. Well made, and attractively if unobtrusively bound, the three main editions were published in 1953, 1960, and 1968, and I have no objection to it whatsoever. It’s a nice handy reference. It’s the people who donate it I object to.

There are years when I get one complete set and six copies of volume 2. In other years, one donor will bring a complete set and everyone else brings me copies of volume 1. It’s just a two-volume set, kidleys: you shouldn’t have that much trouble keeping them together. But I keep getting odd volumes of it. Yesterday someone else gave me a volume 2. It’s my third volume 2 since the Book Fair.

Oh, I know, I know. I’ve tried to be forgiving. Sometimes I save all the volume 1s, expecting that by the law of averages, someone would HAVE to donate a volume 2 that was single now, and I could match up the lonelyhearts. The people who donate this book are on to me. I almost never get a loose volume 2 until I’ve given up and thrown away all my unmatched volume 1s.

Even if it did happen according to my plan, it’s a fool’s game: Each edition was a different color. So if I have a lonely volume 1 from 1953, volumes 2s from 1960 or 1968 just won’t fit. Anyhow, they changed their design with the third edition. After years of splitting their entries between A-K and L-Z, they suddenly grew enamored of Lavaca Bay. Now volume 1 ran from A to Lavaca Bay, and volume 2 ran from Lavaca Bay to Z. So even if my customers overlooked the color, there could still be that gap or duplication between volumes.

One dreamy day, my dumplings, when banana boxes are banned and people no longer bring me books in bushel baskets, someone will donate the map with directions to the Land of Missing Columbia Viking Desk Encyclopedias. If I see your missing socks there, I’ll send you a postcard. 

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