Monday, February 12, 2007

Throwin' mama from the book

My youngest daughter Helena is pretty sick, and I spent part of this evening sitting at the Urgent Care. We got there around five, and when we walked in, the nurse informed us the current wait was around three hours. So I called work and told them I was using a sick day, and with feverish Helena passed out on my shoulder, I sat down in the only available chair in the packed waiting room, and I began to read my book:

Fool's Errand, by Robin Hobb. (I haven't gotten very far in the book, but it's great so far.)

Anyway, we'd been sitting for only a few minutes when they called our name. I assumed it was just for triage, so I put the book down on my chair next to her large diaper bag and headed to the back. As it turned out, our file got accidentally swapped, or Helena looked sicker than everyone else, or something, but it wasn't just for triage. We were back, in the little room waiting for the doctor, and even though that waiting room was full of miserable people who probably should have gone back there sooner than us, I wasn't going to say anything. Not tonight, not with a sick baby.

At this point I'm mostly concerned about my daughter, but I also begin to worry about my book. I felt kind of bad, leaving it on the chair with the diaper bag right there, taking up a spot when it was standing room only. I hoped someone would just pick it up and put it on the table. But I was afraid I was going to go back out there, and it was going to be gone.

Helena, in one of her better days

You see, I have terrible luck with books I'm in the middle of. They drop in the toilet. They catch on fire. They disappear into thin air. There are countless novels out there I am perpetually in the middle of, and it's all because of my bad book luck.

So after I talk to the doctor and get her antibiotic prescription, we head back out to the lobby. It's been about an hour.

My book is not gone. In fact, it's where I left it. But now it's being held by this older woman, and she's reading it. She's on page 10 or 11, and she looks riveted. The woman is kind of scary looking, kind of like the actress Anne Ramsey when she played Mama from Throw Mama from the Train or the evil Mama Fratelli in Goonies. The diaper bag is on the floor next to the chair, and with the baby still on my shoulder, I lean in and pick up the bag and put it over my other shoulder.

I look at the old lady and gather up my courage. As much as I think Robin Hobb deserves double royalties for that book, I wasn't going to go buy another one.

"Uh, hi. Could I please have my book back?"

The old woman looks up from the book, looking me up and down. "I thought this was just here."

"No," I say. "Sorry. It's my book."

She pauses for a long moment. Every eye in the waiting room is on me. I can feel they're all on her side. Most of the people recognize me as the guy who got in early.

She says, "I can keep this if I want."

I reach down underneath the book, which is still clutched firmly in both her hands, and I pull it free, just like that. The whole maneuver took less than a second. I turn, and I march out of the waiting room.

She calls out as I leave, "You're lucky you have a baby with you!"

And that's what happened to me tonight. Would you have done the same thing?


  1. Aww, poor little Helena, I hope she feels better soon!

    I'd take it, I mean, it IS your property after all. Hopefully she won't send her mean mobster wannabe sons to get ya ;)

  2. Some people feel that with age,they can throw their manners out of the window. Specially when they were brought up in a time that knew better! As for Robin Hobb and A Fools Errand..I read the whole trilogy..twice! I woulda beat the old woman over the head! J/K

  3. Honestly I would have done the same thing...except after the book was removed from her talons I would have spat out some pretty nasty words...

    What a miserable woman. Just be happy you aren't that unhappy on a daily basis!

  4. BRILLIANT. Yes, I'd do the same thing. And I love the calm exit stage left.

    Good wishes for Helena, I hope she is well soon!

  5. Hell yes, Throw the lady off dat book. I hate when people take advantage of you for everyday things. Like I'm on the subway and there are 5 empty seats but two grammas come in and when one sits down the other wants to sit next to her. The problem is that the first one sits so that I'm next to her and the other open seats are at the other end of the subway car.
    The 2nd old lady actually bullied me to get up and move just for her. OMG. they could have just sat in the other open seats in the first place. The other seats were all together AND closer to the door.

  6. Would I have done the same thing? You betcha. I think I would have had a few more words with her. How rude!

    Hobb currently is probably my favorite author. I've read the entire Assassin series and Tawny Man series several times over. Excellent! I've just finished book 2 of her Soldier Son series. Can't wait for the next one!

  7. I don't understand why the older generation feels as if we owe something to them. I am appalled that she would suggest that she could keep your book even though you made it plain that it was your book. Props for having the courage to actually take the book back. I probably would have continued to argue with her...

    And you are lucky you have a baby...was a doll. Praying that she will feel better!

  8. I would have kept the book. You would have had to wrestle me down to the ground, where I would then sustain a fake injury. The other people in the waiting room would begin booing and hissing at you beating up a sweet little old lady like that. You would leave in shame and I would have won.

  9. I probably would've been a big fat chicken and asked the nurse to get the book back for me and explain that it wasn't theres.

    If she so much as touched you with our sickie Helena in your arms, I would have not been pleased.

  10. How is Helena? I hope she is feeling better. Poor baby.

    Me? Mr. Hobb would have probably gotten double royalties. I mean, what was that woman in for...*shiver* Hopefully, nothing contagious...

  11. Bitch!! Of course you did the right thing. I would've probably said something else back, such as "YOU are lucky I have a baby." Bitch.

  12. Ooh, tough one. I'm 'confrontation averse', and once watched a pimply youth who worked at the shop I was in walk off with my trolley (shopping cart?) to stock shelves. You've inspired me, next time I'm gonna take back what's mine (politely and graciously, of course) ;)

  13. Should have called security...isn't that what they get paid for? :-)

  14. I would have done the same except after she said how lucky it was that I had a baby, I would have walked back to her to clock her over the head with the book. But that's just me.

  15. If I hadn't have been dealing with a sick baby, etc. I probably would have handled it differently.

    But in your shoes, dealing with the baby and just wanting to get the heck out of there... Who has time to argue with a stranger about a book that is rightfully yours? I would have done exactly the same thing. Calm, precise, and effective!

  16. Wow, I think you handled that extremely well. I would've probably left her with the book and then hate myself for it later.

    I hope your baby is all better.

  17. You handles it with class dude. You asked politely, she refused, and so you just slipped it out of her hands. Not like she had a choice in the matter. I can understand her wanting to pass the time, but she needed to be far more considerate and respectful.

    "You're lucky you have a baby with you!"

    You should just turned around and made a jackoff motion after that. Not as classy, but more satisfying :).

  18. You missed a lovely opportunity to remake the classic Peter O'Toole/Omar Sharif confrontation in Lawrence of Arabia:

    Ali: Good Army compass. How if I take it?
    Lawrence: Then you would be a thief.
    Ali: Have you no fear, English?
    Lawrence: My fear is my concern.
    Ali: Truly. God be with you, English.

    Think of the entertainment you could have brought otherwise ailing people - you'd be just like those people who visit sick kids, only marginally less frightening.

  19. sorry to hear about the little one:( I would'a bopped someone tryin to sang my Robin Hobb-read both trilogys, the Assasin and the Fool-they were most excellent!

  20. When the nasty lady said,

    ""She says, "I can keep this if I want."""

    I'd have said something to the effect of, "Yes, and I can stick my right thumb into your left eye socket, remove that eye, and leave you without the depth perception to follow me after I take my book back. Wanna see which of us is right??""

    You don't have to hurt people, if they believe you will, it works just as well.

  21. I'm glad you've taken the first emphatic step toward taking better care of your books! Maybe it took a personal crisis to wake you up? Or was it Robin Hobb?