Next Year

Picked up some library books the other say. The library set up is working for this lockdown era: go online, put a book on hold on my account. They send an email when it’s ready. I have a window before it’ll be put back on the shelf, giving me time to plan when I’ll go down there to pick it up.

I go several times a month. There’s a table set up outside, under a canopy, Saturday through Thursday, noon to four. Tape is used as markers to indicate the traffic flow and safe distances. Patrons line up six feet apart. The librarian comes out. We’re all masked. You give your name; the librarian goes inside and return with your books. Your account number is verified verbally via the last three numbers. They give you your books and you go on your way.

As part of the process, a slip of paper with the book’s title and its return date is printed. On that little slip are also two little financial gems. One states how much money you’ve saved yourself by borrowing from the library. The other tells how much you’ve saved this year.

The first is $26 on my slip of paper today. That was for two books. Both are hardcovers. Neither were published this year. I suspect I could get them for less than twenty-six dollars used.

The second number is $660. That’s how much I saved this year, they said.

Well, I don’t know about that. I pay a little in taxes each year for this. It was a bond issue for the county library system, and it’s part of my annual property taxes. I don’t think they take those taxes into account when they tell me how much I’ve saved.

But I like the system. I’m a writer. I’d like people to buy and read my books. It’s great that the library system pays books to fulfill that for writers. I hope my books end up in the library some day. It’s also an excellentway to save on trees, innit? Buy a book and let multitudes read it.

All that led to ebooks. These books were available to be borrowed as ebooks. ebooks do even more to save trees, although we then get into the sticky situation of electronic waste.

I don’t do much ebooking; I like the personal heft of the thick books in hand as I carry them around and read in various postures. I know I’m silly and sentimental that way. I could use ebooks and save more trees. Yet, I resist.

I blame blue light for some of that resistance. I watch television (so cut down, you reply) while I’m running in place (oh, you answer, that’s a little different) or using the Stairmaster as part of my exercise. I’m not good at reading while walking (though I’m trying). I also spend a lot of time on the ‘puter reading news (so cut down, you suggest) (I probably should, I answer, as not much of the damn news is good for my spirit), writing, and editing. I don’t want to add the strain of reading ebooks to the strain I already thrust on my eyes.

Nothing is as clear cut as it first appears any longer, whether it’s environmental impact, saving money, or selling books. Our lives are choices, decisions, and compromises. I could, instead of running in place or exercising while watching television just curl up with a book. I could, instead of using a hefty volume, make it an ebook and reduce other strain on my eyes. Or I can go to audio books —

Yeah, don’t even go there. I am a fan of audio books; I’ve used them when driving long distances, and I’ve used them while exercising. I’ve found, though, I prefer the inner voice that I create when I’m reading something.

So, I’ve thought about these things. I recognize some of my habits are comfort ruts. Comfort ruts can be pretty useful in periods of stress, such as, say, a global pandemic. Then again, it may be that I’m just too lazy to change, modifying that ‘too lazy’ to ‘too old and set’.

This is just one facet of existence. These same sort of exercises go on with other things as we live, from medicines to using plastics to cars to public transportation to fossil fuels to recycling to GMOs to organic food to nutrition to healthcare to eating healthy to money to politics to welfare to taxes to social security to war to equality to fashion to music to film to being healthy to relaxing to having fun to —

Well, that point is hammered in. Life is a busy process of constantly re-balancing all these choices. I wonder what’ll it be like in another hundred years.

Strike that: let’s just see what it’s like next year.

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