This is a story about saving a library book, but the repository will not be named.
It’s probably wise not to name my companion, either, though she is a wonderful woman whom I know well. An adult.
To set the scene: We were starting out on a road trip, sunny day, heading west on Interstate 88, somewhere in the scenic no-man’s land past Oneonta. I’m driving, Red Molly was in the CD player and Companion had been quoting from a National Park Service folding brochure about the Battle of Antietam.
At least that’s what she was doing the last I knew. At some point, Companion switched to leafing through a paperback guide to tourist sites in Pennsylvania, a guide she borrowed from a local library.
When a bug landed on it — granted, a big bug — Companion did what anyone would do: She held the book out the open window, to blow the bug off. The wind then did what any gale would do and ripped the book from her hand.
A mild oath from my companion, which was the first I realized anything was wrong. This is the Warren M. Anderson Expressway, so there’s nobody else within a quarter-mile. I could pull over, but the hundreds of feet are flying by quickly.
Companion says she’ll take her medicine and buy a new book for the library, but I know her well enough to know her heart isn’t into such frivolous spending. OK, I think, next time I see an exit, I’ll turn around.
I should explain here that I develop odd attachments to inanimate things, like a 4-year-old who refuses to take off his baseball cap. I used the same comb for decades, I think, once backtracking halfway across a Guilderland lacrosse complex when I lost it, rather than get a new comb.
I’m not cheap — but I’m sentimental.
So I can envision the Pennsylvania visitor’s guide lying sadly on the side of the highway. I can see it dead in the rain, alongside the possums and raccoons.
But I have no idea how far it is until the next exit, and I’m not telling Companion that I intend to turn back. When your hero complex is this small, it’s a good idea to keep quiet.
Fortunately, an exit for some leafy crossroads — Unadilla, maybe? — appeared within a couple of miles. I exited.
“You’re really going back?” asked Companion.
Perhaps she was impressed. Perhaps she had other thoughts.
Sure enough, after maybe three miles, Companion saw something gleaming white in the sun on the other side of the median, as yet unflattened by any passing tractor-trailer. “That’s it,” she said.
The next exit was only another mile or so, and again I exited, crossed the bridge, re-entered the interstate. The book was lying
on the shoulder. I pulled over, Companion got out and picked it up, and I pulled out again. The book had blown out of its plastic jacket, but otherwise was no worse for wear. And the bug was gone.
I wouldn’t recommend roadside book rescue along the Northway, but it’s a move you can get away with on parts of I-88.
Then, as it turned out, we didn’t actually do any sightseeing in Pennsylvania. Maybe the next borrower will give the book wiser use.
Stephen Williams is a Gazette reporter. The views expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. He can be reached at 885-6705 or firstname.lastname@example.org.