I have written before about my concerns regarding the hygiene habits of people who check books out of the library. It’s no secret that I’m just a little suspicious of what some people actually do with the books, because it is clear that quite a few of the people who shamble by the shelves are so advanced in their illiteracy that they’ve mistaken the library for Byberry.
I know I shouldn’t be surprised that the books aren’t sterilized upon each return. I know I shouldn’t expect the books to be as oh so sweet-smelling as those in Shakespeare & Co. I know I shouldn’t expect much in the way of cleanliness, and by now I should just resign myself to the sad oh so sad reality that people are filthy motherfuckers but still, like Anne Frank, I naively believe that people really are good at heart. And occasionally do wash their hands.
I went to the library yesterday and took out three books. There is a smudgy stain in just about the same place on three successive pages of the one I started reading this morning. They are all on a left-hand page, just below the center and toward the edge. Two of the three are about 1″ to 1-1/2″ in diameter, and the third is somewhat smaller. I suppose that by the third page, whatever the substance was that left the residue was deposited elsewhere the reader’s lips or the fabric of his trousers … or returned to the safety of his ear. Anything to relieve the book of the torture of having to witness another instance of unnecessary smudging.
It is not an oily stain. It did not seep through to the other side of each page. There was no penetration. It is more of a dirty stain, a smudge. See for yourself:
Enlarged to show detail
Actual stain is much grayer
As with all stains, this one aroused my curiosity. I just had to know what it was. So, using the point of an old butter knife (this is a delightfully butter-free household, so at long last the butter knife is getting some use), I scraped some of the ancient residue into a small envelope and ran it down to a lab further downtown. Ordinarily I would employ a messenger service, but because this sample was so precious, I didn’t want to take any chances.
You’re never going to believe what it was. (Left click your mouse and drag below the row of asterisks to find out!)
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Amelia Earhart’s fingerprint, dipped in dirt from the footprint of a yeti!!!