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Tuesday, November 17, 2009
November: Innocent and Accused
A major point in the plot of Sweetgrass Basket occurs when Mattie is falsely accused of stealing. Have you (or someone you know) ever been accused of doing something you didn't do? Would you (or did you) handle the situation differently?
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Second grade: Mrs. Quackenbush accused me of cheating. School was easy for me (especially then) so I had no reason to cheat, but she insisted my eyes had wandered (every two desks were placed with side edges touching). She had me stand beside her desk and screamed in my face until I confessed . . . which, of course, I ultimately did (my early Sarah phase). The punishment was to stand beside my desk with my arms outstretched, palms up, holding books (the number has become blurry) for what seemed like eternity. Obviously I never forgot that moment.
I had a teacher who tried to accuse of me of cheating on an essay because, and I quote, "No one remembers that much."
Yeah, always. Since there was three of us in my house... and I was the oldest, I was always accused of anything that went wrong.
It just ruins it all, because eventually I just gave up defending myself and did whatever punishment they gave me.
I was accused of cheating and sent to the principal's office. He immediately saw I wasn't at fault. Shew.
I was accused of leaving a big old coffee-mug ring on the end paper of a library book. I thought little of it when I saw it; it's a library book, and library books are sometimes damaged.
The library actually told me I had to pay to replace the book. I was shocked and offended. I have nothing against donating to the library, except under those circumstances.
They insisted they check their books after each return and were positive that ring appeared while the book was with me.
I knew better. I've never had a cup of coffee in my life, and library books never come into contact with food or beverages during their stay with me. They live on a shelf in the bedroom or on the nightstand.
I just stood at the counter, dumbfounded and speechless, until someone stepped forward to erase the charge from my account.
There was no defense. It was my word against theirs. It felt awful, and I guess it still does because I rarely go to that library. When I do, I stand at the checkout counter and page through every book, pointing out every minute bit of damage I see.
Wow, JenFW, it sounds like you met up with an overly uptight staff member. I have visited many, many libraries (sometimes officially as an author but many times just wandering in "anonymously") and most are so delighted to have people around who love books that it is hard to imagine someone so critical. And what's the big deal about "damage" to a book? Okay, so maybe we don't want books dropped into the bath water, but a coffee mug ring (and I do believe your innocence) is hardly something to fret over. Books should be handled and loved (sort of like the Velveteen Rabbit). When I see an immaculate book at a library sale or used book store, I wonder if anyone actually read it. Books are living art, not something to look nice on a shelf.
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