Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What Would Larry Do?

If I could be anyone in pop culture it would be Larry David, who stars as himself on HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm. Larry says and does the things I wish I could get away with. Often I find myself, after a particularly irksome encounter, thinking, what would Larry do? So this is the first of a new installment based on what I wish I'd done.

One of my friends, Steven Labree, has written a new book. I realized on my way to this week's critique group meeting, I'd promised last time I saw him I would buy a copy for ten dollars. Of course I only had a twenty, and no one could break it. Since we meet in a library, I assumed I could get change, and lo and behold, they even had a desk with a big sign that read 'Monetary Transactions.'
I sauntered up to the counter, twenty in one hand, Steve's book in the other, and waited for someone to look up. And waited. And waited.
"Can I help you?" asked a quirky bald man with glasses.
Waving the twenty I said, "I'd like to get change please."
"For what?" he asked.
I hadn't expected that. I had to think a minute.
"So I can break this twenty," I said.
He gave me a skeptical glance and I noticed a growing group of gawkers, suddenly interested in my transaction.
"No," he said. "What is the reason you want change."
Now I was really taken aback. I chose my words carefully, and spoke slowly.
"So I will have two tens, instead of one twenty."
He took a step back and folded his arms. "Do you have an overdue book? Need to add money to your account? Are you making copies?"
I thought I'd been pretty clear, but I repeated, "I just want change."
"Well we don't just give change," he said. "You must make a transaction."

This is the part where I answer what would Larry do. And what I wish I had done.

"Well," I said, cocking my head. "I'm trying to make a transaction. You're not letting me."
"Well I'm sorry," he said, waving his arms.
"There's no need to be sorry," I said. "Just break my twenty."
"I've explained to you, I can't just break your twenty."
"I don't understand why not," I said.
"Because that's our policy."
"But what's the difference?" I asked. "I give you twenty, you give me twenty. It's all the same."
"No. It's against policy."
"But your policy doesn't make any sense."
"Look," he said. "The policy is, you make a transaction, I can give you change."
Now he was talking down to me, so I straightened my spine and tried to be cool.
"I understand...the policy," I said. We stared each other in the eye for a second. "What I don't understand...is the reason for the policy."
"The reason?" He was offended. And a little gay. "The reason?"
"Yeah," I tried to explain it. "I think it's a stupid policy."
"Now our policy's stupid?" He was definitely offended.
"Not now," I explained. "Probably always. Look, I have a need. You're in a position to fill it. It's win for both of us."
"I don't want to fill your need," he said. "And how is it a win for me?"
"Because," I said. "I get my money. You get to help me out. You should feel very good about that."
"I don't feel good about any of this," he said.
"Of course you don't," I said. "You're beholden to a very restrictive policy. It's too confining."
"Yes, well, it is our policy."
"Break free." I shoved the metaphorical policy aside for all to see. "Give me two tens."
"No," he said. "The library's closing."
"No change?" I asked. He shook his head. "You really should re-think this policy. It's a bad policy."
"Thank you sir," he said. "We'll take it under advisement."
I paused at the door and looked at him. "I don't think you will."
"No," he said. "We won't."

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