I paid attention after that, and soon I came to realize that driving a bookmobile was a great job. In the morning I drove to the stop, usually in front of a damaged library building, and in the afternoon I drove back. In between I sat and watched the librarian and clerk help the patrons find books. If things got busy I would pitch in at the checkout desk.
Virtually all the patrons were either African American or Latino. So were my co-workers: Grace Smart the librarian, Wardlaw the clerk, Mr. Martinez the other driver. One day at the checkout desk a young patron, perhaps ten years old, handed me his library card, and I was stunned to see that his name was Ronald Kidd.
“That’s me!” I told him. “That’s my name too!”
I pulled out my driver’s license and showed him. It was a miracle.
The kid looked at the crazy white guy, then wordlessly checked out and left.
Usually I brought my lunch and ate on the bookmobile or at the depository where we went to reshelve between stops. There I’d usually be joined by Grace Smart or Mr. Martinez, who carried a bottle of hot sauce in his pocket and applied it liberally to all his food, including ice cream.
Mr. Martinez had been driving bookmobiles for years, and he quickly realized I had no idea what I was doing. He was kind enough to take me for a training run, in the process possibly saving a life or two.