Charlie must have given my doughnut an evil eye, since I woke up Monday morning with such a tummy ache I called in sick to The Clipper. I lay in supine misery until about 10:00, when the words of former Boston Bruins' bad boy, Derek Sanderson, came to mind: "It's only pain. It goes away!" he liked to say.
Since my sick bay was in Plymouth near the main branch of the Plymouth Public Library – a beautifully designed 1991 building – I drove there and opened a working draft of an editorial for the Fourth of July. After 90 minutes the work wasn't done but I was: Most of the computers were not being used, but there is (I was informed) a 90-minute limit on the public's use of this public library's computers.
In frustration, I drove to Kingston Public Library – another modern facility built on the site of what from childhood I recall as a large colored hotel just up the hill from Kingston Depot. (It needs to be remembered that the continuous presence of black people in the towns the Pilgrims settled is almost as ancient as the towns themselves.)
The librarian observed that Kingston gets quite a few Plymouth rejects. But there was a new problem: Since I had not previously logged on there, Gmail identified me a hacker; and nothing the computer-savvy librarian could do to help would work. I thanked her and headed next for the Duxbury Free Library, where I was able to log on and belatedly complete my part in an editorial superbly co-written by Ian McCourt, The Clipper's summer intern.
Public libraries, which serve much of the same population public schools do, are arguably better than schools in avoiding bureaucratic lockjaw. All libraries have time limits for computers when patrons are waiting, with "extra time" offered when traffic is light. Plymouth's stated policy has to be judged as unprecedented "lockjaw" for a public library.
Charlie is older than I am and I am 71. I saw him again at Duxbury's Fifth of July parade, at which he cast his eye on my top hat and embroidered Ukrainian shirt in disparaging remarks up there in volume with the muskets and drums. But in truth Charlie takes after his cartoons – delightful at every encounter. His presence among us is a reminder that we are never too advanced in life to make a friend.