When French back-packer Agnes Varnier discovered that she had mistakenly taken a rucksack belonging to Jonathan Smith instead of her own, she managed to track down its owner…via his local library.
When looking for clues about the rucksack’s owner – and let’s face it, who wouldn’t have a good rummage? – she came across two books, including a copy of Lonely Planet’s Central America On A Shoestring, borrowed from the Millennium Library in Norwich.
From there, contact was quickly made; the library contacted his mother; an email address was obtained and a handover arranged.
Meanwhile Mr Smith was frantic over the loss of his toothbrush.
Because I am possibly the most pedantic person on the planet, I have several thoughts when reading this feel-good story in the Metro:
1) What was the second book? Why should only Lonely Planet get a plug?
2) Talk about travelling on a shoestring! Surely there is something in the Millennium Library’s terms and conditions that prohibits members from taking borrowed books half way round the world in a ruck sack? I have been travelling with rucksacks and, I can tell you, even if your bag is made of finest Gortex, books (particularly paperbacks) do not have very good prospects of survival. I have, naturally, looked on-line, and the fact that there are no such restrictions seems to be an appalling oversight. I had imagined the spokesman for Norwich Library saying, ‘This just shows how beneficial it is to be a member of the library service,’ rubbing his hands together with an evil glint, preparing to rubber-stamp some official summons-type document, complete with hefty fine. Up to 15 books (and 15 talking books – woah! They have books that can TALK!) can be borrowed at a time for a normal period of 3 weeks, but books can be renewed up to 3 times, provided no one else wants them. What are they going to do if you are 5000 miles (which is, as the Metro kindly points out – thank you, I was about to reach for my measuring tape – 8000km) away? You can imagine the poor librarian saying, ‘I’m sorry, you’ll have to wait until Mr Smith is back from Guatemala.’
3) The kind of person who does not buy his own travel guide after conducting initial research probably deserves to lose his rucksack on a bus.
4) Is Agnes the first person not to have Data Protection quoted at her when attempting to get personal information such as an email address out of the an official source? She must be a genius negotiator.
PS: You can so tell from the photograph of the pair that this was not the beginning of a beautiful friendship.