A man recently decided to return to his hometown of Dudley, England, to return a book he had borrowed over 50 years prior, only to find out that he owed the library over $52,000 in library fines.
In 1964, 17-year-old David Hickman borrowed “The Law for Motorists” from the Dudley library, according to the Express & Star.
Hickman had been in an accident that summer near the Dudley High School for Girls when he crashed into the car of the then-Mayor of Dudley.
Facing a minor traffic charge, he was going to use the book to defend himself in court.
Unfortunately for Hickman, the book didn’t help. The Dudley Magistrates’ Court fined him what is now the equivalent of £175 ($216) for “driving without due care and attention,” as well as an additional advocate’s fee.
“My car was a 1947 Ford Popular and, in those days, if you had ‘wheels’, you were top of the food-chain when it came to getting the attention of girls,” Hickman, now 76, told the Express & Star.
He explained that he had “been waving to the girls coming from the school and my car drifted into the middle of the road. I was shocked to see the mayor.”
“I borrowed the book to look to see if I had any defense,” Hickman said. “My mother was furious when I went to court. People were more concerned with complying with authority back then.”
Even worse for him, the car crash was published in the local newspaper under the headline “Crash With a Civic Touch.” Worried his mother would be upset, he attempted to hide it from her.
“I even tried to buy the newspaper hoarding that listed the day’s headlines so that she wouldn’t see it,” Hickman told the news outlet. “Later, she came to see the funny side.”
Hickman ultimately took the book with him when moved from Dudley to live in Battersea, London, in 1970.
Occasionally he said he would come across it and think, “‘I must pop that back next time I’m in Dudley.'” He also thought about sending it in anonymously.
But he finally decided to “face the music and take it back in person,” as the E&S reported.
Hickman returned the book to the Dudley library.
The staff there calculated that his 20-pence-per-day fine over 58 years added up to a fine of £42,340, or about $52,400 in U.S. dollars.
“Fortunately,” Hickman said, the librarians “saw the funny side” and waived the fee.
Dudley librarian Sharon Whitehouse suggested donating the book to the Black Country Museum, which Hickman called “a great idea.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.