The Day I Played a Joke on V.S. Naipaul
My old job at the University of Tulsa library involved a great deal of contact with the estates of authors whose manuscripts are in the collections there. This included contact with V.S. Naipaul, who had sold his manuscript archive to the university and added to it every so often. In addition to shipping manuscripts from the U.K., Naipaul also made periodic visits to Tulsa to organize and use his own manuscript collection. On these visits it would be my job to see to any needs he had in the Reading Room during the days he was there. My boss's job was to ferry him back and forth from the hotel downtown at the beginning and end of each work day.
One day late in this particular visit, my fellow library assistant and I were preparing to close up the office for the day, and I let Naipaul know that the day was almost at an end. So he closed up his notebooks and came out to the front area, leaving his hat on the front counter while he visited the "lavatory". Milissa and I stared at the hat. "Isn't that the coolest hat?" she said. I agreed. It was green, something like a fedora, with a green ribbon around the crown. "He doesn't watch out," she said playfully, "I'm going to steal that hat." On a sudden impulse, I picked the hat up and examined it, then dropped it onto the foot-high statue of Socrates that stood on the counter. "I'm not going to be the one to get into trouble!" Milissa laughed, and fled to her office. I left the hat there and went into the reading room to wait for him to come back. I peeked out the door just in time to see Naipaul come back into the front area. He laughed in his quiet way and said, "Oh, very nice, very nice." I came out and said, "Do you mind if Socrates wears your hat?" He didn't mind, especially since the hat swallowed practically all of Socrates down to the pedestal; Naipaul's hat was far too big for his head.
So that's the story.