An employee of a small town "liberry" chronicles his quest to remain sane while dealing with patrons who could star in a short-lived David Lynch television series.

Friday, December 31, 2004

And the Password is (Addendum)

I'm still not convinced that Parka doesn't somehow have our new password.

A couple days ago, I put him on the little computer by the stairs cause the other two were full. This always brings me great joy, because he hates the little computer by the stairs, probably due to its high-traffic and high-visibility status. He's also not fond of the third computer down, cause it doesn't have a nice scroll-wheel mouse like the others.

A while later, another patron came in for a computer and I went back to tell the lady on the middle computer, next to Parka, that her time was up. I returned to the circ-desk to wait for her to finish so I could log off her computer and log it back on for the new user.

BEEEEEEP, I heard from the back.

Ah ha! And so it begins anew, I thought. That beeping was no doubt Parka rebooting his computer so he could either stage a coup and take the more comfy middle computer with the scrolly mouse or so he could come complain to me that he'd locked his machine up, had to reboot and needed me to log him in again, affording him yet another opportunity to try and get a look at our password. Well I wasn't going to put up with it. I resolved that if he came up to ask me to log him on again I was going to... I don't know... tell him he had to wait in the children's room while I did it so that he wouldn't be tempted to try and nab our password. Sure, this was dumb and would be tipping my hand that I knew what he was up to, but if I had the evidence from his previous visits I felt I needed to use it to show his smarmy ass up.

Parka didn't come up to ask, though, and I was unable to go back and see what he was doing due to an unfortunately timed ringing phone at the desk. While I was on the phone, the lady from the middle computer departed, so as soon as I was able to hang up I went back. Parka was still at the little computer by the stairs. His computer was already logged in, though curiously he only had the desktop up and seemed to be in the process of clicking on Internet Explorer.

Ah hah, Ah HAH, I thought. He'd had exactly enough time to reboot and illicitly re-login his own computer while I was away! I'd caught him at last!

Then I noticed the middle computer. I had expected to find it still logged on from the previous user and in need of a re-login itself. However, this had already been done and it was now sitting there in default rest mode, awaiting a CTRL ALT DEL to bring up the login panel. My evidence was shot, cause I knew that it was quite possible that the BEEEEEEP I'd heard was the middle computer restarting at the command of the previous user as she left. Even if Parka was acting suspicious, I had no accusatory legs to stand on. Dammit.

I logged the middle computer on for the new patron, making a big production of sliding the chair out of the way so I could wedge my holiday-spawned bulk in to block Parka's line of sight. He made no move to run up the stairs and look, which would have given me an excuse to kick him out. Dammit.

"I think we still need to watch PARKA," I told Mrs. C yesterday as a precursor to telling her the above incident.

"Ohhhh, I didn't tell you, did I?" she said. "I had to yell at him this morning."

Mrs. C said that Parka had come in earlier and signed in for a computer. Mrs. C went back to log him on and saw that the middle and third computers were still logged in from the previous patrons. She went to the middle computer and did a log-off and was about to proceed to the third computer to do the same when Parka came back to the hall. She was just flipping down the laminated orange "Get Thee To the Sign Up Sheet Or Denied A Computer Thou Will Be'est" sign that's taped to the top of the monitor when Parka spoke up.

"I want to use the middle computer," he reportedly said, no doubt in full Officer Barbrady monotone. Mrs. C noted this and continued on to log-off the third computer down, but she had already flipped the orange sign down over the screen before moving to log off the third computer. Parka was enraged.

"Hey, I said I want the middle one!"

Mrs. C said she turned on him, eyes blazing, and shouted back, "I heard you the first time! I have to log them off and wait for them to come back up before I can give one to you!"

Parka notched his anger down at this, but still said, "Well, you flipped the sign down."

"Yes. Yes, I did."

Now Mrs. C is on the Parka war-path. Later in the morning, he managed to lock his computer up again and then shut it down completely rather than simply rebooting. When Mrs. J came to log him back on she had to stand there for the minute it takes for it to completely boot up, Parka looming over her the whole while. Mrs. C wants to tell him that if he does that again he'll be banned from the computers. She has to wait for Mrs. A to come back from vacation to get the authorization for this, though. I somehow don't see Mrs. A having a problem with it.

He may also still have our new password, as a simple log-off of a computer, as might have happened with the middle machine, does NOT cause a BEEEEEEEP. Only if the previous patron had told it to RESTART would it have done so. Could be either way at this point, but I'm going to have my eye on Parka to make sure.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Even more Sad...

One of our regular patrons is a young man who works at my favorite local Chinese restaurant. He's one the nicest and most polite regular patrons we have. Mostly he comes in for internet access, but always asks if there are any available before signing up. He always seems concerned that we not disturb someone who is already using it even if that person is out of time. (We disturb the out of time patron anyway, because it's usually Parka.)

Tonight the young man came in with a grave look on his face. He signed up for a computer without first asking if one was free. Then he looked up at me with a very odd and fearful expression and said, "I have to read the news." Only then did I realize that he meant "news of the tsunami" and that this likely meant his home country was in the path of those tidal waves.

"Oh, my... It hit... What... Your... ?" I stammered for a moment, then finally managed a complete sentence. "What country are you from?"

"Indonesia."

"Wow," I said, not really knowing what else to say.

No one was using any of the computers, so there was no waiting time in logging him on. He stayed on for half an hour and then returned to the desk to sign out. He still wore that same stunned and exhausted expression.

"Um... What did you hear?" I asked.

"Forty thousand," he said. At the time, this was the closest estimate of people dead in the wake of the tsunami. I was to learn later that the toll was actually over 100,000.

"Were any of your family there?"

At this he gave me a wan smile and said, "No. They live on the other coast. The other side." He gestured in the air, indicating an island with two coastlines. His family had been safe.

"Well, that's good. But still..."

He nodded, smiled and then left.

I felt awful for a long time afterwards. This wasn't a kind of situation like, "Oh, sorry your grandma died," or even "Oh, sorry your brother died." This was a "Sorry 40,000 of your countrymen died." It's not something the usual etiquette guidebooks cover.

Even MORE amazing...

I phoned Mrs. West tonight about the 3 books she's had on hold for most of the week AND she actually ANSWERED THE PHONE! Glory be, hallelujah!

Trouble was, I wasn't expecting her to answer and hadn't bothered actually taking her books off the HOLDS TO CALL shelf, so I was completely unprepared when she asked what books we had for her.

The Return of Birthday Lady

Mrs. C informed me today that Birthday Lady, the little old lady who used to phone us whenever anyone famous died, to ask their birthday, had phoned this morning to learn the birth-date of actor Jerry Orbach, who died this week.

It's been quite a while since we've heard anything from Birthday Lady. In fact, I don't think we've heard from her since my original post about her in November 2003, when she called about Art Carney. I was starting to worry that perhaps someone should be calling to ask us what day she had been born.

For the record, he was born October 20, 1935.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

WWWJD

Yesterday was our new "liberry" assistant Miss K’s first day on the job. (Miss K is, by the way, no relation to Kammy K: the Book Hoarding Bizatch.) She's pretty green, as this is maybe her second job ever and certainly first at a library, so there’s lots of stuff to be imparted to her. Mrs. C has mostly been training Miss K, but I've thrown in a few logs of advice here and there too.

One of my main objectives is to warn this naif employee about some of the patrons--of the regular, rogue and crazy varieties--she will likely encounter. The subject of one regular in particular came up when I noticed that Mrs. C had a new book of Hebrew essays over by her desk, ready for cataloging. Turned out it was for another area library, whose cataloging Mrs. C is assisting with. However, it struck me as just the sort of book Wal-Mart Jesus would probably enjoy.

"Do you know about Jesus?" I asked Miss K, grinning. Beyond the obvious humor at asking, it was a fair question. After all, having grown up in the area, Miss K was already familiar with the Purple Nun. She admitted, however, she was unfamiliar with Jesus. So I explained who Wal-Mart Jesus is, paying particular attention to details about how he always wears his Low-Rent Arab Sheik robe and flappy turban that appear to have been pulled off a roll in Wal-Mart's fabric department. I also mentioned how he tends to carry a black leather satchel with a large home made tree-limb cudgel to defend himself against folks who mistake him for a terrorist.

"He's a really nice guy," I said, "but he can be a handful when he wants lots of photocopies made and wants you to do it."

Miss K nodded and laughed and looked nervous about it all.

At 3 o'clock I took my break and headed down to the comic shop for this week's goody bag. (Amazing Spider-Man # 515, Tom Strong #30, Concrete: The Human Dilemma #1, Supreme Power #14, Invincible Iron Man #2 and Books of Magick: Life During Wartime #6.) When I returned, Mrs. C grinned and pointed at a familiar black satchel resting behind the counter, minus the cudgel.

"Guess who she got to meet today?" Mrs. C said.

I've learned that it is not at all uncommon for patrons to magically appear at the sound of their own name. They could be absent for months, but if I mention them in common conversation or even blog about them they magically reappear. (I'm now awaiting a new visit from the Evil FedEx Guy in exchange for all the words I lavished on him. Somewhere, I'm sure his ears are burning. I hope it hurts.)

Wal-Mart Jesus's visit was uneventful. He's almost completely given up on finding a seemingly non-existent on-line copy of a particular obscure Hebrew text and is now of a mind to contact the out-of-state university that he knows owns a copy and asking if they can photocopy bits of it for him. (This has been his ongoing project for the past several months, one which I've probably spent an hour and a half total trying to help him with. We've looked and looked and what he wants does not appear to be on-line. Further complicating matters is that I can't always help him search for it because I can't read Hebrew. Fortunately, he can, but his web skills are pretty rudimentary. We make a great pair. Also, we have tried to help him locate what he wants through more traditional library means, but there are just not a whole lot of Hebrew Universities in West Virginia. I still think there's more we can do, but I'll have to consult with someone who has skills.)

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Fatty Fatty Two By Four Appearance (or "More Titles Originally Rejected by Robert Ludlum")

Bout mid afternoon, Chester the (Potential) Molester came through the door. He was wearing his typical little gray knit cap, though not the one with all the holes in it. Similarly, he wore a less ratty-looking vest.

As usual, the first place his eyes went (being as how there were no preteens immediately in the room) was to the top of the mysteries floor shelf where we USED to keep FAFSA forms. The only thing there at the moment are Christmas books and tomorrow, after we put them away, the only thing that will be there are tax forms. Chester looked disappointed, then approached the desk. I made sure to give him my standard and patented monstrous glare of hatred and ire.

Chester's looking pretty fat these days. I'm not saying this judgmentally, as I myself have done nothing but eat since Thanksgiving and I can no longer quite fit into my size 34's and my size 38's are unsettlingly comfortable. I think Chester must have eaten twice as much as me, though, cause he's quite the plump goose. We see him so irregularly, that he might have been gaining for a while now, but the last time I got a good look at him, he seemed to be getting into some form of better shape. He's still a bloated sack of crap no matter how thin he gets, but today he embodied that term far more accurately than in recent memory.

"Uhm... uh... rthere anycmprtrsopn?" Chester mumbled.

"Come again?"

"Uhmm are there any computers open," he repeated.

Normally when Chester comes in, the computers are full, albeit with patrons whose time has run out. In such cases I should technically ask one of them to leave and relinquish their computer to him. However, since Chester only asks if computers are open and not if he can use one, I almost always get to tell him, "No, they're all full." At that moment, though, there was only one computer being used so I had no way to manipulate the truth.

"Yeah," I grumbled, marching back to log him on. I passed a completely different patron and had to make sure to alter the expression of loathing on my face so she didn't think it was directed at her.

After Chester took his place at the computer and I'd returned to the desk, I noticed that his Fugly, parked out front in half hour parking, still had its lights on. Even though a dead battery in it might mean Chester would have to hang around the library to wait for AAA or something, I just couldn't bring myself to be so nice as to actually alert him to it. Mrs. C returned a few minutes later, and wore a similar expression of hatred and ire to my own, having noticed the Fugly out front.

"Is he here?" she said.

"Yup."

"Does he know his lights are on?"

"Nope."

Neither of us made a move to tell him.

"I do have a FAFSA form for him, though, in case he asks," I said, brandishing one of the forms I'd pulled from the huge pile of them we still have behind the desk. "Can I go ahead and fill it out for him? `CHESTER THE EFF-ING MOLESTER'" I pretended to write, substituting Chester's real name to bookend the EFF-ING.

We laughed.

We've had some interesting though not surprising news about Chester recently. One of the local home-school students, Rif, who's been a regular at our "liberry" since he was a tiny kid, is now taking classes at the community college across the road. I was recently regaling him with the tale of arranging for Chester to get a parking ticket for hogging up an hour and a half of our half-hour parking time when he gave me a curious look and asked me to describe Chester for him. I'd assumed he knew who I was talking about, as Chester is the same guy who used to regularly creep out his sister, Magenta, by driving by her repeatedly when she was waiting outside the local dance studio for her ride home. I described Chester's sack-of-Chris-Penn-gone-to-seed-crap appearance for Rif.

"I know who you're talking about," he said, grinning. "That guy is creeeepy! He hangs out at the community college all the time."

According to Rif, Chester likes to hang out in the commons area of the community college where he enjoys casually leaning against walls and garbage cans pretending to read a newspaper while ogling the girls (at least there they're of age) and grinning from ear to ear while he does it. Rif says everyone knows about him and sees him for the creep that he is. We still don't know if he's actually taking classes there or if he's just pretending to be a college student for the girl-watching opportunities. I'd love to know for sure.

Chester left without asking for a FAFSA form, nor did he have any opportunities for ogling.

Hours passed.

Around 6:45, Mrs. C phoned me on her cell phone. She was calling from the local health club down the street where she and Mr. C work out on a daily basis.

"Guess who's working out here tonight?" Mrs. C said.

I knew it immediately. "No!"

"Yes!" she said. "He's wearing his little gray hat and everything."

"Oh, Lord!" I said, trying and failing to stop myself from imagining Chester in workout attire.

Mrs. C seemed to sense this and said, "Yeah, it's pretty disgusting. He's hardly working up a sweat, but at least he's trying. I haven't seen him staring at anyone yet either. Just thought you'd want to know."

I guess Chester's trying to work off some holiday pounds, just like the rest of us.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Anudda Munday

Christmas vacation went well, even if it was pretty short.

I left my in-law's place in North Carolina this morning around 8:45 and hit the road for home. My wife is staying behind to visit with her peeps for a few more days while I have to return to West Virginia. Mrs. B is still out following her surgery and also managed to develop pneumonia, so she wasn't able to return last week as she'd planned so I get another week of near constant fill-in. Like I told my boss when she broke that bad news to me, though, "It's not like I don't want the money." Mrs. A also wanted me to come back today to help Mrs. C on her Monday shift since our records from last year indicated a horrific amount of patron traffic (which is to say, a usual Monday) on the corresponding day.

So I hauled my tail over several mountains in order to get home by the time the library opened at 1 p. I almost made it on time too, but I stopped along the way to shop for shoes.

For the record: there is no place in the Tri-Metro area where a person can buy a decent pair of athletic shoes that don't look like they fell out of a clown's ass.

"Hey, Spanky, how bout slappin' a pair of Reebok Highposts or just about anything by Dada, on your tired old dogs. It's like the `70's, but for your feet!"

Who buys such hideous footwear? All I want is plain white athletic shoes with a minimum of logos and other such gaudy shit on them! Is that too much to ask?!! Well in Tri-Metro, yes, it is.  In other towns, however, not so much. I was able to find a nice pair of plain white Skechers which were, as an added bonus, on sale. The delay for shopping, plus about a dozen slow-ass people on the two lane highway I chose to take back, put me around 4 minutes past 1 p.m. getting to work.

I cruised through downtown Town-A, passing Mr. B-Natual and Bubba on the way, parked in front of the "liberry" and walked through the door into the usual Monday madness. Mrs. C was there, womanning the desk solo. Well, not entirely solo. She did have Lennie there, who was on his regular Monday shift and was shelving videos as I walked in.

As she told me later, once things had calmed down a bit, she had already emptied the book return THREE times that morning before even opening for business. Then, at 1, there were people pounding on the door to get in, three of which hauled ass for the computer sign in sheet and then descended on the computers to get their raging "3 whole days without the innanet DT's" fix going. They were so quick that they completely left Mr. B-Natural in their signup sheet dust and he was unwilling to wait around for a computer to free up, hence why I saw him driving away.

The rest of the day was very busy, but it's a tolerable thing when you have two people on the job. I've told Mrs. A repeatedly that we need a second person on shift on Mondays instead of just leaving Mrs. C at the mercy of it's chaos. She's even suggested it to Mrs. C, but her point is that Mondays are hot and cold--it's full on busy one minute then nothing for upwards of an hour at a time, then another inexplicable burst and then more nothing. It's hard to justify having someone else in if they're just going to have to sit around and pick their nose.

I wouldn't mind getting paid to pick my nose. Back when I worked for Onstar, I once got paid time and a half to guard ice-cream and read a Neil Gaiman book. That's right. I was already working overtime one weekend, things were slow, the company needed someone from my department to go sit in the break room and guard the free ice-cream they were giving to employees, I told them, "I'm your man. I'd love to be paid time and a half to watch cream." I'd be up for such lunacy again.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas

Posting this from my in-laws house in North Carolina where the wife and I are for the holidays.

Polished off a tasty breakfast of biscuits, eggs, sausage balls, country ham, cheese, jelly and other wonderful breakfasty things this morning. For lunch, Ma put out a neverending buffet of appetizery grub, including more sausage balls, a sandwich platter, chips, dips (of the spinach, chicken curry and sour cream & onion varieties), cakes, pies, fudge, cheesecake, nuts & bolts, and other fabulous things. It's like our appetizer party never ended.

All day long now we keep walking into the kitchen and saying, "Oh, hey, food!" and loading up a plate. Then, half an hour later, we're wandering through again saying, "Oh, sweet! Food!" and it's another plate for us.

I love my ma-in-law!

Hope you all are in much the same situation.

Friday, December 24, 2004

The Return of the Cranky King


Mr. B-Natural, crankiest old man in all the world and long lost missing rogue since we banned his dog, Bubba, for infesting our library with fleas this past summer, came in Wednesday at around 5:30. Wow, he was cranky! I've not seen him that fired up in a loooong time.

He came in, sans dog, just behind two burly gentlemen wearing ball caps that advertised heavy construction equipment. They also had a considerable amount of dried mud on their feet, much of which they left on our runner carpet. The mud-caked gentlemen wished to use computers. Mr. B-Natural, who we rarely saw after 5 back when we regularly saw him, also wanted one. The cranky part came next.

I'll have to take his word for this, as I did not smell it myself, but according to Mr. B-Natural, the older of the two gentlemen was something of a farter and had let fly with a foul cloud just prior to entering the building. Again, I never smelled it. In fact, the only thing I could smell was the delicious yet lingering aroma of the club salad I had just eaten, which I'm not convinced isn't what he was smelling in the first place. (Maybe says something about my choice in salads.) He didn't tell me about it right away. Instead, he headed back to the computer hall, presumably to escape the gas.

"Don't you smell that?" he asked me while I logged on computers for the other men. He told me about his farter theory, ending with, "Gotta be that old man!"

In between bouts of being insulting, he was eyeing the computers that I was logging on. I pointed out that he'd still not signed in on the clip board up front and needed to do so before he could have a computer of his own. Loudly cursing about the horrible farty stench (which I still couldn't detect) and the sorts of old men who are full of such smells (never mind that the old man in question was standing RIGHT THERE as Mr. B's accusations flew), Mr. B-Natural accompanied me back to the circ desk. He signed in, upside down, as in accordance with tradition, then returned to the computer hall. Within 30 seconds, he was back at the desk, practically gasping for air. He began yet another loud curse-filled rant on his new favorite topic of gassy old men who can stink up entire buildings. (And this from a guy who never uttered a single word of complaint when seated directly beside Mr. Stanky, lo those many months ago.)

"Are you sure it's not my salad?" I said, pointing to my open salad container.

"Hell no, it's not a salad!" Mr. B angrily fired back. "Makes me want to puke! I'm gonna have to take my teeth out and wash them before I do anything else!" He said this, I might add, while stuffing multiple cookies from our holiday open house goodies table into his mouth. The "stench" had not dampened his appetite.

"Can't I just use one of these?" he said, indicating our card catalog computer and Mrs. C's computer.

"Nope. Patron's can't use those for the internet."

"Shit."

Eventually Mr. B stopped cursing quite so much and calmed down. However, that left me standing there with him staring at me as he waited, I suppose, for the place to air out.

"So..." I began, looking for some kind of small talk. "How's Bubba doing?"

"Oh, he's pretty good. Had to leave him at home to come down here cause MRS. A won't let him in anymore."

"Well, I miss Bubba," I offered. And I do. I'd rather have Bubba in than Mr. B-Natural.

"It's a goddam shame too! That dog didn't have no fleas!" Mr. B said. "He sleeps in the same bed as I do and I don't have fleas." He rambled on a bit more in this vein, explaining that he uses the Hartz flea-killer medicine on Bubba and how it's the kind you're supposed to use once every three months, but Mr. B-Natural uses it on his dog once a month, just to make sure.

"Then some woman up and gets flea bit and they all blame Bubba! Shit!"

Finally, Mr. B-Natural left me alone and returned to the computer hall. I set about trying to write down as much of the encounter as I could. I didn't get far because he was back, barely three minutes later.

"That internet has to be the most goddam frustrating thing in my whole life!" he said. "I can't make heads or tails on how to send this e-mail to somebody. Can you help me send an e-mail?"

Aw hell, I thought. The last thing I wanted to have to do was hand hold him through the Hotmail signup process. It's bad enough with pleasant patrons. Still, there was a chance I might not have to.

"Uh, do you already have an e-mail account?" I asked.

"Yeah. I got e-mail with Yahoo. But I hit compose and it's not working and it's the damndest thing. Jesus Christ!"

I walked around the desk and back to the computer hall where I found a blank Yahoo e-mail compose window on his screen.

"That wasn't there before," he said. "It had to have come up while I was gone."

"Well, you can just type their e-mail address in that blank there and then write the e-mail," I said. "You do know their e-mail address right?"

"Yeah. I have to check something on it first," he said.

I left him to it. Occasionally, I had cause to go back to shelve books on tape or log someone else on and every time I would hear him grumbling and adding the occasional "Jesus Christ!"

Mr. B-Natual's half hour ended and then another ten minutes crawled by. I left him alone. He was not, however, going to extend the same courtesy to me.

"This has got to be the most frustrating damn thing in my whole life," he repeated on his way back to the front desk.

I followed him back to his computer to see what was wrong. There on his screen was, of all things, Martha Stewart's home page. As you might have heard, Martha is currently residing in our fair state as a guest of the Alderson Women's Prison. Mr. B-Natural next showed me a news article, several browser screens back, that was about sentencing reform, which also mentioned Martha and her new digs and gave the address for her home page. Mr. B-Natural wanted to write an e-mail to Martha, but every time he clicked the "e-mail Martha" button from her home page it refused to "do any goddam thing." I could see that this was because the "e-mail Martha" button was actually a "mailto:" link with her e-mail address in it. Whenever he pressed the button, the computer tried to load Outlook Express in order to plug the address in. Trouble is, we don't have Outlook on those machines, so Windows just opened up the executable search to try and find a suitable replacement.

About that time, Mr. B-Natural started a new rant against technology the likes of which the Unabomber would have been proud to have penned. While he was busy with all that, I did a copy shortcut on the link button and then told him to open up his Yahoo mail page again. When he finally got a compose window open, (which, in his defense, did take an irritatingly long time to come up), I pasted Martha's address into the TO: blank. Mr. B-Natural was astounded.

"How the hell'd you do that?"

I showed him how the hell I'd done that.

"Well, I'll be," he said.

After that, Mr. B-Natual whiled away another half hour typing his e-mail to Martha. When he had finished and sent it, he came back up to the circulation desk and thanked me for helping him. He seemed genuinely pleased about it. Before he left, he said, "You know, I could have said the same thing to a person face to face and it would have taken less than 30 seconds."

I just smiled and watched him go.

I would truly love to know what he said to her.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

And the password is...

Last week, two girls and a boy began pestering me for the password to the children's room computer. They were probably 11 or 12 and therefore given to cheerfully pestering people. The ringleader of them was Caroline Turner, a regular patron of ours and a young lady I've had some confusing dealings with before.

At first I didn't even realize what they were up to. Caroline had come up to the desk around 6 p.m. last Wednesday night and asked me what Mrs. C's full name was. I told her. Then she wanted me to write it down for her, so I did. A minute later she was back, asking for my name to be written down. Okay, sure, I thought. It was odd, but I somehow imagined she and her friends were plugging our names into Mad Libs or something.

A few minutes later, she and her other cohorts came to ask me harmless personal questions, such as my pet's name, my favorite book, my favorite movie and my favorite number, (Winston Churchill: The Infinitely Bad Kitty, The Martian Chronicles, Raising Arizona and four, respectively). Having secured this information, they scurried away to the children's room again.

Finally, Caroline came back and just point blank asked me, "Would you just tell me what the password is for the kids' computer?"

Ah, so that was their game.

"No," I said.

"Pleeeeeease?"

"Noooooooo."

More minutes of pleading and banter followed during which Caroline even threatened to sign up to use the computer just so she could watch my fingers and get the password as I logged her on.

"Well, that's really gonna work for you now, isn't it?" I said.

"Aw come onnnnnnn! You can tell me!"

Sure kid, I tell you and soon everybody's playing Magic School Bus Vs. The Dinosaurs for free.

This sort of thing went on for some time, with Caroline coming up with wildly inventive reasons why I should tell her followed by threats of the crazy things she would accuse me of if I didn't. (This sounds alarming, I know, but her very worst threat amounted to her taking one of our books, tearing it up and then then telling Mrs. A that I had taken the book and let my dog tear it up. I explained to her that Mrs. A would never believe her because she knows I don't own a dog.)

For a while I even considered telling her that the password for the computer wasn't a word at all, just to see her race back to start trying number combinations. (The password really ISN'T a word, but there aren't any numbers involved either, so her search would be fruitless.)

Eventually, Caroline had to leave for her group French lesson next door, as did her comrades. So I was left in peace.

Caroline, however, would not be the first patron to try and acquire our password. The last patron to try it was an as yet unchronicled Rogues Gallery member from years past. However, before I could even start to chronicle that long lost Rogue, one of our current boobyhatch escapees tried the very same thing.


It seems that our old friend Parka has made it his business to try and learn the password to our patron computers. (See THE PARKA SAGA.) That's right. This festering butt-grape in our collective crack is trying to hack us.

Parka was in last Saturday to chat with his e-skanks. After he'd been on for around 40 minutes or so, I heard a distinctive BEEEEEP from the computer hall signaling that one of the computers had been rebooted from the ground up. I've noticed more and more of these beeps when Parka is using the computers. Usually it signals that he has managed to chat the computer into freezing up, in which case he wants to reboot it before asking us to log him back on, cause he somehow thinks we don't know what he's up to. Or sometimes it signals that he's about to leave and wants to reboot the computer to be sure that all evidence of his presence on a given machine is gone. (Surrrre it is.) Mrs. A has actually had to confront him over this rebooting business because until recently he didn't just reboot the machine when he left but would shut it down, forcing the next patron to use it, AND us, to have to stand around and wait around for it to reboot from the ground up before it can be used anew. He agreed to cut it out. I still listen for the BEEEEEPs, though, because it either means he's leaving or that I'm gonna have to go back and log him on again.

So Saturday I hear the BEEEEEP and wait to see what Parka's next move will be. Minutes pass and there is no movement from the back to either leave or ask for assistance. Curious. After nearly five minutes with no sign of Parka, I decide to go investigate. It could be that he just hopped onto a nearby computer that was not logged off from the previous patron. But I somehow doubted it.

I think Parka must have heard me coming cause by the time I reached the door to the computer hall he was up and moving.

"Could you log me on again it froze up and I had to reboot," he said, in his usual punctuationless monotone.

I went over to his computer which had our login screen up. Curiously, the cursor was NOT in the username blank, but the password blank. And while he had not typed in our usual username, which probably every regular "Intanet" Crowder knows by heart, the fact that he had been trying to do something in the password blank was suspicious. I moved closer to the computer and typed in our standard patron username. Then, keeping my back toward Parka to block his line of sight on the keys, I typed in our password, the letter Z, (not really the letter Z). As I did this, I heard movement behind me and, on turning, I saw that Parka was now half-way up the first section of steps on the staircase, a perfect position for him to have craned his neck and taken a gander in the direction of my hands as I typed. He wasn't actively craning when I saw him, but what other reason would he have for being on the stairs? I didn't think he had actually managed to see it, but the fact that he was trying at all was definitely one of the most irritating things this highly irritating man has done.

Yesterday afternoon, I broke the news to Mrs. C.

"I think we need to keep an eye on PARKA. I'm pretty sure he was trying to get our password Saturday."

"You too?" she said. Mrs. C then told me that Parka had been in on Sunday and had pulled the same trick on her, asking her to come reboot his computer and then standing there trying to watch her type.

What advantage, you might ask, would Parka gain by knowing the password to our patron computers? After all, it isn't as if we wouldn't catch him trying to log on without signing up at the clipboard up front first. The only reason he EVER comes to the library is to use the computers, so from the moment we saw his big dingy-white-Michelin-Man-lookin'-parka-clad ass trying to sneak back to the computer hall, we would know what was up.

Our theory is that after repeatedly locking up the system with his chatting he finds it inconvenient to have to come get us to log him on again. He would much rather be able to reboot at his leisure and continue on without having to muck around with such things as standing and walking through two whole rooms to see if we may or may not have a spare moment or sense of inclination to help.

"Think we need to change the password then?" Mrs. C asked.

"Couldn't hurt," I said. "In fact, it would royally piss him off if he has managed to get it and now it won't work for him." We grinned and laughed evilly at this. I even suggested we change the password to Parka's real last name, which he would never ever suspect. Instead, though, we changed it to a different letter in proximity to Z (not really the letter Z) which would look indistinguishable if typed really fast, further compounding his frustration.

As I said earlier, though, this is only one example of a smarmy little bowel irritant of a patron trying to get our password. A couple of years back, one such soul succeeded at getting it and got busted in a much more satisfying way. I speak of none other than The Evil Fed Ex Guy. 

I first met the Evil FedEx Guy in November of 2001. I'd had cause to engage the services of Federal Express after the processor-fan in my computer started to crap out on me and I found myself in desperate need of a new one. I'd purchased one online and had paid $9 extra to have it delivered via Federal Express's two day delivery service. As you probably suspect, my two day delivery did not occur as per the definition of two day delivery.  What followed were eight days of not only no deliveries, but repeated instances of official Fed Ex tracking records being altered by someone to show that delivery attempts and phone calls had been made when no such deliveries nor calls had actually been attempted--cause, I was, like, home the whole time and stuff.  When my new chip fan was finally delivered, A WEEK AND A DAY LATER, it was the Evil FedEx Guy who delivered it.

At the time, I didn't even know that the Evil FedEx Guy was actually evil; I just thought he worked for evil.  So I didn't hold a grudge when, for example, he came to the library on his lunch break to surf the web a few days later and managed to leave his wallet behind.  I didn't even consider doing anything nasty to his wallet or its contents.  Instead, I phoned him up and left a message that we had his wallet.  The more I've thought about it since, though, the more I've come to believe that the Evil FedEx Guy himself was entirely responsible for my delayed delivery. I'd been blaming the FedEx dispatcher, but really the clear line of deception and ass-covering in the delivery process points back to the guy who was failing to make his delivery.  And who else would further benefit by going back and falsifying even more such attempts after the fact to make it look like he was actually doing his job? Him Him Him. I understand that being a FedEx driver is hard work and the drivers are under the gun of deadline constantly. But altering records to make it seem as though I was at fault in the matter when I was not just burns me up.  Still, I'd not done that math yet, but would soon learn that the Evil FedEx Guy was a right bastard for a number of other reasons.

After the above wallet snafu, the Evil FedEx Guy began making a nuisance of himself at our library as a member of the Liberry Intanet Crowd. On his lunch hour, he would pop by and park his enormous FedEx van in our half-hour parking, taking up well over his allotted parking space, and come on in to surf the web. This would even have been mostly okay with us if he didn't, in true Intanet Crowd fashion, constantly prove himself an enormous asshat. He had all the standard Intanet Crowd quirks, such as getting pissed off if he couldn't log on immediately upon arrival, or if he had to wait at all, or if he ran out of time and we had to ask him to relinquish his computer, or if the internet was slow, etc. That's standard issue. However, he was so possessive of his internet time that if we had to bust him off after his time was up he would rush the desk to sign up for the next computer and then get even more pissed off and start cursing if he had to wait at all. Dealing with him in any capacity was just unpleasant. This alone was bad enough to deserve our collective ire. However, he did us one better.

We didn't know that the Evil FedEx Guy knew our patron computer password until he decided to show off with it one day. He had come in for a computer, stayed his half hour and got booted off in favor of a new patron. The wait for a free computer was considerable and he wasn't finished with whatever it was he was doing, but oddly he didn't make a big stink about it like usual.

A few minutes later, Mrs. A came downstairs from her office to find Evil FedEx Guy using the computer in the children's room. She told us all later that right away she knew he had our password.

First of all, it's a hard and fast rule in the library that NO ADULT is allowed use the children's room computer because that computer is exclusively for the use of children. All the staff know this and it is not a rule that is ever violated. Second of all, when that computer IS used by children it is almost only used with the Children's Login setting, which preloads all our games and does not include access to the internet. It is technically possible to use the computer to access the internet, but only if logged in with the adult user name and password, so the chances of EFEG having spied this computer already logged in for adult access were very very slim.

"Excuse me," Mrs. A said, walking over to where Evil FedEx Guy was crouched down on the tiny, child-sized chair, his knees practically against his chest. "How exactly did you come to use this computer?"

Evil FedEx Guy had to know he was caught, but he tried to lie his way out anyway. He stared up at Mrs. A from his lowly position and said, "Um, the lady up front put me here."

"Which lady?"

"Um... Uhh... I don't remember."

Mrs. A no doubt chose this moment to look over her half-glasses at him as though he were a slow-witted child.

"You're telling me that you signed up for a computer and one of our staff logged you on this computer and you don't remember which person it was?"

"Yeah."

"You are not supposed to be using that computer. That computer is for children only. None of our staff would have put you on it either because they all know you're not supposed to be using that computer."

Evil FedEx Guy protested that he had been placed there by a duly appointed staff member, though he couldn't point out any of the ladies on duty specifically. Mrs. A told him in no uncertain terms that she didn't buy it. She told him she thought he had managed to figure out our password and had logged himself on because he didn't want to wait. (Mrs. A isn't afraid to get confrontational when she needs to, particularly when the person she's confronting is a dickweed like this guy.) Evil FedEx Guy slunk away to his truck and it was a good week before we saw him again.

We changed the password due to that incident and tried to keep a better eye out for patrons who seemed overly curious when we logged them on.

Over the following months, Evil FedEx Guy's Intanet Crowd behavior didn't really improve. He still had a tendency to curse often and unnecessarily when we asked him to get off, but he avoided doing so whenever Mrs. A was nearby. At one point, she told us that she had threatened him that if he didn't sit up and be smart he was going to be banned from using the computers. This had the most effect of anything, but he was still no angel. It got to the point that the entire staff would loudly groan in displeasure when we heard his big ol' FedEx van a-comin' up the hill.

Eventually the problem of the Evil FedEx Guy went away when he himself went away. I don't know if he was fired or just quit his job, though my wager is definitely on the former. We've not seen him in nearly two years. It's been bliss.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Christmas Par-Tay

Tonight was the "liberry's" Christmas Party, a day I look forward to every year. Why? Cause frankly, we know how to do a work party right. We have all the essentials: food, beer, more food, cookies and sitting around a fire telling funny stories about our crazy patrons. What more could you ask for?

Last year's party was brilliant in concept if not entirely in execution. Our theme for last year was to have a Comfort Food Party whereby we brought nothing but stick to your ribs, carb-laden comfort foods and then gorged ourselves stupid on them. Genius, no? The extra-genius part, or so we thought at the time, was that instead of exchanging gifts or doing Dirty Santa or something, we each baked several dozen cookies, one dozen for each staff-member, and exchanged those. We also baked an extra dozen which we would share around Mrs. A's home coffee table. Well, as you can read HERE, it didn't work out so good. After stuffing our gobs with mashed potatoes, fried chicken and mac & cheese we had no room or desire left whatsoever for cookie sampling. I think Mrs. A's dog ate more cookies than anyone else, but that was mostly because Mrs. B left her basket of gift cookies lying on the floor where the pooch could get at it. That, my friends, was one fat beagle.

This year we decided not to let our eyes get quite as big as our stomachs. We still did the cookie exchange part, but this year we went with a different theme. We thought about it long and hard and decided to do an appetizer party on the grounds that the best part of any meal is the appetizers. So tonight we had a nice little feast of appetizers. My wife and I brought both chicken curry dip and spinach artichoke dip along with the requisite Triscuits and little toasted bread slices on which to eat it. Other staff members brought cheesy dip, meatballs, bruchetta, crab dip, and, one of my all time favorites, Li'l Smokies. Our theory--which admittedly was on shaky ground to start with--is that by only eating appetizers off of small plates we would somehow have room left for cookies afterward. However, as we learned, you can stuff a LOT of appetizers on a small plate. And you can go back for more as many times as you want. So by the end of the meal, we were all still pretty stuffed, though not quite as much as last year.

Then we sat around Mrs. A's fireplace, passed Mrs. C's infant nephew around the room, kept the dog out of the food and ate cookies and cookies and cookies. Mrs. C made even made pecan pie bars just for me, as she knows they are my one true weakness--my Achilles heel, if you will. And yes, even in our carb-charged euphoria, we still managed to tell a few patron stories. Mostly old ones about The Dufus and about other similar computer patrons who refuse to log off when asked, even when the library is closing. It's a subject my wife has strong feelings about.

"I keep telling him, he'd have a lot less trouble with people if he would just scream at them a few times," she said. "Let someone stay on the computer a bit too long and just go back and scream `GET THE HELL OFF, NOW!' and that kind of thing would clear up quick."

The whole reason the subject of the Dufus came up was because Mrs. C's sister asked if Mrs. A's house--a house formerly owned by the Dufus's grandmother, I should add--was haunted. I said, "Well I know one former resident who you'd better hope never comes back to haunt it." That would be hell to have the Dufus as a ghost. For one thing, he'd spend all his time hogging up your computer, replying to his ghost spam and refusing to get off.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

New blood

It's official. We've finally hired a new weekend "liberry" ass. to replace Miss E.

We've actually been in search mode for several weeks now, though we've been threatening such a hire since Miss E's abrupt departure. Back in late October, Mrs. A began hitting up the usual sources of past new employees, such as a valuable contact at my wife's school where hungry jobless med-student spouses are often to be found, willing to work for cheap. (Hey, that's precisely how I got the job, so I'm not knocking it.) When that didn't prove fruitful, she put up a HELP WANTED sign on the front door of the building. After a week passed with nary a response, Mrs. A turned the sign at a six degree angle so that it was crooked against the glass square it was taped to. Suddenly the resumes started pouring in.

Many of the applicants were long-time patrons who always thought it would be fun to work at the library. Several of these folks I would have been happy to work with and even went to bat on their behalf cause I think they're cool people. There were also a number of resumes from the local wingnut population too, a couple of whom we can barely tolerate as patrons.

As I said, there were many good choices among the regular population, but Mrs. A and Mrs. C decided not to go with either the regular or wingnut route. They hired Miss K, who--much like Miss E when she began in the job--is still in high school. In fact, I think she's a senior in high school, which means we'll probably only have her through the end of summer. We're hoping that, unlike Miss E--who turned vicious and deceitful on us and still has yet to actually resign despite not having shown up for work for several months--Miss K will work out much better. According to Mrs. A and C, Miss K was the shining star among those who they interviewed.

My only question to them: "You did warn her she would have to regularly deal with crazy people, right?"

They had.

Miss K apparently comes from good stock and had glowing references in addition to a pleasant personality. Upon hearing we'd hired her, one of her former supervisors at another job congratulated us and said we'd hired a good kid.

Miss K doesn't start until next week and won't be thrown onto weekends until she's trained and on her feet. In the meantime, I'll still have to fill in on weekends, such as today's largely uneventful Saturday shift. It was a very low-traffic day, until exactly three minutes until closing time, at which point two ladies felt it necessary to come in and drop off a pile of books each that I would have to shelve before leaving. One of them stuck around to search for another pile to take out, as rumor has it we're in for a blizzard tomorrow. With limited browsing time, she was really feeling the pressure and seemed to frantically scan the shelves at random. Finally, at 30 seconds `til close, she threw up her hands and said, "You help me find it. I'm looking for more books by her but I can't figure out where they're at." She pointed to one of the hardback Karen Robards books she'd returned.

"Well, you might look over there in the R's?" I suggested.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Made The Paper

Fellow library blogger Natalie Biz sent me a lovely Christmas present today. She forwarded a link to an article about Blogging published on December 5 in New Zealand's Dominion Post newspaper. The article features her blog prominently and is a rather nice write up of the recent controversial events surrounding it. Also included, in a side bar to the article, are a list of other blogs of interest. Included there, under the International Blogs heading, is a certain WV based "liberry" blogger.

I have to count this as one of the coolest and most welcome bits of fame I've experienced due to this blog.

(Also congrats to Violet from Short & Sweet Like Me, another favorite library blog who was also mentioned. Kinda ironic, since she just quit her job at the library there.)

Check it out for your own bad selves HERE.

Tales from the Dumbass

Mrs. A came over to me today and in a low voice said, "Someone left the back door unlocked the other night."

Aw crap, I thought. Immediately I knew it had to have been my fault.

"Uh, yeah. That was me," I said. Of COURSE it was me! I even knew exactly what night I'd done it. "You found it unlocked Wednesday morning, right?" I asked.

"Yeah."

Yep, that's me. The big ol' liberry dumbass. It had happened Tuesday night, the same night as Loud Nedd's last appearance. After he left, I'd been waiting inside the library for my wife to arrive so we could ride to my writing class's Christmas party together. Instead of going out the back door as I usually do, we went out the front and I never once thought to go lock the back. Luckily, Loud Nedd the Obnoixious Drifter did not come back to try the door or he could have had a good bit more fundage for his lottery tickets.

This is not the first time the library has been left unlocked, though it is my first time to do it personally. The last time I knew of it happening actually occurred during one of my writing classes, a year or so back.

When in session, our class meets on the second floor of the library, after hours, every other Tuesday night. After it concludes, I'm responsible for locking up, which only amounts to locking the back door as that's the one nearest the stairwell and the one we all exit after class. However, one week, one of our students left early. I won't say her name, so as not to embarass her, but it's Suzanne. She somehow assumed the front door was the one to use despite the fact that A) she had never done so after class before, since I always lead the class members out via the well-lit back door; B) the front door was located in the pitch black front room; and C) it was double locked, which must have taken some doing to open in the dark. Compounding her error, Suzanne left the door WIDE OPEN afterward, assuming incorrectly that we'd all be following behind her and wouldn't bother with that whole well-lit, conveniently located, unlocked back door that we always use instead.

We might never have known about this except that a patron came in a few days later to tell us that he had been driving through town at 3 a.m. and wanted to drop his books off in our after hours drop box. When he got out to do so, he noticed the front door open and the lights off. He stepped inside to make sure we weren't being robbed. He found no such evidence, so he used our phone to call the police and let them know. I don't know if the police have keys and were able to lock the deadbolt as well or if we just didn't notice the deadbolt being unlocked when we opened the next morning, but we never heard anything about it from the police at all.

I don't know whether it's a coincidence or not, but since that day Suzanne never returned to class.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Medieval Coffee Torture

Parka was in when I arrived today. He'd brought a big ol' cup of coffee with him, which we forbade him to take back to the computer area, forcing him to leave it at the front desk, as is our policy. To punish us, he walked back and forth between the computer hall and circulation desk, taking sips of it every few minutes so he could enjoy it before it was completely cold.

This sounded like:  

*Typitytypitytypitytypetypitytypetypitytypetypitytype*
 *ENTER* 
*rolllllbackthechair*
*stomp* 
*stomp* 
*stomp* 
*stomp* 
*stomp* 
*stomp* 
*SLUUUUUURP* 
*stomp* 
*stomp* 
*stomp* 
*stomp* 
*stomp* 
*stomp*
*PLOP* 
*Typitytypitytypitytypetypitytypetypitytypetypitytype* 
(repeat)

I realize I shouldn't begrudge patrons the right to enjoy perfectly good hot coffee they paid for while it's still hot, but, dammit, he KNOWS he can't drink it while chatting with his e-skanks, so why'd he bring it in at all?

Speaking of No Inside Voice

Little Kevin Martin paid us a visit yesterday too. He and his mom stopped by, along with his little brother and two of their friends. According to Mrs. A, who witnessed and participated in the blessed event, Kevin was his usual oblivious-to-his-surroundings self.

Kevin entered in a full voice conversation with his pals and was so absent-minded about it that he plowed right into our display easel on his way to the desk. In doing so, he knocked off the big illustration of our proposed new library design, sending it crashing to the floor, and never even noticed that he'd done it. He then stood at the desk and continued screaming about whatever it was he was screaming about, completely drowning out the conversation Mrs. A was attempting to have with an unrelated patron. Kevin's mom, who no doubt had long since grown numb to her son's antics, did nothing.

"YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE TO BE QUIET!" Mrs. A shouted at Kevin. "I can't hear my own conversation over you." Kevin got quiet and his mom uttered an apology, then, unoffended, Kevin ran off with his friends toward the children's room.

I arrived for work shortly thereafter and was told of the incident with Kevin before he could even leave the building. I then got to watch his mom try and fail to ride herd over the four boys while she checked out their books. The boys were trying to stage a loud wrestling match in the middle of our front room, that is when they weren't busy trying to leave the building and run into traffic.

Kevin's mother looked SO tired.

I didn't tell my wife that story, because it would just become yet another cautionary tale about the dangers of having children.

Loud Nedd's Tickets

I told Mrs. A about my visit from Loud Nedd, Tuesday night. I also told her about how he'd asked where the nearest convenience store he could buy lottery tickets was at.

"What? He takes money from the church and buys lottery tickets with it?" she said.

Turns out I misunderstood what Nedd had wanted from the church. Instead of requesting a meal and a room for the night, he had asked for a monetary handout from them and had apparently been given one, with which he presumably was going to buy lottery tickets.

Loud Nedd didn't come in today.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Loud Nedd: the Obnoxious Drifter Who Talks in ALL CAPS!

I was at the library today, just minding my own.

Around 4:30 p, Mrs. C came up and said, "Oh, did MRS. A tell you about the man who came in this morning?"

"No."

Mrs. C sighed in a way that suggested she didn't want to be the bearer of bad news for me. She told me that soon after they opened, a man came in who suffers from HAS NO INSIDE VOICE syndrome--a tragic condition in which a person shouts nearly everything they say because their parents neglected to teach them proper inside voice technique. (Either that or they're just hard of hearing and shout a lot.)

The man, who I'm calling Loud Nedd, came to the circ desk where Mrs. C and Mrs. A were standing and shouted, "DO EITHER OF YOU GO TO CHURCH?"

Upon hearing this it was my turn to sigh. I was afraid Loud Nedd was one of the wandering, hitchhiker, Fire & Brimstone preachers who used to visit Mississippi State's campus on a semi-annual basis, stand in the "free speech area" and rail against the evils of sororities. (And, no, I'm not making up the part about MSU's Free Speech Area. It exists and the guy would have had to fill out a lengthy form in order to use it.) In this assumption, though, I was wrong.

Turns out that Loud Nedd, while indeed drifting through the area on foot, wasn't so much a preacher as a guy looking for a warm place to sleep and possibly a meal, since it's butt ass cold here right now. From his experience, local churches often provided this, so he wanted to know where the nearest churches were.

"Well, there are three or four in this area of town. If you like I can call one and see what they can do," Mrs. C reportedly offered. Loud Nedd loudly accepted so she called the Methodist church down the street. They told her they could indeed help, but needed Loud Nedd to first go speak to the police department, let them check him out (I presume to make sure he has no outstanding warrants for any 12 state hitchhiking killing sprees he might be in the middle of) and then they would be happy to help him out. Mrs. C put Loud Nedd on the phone and let them explain this to him too. This, however, did not set well with Loud Nedd. Loud Nedd became very loud indeed and began shouting above and beyond his apparent usual loudness at the minister on the phone.

Mrs. C said he began screaming about how it was the Lord's money and who were they to say who could and couldn't use it. He screamed that he didn't want to have to deal with the police and seemed to indicate that he'd had prior bad experiences with the law which somehow involved a jacket of his being stolen and a highway patrolman hassling him because of it. He then screamed threats that if the police gave him any guff at all he would sue everyone involved.

When Loud Nedd had finished his rant and hung up, he asked Mrs. C how to get to the police department. She gladly told him and he left.

We've had trouble with crazy drifters before. One man a couple of years ago--who, naturally, came in on my day off--stood on one of the benches outside and did some kind of strange calisthenics before coming inside whereupon he began behaving in a very threatening manner toward our staff. Mrs. C told him he had to leave and when he did she locked all the doors and called the cops. They came and picked him up and found out he had a number of outstanding warrants on him from Florida, so off to the jail he went.

Loud Nedd came back an hour or so later. He seemed to have calmed down a lot and loudly explained to Mrs. C that he had indeed spoken with the police and the chief seemed like a decent enough guy. They were going to check him out and he would go back later to see what they could do for him. At the moment he wanted to use a computer. Mrs. C logged him on, he stayed for a while and then was all set to leave when he asked the dreaded question that would affect me: What are your hours? Mrs. C told him we were open until 7 at which point he said he would be back.

It was 4:30 then and he had not yet been back so his threat could only continue into the future. Mrs. C just wanted to warn me about him. She gave me his name and description, as a middle aged man with a thick mustache and a ski-coat. She said if nothing else I would know him because he was very loud and very obnoxious.

"He tells bad bad jokes," she said. "Like `Why was 6 afraid of 7? ... Cause 7, 8, 9.' "

"Aw no," I said.

I could just imagine this guy coming back on my watch and have nothing better to do than torment me with bad jokes all the way until closing time. Worse yet, what if he came back and he'd been checked out by the cops and rejected on non-arrest-worthy grounds. What if he had NO PLACE to stay in this freezing weather and now needed me to broker him a deal with some other church. Oh, sure, he'd probably come back right near closing time too, so I'd have to stay late. And tonight of all nights would be the worst because my writers group is having their annual Christmas party which is one of the highlights of my year and I'm supposed to be there at 7. But I wouldn't be able to just turn the man out into the cold.

I thought about writing up this blog entry on him, just in case he did come back. Then I decided that was a very bad idea. I didn't even want to THINK about this man. He might be on the same mental channel that Chester, the Patron Who Must Not Be Named, is on and would magically turn up at the mere thought of him. ("They know when you're thinking about `em, so doooooon't even think about `em!") Yep, the less mental energy I exerted in his direction the better off we'd all be.

At exactly 11 minutes until close a man who mostly matched Loud Nedd's description walked through the front door and shouted, "AHH HAH! CAUGHT YOU NEARLY AT CLOSING! I GOT, WHAT, ELEVEN MINUTES LEFT?!"

Shit!

"Yeah, looks like it," I told him.

"CAN I USE A COMPUTER?"

"Sure. Just sign in at the front desk." He did. Sure enough, his name matched that of Loud Nedd.

Loud Nedd only stayed for about 8 of his allotted minutes. Then he came back up to the circ desk where I was cowering in fear of what he might next say.

"HEY, CAN YOU TELL ME WHERE THE NEAREST CONVENIENCE STORE IS THAT WOULD SELL LOTTERY TICKETS?! YOU KNOW, SCRATCH OFF TICKETS?!"

"Um... that would probably be the Stop-Mart."

"WHERE'S THAT?"

I told him how to get to Stop-Mart, which was at least a mile and a half away.

"NAH, THAT'S TOO FAR AND IT'S TOO COLD! I'M ON FOOT!"

"Well the next nearest one would be about the same distance in the other direction," I told him.

He paused for a moment and I was afraid he was about to try and bum a ride to one. I would have no trouble refusing that, because I don't view lottery tickets as something I need to go out of my way for.

"AH, WELL! IT'LL WAIT TIL TOMORROW" Loud Nedd said, and thankfully disappeared into the night.

(CONTINUED...)

Monday, December 13, 2004

Actual Telephone Conversations in Actual Libraries #11

ME: Tri-Metro County library

FEMALE CALLER: Yes, my caller ID says that someone from this number called me and I was just calling to find out who it was. But now I think I know who it was, so thank you.

ME: No problem.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Actual Telephone Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #10

*RING*

ME: Tri-Metro County Library?

MALE CALLER: Hi, yes, I was calling to ask about your times?

ME: (Thinking the guy wanted to know something about our periodicals) Our `Times'?

MALE CALLER: Yes. Your times. (Pause) Like, what time do you close?

ME: Ohhhhhhh. You mean "our hours." Sure. We're open from 9-7.

MALE CALLER: Um, thanks.

Friday, December 10, 2004

It's been a nice couple of months on the job

We have a regular patron who none of us particularly like. ("Only the one?" you say.) Let's call her Mrs. Hat. She's a resident of the hinterlands of Tri-Metro County who comes in with her daughter to take art classes every Thursday. After class, she often comes in for a "liberry" visit.

You've never seen staff members refuse to make eye contact like we do when Mrs. Hat walks in. You can't look at her. Not that she's some eye-melting hag, or anything; it's just that even eye-contact is an opening for her to try and engage us in conversation, which is the real reason she comes in. I think she only checks out books as an excuse to come up to the circulation desk and talk. And talk. And Talk. AND TALK. She'll stay right there until her daughter is finished with her internet surfing (which if we don't kick her off after half an hour can go on for quite some time, because, hey, no mom) or for the daughter to drive up to pick up her mom.

Mrs. Hat isn't even a horrible person or anything; she just wants to have a long in-depth conversation with someone--ANYONE--and is oblivious to the fact that we all have jobs to do. So whenever Mrs. Hat arrives the staff suddenly becomes incredibly busy with grueling and attention-encompassing library tasks that keep them from looking up or, as is the case with Mrs. A, retreats swiftly to their office and firmly shuts the door.

I don't see Mrs. Hat so often because she has usually departed by the time I arrive on Thursdays. But since I'm coming in earlier on Thursdays this month, I got to see her yesterday. In fact, I warmly greeted her and looked directly into her deadlights as she walked through the door before realizing to my horror who she was.  And Mrs. Hat could not have been more delighted.

While her daughter went off to surf, Mrs. Hat slowly gathered up some books and came up to the desk to check them out. The rest of the staff had fled the room or were otherwise deeply engaged in work away from the circulation desk, so I was trapped as the clerk who had to check her out. I did so as quickly as I could, not looking up from the process and trying not to give Mrs. Hat an opening, as she was even then reaching out her conversation-tentacles, prodding and testing my defenses. When I'd finished, I immediately returned to stuffing fund-drive envelopes, pacing myself as I only had about twenty left to finish. Meanwhile, Mrs. Hat remained stationed at the front of the circulation desk, prodding... prodding.

"So? How do you like working here?" she said after I'd managed to achieve a silence between us for nearly 30 seconds.

At first I didn't know that she was talking to me, as the question seemed oddly out of place. I hazarded a glance up and she was definitely staring back at me.

"Uh... yeah. I like it a lot, actually," I said.

"Good. You been here, what, one... two months now?"

Huh? Did she not know who I was? I've had lengthy conversations with her on several occasions in the past and she doesn't recognize me? Okay, so I've lost 40 pounds in the past year, but I still look like me, don't I?

"No..." I cautiously said, continuing to stuff envelopes and not looking up. "I've actually been here for over three years."

Mrs. Hat was taken aback at this. "Oh, well... I mean... I've seen you before, but I guess I've only noticed you for the past couple of months. When do you work, then?"

"During the day. Usually Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Sometimes Tuesdays." Oh, and Sundays.

Mrs. Hat didn't have much to say to me after that. She soon gathered up her books, stopped blocking the desk and moved over closer to the door to wait for her daughter to finish up. Then, she abandoned even that plan and left the building on her own steam, perhaps to go sit in the car.

Gosh, I hope I haven't offended her.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Carbonated Deception

Our mentally slow honorary "liberry" employee Lennie was in today. I haven't seen him in a while because by the time I normally arrive at work on Thursdays he's already finished his shift with us and left or has overstayed his shift and is in the process of being convinced to leave.

This week, however, I was in a couple of hours earlier than usual, as I'm working more hours to help fill in for Mrs. B, who's still out recovering from surgery. (Frankly I think she's faking the whole thing to get out of work. Last year she had to take December off because she "broke her ankle" and had to go "recover." Uh huh. This year's flimsy excuse is that she's "had a hysterectomy." Suuuuure she did. Glug glug glug glug.) So today I was around for all of Lennie's Thursday shift.

Lennie was his usual self, which is to say on a fairly narrow track. During any given appearance, he will have a conversational theme for the day and today's Lennie Theme was the fact that he was going to go Christmas caroling at a local retirement home. Whenever there was a lull in employee conversation, Lennie would pipe up with, "MRS. C, I'm going singing toniiiight... It's at THE OLD FOLKS HOME."

Mrs. C told him he needed to be sure to thank Mrs. J for buying him a soft-drink down at the corner market yesterday. Mrs. J had told us that she'd seen him in there and had offered to buy him a hot dog if he wanted one. He seemed interested in the offer at first, but then remembered that he already had money for a hot dog. He said he would like a drink, though, so Mrs. J had bought him a Coke.

"She was going to buy me a hot dog," Lennie said as the tale was repeated.

"Uh huh," Mrs. C said with suspicion. "You weren't going to let her do that, knowing you already had money in your pocket for a hot dog, were you?"

"I had money for a hot dog. Gary gave me chaaange," Lennie said, but he avoided Mrs. C's gaze and quickly tried to change the subject, indicating that he didn't like the avenue of discourse in which he might or might not have been planning to get a free hot dog on top of the money he already had for one. Mrs. C's suspicious nature on this may seem a bit cold, but you really have to watch Lennie when it comes to matters of food and money.

Sometimes Mrs. A sends Lennie on an errand down to the market to pick her up a drink. She gives him the money and he's supposed to buy it and bring her her change. Occasionally, she'll give him enough for him to get a drink too and tells him to do so. Well, a year or so ago, Lennie was about to run such an errand and asked Mrs. A if he could get a drink as well. She said, sure thing, and gave him extra money for it. Then, Lennie slyly went over to Mrs. B and asked to speak to her outside. Away from prying ears, he asked her if she could give him some money so he could get a drink. She did. He then proceeded to pull the same trick with Mrs. C and Mrs. J without any of the ladies catching on. (He might have tried it with me, but I wasn't there that day.) Lennie then took his ill-gotten funds and purchased himself quite the little feast, including a drink, a hot dog, an ice-cream cone and some candy. Of course, he brought all of it back up to the library, along with Mrs. A's original drink and no change, then proceeded to eat it all in front of them. When the ladies saw this, they realized they had been scammed. And by Lennie of all people. They acted very angry with him, but secretly we all thought it was pretty funny, particularly since we had no clue Lennie was capable of such deception.

Lennie doesn't try that sort of thing very often, but he was up to such tricks again today. After helping us lick all the fund-drive envelopes (during which we all got papercuts on our tongues) Mrs. A sent him to the store with more money than necessary for a drink but also with instructions that he was to bring her change. He did bring her change, but it only amounted to a quarter or so because he'd spent the rest of it on a drink for himself, sans permission. Mrs. A laughed this off, but Mrs. C told Lennie he had to pay Mrs. A back when he comes in for his shift on Monday. He frowned and avoided her eyes and kept trying to change the subject back to his caroling tonight.

When Lennie's three hour shift ended, he was, as usual, reluctant to leave. Mrs. C kept hounding him to pick out the books he wanted because it was time to go, but he was very slow about it. And even after he picked them out he took forever to get the rest of his stuff together to leave. And after he'd finally put on his coat and his hat and put his books in his backpack and called his grandma to let her know he was about to start walking home, he still lingered in the door staring out at the rain. He had an umbrella, but still didn't like going out in the weather. He talked to us about having to sing some more.

"We don't have The Village People's Greatest Hits over there, do we?" I asked, pointing to our recording-industry-lawsuit-settlement CD section. As I've written before, singing "YMCA" is the only sure fire way to get Lennie to leave.

"Nope, but we can start up a chorus any time," Mrs. C said.

We didn't have to, though. Lennie decided on his own that he was ready to go. He snugged up his jacket good then reached into its pocket and produced from it a can of soda of the very brand he'd purchased earlier, though this one had been brought from home. Mrs. C saw it and began to protest that he'd had a drink the whole time yet still thought it necessary to misappropriate Mrs. A's funds for another one. She'd hardly begun, though, when Lennie said, "Wish me luck singing" and out the door he went.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Who's got the 10 and a half?

Yup. That's right. It's time for another 10 hour shift for the Juice man. Mrs. A and Mrs. C are out for the day at a meeting of the minds over in Town-D's branch.

Running tally for the day proceeds here...

8:50 a.m.-- I arrive at the library. There's a large SUV parked out front that I don't recognize. I figure it's a patron waiting for us to open, but no one is in it and no one is banging on the door to get in. I go to unlock the back door and find it's already unlocked and slightly ajar. Uh oh. Now I'm thinking the patron is inside, taking advantage of a door left unlocked by one of the librarians as they departed this morning. This kind of thing has happened before. As I cautiously round the corner of the computer hall, I get a line of sight on the circ desk and see Mrs. A there. Whew! Turns out it was Mr. A's SUV.

8:52-- I turn on the light switch for upstairs and blow the breaker.

9:00-- Mrs. C turns on the downstairs light switch and also blows the breaker. Mrs. A is irritated at this and swears we will not be paying to rewire the building since we're within a two year spitting distance of a brand new building altogether.  As a result of the breaker blows, though, a third of the lightbulbs in the front room have gone.  At 5'9", I'm still the tallest employee so it's always my job to change them. No doubt half the bulbs upstairs have also blown.

9:20-- Both patrons who've come in so far have given me cheerful yet marble-mouthed greetings that I don't understand. They are not together.

9:33-- First phone call for Mrs. A.

9:41-- Mr. & Mrs. Smiley arrive.


10:00-- I start changing bulbs.

10:19-- Boring assed task for the day: Stuffing fund drive envelopes. Mmm, boy howdy! At least I have Shawn Colvin's Whole New You album playing on the circ computer to keep me company. Great album.

10:35-- First computer patron of the day.

10:50-- A library staff member from Town-R's branch phones. Mind you, she doesn't identify herself whatsoever so I didn't know she wasn't a patron at first. The conversation followed:

CALLER: Is MRS. A there?

ME: No, I'm sorry, she's out of town for a meeting today. Can I take a message?

CALLER: Well... When I turned on my computer it said I have an error.

ME: (Realizing this is probably another library and not some derranged patron) Uhhh. What sort of error?

CALLER: (Dimly) It said "an error."

ME: Okayyy. Did you try turning it off and back on?

CALLER: Yes. It still says I have an error. I just want to know how to get it to stop telling me I have an error.

ME: (Since our branch is the regional hub for all computer issue requests, I realize I'll need to note this.) Well, if you'll give me your name I'll tell MRS. C when she gets back this afternoon.

CALLER: (Ignoring my question) I can still use the computer. I just want to know how to get it to stop telling me "error."

ME: (Trying not to get angry) I realize that. If I can have your name, please, I'll let MRS. C know about it.

CALLER: (Adopting a tone that says I should know full well exactly who I'm talking to) This is TOWN-R library.

Actually, I really should have known. If I were to make a list of the most computer illiterately staffed libraries in the area, Town-R would top it.


11:19-- Out of coffee and in need of a change in music. I'm going to my car for some Neil Finn.

11:40-- The wife calls to say she's going to join me for lunch.

12:15 p.m.-- The wife joins me for lunch. She brings us tasty non-Atkins approved goodies such as pizza and a pecan encrusted stickybun, both baked by one of our fine downtown bakeries.

12:44--Holy shit! Stoner Lad just came in! I cannot believe my luck. Just when I thought today was going to be way more boring than I'd hoped, a long lost Rogue makes an appearance. We've not seen Stoner Lad in here for well over two years. He walks up to the desk and says, "Hey, uh, long time." Then he mumbles his way through a request to use a computer, saying he has something he really needs to print out. (Dare I hope more angsty half-literate teenage screw-letters?)

"Sure thing," I say.

After I log him on he says, "Uh, how clear are the lines today?"

"Pretty clear. We got DSL since you were here last."

"Sweet!"

Stoner Lad still dresses like he used to, which is to say small town gangsta wannabe, but with an auto-racing themed ball cap. His facial hair has gotten better too, as evidenced by his pointy goatee. He also dosen't seem to be actively "on" anything and has no trouble making eye contact when he speaking. Perhaps he's been away in rehab?

12:46-- A lady comes in and asks to use the bathroom. I don't figure this out until later when they leave together, but this turns out to be Stoner Lad's mom. Stoner lad prints out a few pages, pays for them and then leaves with mom, saying, "Bye." On their way out, she says something about having an old wallet of his with his library card still in it. Yeah, his OLD library card. Looks like maybe he's back in the area for a while.

12:55-- An assistant librarian in a neighboring county, who's head librarian is currently at the same meeting that Mrs. A is at, phones to ask to speak to Mrs. A. "Oh, wait... she's at that meeting," he says. Riiiiiiight.

1:02-- Oh, great! It's old rogue day! Jimmy the Anonymous Snitch just came in.

1:10-- Jimmy leaves after paying for his prints. I am irritated that he is coming here again, particularly since from everything we knew a few months back he was supposed to be going to jail for embezzling money from his employer. The last we'd heard he was supposed to have received his sentence in June, but we never learned what it was. He's been in a few times since then and was in yesterday. Evidently he's under house arrest or town arrest or maybe just was let off altogether. Who knows. Maybe he turned state's evidence against Bladderboy and was given a light slap on the wrist. Never did hear if the cops caught Bladders after their high-speed chase a while back.

1:22-- Harry the Killer Midget and Buddy come in. I've not written about Buddy before. He's a mentally handicapped man who comes in with an Unobstructed Doors aid. I call him Buddy because he once asked me if I would be his buddy, therefore I assume he is mine as well. Buddy is a really nice guy. His only major distinguishing characteristics, beyond the whole being my buddy thing, are that he's very tall and he always wants to know if Mary is working today. Nearly every time he comes in he asks one of the staff if Mary is working today. We always tell him, "No, Mary's not here today," at which point he responds, "Mary must be at home." None of us know who Mary is, nor has anyone named Mary ever worked here in the past thirty years, so we're not sure who he means. He didn't ask about Mary today.

2:48-- I've been running kind of silent. Mrs. C is supposed to come in to relieve me so I can go on break, but I don't know exactly when. Gotta keep my nose clean til then.

3:00-- Still no Mrs. C. One of our board members, Mrs. Aitch, comes in to do some fund-drive letter related paperwork. I'm jamming out to Neil Finn's One Nil when she arrives. Not sure if she approves.

3:50-- Mrs. C arrives to relieve me. I head to the post office to ship out ebay auction items, pop by the shoe store where I fail to find any decent shoes.

4:30-- I swing by the comic shop for the latest Bloodhound, Marvel Knights Spider-Man, the Supreme Power spin-off Doctor Spectrum book and something else I can't recall off hand. I'm terribly happy that the comic shop guy is now stocking Neil Gaiman's Sandman collections, after months and months of me bugging him about it. Now I'm going to have to do a Sandman symposium to get folks to buy it--uncultured peons!

4:45-- I pop by Ornathological Coffee, (not its real name), the local gallery/coffeeshop down the street for a cup of Sumatran coffee that is just slightly not hot enough, but is nevertheless tasty. While I'm there, I hear a familiar voice say, "So, how many books do I have now?" I turn to see Mrs. West, one of our regular patrons. Mrs. West almost always has books on hold with us. This is because she goes down the list of all the latest bestsellers that are out and has us put her on hold for them. Then she asks us to put her on hold for just about every other new fiction arrival as well. We're happy to do this. Trouble is, she NEVER answers the phone when we call. We have it on good authority that she's usually at home when we call, she just won't answer for whatever reason. This would be okay too, but she also refuses to purchase an answering machine saying they're annoying. Yes, they are annoying, especially when they don't pick up the phone and allow us to tell you your books are in. So our hold shelf is often CHOKED with holds for Mrs. West, which after 5 days have to be passed to the next patron on the list. I told her she had three waiting for her. She said that sounded like enough to justify a visit up the hill.

4:50-- I'm back on the job.

4:55-- A different board member, Mrs. Emm, comes in from the meeting they were having next door and asks if its true we have music CD's. It is. We got the same allotment of Remainder Closet material all libraries got after the big music industry settlement. I tell her that I don't promise it's all good, but there are some gems here and there. I guarantee her that the Shawn Colvin and Ben Folds Five are quality. She goes over and finds lots of things she likes (including the Colvin & Folds), then begins suggesting music to me, including Kas3y Chamb3rs and Gr3g Br0wn. "Br0wn's kind of folky," Mrs. Emm says, adding, "I like all sorts of music, though. Folk, rock, country, rap... I love Eminem!" I sort of just stared at her blankly for a few seconds on that one. Nothing against Em, but I just had trouble reconciling whether Mrs. Emm was really into his stuff or if she was just searching for some kind of street cred with me and Mrs. C.

5:00-- Mrs. C leaves via the back door before any of the other board members she see's lurking out front can find her and assign her something she doesn't want to have to stay extra to do. Good for her!

5:10-- Oooh. I'm asked by a computer patron to override our internet blocking software. It's the same guy who always asks us for overrides. In fact, I think he's the only guy who's ever asked us for an override. He's always trying to look at some album cover involving J essica Ra bbit. For some reason in the past I've never been able to get the override to work properly, but today it does. (And no, I didn't get a peek at it before I turned the station back over to him.)

5:27-- We are paid a brief and pleasant visit by the brother of the Purple Nun.

5:39-- Mrs. West, true to her word, comes in for her books.

6:03-- I begin attempting to eat my supper; a nice hunk of pork roast that I first cooked two nights back, plus some cheese and a spinach/artichoke dip I made. Mmm tasty, I love it.

6:22-- Still haven't been able to finish my food. We're plenty busy.

6:32-- A patron asks if he's smelling good food from one of the nearby restaurants or if that's coming from my food. I say, "Yup, that's probably my pork roast." It's not even heated and it smells good.

7:00-- The last patron departs, making sure to print out four pages just after I finish the daily cash box count. Thanks! I lock the doors and try to finish up my closing duties.

7:03-- Still closing up when someone starts pounding on the door to get in. Sorry, we's closed.

7:05-- Going home. It's a day.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Message Received

It appears Chester did eventually notice his ticket. On my way back from break, I saw Chester's Fugly parked down the street on the next block.

That's nice.

It's still in front of the community college, but the less proximity he has to the "liberry" the better off we all are.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

We got a "Cleanup after the Librarian" on Aisle 5!

Our head librarian Mrs. A is a great lady, a great boss and a great librarian. However, as a library assistant, she stinks up the joint.

Yesterday, she filled in for our normal Saturday shift "liberry" ass., Mrs. H.  Mrs. A so rarely has to close up shop that she gets terribly rusty at it, so much so that she has to use our Closing Time Duties Check List. Sure enough, I found just such a checklist on the circ desk when I came in. Every item was checked off, but there were a few items that probably should be added to future versions of the list. Items such as vacuuming the filthy blue runner carpet, shelving ALL the books on the book cart, emptying the trash, etc., which were left undone.

Mrs. A also used less than her whole ass on some of the other primary Saturday shift duties, such as the processing and packing up of our interlibrary loans, which wound up on my docket today.

Doing ILL's is one of my least favorite things to do, which is why I try not to work Saturdays very often. It's not that it's difficult, just time consuming and mildly irritating. You've got to dig all the outgoing ill books out of the ILL Cubby Hole under the desk, sort them into piles for each library they're going to, find all the corresponding ILL slips in the ILL'S RECEIVED accordion folder, mark off each of these ILLs in the ILL'S RECEIVED BINDER, inventory everything on a ILL'S SHIPPED OUT slip which we put into the binder and then pack everything up in as few padded envelopes as possible with only our week to week stock of ratty old padded envelopes to choose from. Depending on how many books we have to send out, it can take anywhere from ten minutes to two hours to do.

In Mrs. A's defense, she had actually done most of the paperwork portion of the task for me, pre-sorted the books into piles and had even found pre-printed mailing labels for the individual libraries. She had not, however, actually packed any of them up, so that I had to do. Still took about half an hour and then I had to do more of it as other ILL's came back throughout the day.

I guess I'm just amazed that she left a mess she would not have put up with had one of the regular ass.'s left it.

Ironically, I almost left myself a huge mess. I began composing this entry in Word-Pad while still at the library. I didn't save the file, just had it open as text which I later cut and pasted into a blogger file. However, I neglected to delete the original text which still sat highlighted in the Word-Pad document and had other windows piled on top of it so that I couldn't see it. I even attempted to shut down the computer, while I attended to other closing duties, (trash, vacuuming, shelving), and only as I was about to walk out the door did I realize that the presence of the unsaved document would have prompted Windows to ask if I wanted to save it, preventing the system from actually shutting down. I ran back to the computer and sure enough there it was. It probably would have sat there all night until Mrs. C discovered it Monday morning.

I deleted the text and made sure everything shut down.

Whew.