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.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Notes on FRICKIN' Today!!

Sweet merciful crap! I think it's shit on the seat week at the liberry.

Minutes before I arrived at work today, the Dufus was in to use the computer. When he finished using the computer--an amazing enough feat in and of itself as I've rarely witnessed him leave the computer of his own volition before--he decided he'd use the bathroom. And use it he did!

When I came in, the entire computer hall and much of the stairwell smelled like burning matches. This is because Mrs. A had to brave the cloud of ass funk he left behind to light twenty matches in the bathroom to help cut the stench. And Mrs. C had to clean the seat afterwards from where the Dufus had shat upon it!!!

I know the Dufus wasn't responsible for yesterday's turd festival because he wasn't in the liberry at all. But today was definitely him. He's getting moved back to the active column of the Rogues Gallery for that repugnant behavior.

What is this world coming to that people can't check a toilet seat to make sure they haven't inadvertently soiled it after an ass blowout. AND WHY CAN'T THEY #$%&ING AIM THEIR KEISTERS IN THE BOWL IN THE FIRST PLACE?!!!

Buncha savages in this town!

Notes on Yesterday

Beyond our adventures with Chester, yesterday also brought a couple three other developments, only one of which is actual good news.

  • The good news is that Mrs. J, our library assistant who recently suffered a heart attack is gong to return to work on February 3.

  • This will take some investigation.


  • Mrs. A confirmed that our suspect in the case of the Mystery of the Stolen Laptop has indeed NOT returned to use our computers since it's theft nearly 2 weeks ago. This was a patron who was a DAILY visitor to the premesis, so it seems mighty strange that he has suddenly disappeared. He's been sighted in the area, so we know he's still in town. We're debating what to do about it, but my own suggestion is that we track down the Untalented Mr. Ripley and have him retrieve it for us in exchange for computer privilages.
  • And last night, while trying to get all my crap done in preparation for closing up the library so I could jet over to play practice, I discovered some NEW crap. Yes indeedy Bob, as I went into our little cubby hole of a public restroom to retrieve some garbage bags, what should I find on the SEAT of our toilet but a smear of fecal matter. Not a tiny smear of poo either. It looked like someone had wiped their ass on the rear portion of the seat itself. This also did not appear to be the accidental splatter of someone suffering intestinal difficulties (a.k.a, the screaming shits). This looked almost certainly intentional. And not only was there a dried streak of shinola on the seat itself, but a more liquid manifestation of it had dripped down onto the rim of the bowl itself and underneath the actual TANK! I had to run all our patrons off and lock all the doors of the library just so no one could hear my curses as I rolled out our kitchen strength spray-bottle of Clorox Cleanup and cleaned that riesty mess up.

    Who in their right mind would accidentally shit on the toilet seat and then walk away and leave it? Who wouldn't even make an attempt to clean up after themselves?

    I can think of only one person who might commit such a deed with forethought...

    ...The Serial Shitter.

    Which is kind of odd, because I don't think that the man we've always suspected of BEING the Serial Shitter even came in yesterday.
  • Wednesday, January 28, 2004

    The FAFSA Diversion!

    Sounds like a Robert Ludlum title, eh?

    Chester the (dear God, I sure do hope he's only a Potential) Molester popped in today. We'd already seen his car out front a half hour earlier, which meant he was in the area, probably for his weekly mental health visit down at the local social services place, but intended to come back and inflict himself upon us and needed his car to be close by for that eventuality. With that foreknowledge, we did a magazine rack inventory so we'd know what was there before his visit and what to accuse him of should he take one.

    There were children in house when Chester finally shuffled in, so I stood sentinel over the front room and children's room, as usual, while Mrs. A ran upstairs to run interference on Chester himself.

    Sure enough, after determining there were no kids upstairs, he headed right for the magazine rack where he was met by Mrs. A, who was using the excuse that she was putting out new magazines. She even said, "Hi. How're you doing?" as she stepped up beside him, a crisp new and no doubt tantalizing copy of Seventeen in her mitts. She reported later that Chester looked at her nervously and quickly grabbed a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) booklet and fled down the stairs.

    I saw him coming and stood guard, watching as he made a big production of folding up his FAFSA book and stuffing it into the interior of his ratty vest. Perhaps I just imagined it, but it seemed to me that Chester looked more than a little irritated. Maybe those FAFSA booklets are piling up at his house.

    EWWWW! I just imagined Chester's house.

    Tuesday, January 27, 2004

    The Secret Origin of The Untalented Mr. Ripley

    Tis time to tell the tale of The Untalented Mr. Ripley, one of the liberry's former Rogues Gallery members. (Mind you, he should not be confused with The Even Less Talented Mr. Ripley, who is someone else entirely.)

    Much like his literary namesake from the Patricia Highsmith book, the Untalented Mr. Ripley was something of a local con-man in our area who also happened to be gay. His is also a somewhat unfortunate tale.

    From what I'm told, several years ago the Untalented Mr. Ripley had been living with his ailing father but was booted out of the house wholesale by his disapproving brother following his father's death. He became something of a drifter after that, living with friends or at local shelters or occasionally renting rooms when he had the money. On the surface, he seemed to exist by doing odd jobs around town, such as helping out with heavy lifting at the local antique stores and art galleries that dominate our down town area. He was also a frequent patron at the library.

    Having met the man, I must say that Mr. Ripley was a charming and disarming fellow, albeit sometimes a bit grubby. Back in his hey day, he mainly enjoyed reading and chatting with the staff when he wasn't busy fighting turf wars with Mr. B-Natural for use of what was then our one patron computer. Mr. B-Natural hated the Untalented Mr. Ripley, not only because Mr. B is the grumpiest man in all the world, nor because they were competing for the same computer, but for other reasons entirely that we shall get to shortly.

    The Untalented Mr. Ripley ingratiated himself to the library staff early on by helping to defeat a member of the dreaded Fagin family. The Fagins, you see, are a huge family with a long and colorful history of theft and trechery of their own when it comes to the library. They first moved into the area probably 10 years ago and began borrowing lots of books, most of which were never seen again. Overdue notices were showered upon them only to be ignored. After so many months of begging for them to bring books back, the library simply blocked the offending Fagin-patron-record so as to prevent them from borrowing anything else. This only worked in the short term. Ma Fagin would come in and be confronted by "liberry" staff as to the many tomes she had in her possession and would be told her status as a BLOCKED patron. She would then claim she had returned all her books, we would deny it, then she would leave, sans any more books. Then, days later, she would get Pa Fagin to come in for books. Months down the road, when his card had also been blocked, they would start sending in their children--and they have LOTS of children. Eventually, every last Fagin was blocked, so they tried to start over. They would wait for an unsuspecting and unfamiliar liberry assistant (not me, mind you) to be at the circ desk then claim they had just moved to the area and needed cards for the entire family. If the library assistant didn't check the computer ahead of time to make sure they weren't already in there, the Fagins would suddenly have a full roster of cards again and would immediately fill them to capacity with poor, doomed books. Their trechery would eventually be discovered and all their new cards blocked. Why we haven't just called the cops on this family, I have no idea.

    (A funny aside: Ma Fagin once tried to apply for a job with one of the other libraries in the area. She managed to make a very good impression on the head librarian there, who called Mrs. A to let her know she'd finally found someone she thought would be a good replacement for a previous deadbeat employee. Upon hearing Ma Fagin's name, Mrs. A told the other director to look up the Fagin's patron records in her own computer and see how many books she had checked out. Ma Fagin, and indeed her spawn, were blocked multiple times in that branch's computer, nixing her hiring right away.)

    Some time later, according to Mrs. A, she was lamenting that some of our more expensive and irreplacable books were still in Pa Fagin's possession and would likely never see the inside of the library again. The Untalented Mr. Ripley happened to be listening to this lament and spoke up.

    "I can get them back for you," he said.

    "You can? How?" Mrs. A inquired.

    Mr. Ripley explained that Pa Fagin was actually a friend of his who he visited frequently. (This should have been our first clue not to trust this clown.) Ripley said he'd even seen the very books we wanted back at Chez Fagin the last time he was there. So upon his next visit, the Untalented Mr. Ripley managed to slip away with those books and returned them to us, cementing his reputation as a trusted "liberry" friend. The fact that he so easily displayed a knack for theft and cunning himself while rescuing them should have been our second clue. It was one which would soon come back to haunt him, though.

    Having already ingratiated himself to the library staff at the time, no one thought much about leaving Mr. Ripley by himself in the main fiction area on the frequent occasion when a staff member might have to go elsewhere in the library. He wasn't even a suspect when the cashbox began coming up short. That is, until he was caught with his hand in it some weeks later and banned from the library entirely.

    I'm not sure how much time passed before Mrs. A, who felt sorry for the man, finally allowed him to return. But his return was strictly limited to the computer area. He was no longer allowed to hang about near the circulation desk where temptation might prove too great.

    Years passed.


    My first encounter with the Untalented Mr. Ripley was shortly after I began working at the library over two years back. At that point, I knew very little about Mr. Ripley including his former status as cash box thief nor his habit of looking for gay porn on the computers. To me he was just a guy who came in and used the computer every day and was someone Mr. B-Natural seemed to dislike quite a bit. The way I saw it, if Mr. B-Natural is your enemy how bad can you really be?

    Granted, we had three patron computers by then so fighting over just one computer was no longer the issue between them, but this didn't seem to matter to Mr. B-Natural. He would come in, write his name on the computer sign in sheet (upside down, as usual) and look to see who else had signed in. If he even saw Mr. Ripley's name on the sign up sheet he would growl at it--actually growl at it. And if he knew which computer Mr. Ripley had been sitting in he would utterly refuse to sit there even if it was the only free computer. Such behavior is what helped solidify Mr. B-Natural's title as grumpiest old man in all the world.

    One day Mr. B-Natural decided to issue a warning to me, as the new guy on staff.

    "You gotta watch out for that RIPLEY," Mr. B said.

    "How come?"

    Mr. B-Natural dropped his voice down to a low growl. "He gets on the computers and looks for pictures of naked men."

    "Oh," I said. At that early "liberry" career point I had yet to see anyone looking for porn on our computers of any sort. Still, I wasn't about to give Mr. B the satisfaction of seeming at all positive about his warning. "Well, what patrons do on the computers isn't really our business," I told him.

    "It better be your business!"

    "Why? It isn't illegal to look at porn."

    "Yeah, but sometimes..." Mr. B continued, "... sometimes he prints them out."

    "Again, not illegal," I said. "Not as long as he pays for the prints, at least."

    Mr. B-Natural huffed and puffed and waved a dismissing paw in my direction before stomping out of the library.

    What I had said was true, though. Our policy at the time was strictly hands off when it came to what patrons looked at. I mean, if he'd been trying to lure kiddies over to the computer to make them look at it, it would be one thing, but Mr. Ripley mostly used his internet time in chat rooms from what little we could tell. (Of course, now we have all sorts of filtering software to guard against kids accessing porn in the library and all kinds of hoops and parental permission slips a kid has to jump through in order to get on the internet in the first place. Of age patrons can still access porn, if they're willing to come up to the desk and request that we come turn off the filter for them. The filters have been in place for about seven months now and so far not one patron has ever made such a request.)

    But I digress...

    What we didn't know at the time was that the Untalented Mr. Ripley had not given up his con-man thieving ways, he had just limited it to locations other than the library. I think he saw in Mrs. A an ally he couldn't afford to piss off again. After all, she let him back in the library in a limited fashion, was friendly toward him and occasionally gave him rides to Wal-Mart. Of course, once he was in Wal-Mart he would make an excuse to go off on his own, meeting Mrs. A later at the front counter where he bought one or two small items. What Mrs. A didn't realize was that Mr. Ripley had probably stolen several others while out of her sight, effectively making her an accomplice to his theft. This was a theory we all put together a few days following Mr. Ripley's eventual arrest... not for stealing stuff from Wally World, but elsewhere.

    It seems that for months Mr. Ripley had been burgling things from peoples homes and even from the downtown businesses he occasionally worked at. Many of these items were of little use to him personally, being antiques or art, but they were something he could sell later on, or give to people as gifts to help further ingratiate himself to them. He would store them away in abandoned houses in the hinterlands of the county. The police eventually got wise to him and the Untalented Mr. Ripley was arrested and packed off to jail where he remained for several months.

    The last we heard, he had been released or paroled and had even been seen at Mrs. V's library, using the computers. We warned her to keep an eye on her cashbox. However, as of this writing, he has not darkened our door again. He remains a former rogue.

    Monday, January 26, 2004

    Tales of the Bladder Thief

    Since the theft of the library's laptop from the "private" upstairs bathroom by presumed bashful bladder-bearing thieves, the "liberry" staff have all become Junior Clubhouse Detectives and extry security conscious.

    From what we've been able to piece together, the laptop was likely stolen on Monday afternoon. We have confirmation from Mrs. A's significant other, Mr. A, who was working in the area and dropped by Monday to use our facilities, that the laptop was indeed in the restroom when he stopped in. And as we don't open til 1 on Mondays, the theft would have had to have occurred between 1 and when we closed at 5 p.m. when Mrs. C noticed that the restroom door was slightly and atypically ajar.

    We've now narrowed down the list of suspects quite a bit and have our eye on two particular patrons as the would-be thieves. Until Monday, one of these two patrons was an almost daily user of our computers. Since Monday, we've not seen the man at all, nor his friend who occasionally comes in with him and who WAS with him and WAS upstairs quite a bit on the day in question. Our theory is that his friend, seeking a quiet and more private place to have a wee, popped into the upstairs restroom, did his business and noticed the laptop. From there they might have smuggled it out in a coat or just hoofed it out the back door.

    Course it might not be them at all, but the main suspect does have quite the local history with run-ins with the law.

    We've also decided to crack down on whoever has been stealing our magazines. I've already theorized that it's Chester the (Potential) Molester, scoring himself some PG-rated skin-mags in the form of Teen People and Parents, but we've yet to actually prove it.

    So last Thursday, I decided to pop down to the corner market store and pick up one of their gargantuan club salads for dinner. (I love them dearly because the market doesn't skimp on the toppings. It's loaded down with sliced ham, eggs, bacon, tomatoes and all the things that make a great club salad. Plus, after 15 minutes of steadily eating it, the salad will not have gotten noticeably smaller. That's a good salad.) On my way out the door to get my salad, though, who should I see coming up the walk but Chester himself. I turned right back around and stayed put in the library where I could keep an eye on him. After all, there were a few kids in the library, all watched closely by parents thankfully, but I wasn't letting Chester out of my sight while kids were about.

    Chester made his traditional walk-through, starting in the kids room, where he did cast a curious glance at one of the pre-teen girls, but he headed on into the computer hall and down toward the restroom. (I hate to think what he might do in there, particularly since I'm usually the guy who has to clean the restroom.)

    Mrs. A saw him go through and told me she was going upstairs to do a quick inventory of the magazines on the rack so we could see what wasn't there after he went by. We were hoping to catch him in the act. Unfortunately, Chester only stopped at the water fountain and managed to get back to the stairs before Mrs. A could make it to them herself. So she followed him up and noted that he had a very pregnant pause by the magazine rack before he noticed that she was watching him. He quickly grabbed a college financial aid form and headed into the non-fiction room. Mrs. A followed right behind him and pretended to be sorting the books on the book cart until Chester had finished with his upstairs walk-through and went back into the stairwell/magazine area. She popped around the corner just in time to see him pausing again at the magazine rack, but he saw her and immediately broke off and went down the stairs where I saw him cast another quick glance at the little girl in the kid's room, then saw him see me see him do it after which he made a bee-line for the front door.

    "I think you're right. He has been stealing the magazines," Mrs. A told me later.

    Damn, I thought. I sure hope we don't bust him for magazine theft. That's like busting Al Capone for tax evasion when you know he's been bootlegging and worse.

    With our new security measures in place, the upstairs restroom is no longer left unlocked at any given moment and we have now begun tallying our cashbox at the end of the day. It seems that it too has come up a bit short as of late and we're trying to avoid a repeat of previous cashbox adventures, such as the ones we had with a former Liberry Rogue called the Untalented Mr. Ripley.

    TO BE CONTINUED...

    Thursday, January 22, 2004

    Nastiest Patron EVER

    Yesterday, January 21, 2004, Weird Wednesday, was a historic moment at the "liberry." For yesterday, you see, was the first and I pray only time I have been confronted by a woman I can only describe as the nastiest, most vile, evil patron EVER. She was so unbelievably horrid that she has officially secured the #1 spot in The Liberry Rogues Gallery.

    Let me just put this in perspective. To be #1 means that she's beaten out the likes of Ron The (Magazine) Ripper, Chester the Molester, Mr. B-Natural, Billy the Brainchild and even Mrs. Bellows the Video Borrowing Gorgon in sheer unadulterated unholy foulness. Hell, I'll throw the Dufus back in there too cause she's got him beat hands down. Because while some of those people may be unwholesome and evil in their own way, none of them are as maliciously confrontational in their evil as this patron.

    I have dubbed her Mrs. Carol Satan.

    Mrs. Carol Satan marched up to the circulation desk yesterday accompanied by a thick fog of cigarette contamination. Or maybe it was brimstone. I dunno. Whichever, she smelled like she'd been sitting in an unfiltered Lucky Strike sauna for at least a week.

    "I'm Carol Satan. You guys called me about a book," she said. Her breath was a more concentrated version of her apparently natural air.

    "Sure thing," I told her. Then I stooped down and began rummaging through the hold shelf where we, naturally, store the books we're holding for our patrons.

    I should probably explain that process a bit first. It'll be boring, but it's necessary.

    At our library, as at many, we allow patrons to reserve books they'd like to read on a first come first served basis. We put their name on a list in our devil computer and when the book they want is checked back in the computer beeps and alerts us as to which patron gets which book. We then write that patron's name and phone number on a Post-it note, count five days from the date we received the book and write that date as the "pull date" on the Post-it. Then we slap said Post-it on the book, wrap the whole thing up with a rubber-band and chunk it in a three tiered holding shelf by the window behind the desk. Every night the liberry employee on duty calls all the people who have holds on the three tiered shelf. When we call we write the date on the Post-it beneath their name. If we speak to the patron themselves, we write OK by that date. If it's busy, we write BUSY. If we get no answer, we write N/A. If we get an answering machine, we leave a message with all the details and write MACHINE. If we get someone other than the patron themselves we leave a message with them and write "LEFT MESSAGE WITH..." husband, child, dog, etc. so there's always a trail of blame in case the patron never gets the message. Once a message is left or a patron is contacted, the book goes into the HOLD BIN, in a cabinet beneath the circulation desk. The patron then gets five days from the date we received the book on hold, (not five days from when we spoke to them), to pick up the book. If their five days run out, we put that patron's name at the end of the hold list and give the book to whoever is now first on the hold list. If no one's waiting for the book, we put it back on the shelf and usually leave the patron on the hold list so that the next time someone checks the book out and then back in the patron's name will pop up and we start the whole process over. Whichever option gets used, though, we write at the bottom of their loser patron's Post-It note along with the title of the book so we'll have plenty of evidence should someone wish to complain about not getting their hold book.

    Can you imagine who that someone might be?

    So when Mrs. Carol Satan marched up to the desk, in her thick haze of cigarette pollution, and told me that we'd called her about a book, I naturally looked for it. I opened up the hold bin beneath the desk and began searching for a book with her name Post-ited to it. There were exactly none.

    "Uh, do you remember the title of the book?" I asked.

    "No, I don't. Something by Danielle Steele," she said, breathing more carcinogenic-smelling breath at me.

    I decided maybe I'd missed it on first look and began searching the spine labels of the hold books for a Danielle Steele. Still, there were none. So I started searching the next place we look in such situations... our little bundle of old Post-Its of all the formerly holding patrons whose hold time ran out.

    As soon as I picked up the bundle, Mrs. Carol Satan sneered and said, "You don't have the books." She seemed more than a little pissed but not at all surprised.

    "It appears we might not," I said, still trying to keep a positive attitude about it all. I began leafing through the pad. Sure enough, about five deep into the stack were two, count em, two Post-Its for one Mrs. Carol Satan. As a visual aid, I have recreated those Post-Its below, with Mrs. Carol Satan's real name changed and her phone number omitted.


    (Click on the above images for larger versions)


    "Actually, ma'am, it looks like..."

    "Just put me back on the waiting list and call me," Mrs. Carol Satan interrupted. "I don't have time to wait around for you to find them."

    She said "wait around for you to find them" in much the same tone she might take if saying "wait around for you to make me eat a dog turd." She also seemed to be under the impression that we'd somehow lost her books and had an attitude about it. I thought she should be made aware that we hadn't lost her books, but that their lack of appearance was due to her not coming to pick them up in the first place.

    "Actually, ma'am," I began once again, "it appears your hold time ran out." I brandished my Post-its for her to see.

    "No it didn't," she said, not bothering to look at the pull date or even the Post-its. I kind of blinked at her for a second. Was she really arguing with me as I stood there with all the evidence I needed to wipe the floor with her?

    "Um, yes, ma'am, it did," I said, holding up the Post-its again, both of which quite clearly indicated that her books were pulled on 1/19, a full day after her allotted 5 days since the book had been checked in were over. "See," I said pointing to the evidence, "we started calling you on the 13th and pulled the books on the 19th."

    "We're supposed to get five days to pick up our books! I didn't get five days."

    Was she stupid?

    "Uh, yes ma'am, you did," I said. "Like it shows right here, you were called on the 14th and told your books were on hold."

    "No I wasn't," Mrs. Carol Satan snapped. "No one called me! I was home and no one called me. And I have a machine, so if I wasn't there you were supposed to leave a message and you didn't!"

    At this point I could hardly believe what I was hearing. This woman was charging right through all my carefully crafted logic. All of the library's failsafes and ass-covering tactics were being ignored--nay, shredded--by this middle-aged, cranky, smog-belching monstrosity. Well, I wasn't having any of it and I was sure as hell not going to rise to her level of anger, at least not to her face. Instead, I turned my already polite and mild-tempered tone a notch nicer.

    "I'm sorry, ma'am. Our records show that we did call you on the 14th. We did give you five days."

    Mrs. Carol Satan let out what might have been a grunt or perhaps even a burp of disbelief, conveying just how utterly ludicrous I was being.

    "Ma'am, maybe we spoke to someone else at your house and they didn't give you the message, but this note indicates we spoke to you."

    "I live alone!" she snapped.

    No shit? I didn't say.

    "And there were no messages on my machine!" she bellowed further.

    "This doesn't say we left one on an answering machine, ma'am. It says we talked to you. If you're the only person answering the phone then you're the one we talked to." And upon later inspection I noticed that the Post-Its in question had MY OWN HANDWRITING on them, so I HAD spoken to her sour ass.

    Mrs. Carol Satan fixed me with her most fiercesome glare yet.

    "I am so SICK of this CRAP!" she shouted. I thought the top of her bat-like little skull was about to come off. "This is ridiculous! I've never been treated this badly. We are supposed to get five days!!! I didn't get five days!!!!!"

    No, lady, you got %&*#ing SIX I again didn't shout. Instead, I adopted my sweetest, most calm and measured tone yet and said, "Yes, ma'am, you did."

    Mrs. Carol Satan's eyes bulged. She turned on her heel and stomped off toward the door, trailing a wake of Brimstone funk behind her. Before she reached the door, she looked back over her shoulder and commanded, "Just put me on the list for them!"

    After the door closed, I turned to Mrs. C the librarian, who had witnessed the whole scene, and said, "You know, I don't think I'm going to put her on the list for jack."

    "You don't have to," Mrs. C said, with a weary sigh. "I already did it when I pulled them on Monday."
    Mrs. C assured me that my experience with Mrs. Carol Satan was not atypical. In fact, from the moment that stanky beast walked in the door, Mrs. C said she knew exactly what was about to play out and that I would bear the brunt of the woman's wrath.

    "I feel... so dirty," I said. "That woman was foul and unholy. She has to be the nastiest patron I've ever encountered! There's something sincerely wrong with that woman!"

    "Yep," Mrs. C said. "I don't even get upset about it anymore. I just know that when she comes in she's going to scream at me regardless of what I do. She gets especially angry if you prove her wrong about something, like you did."

    I laughed. "Yeah, I love it that she walked in and said we called her about a book, then insisted that we never called her about the very book she had come in to pick up."

    "That's Carol."

    Mrs. C ran upstairs to tell Mrs. A, leaving me to stand at the desk shuddering with adrenaline and the remaining negative energy left behind by Mrs. Carol Satan. Soon, Mrs. A rushed back downstairs to commiserate with me over my battle.

    "That woman is a raving bitch!" Mrs. A said. And this is from a lady who doesn't say such things lightly. "She's been in my face screaming more times than I care to count. And she always smells like she's been smoking all day."

    "You ain't kidding!" I said. "I wanted to tell her to, `Have another puff and calm the hell down, lady!'"

    We spent the next several minutes laughing and telling stories about Mrs. Carol Satan. Funniest yet was when Mrs. C revealed that Carol Satan used to work as an agent for a greeting card company and was responsible for keeping all the local stores stocked in happy, smiley greeting cards. I guess she was some kind of chain-smoking Hallmark Harpy. Or maybe it was being around all that concentrated happiness that corrupted her in the first place.

    Another point of humor is the fact that both of the books that Mrs. Carol Satan wanted turned out to be on the shelf. No one else had been waiting for them, so Mrs. C pulled them and put them back on the shelf for someone else to choose at their leisure. While Mrs. Carol Satan is indeed still on the hold list for them, she won't actually see them until someone checks them out and brings them back.

    In the end, we resolved that we would draft a staff-resolution that when the time does come to phone Mrs. Carol Satan about her books, whoever calls her will tell her that she has a book on hold and then will say, "Now, Mrs. Satan, could you please confirm for me what today's date is? Your five days start NOW!"

    Tuesday, January 20, 2004

    Legion of Evil-Doers (with Bashful Bladders)

    Just got a call from Mrs. A. She asked if I had borrowed the library's laptop computer at some point this weekend. I had not. She sighed and said that it was now missing from its case, which was hidden away in Mrs. A's private office restroom, upstairs.

    The restroom situation in the library is not an ideal one. The only public restroom we have is located downstairs, in a small closet wedged beneath the staircase itself, which is at the end of the computer hall. There's only one toilet in there and the little room is hardly soundproof. The fact that it's right by the three computers also means that after you've used the restroom anybody surfing the net knows all your business. It's bad enough when doing a #1, but God help you if you have a #2 on the docket. Then, not only will everyone know your business, but our lack of a ventilation fan and far-wandering can of Glade means they'll probably smell it too.

    Now, this might seem to be a deterrent to most patrons "making stinky" on a regular basis, but believe me it doesn't scare off all of `em. At least once a week, as I meander back toward the computer hall, I'm hit with the unmistakable odor of a post-drop bowl-sinker and have to fight my way through it to get to the bathroom and spray something—ANYTHING—that might cut the stench. Half the time, there's a VERY obvious and accessible can of Glade or Lysol right there in the restroom, but does anyone ever think to actually USE it themselves? Hell no! It's always ME that has to do battle with Sterculius, the Roman God of fecal fumes. And if there's no Glade in there, I'm apt to grab some Clorox Cleanup or whatever else is handy and let fly.

    And it always makes me feel more than a little odd that the owner of the ass that unholy cloud was birthed from is probably one of the folks at the computer at that very moment and that I have to do THEIR job of fumigating the whole place as they watch.

    No one but the legendary and as yet unchronicled Serial Shitter has any good feelings toward our public restroom. (Well, S.S. and another mentally handicapped man who used to enjoy shoving stuff down the toilet, who subsequently, one Christmas, clogged our Ty-D Bowl with a Christmas wreath and bells so thoroughly that city employees had to be called out to physically remove said toilet from the floor itself in order to fish out the offending decorations.)

    The other restroom we have is allegedly private. It's a slightly bigger closet tucked away in one corner of Mrs. A's upstairs office. For a private office bathroom, it sure gets a lot of traffic from non-"liberry" personnel. I guess some folks just don't want to pee with an audience, so they wait for Mrs. A to leave her office and sneak in for a quick wee. We know this because the people who sneak in there tend to be awfully sloppy with their urination skills and leave a few drops on the rim of the bowl. Now, I'm no stranger to a few stray drips myself, but I at least have the decency to wipe `em up afterwards. Buncha savages in this town.

    It got even worse two summers ago when we had to close off the entire computer hallway for a full week to repaint the bathroom, re-floor the bathroom and varnish the wood floors of the computer hall. In order to keep people out of there, we hung a couple of truly colossal sheets of plastic over the opening to the hall and put giant signs on it saying THIS SECTION CLOSED DUE TO WET PAINT. We also put signs on the front door and at the desk advising our patrons we would not have a public restroom available to them until the work on the restroom was complete. Well, as evidenced by our tax form situation, none of our patrons are capable of reading signs.

    So one evening, I heard watery noises coming from beyond the no-fly-zone-warning-curtains-of-plastic and knew someone had gone in there anyway. Sure enough, some of the heavy tape holding the plastic sheeting in place had been unaffixed from the wall. I pulled it aside and marched on in to confront our urination violator. About the time I reached the restroom, out he came. Now, even giving the guy the benefit of the doubt and assuming that he was an illiterate moron incapable of reading the signs telling him the restroom was closed and not to pull aside the plastic and go in anyway, to actually get in and out of the restroom he had to move a huge stack of full paint cans in cardboard boxes that we'd piled in front of the door to prevent just this sort of thing. On his way back out, he had to squeeze past them again and didn't immediately see me standing there with my arms folded. When he did catch sight of me, you should have seen the amazing look of guilt on his face. He began trying to make excuses for himself even before I told him that he wasn't supposed to be in the bathroom because there was lots of wet paint in there. Then, in his embarrassed haste to escape, he managed to tear down the plastic sheeting covering the hallway. Like I said, buncha savages.

    Our upstairs restroom got a lot more unauthorized use that week, but there weren't' any real problems other than a few cleanups.

    Unfortunately, these days the upstairs restroom also serves as a storage area for unused computer equipment, old files and records, and, most recently, the library's laptop, which is now missing and presumed stolen.

    Topping our list of suspects... all patrons with bashful bladders.

    TO BE CONTINUED...

    Monday, January 19, 2004

    Dearth and Taxes

    It's not even April yet, but tax season has begun at the "liberry". Soon as the new year hits, our tax forms go out and we gotta find space for them.

    For the past two years, the tax forms have had a home atop one of our three-foot high floor shelves positioned directly in front of the front door of the library. We did this on the theory that when tax-form-seeking people walk through the door, they should be able to immediately note the tax forms and go right to them without having to bother anyone (i.e. me) with asking where they are. Barring that, they should notice the giant yellow sign we have always placed there directing their attention to the tax forms.

    For the past two years, this theory has never... EVER... worked.

    No patron has ever managed to notice the sign nor the forms despite their incredibly obvious position. Instead, they walk in the door, practically walking into the forms themselves in the process, then completely overlook them in favor of marching up to the desk where they ask the question we grow to dread and which becomes grounds for an ass whuppin' come April 13, "Do you got tax forms here?" This is when we raise a hand and point over their shoulder at the tax forms directly behind them in front of the door. The patrons then blush and look deservedly embarrassed at their entire lack of observation skills, collect their forms and depart.

    This situation leads to many fun patron impersonations that we in the library staff engage in when patron's aren't around to hear us. They go something like this...

    "Uhhh, hey! I'm pawin' through all yer tax forms, here, which took me half an hour to find cause I somehow didn't manage to trip over them when walkin' in the front door, even though they're right there in front of ya, with a big ol' arrow pointed at them and a yella billboard for a sign, an' I jest don't see the State of Georgia 1028-C form for color-blind arc-welders who's mothers didn't love them. You got one of them? I want the short form, now, y'hear!"

    Fun.

    This year, we've moved the forms. Instead of putting them directly in front of the door with big signs, which has never ever worked, we moved the forms across the room, atop a completely different floor shelf, with plenty of stuff blocking any direct line of sight of them from the door, including a support beam, and we have no signs whatsoever.

    Where do you think people now habitually look for tax forms when they walk in the door? That's right, atop the floor shelf directly in front of the door where they are quite obviously NOT AT and where we have been practically begging people to look for them for the past umpteen years!!!!

    Saturday, January 17, 2004

    Freaky Friday

    Friday was nutty. Not so much because of our patrons, though Ron the Ripper did put in a mostly quiet appearance, but just the usual Fridee nuttiness.

    Friday, you see, is amnesty day at the library. That means that if patrons have late books (and some patrons have VERY late books) they can bring them in on Friday and not have to pay a fine. Our fines are obscenely reasonable to begin with. It's like $.05 per day with a $4 limit ceiling for any given book. We're not even all that interested in enforcing fines to begin with. Mostly, we'd like to have our books back, so we give folks every opportunity to get them back to us for free just so they won't sit on them for fear of huge fines.

    On most days, if people bring late books back in, we don't charge them fines anyway unless the patron themselves calls attention to the lateness of their books.

    At the moment, we're in the process of switching from the demon-spawn library cataloging program VTLS to something allegedly much better, so we haven't been charging fines at all on any day due to some glitch in the switchover. (Or maybe we're just being lazy. I'm not really sure which.) Mostly, we just enjoy the guilty expressions of our patrons who bring late books in ready and willing to pay their penance only to be denied.

    Still with all the free days/weeks/months we've been unofficially offering, our patrons still think of Friday as amnesty day, so that's when the majority of our books come back and, yesterday, back they came. The shelving cart was overflowing with books when I walked in the door and Mrs. C was busy processing the enormous shipment of new books that I would have to emboss, spine-label, cover with mylar bookwrap and tape up, so I set about clearing the cart as fast as I could. While I'm doing this, patrons kept filing in the door with MORE books for me to put away, so my day's work was cut out. By the time I finished putting away what was already waiting for me, I was so frustrated at our lack of shelf space that I was cursing Robert Jordan and his stupid ZZ Top lookin' ass for writing such big fat books. I began pulling all the double copies of his gargantu-tomes off the shelf and piling them up just so I'd have room for other authors.

    The frustration stayed with me for much of the afternoon. When I was finally able to get to the new books, it seemed like every time I began trying to deal with them the phone would ring. I've spoken before of the great love and devotion, read dire hatred, between me and the telephone before, but it was especially inflamed on Friday. I could NOT get anything done without it interrupting and it got to the point where I was no longer merely growling at the phone, which amuses my co-workers, but had moved on to hurling scissors, which does not amuse my co-workers. And while on the phone with one patron, call-waiting would kick in and there would be another one with just as complicated an issue to have to deal with as the first. At least no one called to ask what time we closed, because I don't know if I could have held back my wrath if they had. Thankfully, Mrs. C grabbed the mobile phone and began answering it for me, leaving me to wrap my books in peace.

    We may have solved a mystery on Friday as well. Mrs. A had been going through our magazine files earlier in the day and came downstairs to announce that we were missing quite a few of the more current issues of Teen People, National Geographic and Parents. They hadn't been checked out, but were simply missing from the file boxes. I floated the theory that they had never made it to the file boxes and had probably walked out in the greasy, unwholesome clutches of Chester the (potential) Molester. I've long suspected he might be pilfering our magazines. I think I even once caught him doing it after having gone upstairs and organizing the magazine rack only to finding a blank space where our current issue of Parents was a few minutes after Chester did his usual "walk through."

    It makes sense. Teen People and Parents have loads of pictures of youthful looking girls (some criminally youthful, when it comes to Chester's predilections). And every guy knows from an early age that National Geographic has its fair share of bare breasts. Sure, they're usually droopy bare native breasts, but when you're 12 and internet porn hasn't been invented yet, you aren't so picky. I figure Chester's not picky either, particularly since he's demonstrated an inability to access internet porn on our computers in the first place. (And that was before we put on the filters.)

    We know Chester has done walkthroughs recently, so that might explain our lack of certain titles.

    Course, as my wife pointed out, some of those magazines may have simply been ripped out of existence by Ron the Ripper, who himself is quite partial to National Geographic. (After all, it has the most pages to rip outside of Oprah magazine.)

    So it looks like we'll have double duty when being vigilant during Chester's visits, watching him to make sure he's not molesting children and/or stealing magazines.

    Thursday, January 15, 2004

    Weird Wednesday

    Our Wednesdays have been getting weirder and weirder. I've missed the past several, but the tales I've heard from fellow "liberry" staff back it up.

    Evidently the local mental health social services agency, Unobstructed Doors, has mandated that its aides take their mentally handicapped clients to the library and have put it on their schedules of things to do. We're happy to have them, but something about mentally handicapped patrons being force-marched into the library, whether they want to come or not, makes me uneasy.

    We have a group of mentally handicapped patrons whose aides bring them in like clockwork every Wednesday around 2 p.m. The group varies in size from week to week, but there have been weeks where nearly all four tables upstairs have been full. Now again, I'm not complaining. Most of these patrons seem to enjoy coming to the library and that's good. However, there's one of them who on more than one occasion has thrown a screaming fit upstairs. And when I say "screaming fit" I'm talking a blood curdling screaming fit. You'd think the girl was being murdered, and I've rushed up the stairs (nearly breaking my ass despite our new sign) to make sure she wasn't. She's not. She just gets fed up with being there or is in some other way offended and just opens up at full squall to protest. This happened yesterday and the whole crew had to leave shortly thereafter.

    Meanwhile, there's always Ron the Ripper...

    When Ron turns up at the library, he usually turns up alone at first. This is because his primary aid, Donald, is a firm believer in giving Ron as much space and freedom as possible. Donald usually takes Ron to the Unobstructed Doors office downtown, tells him to go to the library and sets him free. Ron walks up the hill to us and Donald follows a few minutes later at his leisure. Now, freedom and space is all well and good, but between the time Ron hits the door and Donald shows up, Ron can rip up quite a few magazines. And Donald, despite our many pleas, doesn't care to check and make sure Ron isn't ripping our good magazines.

    While I was out of town there were a couple of Ron incidents.

    Mrs. A, our head liberrian, said that Ron came in one morning and went right upstairs to his favorite ripping table as usual. I don't know if someone had beat him to the table or not, but Ron got upset about something and began doing his usual loud caveman bark. It sounds like "Unnnngh! Unnnnnnnngh!! UNNGNGGHHHHHG!!!" only much louder. Mrs. A rushed upstairs and put her finger to her lips to shush Ron. Ron, however, is incapable of being shushed. He firmly knows that caveman barking is unacceptable behavior and he longs for someone to shush him just so he'll have an excuse to turn the volume up to 11. This he did. Mrs. A said it was deafening. About that time, Donald meandered on in, heard the tumult upstairs and came rushing up to see what was going on. He was able to calm Ron down. (In fact, we're pretty sure he's one of the only aides Ron will listen to. From what we've been told, Donald has quit his aid job on several occasions only to be begged to come back because he's the only one who can deal with Ron.)

    The second incident takes some setting up...

    Sometimes the library staff comes in early to take care of administrative concerns or to clean. While in early, it's quite common to hear the sound of someone trying to open the front door. This happens several times a morning as, it seems, no one in town is capable of reading the posted hours prominently positioned on the door itself and they always try the door anyway before scratching their heads in confusion and driving off. One day, though, Mrs. B, my fellow liberry ass., was in early and was sweeping the walk outside when she saw a seemingly mentally healthy patron walk up to the front door and try to get in. After he failed to open the locked door, Mrs. B saw him notice and read the posted hours. Then he stepped back onto the sidewalk and walked around to the back door which she had left unlocked. He opened it and went in. Mrs. B followed and said, "Excuse me, sir, but we're not open yet." He said, "Oh, I know. I just wanted to come in anyway."

    Ron did much the same last week but at least he has the whole mentally handicapped thing as an excuse. This time it was Mrs. C who was in early. Again, she said she heard someone try the front door, then a few moments later she heard the back door open followed by the sound of footsteps walking upstairs, no doubt pausing by the magazine rack to snatch up a few fresh and as yet unripped magazines, and then on into the upstairs room and over to the favorite ripping table. A few minutes later, Donald rolled up and knocked on the door to ask if Ron was in.

    "Well, someone came in the back and went upstairs," Mrs. C said. It then took Donald 20 minutes to coax Ron into leaving, with much caveman barking as the soundtrack.

    That was all over the past two weeks.

    Being Weird Wednesday, yesterday, though, Ron had to come in. This time Donald was nowhere to be seen. In fact, the aid who was with him was brand new and very very green as to the ways of Ron: The Ripper. As soon as they reached the top of the stairs, we could hear Ron start in with the caveman barks. They lasted for a few minutes until both Ron and his new aid came back downstairs and quickly departed. The new aid looked quite embarrassed.

    Mrs. A, who was upstairs at the time, later described what happened. As soon as Ron began barking, Green-Aid became horrified and began saying things like, "Ron! No, Ron. You don't scream in the library, Ron. Ron, be quiet. Ron, this is not how you're supposed to behave!" This, of course, just fueled Ron's fire, turning up the volume and forcing their flight.

    Tuesday, January 13, 2004

    Shiti-Bank Blues

    My first credit card was a Shiti-Bank Mastercard.

    Over the seven or eight years I owned that card, I learned to loathe Shiti-Bank. Granted, most of my problems stemmed from the fact that I repeatedly sent my monthly payment in a couple days late and they wound up gouging me with a $30 service fee, obviously my fault, but I also had other reasons.

    While living in Tupelo, MS, there were a couple of the occasions when I knew my payment was going to arrive late, so I dutifully gave Shiti-Bank a call to let them know this. On these occasions, the Shiti-Bank billing department employees I spoke with told me that they would credit my account so that my payment, while arriving late, would not set off the $30 gouge fee. On both of these occasions, the Shiti-Bank billing department employees I spoke with were lying through there little Shiti-Teeth.

    After the second such dishonest gouging, I called them back to complain and spoke with someone in regular Shiti-Bank customer service. This person was sympathetic to my plight, sighed and explained to me that the Shiti-Bank billing department only employs inveterate lying bastards who will promise anything in order to get your check in the mail to them.

    So I stopped using Shiti-Bank altogether. Well, almost altogether. I did have a subscription to Entertainment Weekly that billed to my Shiti-Bank card, but I only had to worry about that every few months or so. It wasn't a bad deal.

    Jump ahead three years. My wife and I had moved to Hickory, North Carolina, then to Charlotte, then to another address in Charlotte and then to West Virginia. After each of these moves, I phoned Shiti-Bank up to let them know. Well, after almost every move. In the last one—the one to West Virginia—I took the attitude of Screw `em! They've never done anything good for me. Let `em wonder.

    Unfortunately, I'm my own worst enemy when it comes to credit finances and I didn't think the Screw Em policy through completely. I forgot my Entertainment Weekly subscription was still billing to that card. And, also most unfortunately, the next billing cycle for my subscription fell just beyond the 6 month cut-off period the U.S. Post Office has for forwarding mail. So I never even saw my credit card statement featuring the charge for my EW subscription, nor the following month's statement featuring my EW subscription and a $30 gouge charge, nor the following month's, etc. Finally, after five months, Shiti-Bank told EW that I obviously wasn't paying up and they cut off my subscription.

    With no weekly fix of entertainment news, I finally realized something was up and gave Shiti-Bank a call. I still didn't realize the true horror of the situation, mind you. Because I had assumed that if there were charges on my card, the bill for said charges would have forwarded in the mail and I would have been alerted to them.

    Shiti-Bank was only too happy to take my new mailing address and phone number. After they had this info, they were also only too happy to tell me they'd locked off my account and contacted a collection agency on my ass. That was bad enough. Then they told me how much I owed them and I nearly had a heart attack.

    It was a life-lesson. After that, I called all my credit cards and made sure they had my contact information and no charges to be paid. I closed all but two of them out. The only credit card company that didn't beg me not to close my account with them was, of course, Shiti-Bank, who'd had just about their fill of me, as I had had of them.

    That was all happened nearly two years ago. Since then, I have been a model of credit responsibility. That is, if by credit responsibility you mean "a guy who still occasionally forgets to send his payment in on time."

    Yesterday, I received a check from Shiti-Bank. The accompanying letter explained that I had been identified as a member of the class of Shiti-Bank customers who were eligible for a refund under the terms of a settlement agreement reached in a class action lawsuit titled Schwartz Vs. Shiti-Bank.

    My check was written for the amount of $0.04. That's four cents to you and me.

    yay.

    revenge is mine.

    Shiti-Bank Blues

    My first credit card was a Shiti-Bank Mastercard.

    Over the seven or eight years I owned that card, I learned to loathe Shiti-Bank. Granted, most of my problems stemmed from the fact that I repeatedly sent my monthly payment in a couple days late and they wound up gouging me with a $30 service fee, obviously my fault, but I also had other reasons.

    While living in Tupelo, MS, there were a couple of the occasions when I knew my payment was going to arrive late, so I dutifully gave Shiti-Bank a call to let them know this. On these occasions, the Shiti-Bank billing department employees I spoke with told me that they would credit my account so that my payment, while arriving late, would not set off the $30 gouge fee. On both of these occasions, the Shiti-Bank billing department employees I spoke with were lying through there little Shiti-Teeth.

    After the second such dishonest gouging, I called them back to complain and spoke with someone in regular Shiti-Bank customer service. This person was sympathetic to my plight, sighed and explained to me that the Shiti-Bank billing department only employs inveterate lying bastards who will promise anything in order to get your check in the mail to them.

    So I stopped using Shiti-Bank altogether. Well, almost altogether. I did have a subscription to Entertainment Weekly that billed to my Shiti-Bank card, but I only had to worry about that every few months or so. It wasn't a bad deal.

    Jump ahead three years. My wife and I had moved to Hickory, North Carolina, then to Charlotte, then to another address in Charlotte and then to West Virginia. After each of these moves, I phoned Shiti-Bank up to let them know. Well, after almost every move. In the last one—the one to West Virginia—I took the attitude of Screw `em! They've never done anything good for me. Let `em wonder.

    Unfortunately, I'm my own worst enemy when it comes to credit finances and I didn't think the Screw Em policy through completely. I forgot my Entertainment Weekly subscription was still biling to that card. And, also most unfortunately, the next billing cycle for my subscription fell just beyond the 6 month cut-off period the U.S. Post Office has for forwarding mail. So I never even saw my credit card statement featuring the charge for my EW subscription, nor the following month's statement featuring my EW subscription and a $30 gouge charge, nor the following month's, etc. Finally, after five months, Shiti-Bank told EW that I obviously wasn't paying up and they cut off my subscription.

    With no weekly fix of entertainment news, I finally realized something was up and gave Shiti-Bank a call. I still didn't realize the true horror of the situation, mind you. Because I had assumed that if there were charges on my card, the bill for said charges would have forwarded in the mail and I would have been alerted to them.

    Shiti-Bank was only too happy to take my new mailing address and phone number. After they had this info, they were also only too happy to tell me they'd locked off my account and contacted a collection agency on my butt. That was bad enough. Then they told me how much I owed them and I nearly had a heart attack.

    It was a life-lesson. After that, I called all my credit cards and made sure they had my contact information and no charges to be paid. I closed all but two of them out. The only credit card company that didn't beg me not to close my account with them was, of course, Shiti-Bank, who'd had just about their fill of me, as I had with them.

    That was all happened nearly two years ago. Since then, I have been a model of credit responsibility. That is, if by credit responsibility you mean "a guy who still occasionally forgets to send his payment in on time."

    Yesterday, I received a check from Shiti-Bank. The accompanying letter explained that I had been identified as a member of the class of Shiti-Bank customers who were eligible for a refund under the terms of a settlement agreement reached in a class action lawsuit titled Schwartz Vs. Shiti-Bank.

    My check was written for the amount of $0.04. That's four cents to you and me.

    yay.

    revenge is mine.

    Friday, January 09, 2004

    The Return of the Dufus

    I may have been a bit premature in moving the Dufus from the Active to the Inactive category of the Liberry Rogues Gallery, a couple weeks back. In he walked today, his eyes twinkling with the unholy desire to hog a computer for several hours. As far as I know, he's still there, as I got off at 1 p and didn't want to stick around to see the carnage of any of us having to ask him to get off the computer.

    I don't know if he's back for good or just overstayed his Christmas visit, but it would appear the Dufus has returned.

    Joy.

    Interim Interludes

    Found out I missed some "liberry" fun while I was gone.

  • Some local teenagers came in for "liberry" cards. One of them had the last name of Cooper and insisted that his library card read "Alice Cooper" despite the fact that his real name was Justin. When Mrs. C told him we were going to have to put his real name on the card, he got angry and said "Well, fine! I just won't get one at all!" Then he and his cronies stormed out. As irritated as I would have been had I been the "liberry ass." on duty that day, I think I would have been far more perplexed that this 15 year old kid had even heard of Alice Cooper. I'm not knocking Alice, mind you, just that the idea that some kid around here might be a fan of a musician whose heyday was nearly 20 years before his birth seems a triffle odd to me. Almost makes you want to forgive the slight.


  • Last weekend, a different kid than the above one managed to fall down the stairs and break his arm. Miss E was the only "liberry ass." on duty and was a bit perplexed about what to do, (being as how she's a highschool senior herself). Fortunately the kid's dad was with him and after a cautious examination of the arm, the dad loaded kid up and headed, presumably, for the hospital. I imagine this little episode will prompt us to put up yet another sign. We already have the walls by the computer area coated in signs with such disclaimers as "Before using a computer, patrons must sign in at the front desk and let a staff member log you on" and "We reserve the right to turn off the computers if patrons refuse to log off when asked"and "Printing is .10 cents per page. You print it, you pay for it. No exceptions" even though there are, like, five exceptions to this rule. Now we'll need one saying, "We are not responsible for your lack of motor skills. Please don't break your damn ass while climbing up or down our stairs as it may lead to a damn broken ass. Oh, and by the way, hot coffee is HOT!"
  • Thursday, January 08, 2004

    Home

    We got back from our most recent roadtrip to Mississippi at midnight last night. It was a long drive punctuated with alternating cassettes from our books on tape (Tom Wolfe's Ambush at Fort Bragg was excellent and well-performed by Edward Norton; Dean Koontz's By the Light of the Moon was a great story of super-heroes done right and was well performed; Robin Cook's Fatal Cure was so damn awful I ejected it half way through the first cassette, and Barry Bostwick, who I generally like, was not terribly suited as a performer of the material).

    My Mamaw's funeral went very well, all things considered. I think she would have liked it, as much as she could like any place where folks were fussing over and talking about her. She would have appreciated all the flowers and beautiful plants people sent, as gardening was one of her passions in life. She had even picked out her own pink rose-colored casket several years ago in anticipation of the day.

    There was grieving and laughter and reunions with people we haven't seen in ages. In fact, from the moment I walked into the funeral home, for the visitation, I was shocked. My dad pulled me over to reintroduce me to Brother Anderson, the first preacher I remember seeing at Mamaw and Papaw's church. Brother Anderson's son, who is also a minister, was there as well and both came over to shake my hand and ask if I knew who they were. The trouble here is that I thought the both of them have been dead for years. I based this assumption on my memory of my dad telling me that they had both DIED many years ago. Perhaps I'm mistaken or perhaps he was. Whatever the case, I was a bit hesitant to shake either man's hand until I was sure they weren't about to go for my brain. (When dealing with the undead or the potentially undead, it's always wise to be cautious.)

    While we did grieve at the visitation and funeral, we were mostly happy that Mamaw was no longer trapped in that frail frail body in a place that she would have been mortified to be in had she been aware that she was there at all. We were happy that the fog had been lifted from her mind and that she had gone on to something better.

    I imagine we creeped a few people out with our laughter and mostly good mood at her visitation. But I'm a firm believer that if a person lived a good life and they've gone on to glory we should celebrate. Celebrate them and their life and their memory and the good times. Sure, there are tears because we miss them and we know that those good times we spent with them are gone (at least for the moment), but if they were in pain or discomfort toward the end we should be glad they are now in stark relief.

    It's very similar to the death of my grandpa on my father's side. He had prostate cancer, which wasn't treated until it was far too late to do anything about it. He spent the last year of his life in pain and the last few months of that beging for the Lord to take him home. My grandmother, aunt, cousin-in-law and many others devoted their time round the clock to caring for him and it nearly killed them to watch him suffer the way he did. The day after he died, my father took my grandmother out to breakfast, something she had not done in over a year. When they arrived at Hardee's the employees recognized her and asked where my grandfather was. With a smile on her face, she told them that he had died. They were a bit perplexed that she seemed happy about it even after she explained his condition and that he was no longer suffering and had gone on. My grandmother spent the next few days creeping people out in just this manner. I thought it was fantastic. And the funeral was a blast because we got to watch lines of people file away from her shaking their heads in confusion that anyone would be happy that their husband had died. But it is exactly the right attitude to take and was a lesson to me about how to deal with such things.

    Maybe I'm in something of a unique position in this, though. My mother died when I was four. My father explained to me that she wasn't coming home and that she had gone to Heaven to be with Jesus. From everything I'd been told about Heaven to that point, I thought it sounded like a pretty swell deal. I don't recall grieving about it at all as a child, though I know I must have in more internal ways. (I have a stack of haunted-looking photographs of myself, post age-four to speak to that.)

    From an early age, though, I began rating funerals I attended as to their positive qualities. I don't really know why I did this, except that it helped form my opinions about what I think a funeral should be. My favorite funerals were the ones where the loved ones left behind sat around and told stories about the dearly departed, laughing and celebrating their lives. The worst have been where the whole affair is dour and lifeless and where everything is about the grief. Of course, people deal with such things differently and there are a lot of people who wouldn't be able to deal with the funeral as celebration.

    Don't get me wrong, there is grief in both, but when I die I would rather my friends and family to gather to tell stories about me, both good and bad, eat lots of food, drink lots of drink and celebrate my memory.

    Then they can brainstorm an appropriately ironic place to dump my ashes.

    Saturday, January 03, 2004

    Bad news

    My aunt called from Waynesboro, this morning. She told me Mamaw passed away in her sleep some time last night.

    My feelings about it are conflicted to say the least. I'm sad to see her go, sure, but mostly I'm happy that she went. She is in a much better place now where she'll have the comfort of seeing most of the people she ever knew.

    We don't know funeral arrangements yet, but regardless we'll soon be either on the road or in the air back to Mississippi.