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.

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.

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