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.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Librarians Against the Apocolypse

Mrs. A and Mrs. C, our wondrous librarians, left today for a meeting out of town. It's rare for both Mrs. A and Mrs. C to be gone at the same time. Probably only happens five times a year. However, on each and every occasion when it occurs the phone begins to ring and it does not stop.

Who's calling? People.... People who are DESPERATE to talk to either Mrs. A or Mrs. C. And Sweet Merciful Rob Van Winkle, it's like the callers think the world is ending and the only thing that can halt the impending tide of carnage is the answer that Mrs. A and Mrs. C have locked away in their brains that these callers have to have right now.

Even more irritating is that half the time the callers know good and damn well that Mrs. A and Mrs. C are away at a meeting. I know this because more than one of them said, "Aw crap! They're at that meeting, aren't they?" To which I long to respond Yes! They're at THAT meeting! If you knew that already, why are you calling my ass?

If the callers don't already know exactly where Mrs. A and Mrs. C are then they WANT to know--nay, HAVE TO KNOW--exactly where Mrs. A and Mrs. C are so they can get on the horn and try to track them down. Nary a soul in the WV Library network is willing to wait patiently. With long-distance communication in this country striving to be more instantaneous every day, people just can't be bothered with patience. I personally blame Catherine Zeta-Jones-Douglas and her enticing T-Moble ads.

Now, do you think for one instant that Mrs. A and Mrs. C left any kind of contact information as to where they were going or when they would get back? Uh, that would be "no", Pat. They left us Jaques Shite. Understandable, really, since they don't want to be contacted by any of these people in the first place. So the whole day was just a never ending stream of calls that Mrs. B and I had to field.

CALLER: Uhhh, hey. I'm a liberrian registering for WV Liberry Association conference and I wanted to know if I could FAX it in? It's due in two seconds, y' hear?

ME: Well, I don't know. Probably so, but I don't have the definitive answer and there's no one here today that can answer definitively. I do have a FAX machine that's spitting out registration forms as we speak, so the forecast is good. If you FAX it and you're not supposed to at least you won't be alone.

The only person who didn't call that we fully expected to call was the president of our board of directors, Mr. Kreskin. He always, ALWAYS calls when our librarians are both away. In fact, I've never known him to call at all unless they are both away. It's like he innately knows that they're not in and that none of the rest of us can answer his questions so he calls anyway just so he can get mad about it. The fact that Mrs. A has already told him at least once that they're going to be out of town on X day makes no difference. He calls and gets upset anyway then verbally kicks himself to me over the phone for forgetting that they'd already told him they were not going to be there. However, his anger instantly reignites if he asks where Mrs. A and Mrs. C went (information that he has already been hand fed by Mrs. A) and we don't have an answer for him. He doesn't get mad at us, mind you. We're just innocent victims in the information withholding wars, you see. But when Mrs. A gets back and he actually gets through to her, he gets royally torqued.

This is also the same man who swears he keeps getting an answering machine when he calls the library before 9 a.m. Mind you, we don't open until 9 a.m., but our librarians are usually in by 8 a.m. and turn the answering machine off when they get there just so he can get through. So if he's getting the machine as he claims, he's calling before 8.

I don't mean to make fun of him, for the man is very nice. We were just shocked that he didn't call today. Maybe he's sick.

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In other "liberry" news, I finally figured out why one of our mentally handicapped patrons insists on unleashing blood-curdling screams on a regular basis. It's been a big mystery for several months now. The Screamer, you see, is a client of the local Unobstructed Doors office that assists the mentally handicapped in the area. She's usually among a group of clients that they bring to the library at least once a week. They're all very sweet people, but during nearly every visit the Screamer gets something stuck in her craw and just opens up with an unsettlingly accurate impression of someone being stabbed to death. You can hear it throughout the entire building and it just makes your spine seize up with sympathetic pain for the poor murder victim you think you're hearing. Any other patrons standing around suddenly begin looking in the direction of the staff as though we're just inhuman monsters for not immediately running up the stairs to defend the poor girl. We sigh, roll our eyes and trudge up the stairs a bit quicker than usual to see if we can do anything to help quiet things down, which we can't.

Today I at least got a clue as to why it happens. In the past, when the Screamer's started up, the Unobstructed Doors staff immediately gathers their clients and everyone leaves the building. I've assumed that they do this because they know the Screamer's just caused a massive disturbance and so they leave out of apology.

Nope. Turns out the whole reason the Screamer is upset is that the Unobstructed Doors aides are trying to make her leave in the first place. She evidently doesn't want to leave and when it's time to go so she drops to the floor and starts a-death-wailin'.

Naturally, I was on the phone today when the Screamer started and by the time I could ditch the caller and get upstairs the screaming was mostly over. The other clients didn't seem put out that one of their own was calling down the vocal thunder. One of them asked me if I would tie her shoe, which I did. She then said I was her buddy, which I'm proud to be.

Another fellow, a short man named Calvin, came up and gave me a hug. I like Calvin. In addition to being generally sweet-natured and given to hugs, Calvin's also distinguished for his cursing. When he and his aid were coming into the library one day, Calvin tripped slightly on the front step.

"Oh, shit," Calvin said.

"Calvin!" his aid snapped.

"Oh, my," Calvin corrected.

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And finally, I had yet another pleasant encounter with Mrs. Carol Satan. Today was the day the Danielle Steel book she has on hold was due to be pulled and given to the next person on the list. Just as I suspected, the book was still in the hold shelf when I got there this morning. I even pointed it out to Mrs. B so she could be sure to pass it along to the next patron should Carol not show up. Around 3 this afternoon, Mrs. Carol Satan called. She very politely, even humbly, asked if we would please hold it for her for one more day as she couldn't get out due to weather and a massive pile of gravel blocking her driveway. I sighed and relented. After all, she was being polite and that should always be encouraged.

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