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.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Days of Whine and Hosers

When I walked through the door of my house following work this evening, I still wore the brilliant shining grin that I'd been wearing for most of the day.

"Ah, the day I had at work today," I told my wife.

"Why? What did you do?" Ashley asked, I might add with a somewhat concerned expression.

"Oh, it's not what I did... it's what I learned."

There's no real organized way to do this, so we'll just take each item in the order I experienced it today.

Started my day hanging out with Mrs. A at the circulation desk today. I love hanging out with Mrs. A. In addition to being a great boss, she knows all the best stories and always has an ear to the ground for news. I had heard a bit of news about her myself and asked her to share with me the tale of her confrontation of our new buddy the Parka.

Seems last Friday, just one day after I had difficulty getting Parka to get off the computer and stop chatting online to his poser-underage "date", our weekend staffer Miss E had equal difficulty getting Parka to relinquish his computer so another patron could have it. She asked him to get off, and ten minutes passed with him still there a typin' away. Miss E complained to Mrs. A about it. Mrs. A, never afraid of confrontation with a belligerent patron, marched back to the computers and told Parka that when Miss E or any other staff member told him it was time to get off, he was to immediately get off. She told him that this was the third time she'd heard complaints from staff members about him and if she heard any more he would be banned from the computers. Parka got off then and there and fled the building. And when he next dared return, on Monday, and Mrs. C had to ask him to get off, she only had to ask him once because he was up and out the door in a flash.

I chuckled about this and looked forward to my chance to put this into action myself.

In exchange for Mrs. A's tale, I told her about my proposed "If you make stinky in this restroom..." sign for the back of the restroom door. She thought it sounded like a good plan.

Oh, but the fun was not yet at an end. Far from it.

Mrs. A was about to head upstairs when suddenly her eyes widened and she gave me a smile. "I almost forgot. Have you heard about Chester yet?" she asked.

"Chester?" I said, inwardly bemoaning the fact that she had used the real name of the Patron Who Must Not Be Named, thus insuring his eventual appearance. She was referring, of course, to Chester the (potential) Molester.

It seems word about Chester has been slowly making the rounds among our local and even far-ranging public libraries. I chalk this up to the fact that Chester's a pretty wide ranging guy himself. He doesn't even live in the Tri-Metro area at all, but is from a small town over an hour away from here with plenty of public libraries in between. Each one has come to recognize him and has set up similar security measures to our own. They've also begun sharing remarkably similar tales about him.

For instance, one library not far from Tri-Metro has an unofficial policy that when they see him coming they run to put an "Out of Order" sign on their public restroom because Chester evidently "messed" it up at some point in the past. The director of that library hadn't even noticed Chester's usual stalking of preteen girls behavior. She was just afraid of him having another poo-festival in the bathroom.

Other libraries have begun reporting Chester's traditional "pedophile walk-through" as he cases the entire library inventorying the pre-teen girl population. The each describe how he first goes to check the bathroom than makes the same circuit walk-through of the whole joint before either settling to ogle some poor girl or leaves. So far no one has reported any magazine theft, but we probably just haven't heard those bits yet. Almost to a person, though, the staff of the other libraries have been faithfully checking the sex-offender databases for an appearance by him, just like we have.

However, there is one truly ripe bit of Chester news that has floated down the grapevine to Mrs. A...

Sometime in the past few months, Chester T.(P) Molester, was arrested in his home town for exposing "Li'l Chester" to a girl in a public park.

This is not the first time Chester's had a run-in with the law. He's been questioned before after being caught behaving in his usual manner on the grounds of an elementary school. However, this is the first time we've heard of an actual arrest. Unfortunately, from what Mrs. A hears, the charges were eventually dropped. (I cannot, for the love of all that's holy, imagine why!!!!) Still the arrest stood and that was enough to give the librarian in his home town, Mr. X, reason to confront Chester about his unwanted behavior.

This tale Mrs. A got this from the mouth of Mr. X himself...

Recently, when Chester shambled in to his home town library and began his usual stalking of preteen and teenage girls, the head librarian there, Mr. X, pulled Chester aside and gave him the very speech I've been dying to give him for years now.

Mr. X told Chester that they knew good and well what he was up to there, with the whole ogling young ladies and being generally sick and creepy, and they wanted it to stop. Chester evidently protested this and said, "But I haven't done anything." To this, Mr. X responded that Chester had indeed done something: his behavior made the female staff of the library uncomfortable and it made the female patrons uncomfortable. Mr. X then said that while he didn't have women's intuition himself, he understood it was quite an accurate sense and he was prepared to listen to it when it came from his staff and patrons. He said that if he ever heard of any more lascivious behavior out of Chester he wouldn't hesitate to call the cops. After that Chester left and has yet to return.

Mrs. A and I shared a huge joyous laugh about the matter and much celebratory pumping of fists were had. Even though we had very little to do with the whole thing other than helping to spread the word on Chester, we felt victorious.

Fifteen minutes later, a patron came up and asked where our restroom was. I directed her to it and she went off to use it and afterwards left the building. Minutes passed by before I detected the faint smell of... of... Could it be?... Could it truly be?... YES!... Yes it is!..... Country Fresh scented Airwick air-freshener!

The unprecedented event had happened! A patron had taken a shit in the library and actually used the spray! And without a sign to tell them to! Glory be! Hallelujah!

I had to run right back and have a gander at the bowl just to confirm that my greatest wish had finally come true. Sure enough, it was clean and flushed.

Five minutes later, of course, Ron the Ripper marched right in there, used the toilet and completely failed to flush.

Oh, well. At least he only took a leak.
So the rest of the day passes by with few worries.

We were pretty busy, sure, and my arm got a charlie-horse from pointing people in the direction of the tax forms, but it wasn't bad.

Chester did not appear despite Mrs. A's cavalier use of his real name. We were paid multiple visits by a decidedly non-grumpy Mr. B-Natural and one extended visit by the Dufus, but he didn't even touch a computer and spent most of his time reading upstairs. Very odd. This continued to be an odd day.

Around 4:45 or so, our door opened and the familiar white puffy Michelin Man shape of Parka came through it.

"I'd like to use a computer," he loudly announced, a little closer to the sign-in clip board than usual. I log him on one.

Around 5:15 or so, one of our regular patrons, O. Susannah, charter-member of the "liberry" internet crowd, came in to find her daughter, Patty. O. Susannah didn't see Patty on the computers or anywhere else downstairs. Instead of actually walking up the stairs to search the next level--which O. Susannah is never keen on, being kind of a big gal--she just stood at the bottom of the staircase and bellowed her daughter's name up the steps. After a few such loud bellows, I came over to see if I could help, or barring that get O. Susannah to be quiet. I finally went upstairs and found Patty at one of the tables, her school stuff spread out before her.

"Your mom is downstairs," I told her.

"Yeah, I know," Patty said, still not moving to get up.

"I'm pretty sure she wants you to come downstairs too."

"Yeah, I know," Patty said with a little rebellious smile. I returned the smile and went back down to tell O. Susannah that I thought her daughter would come down eventually. O. Susannah seemed okay with that and immediately signed up to use a computer. When Patty finally came down she signed on for one too so she could work on a school paper. O. Susannah said she'd relinquish her computer to her daughter so Patty could have one with a desk and she'd take the tiny little deskless-wonder system by the stairs. O. Susannah told me that if someone came in for a computer to just bump her off that one.

Oh, no, I thought. I won't be bumping you. I'd be bumping a certain Parka-clad figure who'd been on far past his half-hour already. I wanted to see Parka jump at my command. I returned to the front and set O. Susannah and Patty's timers to a full half hour and started their countdown.

Sure enough, within five minutes a guy came in to use a computer. I told him it would be just a minute and went back to tell Parka the bad news. Parka didn't jump, though. In fact, Parka lingered on the computer for three minutes after I told him he needed to get off. Apparently, he didn't know I'd gotten the memo about Mrs. A's threat to kick him out if he didn't get off. So I grabbed my computer timer and went back and stood directly beside his computer and gave him the stink eye. Only then did he stop chatting with his e-skank and logged off.

"Can I sign on for another half hour?" he asked.

"Sure. But, it may be a while before we have a free computer," I told him.

Parka went up and signed in at the clip board again, then took a seat at our card catalog computer, turned his back to the computer and slouched down to wait for his next turn.

"How long is it gonna be?" he asked.

"Nineteen minutes," I said. "If you like, there are comfy chairs upstairs. I'll let you know when one comes open."

"No. I'm just fine right here," he said with what I detected to be some degree of self-satisfaction.

Oh, so that's how he was gonna play this, was it? He'd heard O. Susannah tell me to bump her if anyone came in for a computer and he knows that I'm giving him the shaft by not bumping her for him. So he's gonna sit right there by the circulation desk and make a nuisance of himself for the full 19 minutes just to be an asshole. Well, I wasn't going to give him the satisfaction. If he wanted to sit there, fine. It hardly affected my job. I just went about my duties and ignored his big puffy white ass.

Parka sat there for the full time too. Every minute or so he would grunt frustratedly and shift in his chair. Sometimes he would lightly stomp his foot on the floor. I was just left to imagine the turmoil in his noggin at being so close to his e-skank chatroom, yet so far.

Finally, O. Susannah's timer went off and I went back and told her we had someone waiting. I returned to the front.

A minute passed.

Two minutes passed.

O. Susannah's no stranger to taking her time at getting off the computer either, but this was stretching on into Parka's territory. Now, granted, I didn't care because Parka had just made someone wait for three minutes too. But after three minutes of waiting I went back to see what was taking her so long. I didn't want to give Parka something to justifiably complain about. O. Susannah got off shortly thereafter and I put Parka on the little computer by the stairs.

We got plenty busy before the day was out and it was 6:54 before I could get away from the desk to go back to warn our internet crowd of our impending closing. O. Susannah, Patty and Parka were the only ones left.

"We're closing in six minutes," I told them before dashing back up front to finish my closing duties.

At 7 p.m. I went back and said, "The library is now officially closed."

Not a one of em moved. Parka kept typing. Patty kept typing. O. Susannah was flipping through the first draft of her daughter's paper that had been printed earlier. I went back up front and began timing them. Within a minute, Patty began printing a final draft. These things happen. I'm usually very sympathetic to school kids printing papers, as they're usually done at the last minute and are probably due by the next morning. I'm willing to stay a little late if it means the difference between a kid getting their paper finished and printed or not. But I hated it that it was happening now when I needed moral ground to stand on in getting Parka out. I longed for the chance to go back there and say, "Excuse me, sir, but you are obviously operating under some definition of `closed' that doesn't involve you actually having to LEAVE!!!" So long as O. Susannah and Patty were still there, I couldn't do that.

At 7:02, with still no sound of any movement from the computer hall, I went back and announced, "It is now TWO MINUTES past closing." And I stood there staring at the three of them. Only then did Parka begin shutting down his chat session.

Parka left and O. Susannah came up to pay for Patty's prints.

"Sorry we had to take so long," she offered.

"I'm completely cool with you here. I understand how these things go," I said gesturing to Patty's prints. I wanted to say something about Parka, but thought it wasn't really nice to talk about other patrons to patrons. I just left my comment implied. O. Susannah didn't mind, though.

"I think that guy was having himself an online date," she said.

"Yeah," I said with a sigh. "We know. Believe me, we know."

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