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.

Monday, May 24, 2004

The Ballad of Cranky Liquid Paper Guy

Miss E was off this weekend, so I had to work Sunday afternoon. This sucked, cause my wife has been out of town doing a medical school psychiatric rotation at the crazy hospital for two weeks and between the play and work I haven't been able to spend as much time with her as I wanted. Still, we spent the morning together and following a carb-encrusted lunch at McDonald's she drove me to work. While trying to get my car key off my keyring so she could drive home again, I managed to drop all my keys in my milkshake and had to go inside to wash them off.

I should mention that ours is not a library where patrons spend a lot of time asking us for office supplies. Their most frequent request is for a pencil and scratch paper. Sometimes to borrow a stapler. Today though, we had a man I've dubbed Cranky Liquid Paper Guy who wanted us to be friggin' Office Max. Cranky Liquid Paper Guy was not only unhappy that he didn't have his own liquid paper to use, but was also cheesed off because he was under the gun of some kind of filing deadline. He had what appeared to be at least two rush job projects which he had to accomplish before the day was out. Among these were several truly bad-photocopies that he was interested in further tarnishing by reproducing them on our devil-copier. And while the damned thing is at least operational following its recent gut rebuild, the devil-copier has completely given up on the notion of precision toner adjustment. If the original document is bad to start with, there's just no helping it. CLPG learned this, but not before demanding liquid paper. I loaned him our liquid paper pen and he started correcting.

Along for the ride was Mrs. Cranky Liquid Paper Guy, who didn't much seem to want to be there. She mostly stood around looking sullen and interrogating me about our patron computers. What did you have to do to use one? Did the computers have internet access? Did you have to have a library card? Did you have to pay?

"It's free," I told her. "All you do is sign up on the clip board and I can log you on one." I also explained that you get a half hour to use it and can stay later unless someone is waiting. She seemed suspicious and did not sign up.

Meanwhile, CLPG himself began complaining about the quality of our liquid paper pen. What he really wanted was a traditional bottle of liquid paper. Did we have one?  I told him that we did not. This didn't set well with CLPG but he was able to somehow get over it.

At one point, I thought he was finished with the Liquid paper, since he returned it to me and went back to making copies. Oh, no. He came back to borrow it several more times. Soon he also needed scissors and Scotch tape and the Liquid Paper again. I finally just left all our supplies on the desk so he could use them at will.

CLPG suggested to his wife that she could use a computer to type up "the resume." I wondered if he meant typing up "the resume" as opposed to piecing it together from worse photocopies of bad originals. She didn't seem too keen on it either way. Mr. & Mrs. CLPG finally paid for the copies and left, but threatened to come back later.

Around 3, Cranky Liquid Paper Guy made good on his threat and returned. This time Mrs. CLPG did want to use a computer to work on "the resume" after all. Unfortunately, the computers were all still full and there were two people waiting ahead of Mrs. CLPG.

"Oh, we didn't realize they'd be full or we could have reserved one earlier," CLPG said.

"Actually, we don't reserve computers here. It's all first come first served."

"Oh. Well, where we used to live you could reserve them," he said, in a tone that suggested we're somehow lagging behing in our service if we don't offer such a plan.

"Yeah, I've heard of that," I told him.

After 20 minutes, I was finally able to bump enough users to give everyone, including Mrs. CLPG, a computer.

After a bit, CLPG asked, "Do you have a typewriter for public use?"

"Well, I can't remember any patrons ever using it, but we have one. We only use it to make library cards, but if you need to it's okay by me. Actually, if you need to type something, I'd really recommend you use a computer instead."

"Can't," he said. "The information on these forms is wrong and I have to correct it. I can't do that in a computer unless you have something to scan it in with."

Technically, we do have a scanner. Its upstairs in the locked staff bathroom until such a time as we have available desk space for it. I hear some is scheduled to open up in about a year and a half.

"Nope. Don't have one of those," I said.

At his request, I showed CLPG how to insert paper in the typewriter and how to line up the form lines with the guide lines on the typewriter head so he could type on them. Most importantly, I showed him where the correction ribbon button was. As expected, CLPG was not a champion typist, so the half-hour that followed went exactly like this:

PECK................. PECK.... PECK... "Aw, dammit," DELETE DELETE DELETE... PECK... "Damn!" DELETE....... PECK........... PECK.

About five minutes into this show, I offered to come over and do it for him just so I wouldn't have to listen to that for the length of time I knew it would take him. Nope. He said he had it under control. Fine.

At around 4:20, Mrs. CLPG was still on the computer. At 4:22, two new patrons came in and I put them on the two free computers. If anyone else came in for a computer it was Mrs. CLPG who'd have to get off. At 4:26, the door opened and the familiar robot drone of "MAY I PLEASE SIGN UP TO USE A COMPUTER?" hit my ears. It was PARKA! I almost said, "Dammit, I thought you were gone for good!"

I went back and told Mrs. CLPG she was out of time. She'd been on the computer for well over an hour at this point. Do you think she'd done jack toward writing a resume? Hell no. Hadn't even cracked a word processor. If she had, I might have had justification for denying Parka a computer in favor of giving her more time for something useful. But she was just surfing the net.

When I told her she was out of time, she looked distraught. She went and whispered to her husband for a bit. Rather than complain about deadlines and pressure, as I'd expected, CLPG asked if it would be okay for them to type up her resume on the typewriter. Frankly, I think I would have preferred hearing complaints because typewriter was the LAST word I wanted to hear in association with patrons and resumes. His typewriter plan was never EVER going to work. A decent resume, after all, is not something you can throw together on a typewriter in less than 30 minutes, particularly when you're a guy who could probably type better with his asscheeks than his hands. But what could I do? Tell them no?

PECK....... PECK........ "Oop, I meant to indent that." DELETE DELETE..... PECK.... "Aw, dammit!"

It was maddening! In a fit of service-oriented mental-self-preservation, I went to the card catalog computer and loaded Microsoft Word. This is not a computer we let patrons word-process on, EVER, but dammit, if it would get these people out of here faster and prevent the huge scene of despair and teeth gnashing I foresaw going down at closing time, I was letting them use it.

"No, that's okay," CLPG said after I'd offered him the computer. "We've already started over here."

Fine! Do it the hard way, if you must. You'll get no sympathy from me come 5 p.m.

However, a few more pecks and deletes into the process must have turned a lightbulb on in his head, cause they gave up on the typewriter and restarted on the computer. This time it only took about 10 minutes for CLPG to figure out this too was a hopeless cause. They thanked me for my time and help, paid us for the copies and left, sans "the resume" and the big nasty parting scene.

The wife came to get me at 5. She'd planned to pick me up, eat dinner and then hit the road for the crazy hospital once again. However, seeing how pitiful I'd been about her having to leave, she'd had a change of heart during the afternoon. She decided to stay the night and just leave at the butt crack of dawn. Looks like Sunday work was worth it.

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