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, July 08, 2004

Actual Telephone Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #4

*RING*

ME: TRI-METRO County Public Library.

FEMALE PATRON: Yes, I need you to help me with some information.

ME: Okay.

FEMALE PATRON: I need to know the definition of Autism. I have a dictionary myself, but it's old and doesn't have that word in it.

ME: Uh, all right. Sure. (LOOKS UP AUTISM ON DICTIONARY.COM, THE HANDIEST DICTIONARY TO THE CIRCULATION DESK.) Okay. It says, "A psychiatric disorder of childhood characterized by marked deficits in communication and social interaction, preoccupation with fantasy, language impairment, and abnormal behavior, such as repetitive acts and excessive attachment to certain objects. It is usually associated with intellectual impairment."

FEMALE PATRON: Mmm hmm. (LONG THOUGHTFUL PAUSE.) Now, you said "language impairment," there. Would that include stuttering?

ME: (WONDERING HOW THIS WOMAN CAN POSSIBLY BE ASSUMING THAT I AM NOW SOME KIND OF AUTHORITY ON AUTISM) Um, we'll ma'am I couldn't really say. I'm just reading what it says here.

FEMALE PATRON: But stuttering is a language impairment, right?

ME: (NOW IMAGINING THAT THIS WOMAN IS SITTING AT HOME TRYING TO COME UP WITH SOME SORT OF MENTAL CONDITION TO WEDGE HER CHILD'S SYMPTOMS INTO SO SHE CAN SOMEHOW FINAGLE IT INTO A MONTHLY CHECK FROM JOE TAXPAYER) Ma'am, again, I'm just reading what the dictionary says here. It doesn't mention stuttering. It just says "language impairment."

FEMALE PATRON: Mmm hmm.

ME: I think stuttering might be a speech impairment, but I don't think that's the same thing as a language impairment.

FEMALE PATRON: (STILL NOT LISTENING) But the children with autism... they might stutter.

ME: (*SIGHS*) Sure. They might. I don't know. I'm not an expert on Autism. I'm just reading out of a dictionary.

FEMALE PATRON: (ADOPTS EVEN MORE DUBIOUS TONE) Mmm hmm.

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