Monday, July 19, 2004

Summer Reading Day 7

I wasn't scheduled to be at work at all for today's Summer Reading desk-riding session.  I figured if they needed me they would have asked.  When I got back home from some errands, though, there was a message on my answering machine from Mrs. A saying it would be perfectly all right with her if I wanted to come in.  There was a hint of desperation in her voice, so I rolled on over.  It was a good thing, too, because today brought a more traditional level of Monday/Summer Reading Day chaos than the past two weeks, not to mention a few surprise guests. 

It never ceases to both amaze and irritate me how many people, who truly should know better, call to speak to my fellow employees during Summer Reading Day.  I understand that not every caller realizes this is any big thing, but I'm talking other librarians who have summer reading programs of their own and know how intensive and non-conducive to taking phone calls such programs are.  Yet every single week, who calls?  Other librarians.
THEM:  Is Mrs. C there?
ME:  Yes, but she's busy with Summer Reading right now and cannot come to the phone.  May I take a message?
Multiply that by about five times and that's the average for that little phone script.
And if it's not librarians, it's relatives and/or significant others of our staff who call.  And again, it's not just a one-time "Oops, I forgot" sort of call, it's a weekly "I'm completely oblivious to the fact that this scenario has played out exactly this way for the past four weeks" sort of call.  I want to scream, "Dammit, you people know better!  Quit EFFing CALLING!!"
I mentioned this to Mrs. A.  She said she's had the same problem for much of the past decade and it never stops.  One fellow librarian from another county made it a point to call every Thursday morning during Story Hour.  Thursday mornings are perhaps the only time during the regular year that Mrs. A is chained to the circulation desk while the rest of the staff is wrangling kids.  In this state, she is unable to answer any detailed questions from other libraries because all the answers are upstairs in her office.  So every Thursday morning for months this librarian would call and every time Mrs. A would tell her she would have to call back later.  Mrs. A even asked her not to call on Thursday mornings, to no avail. Finally, Mrs. A point blank told the woman to stop calling on Thursday mornings.  The following Thursday, guess who called?  Mrs. A said their conversation went something like this...
MRS. A:   What day is it?
MRS. A:  What time is it?
OTHER LIBRARIAN: Ten thirty a.m.
MRS. A:  And what is the significance of those two pieces of information?
OTHER LIBRARIAN:  Um... I'm not supposed to call you on Thursday mornings?
MRS. A:  Riiiiiight!

So after fielding similar calls from about four people who knew better, I was in a fantastic mood. 
It was about to get even better. 

After about an hour of steady circulation, I looked up from checking out a book to find Chester the (Potential) Molester standing not seven feet from me in the middle of our main room.  I was unhappy to see him, to say the least, and tried my damnedest to let him know this with what I hoped was a multi-daggered stare. If it had any effect, it was to make him start stammering.
"I was... I was just... I wanted to use a computer," he said.
Mrs. A stepped up and told him, "They're all full right now."  

This wasn't a lie--the computers really were all full and none were due to open up any time soon.  I don't think either of us were prepared to let Chester wait around for one, regardless.
"Oh," Chester said.  "I guess I should come back another day."
"Yeah.  I think that would be a good idea," I said.  I was mad, but mostly I'm still smarting for failing to banish him for all time during our last major encounter
What happened next, though, surprised me.  Instead of turning tail and leaving, Chester walked closer to where I was at the circulation desk.  I can't be completely sure, but it looked like he had tears in his eyes, or had at least been crying recently.  His eyes were certainly red, puffy and watery-looking, so maybe he'd had a recent allergy attack.  I somehow don't think so.
"I... I just wanted to apologize for...  mumble mumble mumble," Chester said in a low voice.
"I... I want to apologize for... if... if I scared any girls... last time," Chester said. 
I couldn't believe it!  He was actually trying to apologize--not for staring lasciviously at our young patrons, mind you, but for startling any of them while doing so.  What was this, some kind of twelve step pedophile program?  Step 1: You must apologize to all the library assistants who got pissed off that you were ogling their underage patrons?  Step 2: Stop ogling their underage patrons!
Then, like a dog lifting an injured paw, he held out one of his hands for me to shake.  I'm very proud to say I had enough presence of mind to keep from shaking it, even out of reflex.  No, sir, I will not be accepting an apology from that bloated sack of shit!  Not even if I witnessed him wash it first would I ever shake his hand.  Moreover, I refuse to give him any reason to believe we're at all cool with his presence in our library.  
There passed an awkward moment, during which Chester realized that I had no intention of touching his greasy paw.  He withdrew it, then offered it back again, then withdrew it again, as though maybe I might reconsider, then again, no.  Then he stood there looking back at me with a kind of hurt, swollen-eyed expression that failed to stir any sympathy in me.  
My only response to him was to raise my own hand and give him, not the bird, but instead the kind of finger-flapping bye bye wave favored by toddlers worldwide.  Chester turned to the door and went bye byes.
After a minute of standing there fuming, I tagged out from the circulation desk and went outside to make sure he was gone.  Mrs. C said he drove off pretty fast, but had made it a point to park his car--poorly, once again--clear on the other side of the Summer Reading activities so he'd have an excuse to walk by the kids on his way to and from.
Since my last confrontation with him, the library staff has been debating whether or not he would ever return.  It was pretty much a half and half split between the Yes's and the No's, with me in the middle as a Probably.  I guess we have our answer now.  We also need to figure out what our new Chester policy will be. 
Now that the cards are on the table, do we let him back in? 
I know that a number of libraries have policies allowing them to ban patrons from the building, and we've even been known to ban people before ourselves.  Where are we going to fall on this guy?

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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.