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, September 30, 2004

Brownie Points

I have to give Parka some props here.

The other night, he had a poo in our restroom and actually used the spray.


Wednesday, September 29, 2004

They got Capone on tax evasion, after all.

I called the cops on Chester today.

Yeah, I've wanted to type those words for a long time now, but it's nothing to get excited about. See, technically, I only called the cops on his car.

I returned from break today at 4 p.m. and Chester's Ford Fugly was parked in front of the library. I didn't even notice it, as I'm still tuned to recognizing his old compact pieceashit and not the new lameness. In fact, it was a good five minutes later before the subject of The Patron Who Must Not Be Named even came up among my fellow staff members.

Seems Chester was in yesterday and may actually have tried to speak to a young lady in the children's room. (And by young lady, I mean probably junior in high-school aged.) The alleged incident may or may not have even happened as Mrs. C was the only staff member in the building at the time and she was severely tied up at the desk with patrons and the phone and was hard pressed to get away to witness it. (Damn I hate EFFing Chester!) She thinks, however, that she heard him say something to the girl. He left almost immediately so she didn't even get the chance to go see what he was up to. The girl in question didn't seem at all upset so chances are good that Chester didn't say anything untoward. Still, he's just too creepy.

The whole reason the subject of the Patron Who Must Not Be Named came up at all, though, was due to the fact that the same girl was in the kid's room today and Chester's car was parked out front. Granted, he hadn't put in an appearance in the library itself but had parked there so he could roam the neighborhood and/or foot-cruise the community college across the way.

"How long's his car been out there?" I asked, rushing to a window to confirm its location.

"I'm not sure," Mrs. C said. "I just noticed it."

I grinned.

"You do realize that if his car stays out there for more than a half hour I'm calling the police on it."

Chester, in his infinite wisdom, had parked in one of the half-hour parking spaces. He'd even done a good job of parking, for once, so we couldn't just call the cops right away. Parking in a half hour space is usually a safe thing to do. We rarely call the police on folks parking there and the meter maid rarely has the energy to make it up the hill to check any of those spaces. However, for Chester, I would be willing to make an exception. Mrs. C told me to go for it. I started a timer.

At 4:35, I called the cops. Amazingly, one answered. I told them who I was and that we had a car due for a ticket. I figured they'd rush right down and issue one, but the policeman said the meter maid had already gone home for the day and she was the one they let take care of that sort of thing. He promised they'd send her up tomorrow.

Grrrr. Thanks a lot guys! Just how the hell am I supposed to dole out justice on the wicked when you won't come give the wicked's Fugly a ticket? Why couldn't he have parked half in the street so we could have had him towed?!

Chester's Fugly remained in that space well over an hour. At some point, Mrs. C called me from home to ask a computer question. I hadn't even mentioned calling the cops yet when I spied Chester himself walking along the sidewalk outside.

"Hang on a sec. Someone I don't like is about to come in."

Our eyes met through the glass of the door, then he'd walked out of sight and was presumably about to hit the front steps and the door. He'd picked a fine time for it too; there were loads of kids in, including the girl he'd allegedly talked to yesterday.

A few seconds later, I saw him in the side window walking to his unjustly unticketed Fugly. He got in and drove away.

"False alarm," I told Mrs. C.

Later, just before we were about to close, I noticed the Fugly had returned and was parked a bit further up the hill outside. Chester himself never came into the library, but he was definitely lurking in the area.

Sick bastard!

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Parka On Fire

We think Parka may have been fired from his job.  This came as kind of a surprise, as we didn't know he had a job in the first place. We've been operating under the assumption that he's just been sponging off his elderly mother for the past several months, when he's not on our computers chatting with e-skanks. Apparently, though, he has been working in some capacity for an area resort.

The reason we're pretty sure he's been fired from the resort is that two other employees of the resort happened to come in today, saw Parka and then had conversations with him concerning his firing. I managed to overhear portions of both.

I can honestly say I was not eavesdropping; our library is just really small and Parka is just really loud. It actually took a while to piece the theory about his firing together, though, as these conversations took place several hours apart. This is because being fired really opened up Parka's schedule, allowing him to spend THE WHOLE EFFING DAY at the library, chatting with e-skanks and breathing up our air.  I didn't even realize he was fired based on what little I heard of the first conversation. Instead, it just sounded like he was complaining about work. I heard him tell the first former fellow employee who'd recognized him that he'd been written up by his supervisor for eating something he wasn't supposed to (big sin at the resort from what I hear) and for paying "excessive attention" to the female guests (huge surprise there). Now I would be embarassed enough about at least one of those write ups that I would keep it to myself. (Actually, I'd probably just blog about it, further eroding my carefully-crafted reputation as a really together guy.) Not Parka. He was practically shouting it to the world, which is how I could hear it from an entire FLOOR away. I doubt he was even fired for either of those offenses, though. It's far more likely that he was merely seasonal help and the resort is entering its big slow down for the year, so lots of folks are laid off. But, again, I didn't even know he'd been fired at this point.

Hours later, the second former fellow-employee came in. This woman was truly frightening. She was still in her resort uniform, but had let her mostly bleached blond hair down. I say mostly because her hair was very long and very bleached except for about five inches near her scalp, which was colored the most strange and disturbing combination of hues I've ever seen in supposedly natural hair. I immediately christened her Ms. Rusted Roots, as THAT's what color those roots were. Well, one of the colors anyway. There were actually shades of rust and gold and gray and brown and baby-crap. I have no idea how she achieved it either, as most of the time when bleached hair grows out, the natural color shows up to replace it instead of a damn rainbow wig. Considering the Doc Savage look I'm currently sporting, I realize I'm not someone who should be lobbing insults about other people's hair... but, damn.

Ms. Rusted Roots went to look at books on tape and ran into Parka. I didn't hear specifics on what they were saying, but the general tone was one of complaint and lament. I was amazed at how much of a Chatty Cathy he was being.

After finishing up their gab-session, Ms. Rusted Roots came up to the circ-desk with her selections. She must have assumed I'd heard everything and that I somehow knew Parka had been fired because she told me, "They're getting rid of some of the best-looking people from over at the hotel."

I thought my head was going to explode from the sudden rush of implications in that statement. Everything I'd learned throughout the day suddenly added up in my head. If I understood her correctly, she not only meant that Parka had been fired from the resort but also that she, Ms. Rusted Roots, had classified PARKA as one of the "best-looking people from over at the hotel."  (Insert Scooby Doo "HrruuuuhhHH?" exclamation.)

Had the bleach affected her eyesight? Could she not see the shag-carpet of body hair straining to break free of the confines of his shirt? Did she not notice the pictures of the half-naked girls on his monitor while they spoke? And just why the hell did she feel the need to involve ME in any of this? Owww, it hurt to even think about!

"Well, whut can you do when you're at the bottom rung of decision-making?" she added, then thankfully left, taking her chemical-burn of a scalp with her.

So it looks as though we'll be seeing even more of Parka than usual for a while.

Joy.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Return of the Net-Neophyte

On Friday, about 45 minutes before closing, the door opened and a semi-familiar looking woman walked in.

"Oh... You're here again," she said dismally. Now, her tone did not suggest that my presence was necessarily a bad thing. I think instead, her tone actually meant that she would have preferred to have found someone on shift who didn't have quite as much dirt on her as I did, but that I would do in a pinch. I came to this conclusion a few seconds later, after I heard her next words and realized why she looked so familiar.

"Could, um... could you help me set up an e-mail... again?" she asked.

Oh, no, I thought. Not her!

Yes indeedy, the Internet Neophyte had returned. This was the patron who drove me nigh unto insanity back in July by taking damn near an hour to sign up for a Hotmail account--WITH my help! This was the same patron who refused to stop using her dog's name as both her username AND password despite both my and Hotmail's insistence that she cease doing so. This was the same patron who had then refused to write down either of her final username and password choices, despite my repeated entreaties that she do so, and then had that fact bite her squar in the taint when she couldn't get back into her own account after having JUST CREATED IT! Yes, this was the same patron who then had to use Hotmail's I'M A DAMNED MORON AND FORGOT MY PASSWORD link, then, when faced with having to choose a new password asked me to choose one for her. I chose the word orange, the same color as our internet signs, which I hoped would be easy for her to remember. As you will soon see, I was WRONG!!!!!

Ms. I.N. Phyte had just asked me to help her set up a new e-mail account. What she was REALLY asking me, though, was: Would you just do all the work for me since I'm incapable of doing it on my own?

Nuh uh. That was not going to happen.

I told her, "Well, I can put you on a computer and show you where to go, but..."

"But I'd have to do it myself," she finished for me, returning to her dismal tone. "Do I have time?"

I looked at my watch. "You've got 45 minutes."

On the way back to the computers, Ms. Phyte explained to me that she had not been faithfully checking her e-mail at all over the last two months so her Hotmail account was no more. I thought this unlikely, as Hotmail usually only puts accounts in drydock when they've gone unused for a time, but they will allow you back in if you jump through a couple of minor hoops. So I logged her onto a computer and brought up Hotmail for her to try and login anyway. It booted her out saying either her username or password was incorrect. Why were they incorrect? Oh, maybe because she had NO CLUE what they really were! She tried again and again to no effect.

"Errm. I just can't remember my real password," she said.

Barely able to keep the deep levels of frustration and loathing out of my voice, I said, "I do."

I pointed at the orange internet sign, then leaned over and typed "orange" into the password blank. Still, she was denied. This meant either she'd changed her password--not likely given her inability to login in the first place--or she'd gotten her username wrong. I was pretty sure the later was the case, as she'd gone through five username choices when she'd set up the account back in July. I should have just gone up front and re-read my original write up of the event and then I would have remembered it was her dog's name. As it stood, though, I only recalled the password and only because I had a memory-link to it taped there on the monitor itself. Still, I was pretty sure her original one, whatever it was, had three numbers affixed to the end of it and the one she kept trying then didn't.

"Are you sure that's the right username?"

"Oh, yes. This is it," she said.

"Didn't you have numbers in it?

"Oh, no. This one is it."

Yet, wonder upon wonders, it still didn't work! In fact, Hotmail gave no indication that there was any sort of account with that particular username. It didn't even give us the I'M A DAMNED MORON AND FORGOT MY PASSWORD link, cause the password wasn't the problem.

After a few more unsuccessful attempts, I suggested she would be better off starting from scratch. I loaded up the New Account page and then I hauled ass for the front to get a pencil and paper, which I brought to her and, yet again, told her to write down her username and password AS SOON AS SHE HAD CHOSEN THEM. Then I got the hell out of the computer hall so as to avoid any accidental chokings.

I knew running away was futile. Throughout the oh-so-lengthy Hotmail signup process, Ms. Phyte kept coming to find me and drag me back to answer obscenely simple questions for her. Like: "What time zone are we in?" and "What does it mean when it says `Type in the characters you see in the security image'?" While answering these and many other questions, I took a gander at the paper I'd given her to write everything on. She'd written a username on it all right, but it didn't actually match up with the one I saw on the screen which had a _wholeotherword affixed to it.

Dammit, why can't people figure shit like this out? You have to write down the WHOLE USERNAME!!! Not half of it!!! ALL OF IT!!!!

With admirable restraint, I told her this in far more polite terms and with less verbal violence than I really wanted to use.

"I hope I'm not keeping you from anything?" she said after finally writing the whole username down.

"Oh, no," I said. "I have to be here until seven anyway."

At ten minutes before closing time, a full thirty-five minutes after she'd begun the Hotmail sign up process, Ms. Phyte finally finished up. I checked over her work, told her to hit continue, then I personally skipped through all of Hotmail's Spam Sign-Up pages and showed her the new account...

...again.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

...and on the third day, God created Airwick.

I tell you, there's nothing I love more than when I come in for a Sunday shift, unlock the door and the very first patron through—Sunday Bob, a regular Sunday morning patron, hence the name, and a guy who had been pounding on the door to get in mere moments before—immediately goes into the restroom, spreads his cheeks and lets fly with a turd so stanky that our previous supply of fresh air flees in terror, leaving behind a sudden vacuum that instantly spreads the stench throughout the entire building.

Now, I am fully aware that the human ass can produce some pretty rank odors. I also realize it's hardly this guy's fault his ass fumes stank so bad. However, that's why God made air-freshener and that's why we keep a stock of said air-freshener in a VERY obvious location within the said EFFing restroom. I hardly need add that our particular can of said air-freshener went entirely unused by said patron.

Upon getting a whiff of dude's fumes, I experienced the sort of instantaneous anger one gets when punched in the back of the head unexpectedly. I wanted to march in there, grab the Airwick from the restroom and empty the contents of the can while goose-stepping up and down the computer hall, reciting "Ode To A Stanky Patron" in a German accent. I imagine that had I actually done this, it might have offended the patron. Well, so what? I'm offended that he had no more common sense or consideration for others than to turn my library into a hot zone!

Fortunately, I didn't have the sac to do that, nor to merely go back and spray down the restroom.

Perhaps I need to revisit my idea about putting up a sign in the restroom.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Oprah's Psychic Balls!

Fook a moonky! I just experienced some serious cosmic coincidence action raining down on my head. (And I don't have enough hair to soften the blow, daddgummit!)

I was just sitting down at my computer to pen an entry about an encounter I had with an Oprah Winfrey fan, lo' about two years back. I was gonna tie it loosely to the mention of Oprah from yesterday's blog entry. Before I fired up Blogger, though, I figured I'd read some of my favorite "liberry" blogs and see what was up. Imagine my shock and amazement when Daisy reported a disturbingly similar experience with an Oprah-fan down at her blog I Have A Snake.

Go and read her version of it now. (Don't worry, it's not near as long-winded as I usually am.)

(EDITORIAL NOTE FROM THE FUTURE, 1/20/05: Because I Have A Snake is no more and has been transformed into I Have A Phoenix, I will just reprint Daisy's original story here, with her permission.)


FROM: I HAVE A SNAKE, SEPTEMBER 23, 04
TITLE: A guy walks into a bar....
A woman of rather large proportions enters the library and approaches me.

Woman: (unintelligible)

Me: I'm sorry, what?

Woman: (unintelligible) Oprah Winfrey (unintelligible)

Me: I'm sorry, ma'am, but I can't hear you. Can you speak up and slow down a little bit for me?

Woman: I need to get the address for the Oprah Winfrey show.

Me: Okay, well, I would go to switchboard.com if I were you, and just type in...

Woman: (unintelligible)

Me: I'm sorry; what?

Woman: I don't have my library card with me. Can you just find it for me?

Me: ....Sure, why not? (I go to Oprah's Web site and browse around for a couple of minutes.) Well, ma'am, it says here that the show no longer accepts letters or packages from fans, probably because they're afraid of terrorism or something. There's an email address here, though, if you want it.

Woman: No, no. I need to mail her something.

Me: I'm sorry, but the Web site doesn't have that information and they don't accept mail at the studio.

Woman: What I'm gonna do?

Me: I can give you her email address.

Woman: What about her 800 number?

Me: It doesn't look like that's on the site, either. They pretty much only want you to contact them via email.

Woman: What I'm gonna do?

Me: I'm sorry. I don't know what to tell you.

Woman: Now I'm in trouble. I'm really in trouble.

Me: I'm sorry.

Woman: How am I going to find a therapist?

Me: .......Um, you could, um, ask her about that via email.

Woman: No, just in general, how do you find a therapist?

Me: Okay, see over there where the phone books are? Look in the Yellow Pages under therapists or psychologists.

Woman: No, no. I'm not going to do that. What I'm gonna do?

Me: Well, at this point I officially do not know how to help you.

Okay, ya back now?

All right, my Oprah-fan experience was EXACTLY like that except for a couple of variables.


About two years ago, a middle-aged lady came into the library seeking a book with Oprah's address in it. We had no such book, but I offered to look it up on Oprah's website. Just like Daisy, I too discovered that Oprah's snail-mail box is unlisted, but she's all about the e-mail. I tried to explain this to my patron.

"Are you sure?" she asked.

"Yes, ma'am. I know it seems weird that there wouldn't be a mailing address, but if there is one it's not listed here." I'd spent damn near 10 minutes searching Oprah's site and was pretty clear on that conviction.

The patron gave me a sad look that tugged at my heart. She stood there clutching a stack of eight notebook pages, with the ragged-edges still attached, on which she'd penned a near illegible missive to Oprah. It wasn't a letter asking for a free session with Dr. Phil, or anything. Instead, as she explained, it was a letter to Oprah requesting money for her sister's cancer treatments.

"Oprah gives money to people all the time," the patron said.

"Well, you could send it to her in an e-mail if you like. You would have to retype it."

Unfortunately, Oprah doesn't have an e-mail address listed either. Instead, her site has a little Plea to the Crown form-field which turns into an e-mail when you finish and hit send. This lady was going to have to type in her whole 8 page letter. I could smell tragedy before it even began.

At the patron's request, I logged her onto one of our systems, loaded up the e-mail form page on Oprah's site and showed her what to do. After about half an hour's worth of work, I went back to see how things were coming. The lady had typed in nearly all of her letter and seemed fairly proud of herself. She wasn't the fastest typist in the world, but she had made admirable progress. I told her to let me know when she finished and I would come back and give it a proofread if she liked. I went back up to the circ-desk.

After a minute or two, it occurred to me that I should really have had the lady compose her note in Microsoft Word, then cut and pasted it over for her. She could have saved it to the desktop, so if anything went wrong (like, say, Oprah's form having a damned time limit or something) her letter would still be there to recover.  And I should have listened to that inner voice and gone back to paste the lady's letter into a Word file, for not one minute after I thought this, I heard a loud "AHHH!" from the computer hall followed by a very quiet and pitiful, "oh.... help..."

I rushed back to the computers. Her screen showed the desktop and no IE windows. Upon seeing me, she stood up and began ushering me into her chair saying, "Here, here... you can fix this." I sat but I knew it was useless. There were no program shutdown warning windows or anything to indicate what had happened. It looked like she had just X'ed out of IE.

"I don't know what happened," she said. "I was just typing and then it all disappeared."

"What were you typing... um, exactly?"

"This right here. I was starting this sentence." She pointed to it on her notebook pages. The first word of the sentence began with a W. I knew instantly what had happened. She had tried to capitalize it by hitting SHIFT W, but had mistakenly hit CTRL W, the command for closing out the window. I then had to delicately break the news to her that all her work had vanished into the ether never to be seen by us or Oprah again. I was afraid she'd start weeping, but the lady didn't. Instead, she decided she'd had enough of computers for the day and would attempt this at some future date.

I suggested she bring or buy a floppy diskette from us in order to save her work and prevent this in the future. She numbly agreed that would be a good idea and left.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

"A Liberry Ass. Called Juice"

It's very odd to me how certain books can suddenly become overwhelmingly popular. I'm not talkin' bout when Oprah adds Steinbeck to her book club and suddenly everyone's tearing extra holes in their butts running to read East of Eden. I mean how a perfectly normal book that's been out there on the shelves for a couple of decades can suddenly become the "sought after" book of the year. Or in this case, the day.

We had a run on the Dave Pelzer book A Child Called It yesterday. A minor run, but I think two unrelated patrons counts as a run.

The first one was turned away easy enough. Due to the fact that Pelzer's books do pretty high traffic anyway, I had already assured her that there was little chance they were on the shelf even before I looked it up in the computer to see. Turns out I was wrong. His second two books in the It/Dave series were there, but the patron didn't want them until she'd read the first.

Hours later, the second Pelzer pursuing patron popped in. I explained to her that she was now second in line for it. She didn't listen to a word I said.

"Well, when's it s'posed to come back?" she asked, adding, "I need it by tomorrow." She actually said that. Apparently, she wanted to write a paper about it for class and figured it was scheduled to return within the next few minutes. Before even trying to convey her shit-outta-luck-would-have-it nature, I brought up the book in our online card catalog and had a look. The catalog said it was due on October 20. That didn't make sense, though, cause our loan time is two weeks and all the books that went out today were due on October 7. This meant that a staff member had to have checked it out, as one of our staff perks is a 10 week loan time on all materials. Unfortunately, this meant that whoever checked it out did so at least two months back. And I had a feeling I knew who it was.

Sure enough, after I brought the item record up, I saw who had checked it out: Miss E. That's right, Miss E, our errant former employee who abandoned us without warning but who has yet to turn in a resignation or her keys.

I alerted the patron that the book was not likely to be coming back any time soon and suggested that she try Wal-Mart's book section, which often stocks Pelzer's titles.

I let Mrs. A know about Miss E's possession of our book. It isn't technically overdue yet, so we haven't sent out overdue notices on it. I suggested we phone her voice mail and leave a message saying she has an overdue book she needs to turn in and is scheduled to work the weekend. Mrs. A laughed and pointed out that the girl is technically still on the payroll. She said that if the state unemployment service ever phones to confirm that Miss E is unemployed before issuing her an unemployment check, Mrs. A will just tell them, "Oh, no, she's still employed here. She's on the payroll and everything."

That's cold-hearted, I know, but so is walking off the job with no notice. Plus it's likely the only thing that will get her to finally explain herself.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

My Jackass Moment

I've always thought I'd probably look pretty good bald. I'm talking pate-bald, not just hair-line challenged, which I'm already dealing with. I have a well-shaped head, the sort that I think would look pretty good completely shaved or with a light dusting of fuzz. Not everyone can pull it off, mind you. For every Patrick Stewart or Sinead O'Connor, there are loads of celebs who would have no business shaving their heads. Their skulls are too pointy or maybe have a secret sagittal crest that they really need hair to cover up. Granted, I can't think of many off the top of my head (HAH!), though that shaved comedian, whose name I can't recall, who's often on Collin Quinn's chat show on Comedy Central comes to mind. I actually don't know if he'd look better with hair, but he needs something.

With that knowledge of my own aesthetic skull-shape in mind, whenever my messy head O' hair gets too annoying to deal with, I start looking longingly at my beard trimmer, wondering what magic I can do with it to make my hair issues go bye byes.

I've actually gone that route once before. Just after I graduated college, I wound up shaving my head down to the nub to see how I liked it. I'd sported shoulder-length hair for a couple of years before that, so I was able to justify that I was trying to achieve some kind of balance by going super short for a while. It worked out okay, I guess. Other than a week's worth of odd-stares from my co-workers at the time, there were few ill-effects. (Hell, I worked in radio, where it shouldn't matter what you look like.) The added bonus was that it was terribly easy to fix in the morning. Just had to run my head under the tap, smooth down any stray bits and hit the road. Within a few months, through, I'd grown it back out and resumed my quest for a haircut I could live with.

I will say, the messy look actually works for me pretty well. I like it a lot and it is my wife's favorite look for me thus far. In fact, the messier it is the better she likes it. I prefer combining messy top with military-short shaved sides and back, but she thinks it makes me look like a skinhead so I've avoided going quite that short for a while.

That is... until yesterday.

Monday night night I got it in my noggin that I could use a bit of a trim and had started eyeing my beard trimmer again, thinking it could just about pull off the job. It's the kind with the dial adjustable hair-guard, allowing me to set it to trim hair anywhere from an inch down to root level with the click of a dial. I looked at the settings and judged that the longest setting on it, setting 9, would probably get the hair short enough without going too extreme. I even tried it out on the sides of my head, near the temples and it cut just fine. Looked great too--all blended and nice. Still, I was hesitant to do my whole head at that setting. Cutting one's own hair can be a dangerous thing to do.

Trouble was, that Siren trimmer kept calling to me. So yesterday morning I returned to the bathroom to do some more experimenting.

With the trimmer set to setting 9 I trimmed over the entire sides and back of my head. I could see that it was indeed trimming hair, but very little visual difference was made. Seemed pretty safe. I did most of my trimming in the bathtub where the hair could fall for easy cleanup later. After a few minutes of this, though, I decided that using the angled mirrors at the sink would be a better idea and well worth the trouble to clean up loose hair afterward if I did a better job as a result. I went on over and started tenuously clipping near my widow's peak. Looked pretty good so far. Unfortunately, this particular trimmer doesn't dump the excess hair very easily. It tends to collect within the clipper guard, so I had to keep taking the guard off to empty the hair out. Getting the guard back on can be kind of tricky, too, as it was hard to tell when the guard was actually back on with the dial on setting 9. To really do it right, you need to dial it down to setting 5, or so, just to get the guard on, then dial it back up to start shaving again.  This I did. And, naturally, I forgot to dial it back up to 9 afterward.

"BRAAAAAAAT!" the trimmer screamed.

"YAHHHHHH!" I then screamed, yanking the trimmer away. "YAHHHHHHH!!!!" I screamed again as I saw my handiwork. In that one quick moment, I'd shorn a two inch long patch down to the scalp on the right side of my head, exactly where the hairline would normally part. Oh, shite, and it was ugly too! I looked like a victim of the Shaver Shark, from Jackass. This was not the sort of thing that could be hidden without resorting to a hat.

I stood there cursing for a while, just staring at it and feeling quite justifiably like a dumbass.

WHY?!!! WHYYYY?!!!! WHYYYYYYY???!!!!!

After the initial shock of my self-mutilation wore off, I realized there was nothing else I could do but finish the job. I can't exactly go walking around with a damn landing-strip shaved into the top of my head, so I figured I might as well commit to the notion of semi-baldness again. I set the trimmer to 7, which would leave me with around 1/2 inch of growth, and started at it.

It took half an hour or so to finish the job, plus some touch ups after I'd showered. When I was done, I certainly had much shorter hair. I'm not bald, per se, but if you put me and a classic G.I. Joe from the 70s side by side, we'd have about the same fuzz ratio.

Does it look good, though? Eh. Maybe. It's not bad. Granted, I'm still a little shocked when I catch my reflection, but not because it's horrid. It's just SO different than before. In fact, I suspect it would probably look better if it were even shorter, but I'm not yet willing to test that theory.

The real question is: How's the wife gonna deal with it?  I take comfort in the fact that she still has two more weeks on her current rotation and I won't likely see her until that's over. Maybe by then it will have grown out a bit. 

I tell ya... I completely shaved my goatee off a couple of years ago. It was the first time my wife had ever seen me without any facial hair. She had, in fact, dared me to shave it in the first place. Afterward, she spent an hour following me around and laughing at me. And she snickered every time she looked my way for two more days. I can only imagine the gale of mirth she's gonna let loose upon seeing me now. She only THOUGHT I was a skinhead before.


Tuesday, September 21, 2004

THEY live!

Not long ago, Mrs. A alerted me to some new material we have added to our deposit book section: a trucking class drivers instruction manual and video. This might sound pretty mundane to you, but I was frankly relieved to have them as it helps solve a semi-regular dilemma we've been having. In fact, two months back, a couple of adults came into the library and tried their level best to drive us insane over this very issue. Thankfully I was busy riding herd over the circulation desk chaos at the time and didn't have to deal with them, but I could hear the whole conversation as Mrs. A tried in vain to help them.

The female and speaking portion of the couple approached Mrs. A and said, "They told us you had a drivers manual for the driving test."  Her voice was nearly monotone. Her eyes slightly glazed.

We get this question on a regular basis. I'm not saying it's not a fair question to ask of a library, an institution that ostensibly deals in books and manuals of all sorts. However, the fact remains that we don't usually have any drivers manuals nor are we at all responsible for keeping them on hand. That's the job of the Department of Motor Vehicles, thank you very much.

"No, I'm sorry, we don't have a copy of the driver's manual here," Mrs. A said.

There was a pause.

"You don't have one?" the woman asked.

"No. We used to keep them in our collection, but people kept checking them out and not returning them, so we haven't added a new one in a while."

"But they said you would have one," the woman said.

"Well, I'm sorry, but we don't," Mrs. A replied.

The woman stared blankly at Mrs. A for a bit until something else occurred to her.

"Well, do you have the driving video?" the woman asked, very slowly and monotonely.

"No. I'm sorry," Mrs. A said. "We don't have one of those either. Again, we used to have one and we've tried several times to get a new one from the DMV, but so far they haven't responded to our requests."

The woman's blank look returned to full power. It wasn't a distrustful look, indicating that she might think Mrs. A was lying. Instead, it was a devoid of all thought look that indicated she had tried everything she knew to do and was now just going to stand there until her brain farted out some new option. Her husband wore a similar look, but he'd come in with it on, so I'm guessing it was normal.

"But they said you would have the book and the video," the woman said after quite a bit more staring.

"Well, again, I'm sorry, but we really, really don't."

Blank. Blank. Blank.

It was as if the woman thought that if she stared long enough and blankly enough Mrs. A would suddenly realize that, yes, we did indeed have a drivers instruction video and a manual and could go ahead and give them a license on the spot.

By then Mrs. J had wandered up and caught a little of what was going on and then asked what the woman was looking for again. Turns out it wasn't a simple driver's manual she wanted, but a Class C drivers instruction manual for folks looking to upgrade to a commercial license. This is an item we should be expected to have EVEN LESS than a regular drivers manual.

"Have you been to the DMV?" Mrs. J asked.

"No. Where's that?" the woman said. It was exactly as if it had never even occurred to her that the Department of Motor Frickin' Vehicles might be a good place to try.

Mrs. J spent five minutes trying to convey to them where the local DMV is located. This was something of a chore, even beyond the unreceptive audience, as the DMV's location is not the easiest to give directions to. It's located—some say hidden—way in the back of a huge brick building over in Town-B. The building itself does not scream OFFICIAL STATE GOVERNMENT OFFICE. Instead, it screams WAREHOUSE, and rather loudly. This warehousey air is further assisted by the fact that the DMV itself is not located in the vaguely office-like front section of the building, but rather way in the back in what was once the loading-dock of the building. And all official DMV signs meant to lead you to it are written in 12 point type. Add all that to the fact that the building is located on a confusing one-way street, in a town the roads of which are composed of almost entirely confusing one-way streets, and you see the dilemma.

"What's the name of that building it's in?" Mrs. J asked Mrs. A.

"I don't know."

"It's that brown one," Mrs. J said. "What's it called?"

"I don't know," Mrs. A repeated.

"It's right there by the lumber place. What's it called?"

"I don't know!" Mrs. A nearly shouted.

Mrs. A crept away from the couple, taking refuge with me behind the busy circulation desk. Sure, she was being intentionally un-service-oriented, but this was a couple for whom no help could be given. The both of them seemed to be very dim bulbs operating under inaccurate information and increasingly slow to realize that this particular light socket had no power for them. Also annoying was the use of the word THEY in referring to the mysterious cabal that had given them the inaccurate information and sent them to our door.

Just who were THEY?

Why would THEY think we would have any kind of supply of drivers manuals or videos?

Why would THEY send anyone to us for one in the first place?

Frankly, we're a bit pissed off with THEY. THEY've been giving us shit for quite a while now. If it's not for drivers manuals, then THEY've sent people in our direction for newspaper archives, high school yearbooks, obituaries, official county records, directory service (and at least 50 percent of those calls are looking for the super-secret telephone number TO THE DMV!!!!), new Social Security cards, complete biographies of every soul who has ever lived in the county and quite a few of those who haven't, and just about any other odd-assed thing a library should never be expected to have in the first place. Hell, we even got a call last month from someone who wanted us to provide her with a death certificate! Not an obituary, mind, but an honest to God death certificate. And not one of the historical death certificates from the nineteenth century that we actually do have locked away upstairs, (*FLIP*FLIP*FLIP* "Consumption... consumption... consumption... fell off a horse... consumption..."), but a death certificate for someone who died THIS VERY YEAR. Lady, we're not the coroner! We're a EFFing library!

After wasting a large chunk of time trying to explain the way to the DMV, Mrs. J paused to see if any of it had sunk into the blank couple's skulls. It hadn't.

"Could you write that down?" the woman said.

Mrs. J said she didn't think she could.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Trouble Rears its Fugly Head

Today went pretty good, other than my wanting to strangle a patron or two.

This afternoon, a man and wife came in to print copies of the wife's resume. They signed in and I logged them onto a computer. Hubby sat down while the computer was rebooting.

"You got a copier?" the man asked.

"You mean a photo-copier?" I replied. You can't assume he means photo-copier, because they came in to make prints and he's just as likely to mean printer as anything.

"Yeah," he said.

"Sure. It's up front."

"Well, she'll want to make a copy or two. She can take care of it while I'm doing this."

Having finished its reboot, I logged Hubby onto the computer.

"So these things are hooked up to a printer, somewhere?" he said, indicating the computers. Ah, so he did know what a printer was.

"Yes. It's up front too," I said.

By then Windows had loaded so I figured it was best if I told him what to do next, as he wasn't entirely familiar with our set up. "You can use Microsoft Word to load your document, if you like," I said.

"Nah. All I'm gonna do is hit Ctrl E and load Windows Explorer," he said. He hit Ctrl E a few times but nothing happened.

"Uh, that might not work on here," I said. These are former Gates Foundation computers, after all. By design, they don't let patrons do anything conveniently.

The man was annoyed, but undeterred. "Well, I'll just go up here then," he said, moving the mouse up to My Computer where he started clicking to no effect.

"Um, that probably won't work either," I said. "These computers are designed so patrons can't really get into the guts of the system."

"How the hell am I supposed to open this up, then?"

I allowed a nice little pause.

"Well... you could try using Microsoft Word."

You would think from his reaction to this that Microsoft Word had once killed one of his children or something. He was just like Mel Gibson in The Patriot. Or Mel Gibson in Ransom. Or Mel Gibson in Mad Max. Or Mel Gibson in any of his other movies in which scoundrels abuse, mistreat or otherwise kill Mel's family. (Rule #1 for Villains in Mel Gibson Movies Who Want to Live to See Another Day: Don't kill Mel's kids. Rule #2: No, seriously, stop killing Mel's Kids!!!)

So Hubby started on a rant about Microsoft Word and how he didn't want to "have to do all that" to print a document. About this time, his wife sidled up and started pointing out to him exactly what I wanted to, which was that if he wanted to use anything else he was shit out of luck, only she used much nicer terms. Meanwhile, I decided that if Hubby knew so damn much about computers, as he obviously believed he did, he could just go right ahead and work his expert magic without my interference. I turned around and left him in mid-rant.

After about five minutes, Wifey came up to the circ desk saying her husband couldn't get Word to access the A: Drive.

Ahhh. That feels nice.

I went on back. Sure enough, he had the Open screen up and A: selected, but a little window had popped up saying he didn't have administrative permission to access that drive. I had no explanation for that.

"See! See!!" he said.

I reached around him, being careful not to accidentally throttle him in the process, and closed the message box then reselected the A: Drive. It opened like a charm, displaying the contents of the disk perfectly, further infuriating him.  Hubby then started on a rant about how Microsoft Word screws up the formatting of anything you open in it. I had to give him this point, cause it's generally true. Particularly when the files you're opening AREN'T Microsoft Word-spawned documents in the first place. People come in all the time expecting that their documents composed with obscure, outdated, dinosaur word-processors will open up just peachy on our computers. They are often wrong. ("Uhhhhh, hey! I got me a file what I wrote using the unholy lovechild of an Apple II-E and a Kaypro 4, about 17 years ago. I can open it up here, riiiight? Ya'll still use 5 and a quarter discs, don'tcha?")

Of course, Hubby and Wifey didn't simply look at the screen to see what formatting changes they would need to make. Instead, they immediately dumped to the printer then bitched and moaned when it came out choppy. So back they went for some reformatting, then printed, paid and left.

My day went pretty smoothly after that. Even had a few of my favorite patrons come in to bring joy into my day.

That is... until 6:30 when a Ford Fugly drove up outside and Chester the (Potential) Molester inflicted himself on us.  I hadn't actually noticed the Fugly arrive, and didn't immediately recognize it when I finally did notice it. However, I did recognize the guy hunched over in its open back driver's side door. It was the second patron I would want to strangle today. 

I glared hatred at him through our window, but Chester had evidently not noticed because he was like a deer in headlights when he saw me upon walking through our door.  There he stood, clad not in his usual ratty vest and hole-ridden knit-cap, but rather in a white Army of One T-shirt, shorts and shiny black dress shoes with black socks pulled half way up his calves. He looked like somebody's dad.

Until yesterday, I don't think any of us had seen Chester the (Potential) Molester since my finger-waving dismissal of him in July. Back then, I had I had wondered--both here and to my boss, Mrs. A--what we should do about Chester now that we had laid our cards on the table with him regarding our suspicion--nay certainty--that he was a sick bastard out to ogle pre-teens in our library. I was all for banning him permanently, and suggested this to Mrs. A. She agreed that it was an option to explore, but she wanted to talk to the police about him first and see what they suggested. For all we knew, they might have been investigating him too.

The trouble is, as far as I knew yesterday, Mrs. A still hadn't talked to the cops about him.

We stared at one another for several seconds, expressions of nervous panic crossing his face and fiery death crossing mine. He didn't move any further into the library and certainly didn't attempt his former habit of walking through the entire building to inventory the pre-teen girl population or steal any of our copies of Parenting magazine. He just stood there.

"Um... uh... are there any computers... open?" he mumbled.

There were, in fact, computers open--two of them were free, while Parka occupied the third. I didn't want to let Chester have one, but I didn't really have any grounds to deny him, nor any to kick him out. Mrs. A had not told me that he was banned and I feel certain that's something she would have mentioned. Of course, she didn't say he WASN'T banned either, but she also didn't tell me not to set him on fire or throw a chair at his head, so I decided to err on the side of legality. After several more seconds of watching Chester twist I begrudgingly said, "Yeah."

No, I didn't want him in, but there were no children present nor any likelihood some would arrive before we closed. If I was going to kick him out, I really needed official backup.  I reluctantly logged him onto a computer and returned to the circ-desk.

After a couple of minutes, I thought I heard something from the direction of the computer hall and stairwell. It sounded like someone had just climbed the stairs rather swiftly. Surely Chester didn't think he was going to go upstairs for our magazines as easily as all that? Or was he just trying to complete his compulsory pre-teen inventory?

I grabbed up a stack of books on tape boxes from the shelving cart and headed back to the computer hall. However, Chester was still at his computer and had not gone upstairs. I must have heard someone else, perhaps an upstairs patron who had descended to use the can.

While I was in the area, though, I went ahead and shelved the books on tape just to make Chester nervous with my proximity. I don't know if it was because of my presence or the lack of any kids in the library, but Chester gave up on his computer and left the building before I was even finished with that task.  He did not, however, leave the area. His Fugly remained parked outside while he walked in the direction of the local community college, where he would no doubt suddenly develop the need to use a computer in their library. At least the girls in there would be of age.

I noted his appearance on our desk pad, as well as his new license plate number for good measure. You never know when you might need it.

That was yesterday.

During my shift today, I spoke with my fellow employees about the incident. Turns out, Wednesday was not the first time he's been back since July. He was actually back in on Tuesday too. Mrs. B and Mrs. C were both in on that day and Chester walked right in, did not pause in the door as he did with me, and made his way back to the computer hall. All three computers were indeed full then, so he couldn't just try to sit down at one as he usually likes. Instead, he came back to the circulation desk and asked if all the computers were full.

"Yes, they are," Mrs. B told him. So Chester left, though again did not leave the area entirely. He likes to park his car out front and then wander around the down town area.

I also spoke with Mrs. A about Chester's reappearance and tried to make a case for banning him again. Turns out, Mrs. A has spoken with the local cops about Chester, but they have nothing on him. This being the case, Mrs. A doesn't see how we can ban him completely. Her point is that if she could ban Chester for doing what he does, there would be a whole line of other patrons who would be out just as fast.

"That back there now would be out of here quick!" she said, jutting a thumb in the direction of the computer hall where Parka was uncharacteristically in early for his daily e-skank chatroom session.

Her point is that all Chester would have to do is go to the A CL U tell them he was being denied his God given right to drool over pre-pubescent girls and we would suddenly have a suit against us. Now I believe the A CL U has done a lot of good in many regards in the past. I also think they've fueled a lot of bullshit too, but I don't doubt for a minute that they would take his case. Particularly when he hasn't technically been caught doing anything illegal in our county nor does he have any convictions on his record in his home county WHERE HE WAS ACTUALLY ARRESTED FOR EXPOSING HIMSELF to a girl. We got no legal leg to stand on. Of course, I pointed out that were Chester to bring such a suit, we would instantly have a platoon's worth of library employees from several different counties willing to testify against him.

So Chester is not banned outright. However, Mrs. A told me that if he starts ogling girls again and/or makes me and/or anyone else the least bit uncomfortable, I should feel free to ask him to leave and tell him exactly why. I figure if he gives me any shit about it, I call the cops myself.

This is one of the few times when I sort of wish our library was in a more metropolitan area, with security guards, Wrath of God policies and the whole bit. Only sort of.

Why?!! Why must the little things die?

Dammit! I hate it when people I respect kick the bucket and I don't find out about it for weeks.

I just found out singer Laura Branigan died back in late August. And once again, I had to learn of the death from reading about it at The Lipstick Librarian's blog--the same blog where I first saw Rick James died. What kind of news junkie am I, anyway? A shitty one, evidently.

Oh, I could tell you who's just been cast in the Dukes of Hazzard movie, or what high-pitched singing cartoon rodent trio are next up to get the live action treatment, Garfield style, but when it comes to scanning the obits I'm not hitting the mark.

This actually is nothing new for me. For seven years straight, from mid-highschool through college, I used to attend a three week summer camp where we were so busy and had so little access to media that we were practically in a news blackout. (Sounds like a cult, I know, but I assure you we were just really busy writing and producing a three act musical comedy. Also, if you have a camp full of forty-plus hormone-raged teenagers and don't keep them as busy as possible at all times, their minds start to wander to things you don't want them doing.) Invariably, some huge celebrity would die or something big would happen in the world during those three weeks and none of us would know about it until December when we'd see it in Year in Review retrospectives.

Of course, I also labored under the mistaken belief that Howard Cossell had died a couple years before he actually did due to my college yearbook having listed him among the deceased for that year. At the time, I assumed he must have died during camp, as I'd not heard of it before. Then, when the man actually died, a full two years later, it came as a shock yet again. (I think that yearbook staff is now working for CBS news.)

As to Laura Branigan, I have a fondness for her and her music that runs pretty deep. Her song Self Control came out around the same time I really started to become aware of popular music and how lyrics actually meant something. Not that I understood what hers meant entirely, but there was something about her living among the creatures of the night and not being able to control herself as a result that I knew was probably not something that I should like, but somehow did. (Once again, you gotta keep kids busy or their minds start to wander.) There was just something about that song that pressed dark little buttons inside me. I probably only saw the video once or twice, but I was definitely a fan of hers from then on.

I have now gone and put on my cassette copy of the Self Control album in honor of the late Ms. Branigan.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Computer Illiterates of the Serengeti Plains

I've written about computer illiterates at the "liberry" before. It's a subject that frankly never gets old for me because human ignorance is an amazing and varied field of study the depths of which will never be fully mapped.

Don't get me wrong, I completely understand that there are people in the world who either don't know how to use computers, don't want to know how to use computers, or may be coming in to the library to try them out for the first time. That's cool. I grok it. And the library is not a bad environment for such a learning venture, particularly if the computer-illiterate patron calls ahead and takes advantage of the FREE computer tutorials one of our savvy library friends offers. However, as a 32 year old guy who has been around computers of one sort or another since age 6 and who was actively using the internet a full five years before Al Gore's invention became popular with the rest of the country, it's still a little disconcerting to me when someone walks in cold and asks "Do you have the inta-net here?"

A prime example of this sort of thing can be found in one of our inactive Rogues, Mr. Little Stupid. Like his near namesake, Mr. Big Stupid, Mr. Little Stupid was only interested in coming in the library to use our computers. Unlike his near-namesake, however, Mr. Little Stupid had no idea how to do so.

Three years back, in he walked, a small, balding, skinny, bespectacled guy wearing overalls and carrying a Girl Scouts of America binder. He asked to use a computer, signed the clip-board and let me log him onto one just like any other patron might. I didn't even realize this man was completely without clue until later when I logged someone else on and noticed that he was still staring blankly at the Windows Desktop, exactly as he had been when I'd logged him on 20 minutes before.

"Uh, do you need some help?" I asked him.

Turns out, Mr. Little Stupid was trying to find some poetry, specifically some poetry written either by or for one of the teenage victims of the Columbine shootings in Colorado, (he wasn't sure which). I assumed by his binder that he was working on some sort of project for a Girl Scout troop and further assumed that his wife must have sent him to the library to research it for her troop. I was wrong.

Okay, so he didn't know how to get on the internet. Fine. That's fine. You can't know what to do if you've never done it before, even if the program you're seeking to use is helpfully named INTERNET EXPLORER and not, say, ASSHAT EXPLORER.

So I brought up Internet Explorer for him then asked for the name of the poet/subject he wanted. I then brought up Google and did a search for the poet, Rachel Joy Scott, which immediately brought up her page. I showed Mr. Little Stupid how to click on the link and bring it up. I then even wrote down the address of the page for him and showed him the blank in which to type it should he want to bring it up in the future. After a few questions about page navigation, he seemed pretty comfortable with everything, so I left him to it.

The following day, Mr. Little Stupid was back. He signed the clip-board, I logged him on and twenty minutes later he was still sitting there staring at the Windows desktop. It was like someone had rebooted his brain and lost all my programming from the day before. He'd completely Mementoed and had NO idea what to do. Most folks faced with that scenario would have come up to ask for help. Not Mr. Little Stupid. He just sat there staring at the screen until I discovered his predicament. Still, I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt that he wasn't really a complete moron.

Once again, I had to show him everything that I had shown him the previous day.  The only shortcut I had was that he still had the website address written down, so I was able to forego the Google search. Still, from his reaction, it was like I was showing him something completely new.  He reacted to the page's appearance like he'd never seen it before. I had to question whether or not this was even the same guy, but the Girl Scout binder and my hand-writing in it gave him away.

Day three: Mr. Little Stupid returned and it was an exact repeat of day two, except this time I knew he had probably rebooted again so I skipped the inevitable 20 minute desktop-staring-session in favor of just loading the Rachel Scott page for him when I logged him on. This time I also showed him how to print the poems he found there, in case he wanted to take them home and enjoy them at his leisure. I was now pretty sure that my assumption about his wife's Girl Scout troop was erroneous as the man had no wedding band and his Girl Scouts binder smacked of thrift-store purchase rather than officially licensed use. I now imagined that he'd heard about Rachel Scott's website from some radio show or saw it on the news and decided he wanted to check it out. Great. Whatever. Just pay some damn attention and learn how to use the equipment so I don't have to keep doing it for you! Never before had I more wanted to enforce our posted internet policy that patrons should have at least a passing knowledge of how to use a computer before attempting to do so.

Day 4: Two months actually passed between Day 3 and Day 4. During that time, we saw nothing of Mr. Little Stupid. When he returned, though, he was still the same skinny little man in the same overalls with the same Girl Scout binder tucked beneath an arm. He was also on the same mission. I imagined now that this strange alien had gone back in his pod to bake for a couple months, as he wasn't quite done on the first try. Of course, by then he'd lost the website I'd written for him and I'd forgotten the name of the poet he wanted so I had to repeat Day 1's lessons and look it all up for him. How could this guy continue to reboot like this, yet still remember that he wanted to come in and search for poetry? Was he really a moron?

Turns out, he was.

Literally.

Mrs. C eventually alerted me to the fact that not only was this guy computer illiterate, he was functionally illiterate as well. In fact, he'd been a part of the library's literacy program some years back but kept failing to show up for his lessons (or just kept rebooting, more likely) and eventually gave up.

Naturally, I felt embarrassed at having ridiculed the man, but I was still no closer to answering the question of just what the hell he was trying to accomplish? Not being able to read certainly explained why he couldn't get to the site he wanted, but what precisely was he planning on doing once he got there? It was nothing but POETRY--more words that he couldn't read! WHY????!!!!

I don't think he's been in since.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Hi, these are just a little overdue

The librarian from the Community College, Mr. Rob, stopped by to drop off a few of our books that a patron had entrusted to his care. They weren't interlibrary loans, as you might expect, but were just books this patron had checked out directly from us that were so embarrassingly overdue that the patron was too scared to check return them to us herself. Mr. Rob said she had even pleaded with him to return them to us on Friday when she knew we didn't charge fines. Mr. Rob must not have liked her much, though, cause he turned them in on a Wednesday.

And just how embarrassingly overdue were these books? Something to the tune of 16 months.

The ironic thing is, even as overdue as they were, we still wouldn't have charged her any fines on any day because they were all checked out on our old VTLS circulation system, the records from which we no longer have access to, so we wouldn't have even known what to charge her unless we wanted to do the math based on the date due slip. Even then we have a fine ceiling cutoff of $4 per book, so she still wouldn't have been out more than $16 total.

She may have been afraid we'd charge her for the one book among her four that she had evidently gotten wet, for the cover was all ink-blurred and wrinkly from a soaking, no doubt over a year ago. This being the case, we used our new handy-dandy Millennium circulation system, on which she had managed to secure a new card at some point in the past month, to block her from checking out anything at any library in our network until she pays us $9 for the damaged book. Frankly, she's getting off easy.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

More D-Con Reportage

Just in case ya'll haven't had enough about me yammering on about Dragon Con, writer Peter David has a much briefer con report over at his site.

I didn't attend any of Peter's panels this year, which is odd cause I'm a big fan and usually try to do all of his panels. I chalk it up to scheduling conflicts, but it's just as likely lack of planning on my part.

You can start here...

Peter David's Dragon Con Report for Day 1 & Day 2

Mr. B-Missing?

Kind of an odd Sunday shift in that it was utterly free of Mr. B-Natural. He's usually the first patron of the day and is almost always waiting at the door when I drive up. Not so today. I'm guessing he's still pissed about his dog being banned from the library and so he's staying away in protest.

Normally, my response to such a protest would be, "And this is a bad thing, how?" But I do feel a bit sorry for him in this case. As my wife pointed out, while Mr. B-Natural is indeed the grumpiest old man in all the world, he's also a fairly lonely guy. Not surprising, what with his being so grumpy. However, he'd mellowed so much over the past few months due entirely to the presence of Bubba the Dog. See, Bubba is Mr. B's ambassador to the world. Everyone loves Bubba (especially fleas, mind you, but people too), who is a genuinely sweet and happy dog that attracts positive attention which gets vicariously shared by Mr. B-Natural. With Bubba around, people actually smile at Mr. B-Natural and are happy to have him around. Without Bubba, he's just a cranky old man that no one will have much to do with.

So, he's probably off sulking somewhere.

Without Mr. B-Natural in today, I had to make do with two, count `em two, separate visits from Parka plus an appearance by Matilde the Cranky Wiccan. She gave me a bit of trouble too.

When Matilde came in to sign up for a computer, I told her it would be a couple of minutes because the computers were full. I was just coming around the desk to go boot one of the patron's whose time had run out when Matilde stepped in front of me and started back to the computers herself. I thought: What part of "It's gonna be a couple of minutes" didn't you understand, lady? She went right to the computer hall, then saw they were full and turned around to come back, nearly colliding with me in the process. When the computer was finally clear, I went and told her and pointed back to the hall. She went. Then, about 4:50, I went back to get garbage bags from the bathroom and to tell her that she only had 10 minutes left until we closed. This news elicited not even the usual annoyed grunt from her, though. At 5 p.m. sharp, I went back and told her "It's about that time." Again, not a word. She just kept right on typing on the e-mail she had open. I kept myself busy for half a minute, putting a new liner in the garbage can by the bathroom, then started shutting off computers in an effort to reinforce my point that we were closing. I didn't want to have to repeat myself to her, but it looked like I might need to.

"Oh, am I out of time?" she asked, after I shut off the computer beside hers.

"Yes, ma'am," I said.

"What?"

"Yes, ma'am!" I repeated, nodding. Only then did I realize that Matilde the Cranky Wiccan is hard of hearing. It certainly explains why she was so quiet the whole time. I only felt a little bad for heaping such silent ire in her direction.

As to the fleas, they seem to have been eradicated. I wore shorts and got nary a bite.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Poor Bubba

I went to work at 1 today and Mrs. C told me to go read the sign on the front door. The sign said the library would be closing at 5.

Whoo hoo! I get to go home early! This is good, as the wife is coming home from Clarksburg for the weekend and I had been a bit concerned as to how quickly I would have to come up with dinner after getting off at 7.

As to WHY we were closing early, Mrs. C enlightened me...

It seems we have fleas.

That's right, fleas.

Mrs. J found several of the little buggers attempting to bite her while she was shelving today. Suddenly, almost everyone was finding little bumps on their ankles that they had been at a loss to explain until that moment. So the plan was for us to close early and bug bomb the snot out of them. (Why exactly we needed to close early in order to bug bomb them, I'm not sure. Seems just as simple to bug bomb them after 7 as it would be after 5, but I certainly kept my mouth shut on this point.)

Mrs. A, still on vacation this week, but doing so at home, phoned in to give us some new policy regarding the fleas. To keep fleas from coming back after they've been bombed, we are now outlawing all animals other than service animals in the library. We've been very dog friendly in the past, allowing them to run free in the library. However, during most weeks, the dog population pretty much amounts to Mr. B-Natural's pooch Bubba. It will be sad to have a library with no Bubba, but what are ya gonna do? We can't have fleas infesting the joint either.

Mrs. C was the one to break the news to Mr. B-Natural when he and Bubba came in for their mid-morning computer crossword puzzle.

"What?" Mr. B-Natual said. He's supposedly hard of hearing, but I'm pretty sure it's a selective condition.

"I said, you can't bring Bubba in any more," she said. "We're having trouble with fleas."

"He shouldn't have any fleas. I gave him the flea treatment and washed him. No, Bubba doesn't have any fleas," Mr. B said. Of course, while he was saying this, Bubba was sitting on the floor beside him violently scratching at a flea.

"We're not saying Bubba brought the fleas in," Mrs. C told him. (Who is she kidding? That's exactly what we're saying.) "We're just saying that we have fleas and we don't want any more and you don't want them getting on Bubba either."

After Mrs. C related the above story, I said, "You do realize, of course, that Bubba will now become the new smuggled coffee cup for him, right? He'll start trying to sneak that dog in in his coat, just like he did his coffee."

Hours later in the day, the phone rang and a gruff voice asked to speak to Mrs. A.

"I'm sorry, but she's on vacation this week," I said.  "Can I take a message?"

Mr. B-Natual's familiar grumbling commenced for a few seconds before it resolved into the phrase, "When will she be back?" I told Mr. B-Natural she'd be in on Monday. Apparently, he's none too happy about his dog being banned. I'm not really sure why, other than it's an opportunity for him to be all grumpy about something. No other library in the county allows him to bring Bubba in, so I don't see what the big deal is now that we won't. Of course, it's not like he hasn't tried other places.

Mrs. H, who also works at the library branch in Town-D, said Mr. B-Natural tried to bring Bubba in her library one day until the head librarian saw the dog and said, "Nope. Out. He can't come in."

Mr. B-Natural paused in the door and shouted, "Hateful old woman!" then he took Bubba back to his car and left.

Now that's the old Mr. B-Natural we all knew and loathed.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Wal-Mart Jesus Vs. The Internet

Things were going along swimmingly for once; not too much patron traffic, not too much work for me. Then Wal-Mart Jesus came in and the patron floodgates opened up. Wal-Mart Jesus wasn't even the trouble. He just set his bag and cudgel down, then disappeared into the reference hall without a word. It was everyone else in the room that were suddenly desperate for my attention! I felt like the main brain buffet for Night of the Living Dead. Still, I blame him as the chaos didn't begin until he arrived.

All at once, somebody wanted to interlibrary loan some Finnish language tapes, another wanted a computer, two others wanted to check out, one wanted a library card and a late middle-age white lady with a slightly manic look about her wanted Ulysses by James Joyce.

Where the hell was Mrs. C when I needed extra hands? Oh, that's right! She'd disappeared upstairs fifteen minutes before and hadn't been seen since.

I tried to deal with the patrons in order, but our computers were all full so the computer patron would have to wait. Then I couldn't look up the Finnish tapes on ILL because our brand new Dell circulation computer--which is allegedly superior to our old one, yet still somehow manages to run just as slowly and freeze up just as much--no longer had access to our statewide catalog and no one in our smaller 20 county library system owned any Finnish tapes.

"Oh, and do you have Kitty Kelly's new book?" the manic Ulysses requester asked. "I think it's called The Bush Dynasty."

"Uh, no. Not that I'm aware of, ma'am. I couldn't even say if we've ordered it."

She looked appalled that we could call ourselves a library and not have the full Kitty Kelly catalog on display by the front desk.

"We do have Ulysses," I offered, seeing that it was available in our computer. "Looks like it's upstairs."

"Oh good. Could you go get it for me?" Mrs. Manic said.

I wanted to tell her to gnaw on a loin, but opted to just go get the book for her upstairs. It would give me a chance to hunt down Mrs. C, who it turned out was indeed upstairs having a chat with Mrs. B.

"The desk is swamped," I said, dashing over to the 823's in search of Joyce.

Mrs. B made for the stairs while I grilled Mrs. C about Kitty Kelly orders, our computer catalog access and Finnish tapes. Came up zero on all three and then Ulysses too, as it was missing from the shelf.

We went back downstairs. On the way, I spied an open computer I could plug our computer-wanting patron into, so I went to tell them but was accosted by Mrs. Manic first.

"I'm sorry. We don't seem to have Ulysses on the shelf," I said. "And our librarian hasn't done a book order in a couple of weeks, so Kitty Kelly's book isn't here yet and hasn't been ordered. I'm not even sure if we're planning to order it, but if we did it wouldn't be until next week cause our librarian's still on vacation."

Again, Mrs. Manic looked aghast. "It's a huge, huge book. Kitty Kelly... Very big," she said, practically shaking her finger at me. "Could you put me on hold for it?"

"No, I'm sorry, but we can only put people on hold for books that are currently in our system and, like I said, I'm not even sure we're going to order it." Again with the look. "I can put you on for Ulysses, though."

She seemed delighted at this, so I went around the desk where Mrs. B was helping the patron who wanted a library card. I was about to sigh and take a break since I couldn't get at the circ computer for holds anyway when I remembered our waiting computer patron. Well, remembered isn't really accurate as I only recalled her when she walked up to my side of the desk and looked hopeful at me.

"Oh, yeah. I've got one ready for you," I told her. We both went to the computer hall where I found Wal-Mart Jesus had commandeered the empty computer. I wasn't exactly sure if he was there legitimately or if he'd just plopped down for a surf without signing in first. Turned out he hadn't signed in, so I asked him to let me put my patron on since she had signed in first and told him I'd get him on the first available one. Another user was just leaving, so I suddenly had one open for him. Screw the sign-in, I thought. Who's really gonna complain that the guy who looks like Jesus and carries a cudgel didn't sign in?

Back up front, I was finally able to get to the circ desk to put Mrs. Manic on hold. Then, the question I should have asked her in the first place hit me.

"Um, do you have a library card with us?"

Mrs. Manic blinked at me for a while, then admitted that she didn't think so. ARGH!!!

I couldn't put her on hold without a card, so I directed her toward the applications. A sort of worried look came across her face at that point. She didn't seem to want to take the time to fill one out. Fortunately for her, the man who had just received a new library card from Mrs. B was her husband, and he agreed to let her put Ulysses on hold on his card. (I tell ya, I'm really getting sick of patrons and their card-issues.)

About that time, Wal-Mart Jesus reappeared wanting help with the internet. I moseyed on back with him. Seems he was looking to expand his usual quest for obscure Judaic philosophical texts that no one owns to the internet. He even had a site written down that someone had told him about, but he didn't exactly know how to go about getting to it. Admirably, he had brought up Internet Explorer, but he had somehow managed to delete the address field, all of the toolbars and indeed the pull down menu bar, plus he'd moved the task bar to the top of the screen in such a way that I couldn't move it back. He'd also managed to change the appearance of the program itself, causing the IE window to appear far more colorful and shaded than it normally does. I just don't understand how people who are such internet neophytes can cause such havoc with our systems, yet can't seem to type a damn address into the one field clearly labeled "ADDRESS."

Since I couldn't seem to undo his damage, I just rebooted the system so it would reset everything. Then I Googled the Jewish studies university library he was looking for. He explained that he heard they had a really wonderful database on CD Rom and was hoping to access many obscure Jewish texts this way. I hated to tell him, but usually when people have databases on CD Rom, it's because they want you to buy them. This turned out to be exactly the case, though I didn't know for sure right away as the entire site was in Hebrew. Fortunately, being a devout Chasidic Jew, Wal-Mart Jesus can read Hebrew so he was able to translate and guide me where to click. After nearly five minutes of doing the clicking for him, I decided that it wasn't doing him any good for me to navigate for him and it would be much better on us in the future if he had some skills for searching on his own. He took over the mouse and I stood by to answer any questions. I didn't actually have many answers, as most of his questions were geared for someone with more familiarity with the site and I, as I kept explaining to him, had never been to it before and couldn't read it now that I was there. Still, I did at least have internet intuition on my side and steered him away from obvious pay services and back toward the on-line database it listed, which he kept avoiding because it had far too much information to take in at a glance.

That's the thing about searching for information... you're gonna have to wade through a lot you don't want to get to something you do.

Once he was headed in the right direction, I left him to his search, coming back only to remind him that his bus would soon be leaving 20 minutes later.

Of course, by that time my lungs were aching for air.

It's like someone turned on the stench-electro-magnet today. We were beset by stinky patron after stinky patron.

Well, all right, so there were only two of them, but they were foul enough for ten.

I'm almost certain that the first guy is the same stinky man who darkened our door and soiled our souls with his stench around three years ago, during Stinky Patron Day 2001. He had been using the little computer by the stairs just prior to my arrival at work. No one likes to use the little computer by the stairs provided the other two comfyer computers are free. I'm guessing that they were therefore not free when he was logged onto the little one, but they had long since been abandoned by the time he got up and left.

On his way out, Mr. Stinky walked past me, wearing a too-tight, filthy gray t-shirt with deep-set stains and a veritable cloud of nose-permeating evil. My theory is that this shirt is actually the too-tight red t-shirt he had worn on his previous visit, leeched of its color by his olfactory aura. Before he had even left the building, Mrs. H had busted out both the Airwick and the woefully underpowered automatic air-freshener, which had been secreted within a potted plant on the windowsill next to Mr. Stinky. The lingering stench ate both of them.

Barely an hour had passed when the Sweatiest Woman in All the Land came in. We knew she was on her way because she'd sent her daughter ahead to herald her coming and check to see if there were any computers free. (Her daughter's pretty stinky too, but only because of contact-stench from mom.) I'm starting to believe that the eye-watering breeze of the Sweatiest Woman in All the Land is not entirely sweat-spawned. My fellow employees are of the opinion that it is not so much a sweaty sort of odor as a uriney sort of odor. I didn't buy into this at first, but now I've come to think that my nose may have simply been overwhelmed by her wake of funk and automatically defaulted to the most palatable explanation for what it smelled like. I mean really, which would you rather have come into your library, a patron soaked in dried sweat or one steeping in her own urine? And being as how she's a really nice lady, beyond the impoliteness of her vapors, we think she must have some sort of bladder control issue rather than just having a penchant for peeing her pants on purpose. Again, that's the most palatable explanation.

So anyway, the Uriniest Woman in All the Land finally came in for a computer too. That's all she ever wants, hence why we have so many air-freshening products hidden in the computer hall. Unfortunately for those of us who'd have to share the front room with her while she waited, all three of our computers were full. We'd just signed on two people a few minutes earlier and the only one our timers said was out of time belonged to Mr. B-Natural, who was back with his dog, Bubba, playing solitaire. I went back and told him that his time was up.

"I ain't been on that long!" he angrily grumped. "I had to wait around upstairs for a while. My time's not up."

I sighed. If only he knew the favor I was trying to do him by allowing him and Bubba the chance to escape before the stench-fest descended on his head.

"Well, the timer says you're done," I told him. "But maybe it was still set for the patron before you. I'll go check."

As I was about to go check, the patron using the computer by the stairs stood up and said she was finished. Mr. B cracked a smug grin at this, thinking himself safe to continue his game. If only he knew what I was about to unleash into the computer hall. I smiled with this knowledge, rebooted the free computer and then went to tell the Uriniest Woman in All the World it was ready for her to use.

Poor Bubba. They say dog noses are a million times more sensitive than human noses.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Actual Telephone Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #7

ME: Tri-Metro County Public Library.

CALLER: Yes, I'd like to renew some books over the phone. Can I do that?

ME: Sure thing. What's your last name?

CALLER: Donovan. D-O-N-O-V-A-N.

ME: (TYPES IN "N/DONOVAN") Okay, and the first name?

CALLER: Dave.

ME: (TYPES IN "DAVE." NO DAVE DONOVAN COMES UP AT ALL. NOR IS THERE A DAVID DONOVAN LISTED.) You said, Dave, right?

CALLER: (MUMBLES SOMETHING THAT SOUNDS EXACTLY LIKE "Yes.")

ME: Um, I don't have a Dave Donovan listed here. There's no David either.

CALLER: (SUDDENLY FURIOUS) It's Stephen!! I said it was STEPHEN!!!

ME: Stephen Donovan?

CALLER: Yes!!

ME: Uh... Oh. Well, sorry. I could have sworn you just said it was Dave.  Twice.

CALLER: No! It's Stephen!

I still have no explanation for this call. As far as I'm concerned the man said his damn name was Dave twice and confirmed it the first time I asked. I base this on the fact that the names Dave and Stephen sound nothing alike no matter your accent. However, as we don't have a Dave Donovan listed and we did have a Stephen Donovan who had checked out the book The Da Vinci Code I can only assume I was in either in error or he was crazy.

I was unable to renew his book for him, as we still have an assload of people on hold for that book, so Dave was SOL.

Friday, September 03, 2004

D-Con Report


D-MINUS: 0

Arrived at the Hyatt Regency around 1 p.m. and went straight to registration. No sign of my pals, who allegedly were to leave Starkville, MS, around the same time I left my in-laws in North Carolina, putting them there same time as me.

Checking the schedule of panels, I see Peter Davison (the 5th Doctor Who) is scheduled to be giving a panel at 1:30. If my pals were at the con that's where they'd be so that's where I head. Peter Davison isn't actually there when I arrive at the panel, nor are my friends. Instead, comic scribe Warren Ellis (Planetary, Transmetropolitan) is on the stage, along with Annoying Brit Track Boy. (ABTB is one of the D-Con folks in charge of programming involving British themes--the British Track. I've seen ABTB around in years past, but never thought of him as especially annoying until this year. More on him later.) Turns out this panel is a general Brit-panel with the two major British guests, one of whom, Davison, is running late. So I get to hear Warren Ellis talk about things he has in the works and answer questions for a bit, which is great cause he's one of the guests I was already looking forward to seeing. (I also see my first Pern Person of the year, pictured here.)
Peter Davison eventually shows and the panel proceeds. It's a pretty good panel, though it's a little odd to have two completely unrelated guests, beyond the fact that they both live in England, answering questions from the audience on similarly disparate topics. ABTB, always the glory hog, is seated at the panel table along side the guests. At the end, they give away prizes via trivia questions and I win one. (Nerd!) They asked on which cartoon did Jon Pertwee, the third Doctor, do one of the voices. I answered "Danger Mouse" since that's the only British cartoon anyone ever gives a rat's ass about and it turns out I was right. I won a Doctor Who book signed by the actors who played the Brigadier and Benton during the 3rd Doctor's run in the 70's.

Still no sign of pals after the panel, so I hit the dealer's room where I immediately found a booth with probably twenty five long-boxes full of graphic novels and trade paperbacks bargain priced at 50 percent off. And they're in great shape! I buy up the first two volumes of The Ultimates and spy several other potential purchases before I can escape.

The guys show up at 3:30 and we go up to our room. It's fantastic! Exactly what we had hoped for, which is good cause it took an act of congress to get it.

My friend Glen made reservations for a room several months ago, but when he called Hyatt up in early August to confirm the reservation they said, "Glen who?" Turns out the asshat Hyatt clerk who had taken the reservation had inserted the wrong hotel code, so our reservation was made for a room in the Hyatt in Marietta, Georgia and not Atlanta. Things looked grim at first, for the hotel claimed they had no other rooms available and that we were shit out of luck. Glen, however, is no stranger to showing his ass when the need presents itself and after doing so for a while the clerk he was dealing with gave in and transferred him to a customer care rep who arranged for a small suite for us at half price. It cost more money than any of us really wanted to pay, but was considerably cheaper than we should have been paying for what we were getting so we gladly accepted it. Granted it was on the 11th floor, so hoofing it up by stairs was not really a feasible thing for a bunch of out of shape nerds. Fortunately, the bellboy let us in on a secret that the staff generally doesn't raise a fuss if guests use the freight elevators, so that saved us quite a bit of time.

The guys, Glen, Joe, John and Marc, had made a wager during their trip over as to which variety of costume-clad con-goer they would see first. Would it be the Klingon, the Stormtrooper, the G.I. Joe character, the Pern Person or the perennial Fat-Chick in Chain Mail? Pern Person won out, yet again.
We also did a strafing run on the Walk of Fame to see who was there. Not all of the guests were present, but a few choice ones were. Erin Gray, TV's Colonel Wilma Dearing from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was there. I had a huge crush on her when I was a young lad and she still looks really really good today. (Sorry, I'm lame and didn't take a picture.) Like a dumbass, though, when I spoke to her I said, "I really enjoyed your work when I was a little kid." Great! Now I made her feel old!

We walked on and came to Peter Davison's signing table, at which point the only thing any of us could utter was, "That's fuckin' Doctor Who!" We thought it was probably best not to approach him until we could get a better choke hold on our vocabulary.

While we were in the Dealer's Room area, I slipped away on a reconnaissance mission to get snapshots at the Speculum & Leather Sales booth. Found it right away. In addition to medical instruments sold for non-medical purposes, there was the standard assortment of whips, chains and clamps. The proof...

Dinner was at the Hard Rock Cafe, where we didn't even need to use our reservation as there were plenty of open tables. Just to get my influx of carbs started, I ordered the Twisted Mac & Cheese, which was excellent and sat in my tummy like a Fat Chick in Chain Mail for hours to come.
We retired to our room where the closed circuit Dragon Con channel was playing the pilot episode of the Joss "Buffy" Whedon penned, quickly cancelled by Fox, sci-fi TV series Firefly. Only one of our crew had ever seen Firefly before and he told us to shut up and watch, cause it was a great show. We shut up. We watched. When the episode was finished, we were to a man born-again Firefly converts. Suddenly we were excited that some of the cast members were present at the con! They were going to have a big panel, even! We were also a tingle that not only were the episodes available on DVD but a Firefly movie has been filmed and is scheduled for release next summer! And, another episode was coming on next! Unfortunately, whoever was showing the next episode had not intended to do so, for they shut it off after ten minutes and played Spaceballs instead. Bastard!

Our first panel of the day was Peter Woodward. For those who don't know him, Peter Woodward is the son of Edward Woodward, of TV's The Equalizer fame. Both were members of London's Royal Shakespeare Company and Peter served as the fight master for them for a while. Peter played Galen on the short-lived Babylon 5 spin-off, Crusade, and hosted and produced the Discovery Channel series Combat. He's a favorite of ours. His panel this time was all about combat and fighting techniques using different weapons. He even had our row get up on stage with him to serve as a visual aid for a point he was making. Fun stuff, even though Peter didn't hump anyone this year.

After that there was a Cartoon Network Adult Swim panel in the same room. Lots of the staff and voice talent for Adult Swim programs like Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Sealab were present as well as Billy West, the voice of much of the Futurama cast and the original voice of Stimpy on Ren & Stimpy. Mostly they showed clips, acted crazy and did voices for us. Billy West has been hired to do Popeye in a new computer animated Popeye project and he demonstrated his impressive vocal process for doing that character. The Adult Swm team also showed clips from upcoming shows and told us about a few choice bits of news in that vein. I knew they had more Family Guy in production, which is good. They also have a whole new series from FG creator Seth McFarlane as well as a series by FG co-star Seth "Scott Evil" Green. Their truly big news is that in late Summer 2005 they will be airing a cartoon based on Aaron Macgruder's comic strip The Boondocks and said this is going to be an envelope pushing show as far as edgy humor goes.

Afterwards, we met up with Beta Squadron, a second group of friends from Mississippi who were staying elsewhere in the area. My friend Mark "Hey, there's a Gerbil in that Cleavage" Chow was among them. (Hi, Mark!) We all went to lunch, then hit the dealer's room and walk of fame again. I was able to find a pristine copy of the Sin City graphic novel Hell & Back at the half-off booth. It's a good thing it was half off, cause it's a $28 book cover price.

In the Walk of Fame I also nearly collided with actress Dee Wallace Stone, who was standing in front of her signing table. She's about my height, but looking into her face all I could think of was "Wow, it's Mom!" Name any given 80's movie and chances are Dee Wallace Stone played the mom in it. She's terribly good at playing the Mom and she still looks every bit like a mom should. I just wanted to give her a big hug and tell her that I was sorry I hadn't called or sent any mother's day cards in a while. I refrained, but I did tell her that I really enjoyed her work. She gave me a big warm mom grin that made me feel all loved and stuff.

While the rest of my crew went off on their own missions to find specific nerd swag, I went to the 4 p.m. Warren Ellis panel back at the Hyatt. Ellis was very Ellis in manner, which is to say he was insightful, vulgar and terribly funny. Asked what he thought of the current political climate, as his book Transmet is an extremely political book which some see as a response to the current administration, he turned the tables on the question and asked us how we felt knowing we were about to have four more years of Bush. Naturally, there were boos, but Warren rounded on it and made the extremely valid point that if the Democrats were actually serious about winning the White House they would have run someone other than a corpse with a badger nailed to its head. He also pointed out that most of Transmetropolitan was written in response to Tony Blair and not Bush, but that there were lessons to be learned all around.

Ellis also told the story of how he had inherited a literary agent who insisted he write a novel. He didn't want to write one, so he turned in 100,000 words of the most insane and offensive material he could think of--we're talking Godzilla bukake and Ostriches zonked out on ruffies insane--figuring no one in their right mind would ever publish it. Naturally, Harper Collins bought it for quite a bit of money, so now he's forced to finish it up. He also touched on the subject of Harlan Ellison after someone asked him if he'd ever had any discussions on the subject of the internet with Ellison, being as how Ellison hates the web and Ellis loves it. Ellis said he had not, but would probably find out as they were scheduled to breakfast together the following morning. He described seeing Ellison in the guest's lounge, jumping up and down with glee saying "I've just been verbally abusing people!" This certainly bade well for the future Marc Stewart/Harlan Ellison rematch I'd been hoping to see.

I also was able to talk to Denny O'Neil, writer of the classic 90's series The Question. I asked him to sign my copy of issue #30 and issue #1. I explained issue #30 was the first of the series I'd ever read, given to me for my birthday by Rob Snell, one of the guys who owned the late lamented comic shop, Gun Dog Comics, back home. Rob's gesture was only generous on the surface, though. Much like a crack dealer, he knew that giving me a first hit of a series as good as The Question would only lead to more sales. Once I read issue #30, I ordered all the back issues from Rob and the shop wound up making a tidy sum off me. Worth every penny. O'Neil seemed like a nice guy.

We adjourned to Champions Sports Bar, in the Marriott, where we ate excessively expensive and not particularly tasty fried food and watched the Mississippi State game. Afterwards, some of us went to the room to chill while others of us ventured out to freak watch and attend the Buffy The Vampire Slayer prom, which was even more of a freak-fest.


First panel of the day was the Babylon 5 reunion. The only B5 cast members present were Peter Jurrasik (Londo Mollari), Jason Carter (Marcus Cole) and a guy who played one of the generic aliens on the show. As usual, though, it was still a good panel.

The three spent around ten minutes paying tribute to actor Richard Biggs, who played Dr. Stephen Franklin on the show and who passed away from a brain aneurysm a few months back. It was a nice tribute but would have been better had Dragon Con staff provided a screen and video projector present so they could show the tribute video that had been made. Before the panel started, I overheard the guy who made the tribute film complaining to someone that one of the decision makers within the Dragon Con upper echelon does not like nor gets B5 and goes out of his way to shit on all B5 programming at the con. Granted, this is one man's perspective on this and perhaps the video projector was being used by another panel at the same time and wasn't available. But I've seen evidence of such B5 program downplaying in the past too. On many occasions, the B5 programming has been crammed into tiny rooms in the sub-levels of the Hyatt with standing room only crowds. Sure, the show's been off the air for several years now, but Trek panels don't get treated with such disrespect and that show's been gone for 30. Regardless, this particular panel was in one of the bigger rooms and had the crowd to justify it so I'm happy on that front.

At one point during the panel, Peter Woodward burst through the door, interrupting Peter Jurrasik mid-story, and staged a coup on the stage. Woodward screamed he was taking over because he'd not been invited to participate in the panel since he was only on a B5 spin-off. He claimed he had dirt on the personal lives of all of the panelists and would be revealing that down at his signing table. He then ran through the audience passing out flyers for the cruise he's hosting next year and then fled the room. Jurrasik just smiled and resumed his story, to much applause.

The next panel of the morning was the Harlan Ellison panel we'd been looking forward to. Harlan was late getting there and when he finally did show up he was wearing a t-shirt and sweat pants and looked a bit disheveled. He explained he'd been asleep 20 minutes ago and had just spent ten minutes trying to get downstairs via the perpetually crowded and slow elevator system. He claimed he had become so frustrated with the idiots on the elevator with him, who were getting in DOWN directed elevators in order to wait for them to go back UP, thus crowding the elevators unnecessarily, that he began verbally assaulting them and finally physically hurled several of them from the elevator onto random floors. A man in the audience testified that this was indeed true.

The Ellison panel was called "The Secret Crimes of Harlan Ellison" and was supposed to be a forum for Ellison to take questions from the audience regarding tales of his bad behavior in the past and then give his side of the story. Sounds fun, no? The trouble is, as my friend Marc pointed out, Ellison seemed to have been possessed by the spirit of Grandpa Simpson for the duration and spent 45 rambling and digression-filled minutes on a single tale about a near-miss fist fight with Frank Sinatra in the 60's. He kept stopping to try and remember tiny and irrelevant details and then chastised the audience brutally for not being able to fill in the blanks for him. As nasty as this might seem, it was tame compared to the last panel my friends attended, during which Harlan took the microphone and walked into the audience laying verbal waste to one and all. We suspect he may have mellowed down.

After the panel, Harlan returned to his signing table where a line of fans formed to get him to sign their books. My friend Marc, recipient of Harlan's destructive tongue during his last attempt to get Harlan to sign something three years ago, went to join the queue. This time, Marc didn't exhibit the hubris that brought about the wrath of the Crassness God last time. Instead, Marc plied Harlan with such an eloquent commentary of his own nature as a fan that when Marc finished all Harlan could do was gesture toward the rest of the penitent in line and say, "I went through all these idiots to get to you." So while it wasn't a fiery rematch, the levels of irony were sufficiently satisfying.
Following lunch, Peter Davison had another panel all of his own which we attended. Present on stage with Peter was Annoying Brit-Track Boy. Now in the past, I've seen ABTB participate in panels as a moderator, asking questions of the subject of the panel and directing audience questions. That seems to be a valid role to take should the guest require it. However, Peter Davison does not need a moderator and is fully capable of running a q&a panel on his own. To make matters worse, ABTB wasn't even acting as a moderator for the panel at all. He was just sitting there by Davison adding unneeded commentary to the man's answers and even daring to answer questions on his own that weren't posed to ABTB in the first place. Add to that ABTB's high-pitched hyena-like laughter which he insisted on braying directly into the microphone whenever anything was remotely funny and you get an idea of how utterly enraged the entire audience was with him by the end. At one point, he said something about possibly leaving and there was a smattering of applause at the notion.

Another example: Peter Davison, upon being asked by an audience member how he went about preparing for any given role, answered, "Well, not as much as I probably should." Seems cool, no? However, Annoying Brit Track Boy seemed to feel that the question had somehow been asked to him as well, so he also answered, saying, "Speaking as a drama-minor, not much." Who the fudge cares, punk? Annoying Brit-Track Boy also dis-endeared himself by not shutting off his cell phone during the panel. We know this because it rang and he actually took the call, ON STAGE, in the middle of Peter Davison's panel. Peter Davison, ever the gentleman, exhibited a Herculean amount of patience with ABTB. I don't know how he managed it, but I'm guessing potential headlines of "Doctor Who Throttles Fishnet-Clad Dipshit at Nerd Con, Audience Rushes Stage to Help!" probably had a lot to do with his mercy.

Most of us wanted to stick around for the Firefly panel in the big room that afternoon, but I was on a mission to secure Warren Ellis's signature on a few books. So me and a new friend from Beta Squadron, named Malloy, went to wait in line. Afterwards, we strolled the Dealer's Room a bit more then went back for the last 15 minutes of the Firefly panel. Seeing what I did there made me wish I'd gone for the whole thing. The two guests were just awesome and I now want a Firefly DVD set even more than before. Even Malloy, who said he wanted nothing to do with Firefly, had to admit it was cool.

Back in the Walk of Fame, I saw that Soupy Sales was there in person. I'd heard he would be there, but had forgotten about it until then. My dad was a huge Soupy Sales fan back when he was a younger man. I even have an appreciation for him from an early 80s comedy series he hosted on CBS. Actually, that's not entirely accurate. I enjoyed Soupy's early 80s series until the Halloween episode, where someone knocked on the door of his set "house" and when he opened it there were just two evil looking eyes against a field of blackness, meant to represent a vampire. The image scared the hell out of me and I screamed and cried for quite some time. I think dad avoided Soupy Sale's show after that to prevent any trauma to me, and it was subsequently cancelled. I thought this would make a cute story to tell Soupy Sales himself as a way of showing how big a fan Dad was. However, I was only part way into a short version of the story when I realized that no communication seemed to be getting through to Mr. Sales. He was just staring through me blankly. A lady I later learned was his wife was seated beside him and I kind of gave her a brief glance, then decided that I really didn't want to embarrass Mr. Sales or the lady by letting on that I'd noticed anything wrong, so I just wrapped up my story as quickly as possible and said it was nice to meet him. At that point, he seemed to come back to life and smiled and nodded. I don't know if he'd had a stroke or Alzheimer's or was just hard of hearing.

We feasted that night at a steakhouse across the street from the Hyatt where we were accosted by a street person who begged us to vote Republican in the next elections and who accused the one staunch Republican among us of being a Democrat.

Afterwards, we freak-watched in the lobby for a while, looking at the various costumes of the participants of the Costume Contest. I saw a great Starman and talked to him about how he made his staff, as I had made a similar one when I did that costume a few years back. I don't know that his staff was better than mine, but it was certainly a lot lighter as his staff head was made of foam and mine was made of transparent yellow plastic resin that weighed a ton. He still had the advantage on me, though, in that he actually looked like the character and I was just a poser.

We all woke very late on Day 4. Too late to get packed up and still have time to hit the first panel of the day. We didn't even bother looking at the schedule to see what we were about to miss, cause it would just ruin our day. As it stood, it looked like we would miss the second panel too, cause we were scheduled to meet Beta Squadron at Hooters for lunch at 11:30.

Showers were had and shite was packed up.

Joe had managed to win the chance to buy a Heroclix Galactus, a truly huge chunk of plastic, so he was having to drag that out. You probably won't know what any of that means unless you're a gaming or comic nerd, but you won't catch me explaining it for the masses.

Most of my purchases fit nicely within my backpack and duffel bag, but I had lots of other stuff to carry too. Before leaving for the con, I'd stopped by the grocery store and purchased a shitload of food to keep in the room. We're talking bags of chips, two packs of Oreos, pretzels to supply a good sized bar for a week and granola granola granola. I'd also brought a full case of Old Vienna, which Mrs. A's boyfriend had imported for me from Canada and which I was hoping to dispose of at the Con so I wouldn't be tempted to tuck into it while low-carbing it upon my return home. We'd only actually brought half the case up to the room on Friday night, (thank Jebus!) but out of the five of us, plus the five of Beta Squadron, only I had drank any of it and I only drank two. So much for getting our drunk on at the Con. Thusly, I had ten bottles of beer left and the maids had thrown out the original box, so I had to wrap the bottles up in my clothing and carry them out in my duffel and backpack. This added weight made those bags extremely heavy. The food as well had to be carried back down. Almost none of it had been touched by any of us, so back it had to go. (I guess I'll donate it to the "liberry" for use in their end-of-the-month patron appreciation open house gigs.) Originally, I was going to make two trips to take my stuff to the car, but decided that even though I knew it would nearly break me, I could manage it in one. Backpack on back, duffel in hand, three bags of uneaten junk food in other hand, pillow beneath arm, I slowly trudged with my pals to the freight elevator for one last unauthorized use of it.

The rest of Alpha Squadron had parked in a different garage than I had, so we separated there while I and my added seventy pounds of baggage took the walking tubes from the Hyatt to the food court next door to the Marriot and finally to my parking garage in back of the Sun Trust building. I wasn't ready to drop by the time I got there, but was certainly feeling the burn.

Not having anything better to do for twenty minutes until the Hooters rendezvous, I just walked around absorbing the general atmosphere of melancholy. Day four is always sad at the con. It's palpable. Beyond just my own bummer at the thought that this year's con flew by so fast and that I would soon have to drive eight hours to get home and not see my pals for a while, the bummers of just about everyone else at the con were plainly apparent. You can feel it in the air. All these people, particularly the ones who stay in costume the whole time, are clearly unhappy at having to return to the real world. You can just drink it in, and so I did.

I was first to arrive at Hooters so it fell to me to secure us a table for 10. I'd never actually been to a Hooters before, but found the experience mostly enjoyable. A waitress in the usual super tight wife-beater shirt and shorts so short Daisy Duke would blush, came to help set up tables. I must say, super-tight wife-beater or not, she was not exactly overly blessed in the Hooters department herself, at least not as much as one would tend to expect from such an establishment. In fact, only one of the waitresses there really qualified as Hooteriffic and she was so generously equipped that her too-tight wife-beater seemed in peril of exploding at any moment. She could not have been comfortable in that corset of a shirt, and I found myself wishing that management would give her something a little more suitable to wear, as it hurt to look at her. I did get a bit of a thrill, though, when the wind from tropical storm Frances blew over the Hooters sandwich board sign out front, causing two of the girls to have to go out, bend over and pick it up, aimed quite satisfactorily in my direction. I know, it's a juvenile comment to make, but we've long since accepted that Dragon Con reverts even the best of us into 12 year old boys. If it didn't, then we would have a real hard time explaining all those people we spit at from the balcony.

After a bit, Beta Squadron showed up. They'd been betting that Alpha wouldn't actually be there at 11:30 and were also wagering that we would be at least 15 minutes late. Well, I blew that away, but indeed the rest of Alpha did not arrive until after 11:45. It seems John misplaced his own car, so they had to reenact the Seinfeld episode of wandering up and down levels of a parking garage in search of their ride.

Lunch was irritatingly expensive, but tasty all the same. We ate our fill then paid and went to stand on the sidewalk out front, the formerly gale-force winds of Frances whipping through our hair. This is always the saddest part, when we have to say goodbye. Fortunately, this time around it's only for a couple of months, as most of us will be meeting up again at Glen's wedding in October and then will see each other another couple months later at Christmas.

The drive home was long and boring, punctuated by angry talk radio and my P.G. Wodehouse book on tape.

(OKAY, I LIED, THERE'S ACTUALLY ONE MORE D-CON REPORT...)