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.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

And the password is...

Last week, two girls and a boy began pestering me for the password to the children's room computer. They were probably 11 or 12 and therefore given to cheerfully pestering people. The ringleader of them was Caroline Turner, a regular patron of ours and a young lady I've had some confusing dealings with before.

At first I didn't even realize what they were up to. Caroline had come up to the desk around 6 p.m. last Wednesday night and asked me what Mrs. C's full name was. I told her. Then she wanted me to write it down for her, so I did. A minute later she was back, asking for my name to be written down. Okay, sure, I thought. It was odd, but I somehow imagined she and her friends were plugging our names into Mad Libs or something.

A few minutes later, she and her other cohorts came to ask me harmless personal questions, such as my pet's name, my favorite book, my favorite movie and my favorite number, (Winston Churchill: The Infinitely Bad Kitty, The Martian Chronicles, Raising Arizona and four, respectively). Having secured this information, they scurried away to the children's room again.

Finally, Caroline came back and just point blank asked me, "Would you just tell me what the password is for the kids' computer?"

Ah, so that was their game.

"No," I said.

"Pleeeeeease?"

"Noooooooo."

More minutes of pleading and banter followed during which Caroline even threatened to sign up to use the computer just so she could watch my fingers and get the password as I logged her on.

"Well, that's really gonna work for you now, isn't it?" I said.

"Aw come onnnnnnn! You can tell me!"

Sure kid, I tell you and soon everybody's playing Magic School Bus Vs. The Dinosaurs for free.

This sort of thing went on for some time, with Caroline coming up with wildly inventive reasons why I should tell her followed by threats of the crazy things she would accuse me of if I didn't. (This sounds alarming, I know, but her very worst threat amounted to her taking one of our books, tearing it up and then then telling Mrs. A that I had taken the book and let my dog tear it up. I explained to her that Mrs. A would never believe her because she knows I don't own a dog.)

For a while I even considered telling her that the password for the computer wasn't a word at all, just to see her race back to start trying number combinations. (The password really ISN'T a word, but there aren't any numbers involved either, so her search would be fruitless.)

Eventually, Caroline had to leave for her group French lesson next door, as did her comrades. So I was left in peace.

Caroline, however, would not be the first patron to try and acquire our password. The last patron to try it was an as yet unchronicled Rogues Gallery member from years past. However, before I could even start to chronicle that long lost Rogue, one of our current boobyhatch escapees tried the very same thing.


It seems that our old friend Parka has made it his business to try and learn the password to our patron computers. (See THE PARKA SAGA.) That's right. This festering butt-grape in our collective crack is trying to hack us.

Parka was in last Saturday to chat with his e-skanks. After he'd been on for around 40 minutes or so, I heard a distinctive BEEEEEP from the computer hall signaling that one of the computers had been rebooted from the ground up. I've noticed more and more of these beeps when Parka is using the computers. Usually it signals that he has managed to chat the computer into freezing up, in which case he wants to reboot it before asking us to log him back on, cause he somehow thinks we don't know what he's up to. Or sometimes it signals that he's about to leave and wants to reboot the computer to be sure that all evidence of his presence on a given machine is gone. (Surrrre it is.) Mrs. A has actually had to confront him over this rebooting business because until recently he didn't just reboot the machine when he left but would shut it down, forcing the next patron to use it, AND us, to have to stand around and wait around for it to reboot from the ground up before it can be used anew. He agreed to cut it out. I still listen for the BEEEEEPs, though, because it either means he's leaving or that I'm gonna have to go back and log him on again.

So Saturday I hear the BEEEEEP and wait to see what Parka's next move will be. Minutes pass and there is no movement from the back to either leave or ask for assistance. Curious. After nearly five minutes with no sign of Parka, I decide to go investigate. It could be that he just hopped onto a nearby computer that was not logged off from the previous patron. But I somehow doubted it.

I think Parka must have heard me coming cause by the time I reached the door to the computer hall he was up and moving.

"Could you log me on again it froze up and I had to reboot," he said, in his usual punctuationless monotone.

I went over to his computer which had our login screen up. Curiously, the cursor was NOT in the username blank, but the password blank. And while he had not typed in our usual username, which probably every regular "Intanet" Crowder knows by heart, the fact that he had been trying to do something in the password blank was suspicious. I moved closer to the computer and typed in our standard patron username. Then, keeping my back toward Parka to block his line of sight on the keys, I typed in our password, the letter Z, (not really the letter Z). As I did this, I heard movement behind me and, on turning, I saw that Parka was now half-way up the first section of steps on the staircase, a perfect position for him to have craned his neck and taken a gander in the direction of my hands as I typed. He wasn't actively craning when I saw him, but what other reason would he have for being on the stairs? I didn't think he had actually managed to see it, but the fact that he was trying at all was definitely one of the most irritating things this highly irritating man has done.

Yesterday afternoon, I broke the news to Mrs. C.

"I think we need to keep an eye on PARKA. I'm pretty sure he was trying to get our password Saturday."

"You too?" she said. Mrs. C then told me that Parka had been in on Sunday and had pulled the same trick on her, asking her to come reboot his computer and then standing there trying to watch her type.

What advantage, you might ask, would Parka gain by knowing the password to our patron computers? After all, it isn't as if we wouldn't catch him trying to log on without signing up at the clipboard up front first. The only reason he EVER comes to the library is to use the computers, so from the moment we saw his big dingy-white-Michelin-Man-lookin'-parka-clad ass trying to sneak back to the computer hall, we would know what was up.

Our theory is that after repeatedly locking up the system with his chatting he finds it inconvenient to have to come get us to log him on again. He would much rather be able to reboot at his leisure and continue on without having to muck around with such things as standing and walking through two whole rooms to see if we may or may not have a spare moment or sense of inclination to help.

"Think we need to change the password then?" Mrs. C asked.

"Couldn't hurt," I said. "In fact, it would royally piss him off if he has managed to get it and now it won't work for him." We grinned and laughed evilly at this. I even suggested we change the password to Parka's real last name, which he would never ever suspect. Instead, though, we changed it to a different letter in proximity to Z (not really the letter Z) which would look indistinguishable if typed really fast, further compounding his frustration.

As I said earlier, though, this is only one example of a smarmy little bowel irritant of a patron trying to get our password. A couple of years back, one such soul succeeded at getting it and got busted in a much more satisfying way. I speak of none other than The Evil Fed Ex Guy. 

I first met the Evil FedEx Guy in November of 2001. I'd had cause to engage the services of Federal Express after the processor-fan in my computer started to crap out on me and I found myself in desperate need of a new one. I'd purchased one online and had paid $9 extra to have it delivered via Federal Express's two day delivery service. As you probably suspect, my two day delivery did not occur as per the definition of two day delivery.  What followed were eight days of not only no deliveries, but repeated instances of official Fed Ex tracking records being altered by someone to show that delivery attempts and phone calls had been made when no such deliveries nor calls had actually been attempted--cause, I was, like, home the whole time and stuff.  When my new chip fan was finally delivered, A WEEK AND A DAY LATER, it was the Evil FedEx Guy who delivered it.

At the time, I didn't even know that the Evil FedEx Guy was actually evil; I just thought he worked for evil.  So I didn't hold a grudge when, for example, he came to the library on his lunch break to surf the web a few days later and managed to leave his wallet behind.  I didn't even consider doing anything nasty to his wallet or its contents.  Instead, I phoned him up and left a message that we had his wallet.  The more I've thought about it since, though, the more I've come to believe that the Evil FedEx Guy himself was entirely responsible for my delayed delivery. I'd been blaming the FedEx dispatcher, but really the clear line of deception and ass-covering in the delivery process points back to the guy who was failing to make his delivery.  And who else would further benefit by going back and falsifying even more such attempts after the fact to make it look like he was actually doing his job? Him Him Him. I understand that being a FedEx driver is hard work and the drivers are under the gun of deadline constantly. But altering records to make it seem as though I was at fault in the matter when I was not just burns me up.  Still, I'd not done that math yet, but would soon learn that the Evil FedEx Guy was a right bastard for a number of other reasons.

After the above wallet snafu, the Evil FedEx Guy began making a nuisance of himself at our library as a member of the Liberry Intanet Crowd. On his lunch hour, he would pop by and park his enormous FedEx van in our half-hour parking, taking up well over his allotted parking space, and come on in to surf the web. This would even have been mostly okay with us if he didn't, in true Intanet Crowd fashion, constantly prove himself an enormous asshat. He had all the standard Intanet Crowd quirks, such as getting pissed off if he couldn't log on immediately upon arrival, or if he had to wait at all, or if he ran out of time and we had to ask him to relinquish his computer, or if the internet was slow, etc. That's standard issue. However, he was so possessive of his internet time that if we had to bust him off after his time was up he would rush the desk to sign up for the next computer and then get even more pissed off and start cursing if he had to wait at all. Dealing with him in any capacity was just unpleasant. This alone was bad enough to deserve our collective ire. However, he did us one better.

We didn't know that the Evil FedEx Guy knew our patron computer password until he decided to show off with it one day. He had come in for a computer, stayed his half hour and got booted off in favor of a new patron. The wait for a free computer was considerable and he wasn't finished with whatever it was he was doing, but oddly he didn't make a big stink about it like usual.

A few minutes later, Mrs. A came downstairs from her office to find Evil FedEx Guy using the computer in the children's room. She told us all later that right away she knew he had our password.

First of all, it's a hard and fast rule in the library that NO ADULT is allowed use the children's room computer because that computer is exclusively for the use of children. All the staff know this and it is not a rule that is ever violated. Second of all, when that computer IS used by children it is almost only used with the Children's Login setting, which preloads all our games and does not include access to the internet. It is technically possible to use the computer to access the internet, but only if logged in with the adult user name and password, so the chances of EFEG having spied this computer already logged in for adult access were very very slim.

"Excuse me," Mrs. A said, walking over to where Evil FedEx Guy was crouched down on the tiny, child-sized chair, his knees practically against his chest. "How exactly did you come to use this computer?"

Evil FedEx Guy had to know he was caught, but he tried to lie his way out anyway. He stared up at Mrs. A from his lowly position and said, "Um, the lady up front put me here."

"Which lady?"

"Um... Uhh... I don't remember."

Mrs. A no doubt chose this moment to look over her half-glasses at him as though he were a slow-witted child.

"You're telling me that you signed up for a computer and one of our staff logged you on this computer and you don't remember which person it was?"

"Yeah."

"You are not supposed to be using that computer. That computer is for children only. None of our staff would have put you on it either because they all know you're not supposed to be using that computer."

Evil FedEx Guy protested that he had been placed there by a duly appointed staff member, though he couldn't point out any of the ladies on duty specifically. Mrs. A told him in no uncertain terms that she didn't buy it. She told him she thought he had managed to figure out our password and had logged himself on because he didn't want to wait. (Mrs. A isn't afraid to get confrontational when she needs to, particularly when the person she's confronting is a dickweed like this guy.) Evil FedEx Guy slunk away to his truck and it was a good week before we saw him again.

We changed the password due to that incident and tried to keep a better eye out for patrons who seemed overly curious when we logged them on.

Over the following months, Evil FedEx Guy's Intanet Crowd behavior didn't really improve. He still had a tendency to curse often and unnecessarily when we asked him to get off, but he avoided doing so whenever Mrs. A was nearby. At one point, she told us that she had threatened him that if he didn't sit up and be smart he was going to be banned from using the computers. This had the most effect of anything, but he was still no angel. It got to the point that the entire staff would loudly groan in displeasure when we heard his big ol' FedEx van a-comin' up the hill.

Eventually the problem of the Evil FedEx Guy went away when he himself went away. I don't know if he was fired or just quit his job, though my wager is definitely on the former. We've not seen him in nearly two years. It's been bliss.

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