Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Hey, kid, isn't that attitude a little big for you?

I came in last Wednesday to find the library eat up with kids. It wasn’t even a summer reading program day, so I had no explanation. Soon I was told that this was a sort of class-visit from a local summer day-care program. The kids in this day-care program ranged from probably 6 to 12 years of age. It was a pre-planned event, one which allowed us to take contact information in advance with which we made new library cards for all the listed kids who didn’t already have one.

During the visit, Mrs. A noticed two girls trying to log themselves onto an idle patron computer. When she approached them, one of them was typing in “Heather” as the login name, thinking that was going to work.

Mrs. A related the following conversation to me.

MRS. A: Excuse me, girls. How old are you?

HEATHER: Twelve.

MRS. A: I’m sorry, but we don’t allow children under 13 to use the computers without their parents supervision. It’s library policy.

HEATHER: (Puffing herself up with plenty of attitude) No, but my mom signed a permission slip so I could use them.

MRS. A: The permission slips are to let kids 13 and older use the internet. You’re still 12.

HEATHER: (Getting in Mrs. A’s face—always a great idea) My MOM signed a permission slip!

MRS. A: Your mom does not override library policy.

HEATHER: You can call her and get her permission over the phone.

MRS. A: I’m not going to call her because it doesn’t matter if you have her permission; you’re still 12. Now get up and go back in the other room.

Little Miss Heather-pants was most unhappy about this and walked around wielding her newly blossoming 12-year-old-girl attitude like a 60 pound Claymore sword that she could scarcely yet lift. Her cohort in computer crime, a miss Holly Goheavily, was soon to develop into a troublesome pest as well.

When it came time to check out books, Holly Goheavily didn’t have her library card. We hadn't made her one because she already had a patron account with us in the system and her mother was in possession of the actual card. Holly was annoyed that she couldn’t check anything out and tried to argue with Mrs. C that she should be given a brand new card. Mrs. C explained that we wouldn’t be doing that, as she already had an existing card.

“But my brother already has a card and you just gave him a new one!” Holly countered. Sure enough, Holly’s little brother Bratt had just been given a new card, but this was because he DID NOT have one already listed in our database. Holly could not be reasoned with on this point and kept repeating that he already had one because her mom got cards for all of them at the same time.

“Well, he only has one card now and that’s the one we just gave him.”

Holly left angry.

After the class had departed, Mrs. A and C fled the building, leaving me and Mrs. B to run the place. Half an hour or so later, Holly Goheavily and Bratt Goheavily returned, accompanied by Mom Goheavily. Mom marched up to the desk and slapped down two library cards, both of which had Bratt Goheavily’s name on them and slid them toward me.

“How come my son has two cards but my daughter can’t have two?” she said. “This is the one he got today and this one I got months ago.”

I picked up our barcode scanner and zapped the indicated older card. A little window popped up on my screen indicating that this barcode number had no patron record associated with it.

“This one’s not an active card, Ma’am,” I said. “We did double check that your son didn’t have an existing card before we issued the new one and there wasn’t one in the system. Clearly he had one at one time, since we gave you this card, but I can’t say how the account for it disappeared.”

This seemed to satisfy her on that point. I took the dead card from her and threw it away.

After looking around a while, Mom Goheavily returned to the desk with a book from the children’s room's Young Adult section.

“Is there any way to tell what age group these books are for?” she asked.

“Well, sometimes they have a suggested age group printed on the back or on the inside cover,” Mrs. B said. They turned the book at several angles, but there didn’t seem to be an age guide on it.

“It’s just that some of those books in there are filthy,” Mom Goheavily said. “The language and the… the, well, I don’t want my daughter reading them.”

Mrs. B held the book up to show the spine-label on it.

“Ma’am, this is a Young Adult book. If you don’t want your daughter reading young adult material, you might want to tell her to stay away from it.” Mrs. B pointed into the children’s room, where Holly Goheavily was nose deep in the YA section. Mom Goheavily then proceeded to completely freak out on Holly, ordering her to put that book she had down right then and not to take any more from that section. Holly, for her part, tried to bring out her own 60 pound attitude sword, but couldn’t get much lift against such a forceful attitude as her mother’s.

When it came time to check out, Mom Goheavily asked for a parental permission form for her daughter to use the internet. We gave it to her and she filled it out while I checked out more books for Bratt. I was dubious about Holly’s age, though. Mrs. A had not said she was 12 in her earlier story, but I gathered that she likely was. With mom standing right there, though, I figured if I put the question to her she would have to tell the truth.

“And are you 12 or 13?” I asked.

“I’m 13,” Holly said.

“She’s 13,” Mom said at the same time.

“No she’s not,” Bratt said.

“Shhhh!!” Mom said, giving Bratt the look of death. Then, in a low whisper, like I couldn’t hear her clearly from a mere two and a half feet away, she said, “She’s thirteen! She’ll be thirteen in less than a month.”

Yes, that’s the lesson all parents should be teaching their kids: how to lie to get what you want.

We might have let Holly slide on this technicality had she and her mother not perpetrated such deception. Unfortunately for her, the entire staff now knows her true age and her birthday's been circled on her permission form. If she wants to use a computer within the next month, she'll be playing a lot of Mag!c School Bus and Barn3y games, but no internet.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Dreaming of Me (Ooooo, la la la... OooooooooOOOOO)

It was an oddly synchronous kind of day, today.

My best example: This afternoon a college-aged girl came into the library. She was dressed in her best Brittany On Her Off Day blue-jeans and tight hoodie over pastel shirt ensemble, complete with extra makeup. She said she'd been in last week and was told that all of our dream-interpretation books were checked out and overdue. She wanted to know if they had been returned yet. I knew the answer even before I looked `em up on the OPAC. Sure enough, still very much out and very much overdue.

"We do have a couple in our reference room," I offered.

"No. Yew can't check them out," she said. She left, disappointed.

Having missing or otherwise checked out dream dictionaries is nothing strange. They're harder to keep on the shelf than The Da Vinci Code. The patrons who want them never EVER want to simply look up stuff in our reference books on the subject. No, they want a book, or better still BOOKS, they can haul away and pour over for months on end. And they ALWAYS keep them for months on end. After all, it's not like they're going to stop dreaming! There's always a new dream coming down the ol' brain pipe that will require intensive interpretation and consarnit they'd better have a book, or better still BOOKS, on hand to make with the interpretin'. You practically have to have a court order and a crowbar to pry them out of their sweaty little hands. Well, almost always...

Fifteen minutes after the first girl left, a second girl came in and returned ALL of our dream dictionaries. I was so astounded, I forgot to charge her a fine.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Fear me, children!

Mrs. C called me yesterday morning saying she had a big favor to ask. My first thought was that she was not going to be at work that day and it would be a solo Monday for the Juicemeister. However, it wasn't anything THAT scary.

Turns out Mrs. C has a case of shingles and was therefore contageous to people who haven't had chicken pox yet. To make matters worse, we had a kindergarten class visit scheduled for 1:15 and she didn't think it was a good idea that she give the tour. Could I do it?

"Sure. No problem" I said.

I'd never done a class visit before, though. I'd seen them done, but mostly from the other side of the circulation desk where my job was to wave at the kiddies when Mrs. C tells to return their books there and not put them on the book cart, which was only for our use. I didn't figure doing a tour would be a problem, though. I used to give class tours all the time when I worked at Pizza Hut back in college. At least at the "liberry" I wouldn't have to worry about keeping kids from sticking their arms in the oven.

Mrs. C assured me she would write up a list of all the things I needed to tell them.

"Or I could just make stuff up and they'd never know the difference," I said. "Whadda they know? They're in kindergarten!"

"True."

I rolled in to work at 1 and found a small stack of pages awaiting me for things I needed to convey. It was all standard stuff, but phrased in such a way as to connect to the mind of a Kindergartener. The kids didn't give me much time to crib, though, for they arrived ten minutes early. Mrs. C dashed out the back door just as the kids came pouring in and suddenly I was staring at a room full of five year olds looking up at me expectantly.

As easy as I thought explaining the library would be, I kept running into problems, even with Mrs. C's instructions to fall back on. See, I'm used to explaining how the library works to new patrons, but most of the time they at least have a knowledge base of how libraries typically work to build on. These kids were blank slates. So every time I told them anything I immediately realized I had to back track and explain base concepts. I also had to watch my wording. For instance, at one point I was explaining that we put "PB" on the spine-labels (book addresses) of all paperback books but not on the hard back books. I told them "that's how we differentiate between the two." Then I remembered that many of our ADULT patrons would scratch their heads at "differentiate" so I had to start over.

Fortunately, their teacher had been through the drill many more times than me. She helped me out whenever I would try to move on to the next room without explaining everything first--like, don't shove all the books back on the shelf and don't try to reshelve the books yourself and you can use your inside voice in this room, but whisper everywhere else. The kids seemed to pick up on a lot of it, though. And they were all quiet and well-behaved.

I was suprised how nervous I was about it. And I don't even know why. I mean, they're kindergarteners. What better audience could you wish for? You can get laughs with the lamest jokes with them. For instance, while schooling them on how much we charge for fines, I pointed out that we only make you pay for the books themselves if you lose them or if your dog decides to eat them. They would have to pay us for the book and then get their dog to pay them back. They liked that one.

While giving them the tour of the upstairs non-fiction section, I was explaining how they really needed to be quiet up there because that's where our tables are and sometimes people study there. "Like this guy," I said, pointing to one of our patrons who I know is a first year student at my wife's school. He was studying with earphones on, listening to boring lectures, no doubt. He looked up when I pointed to him and then waved to the kids. They stayed quiet.

Fortunately, the teacher is one of the good class-visit teachers who does call ahead a couple weeks ahead and sends over all the contact information for us to make library cards for all the kids. We'd already done all that and had even made photocopies of the backs of the cards so we could scan them from the paper without having to give out the cards and create confusion and chaos. (Let "teach" deal with that back at school, we say.) Each kid was allowed to pick out one book. I think the teacher wanted them to pick out a kids fiction book from downstairs, but a few of the boys had heard me mention race-cars and dinosaurs upstairs, so that's what they wanted. I went up and grabbed a selection and brought them down to pass out.

Over all, it went pretty well, but after they were gone, I kept remembering all sorts of things I should have told them. Then again, they'll probably forget half of what I told them anyway. Whadda they know? They're in kindergarten.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #23

SETTING: My "liberry," some weeks back.

ME: Hi, can I help you?

FEMALE PATRON: Yeah. I was looking for a book called the Da Vinci Code? (She says this in a tone which suggests I might somehow never have heard of it.)

ME: (Affects sudden intake of air) Welllllllll, that may be a hard one to find on the shelf.

PATRON: Really?

ME: Oh, yeah. See, while we own five copies of the Da Vinci Code, they're perpetually on hold. In fact, they've been on hold for nearly two years now. And whenever one does hit the shelf, it's gone almost instantly. I've never seen anything like it before.

PATRON: Wow. Somebody just recently told me to read it. They said it was really good.

ME: Well... it's popular.

PATRON: So when's one due back in?

ME: (Looks it up in the computer. Four copies are checked out, one is horrendously overdue and likely never to be seen again, one is checked in but is actually in the hold bin awaiting pickup, only three people seem to be actively on hold for the next available copy.) Looks like next week, but three people are on hold. Would you like me to put you on hold too?

PATRON: No. I think I'll just check back with you next week.

ME: Um... That's not going to work for this book.

PATRON: That's all right. I'll just check back next week.

ME: No, really, ma'am. I'm serious. It won't work. Any other book we have, sure, but not this one. I swear you'll get it faster if I just put you on hold for it.

PATRON: (Still very cheerfully) No, that's okay. I'll just check back next week.

(This patron has YET to see this book.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Unanticipated and Disappointing Early Return of "Sir Richard Weed"

I wasn't expecting a resolution to the situation with Paranoid Rick James so soon, but it happened and has settled out with no major fireworks. Rats.

I didn't even find out about it until nearly closing time yesterday, when I asked Mrs. C what she and Mrs. A were planning to do about Rick's returned overdue notice.

"Oh, I forgot to tell you... He returned his late tapes on Friday," Mrs. C said with a grin.

"Did he now?" I said, warming to what I hoped was a story of Rick James getting royally blessed out by a double-barrell Mrs. A/Mrs. C combo. I wanted to hear all the details of how they raked him across coals for knowingly omitting the fact that the address he'd given us was no longer valid. It wasn't quite so good as all that, but it's still a nice story.

According to Mrs. C, Paranoid Rick James ambled in by himself Friday afternoon and turned in his overdue books on tape. I'd certainly not expected him to return so soon, but it makes sense as he'd choose to do so on Friday and Rick, cheap jerk that he is, knew we don't charge fines on Friday. Otherwise his would have been in the $7.50 range. Well, they would have if we didn't have that darn $4 fine ceiling.

So Rick drops off his old tapes and heads on back to find new ones. Once he'd selected some, he came back to the desk to check out, where Mrs. C was lying in wait for him.

Can you guess what necessary item for checking things out Paranoid Rick James "neglected" to bring with him? That's right, surprise surprise: his "liberry" card!

"Oh," he said in what Mrs. C reports was a disdainful tone, "I have to have my library card, don't I?"

"Yes, you do," she said. "You also have to provide us with a valid mailing address and a physical address before you can check anything else out. We sent you an overdue notice about your books on tape and it came back to us as having an invalid address."

Rick protested claiming, "Well I told them when I got the card that it was my old address!"

Naturally, I was fuming when Mrs. C related this bit.

"NO. HE. DID. NOT!" I all but shouted. Then I realized I was shouting at the choir, for Mrs. C has heard more than one re-telling on my part of That time I issued Paranoid Rick James a card and she was well-aware that he had said no such thing. And even if she hadn't, it was utter crap that he would even make such an assertion because we're certainly not in the business of handing out library cards to people without valid mailing addresses. That was the ENTIRE POINT of the argument when he first tried to get a card with us, so there's no way we would have accepted a bogus address a week later, even if he had pointed it out, (WHICH. HE. DID. NOT!).

Mrs. C said she listened to him, then told him once again that he would be checking no items out until he provided us with the valid required addresses, not to mention his actual card. Rick wisely decided not to push the issue. He left his pile of books on tape there and said he'd pick them up later. Mrs. C then went up to tell Mrs. A who had been in. They were both laying money that Rick would turn up again, but with Gladys Knight's card just to try and "get one over" on us yet again. However, when Rick came back a few hours later, he had his own card and provided us with a valid mailing address--Gladys's, which is technically his too, since he does live there.

Here's hoping he stays away for another three months.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Juice's Not Quite So Butt-Hard Music Trivia

As I walked in the door last Thursday, Mrs. A, Mrs. C and our friendly neighborhood high-school aged unofficial-library-volunteer-staff-member, Rif, were standing around behind the desk. As soon as they caught sight of me, they said, "Well try it out on JUICE. I bet he'll know."

"Huh?" I said, walking up.

Mrs. A was holding the latest issue of Rolling Stone, the second special issue in their Top 100 Greatest Rock Musicians of All Time As Determined by 50 Cent and Quentin Tarantino series. On the cover was a grid of mug-shots of famous musicians, some of whom the library staff and would-be staff were having difficulty identifying. I took one look at it and said, "James Taylor, Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, Jerry Garcia, Eminem, Joni Mitchel, Frank Zappa, 2pac, Elvis Costello and Axel Rose." The only one that gave me pause was James Taylor, but only because it was a very old photo from back when he had hair and a really poor goatee. Those eyes, though, were unmistakable.

Of course, my fellow employees and Rif were astounded at my knowledge of musicians.

"How did you know all of them?" Rif asked.

"Well, I worked seven years in radio, for one thing," I said. However, I didn't want to tell them that even if I hadn't worked 7 years in radio and wasn't a repository for useless information of all kinds, those were not even a challenge for MOST people with even a passing knowledge of popular music over the past 30 years. Rif I excuse cause he's only 17 and recently admitted to having never heard a song by Prince. And Mrs. J I can excuse, cause I'm not sure she'd even acknowledge there are other genres of music beyond country. But it seems like everyone else should have known more of these. They weren't even curveball artists, like if they'd put Jello Biafra or even Nick Drake on the cover. These were mostly top-40 artists, with the exception of Jerry Garcia and maybe Frank Zappa. Even "Valley Girl" did pretty well for him, though. And, man, everyone knows Jerry Bear!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Maybe I should rename him "Sir Richard Weed"?

Since coming back from Central America, I've been wondering if I've stepped into the Twilight Zone or something. We've had very few Rogues Gallery sightings in the past two weeks. Even Parka, who's almost a daily presence, hasn't been in much at all. Other than Mr. B-Natural putting in a well-behaved appearance, there's not been much to write home about.

Then I arrived at work this morning and saw that by the computer was one of our overdue notices, returned to us by the Post Office due to an insufficient address. It was addressed to Paranoid Rick James.

That's right, the same high-strung little butt-salad-sandwich who, a few months back, raised 8 kinds of hell that we not only required a drivers license but also (GASP!) a physical address in order to get a library card. Yes, the same guy who, after having made such an enormous scene in front of nearly every other staff member BUT me, plus refusing to supply said information to get a card, then came back a week later when I was the only one on shift and gladly seemed to supply it. See he was operating under the mistaken premise that because I had not witnessed his first tantrum I wouldn't have heard about it. He'd even been happy to show me his driver's license and provide the physical address, and since I could find nothing wrong with it I let him have a library card anyway.

"Did you see this?" I asked holding it up for Mrs. C. She nodded and rolled her eyes. Mrs. A too just shook her head in mute fury.

It's not that I was surprised that Rick's overdue noticed was returned to us. I knew something was fishy with his address back in July simply because he was too happy to supply it. What I was surprised about, however, was that he'd actually checked anything out using the card at all. He usually prefers doing all his checkouts using his girlfriend Gladys Knight's card. Apparently he was caught in the library one day without her tagging along and was forced to dig his out.

How he hornswaggled us is very simple and I'm pissed that I didn't do the math until now. When he threw his original fit, it was because we wouldn't just accept his post office box as his address and required him to put down a physical address too. We only require this in the case of post office boxes. When he came back a week later and supplied an address, it was the non-post office box address on his drivers license. My thought is, while the license was current (I did check that much), he had probably since moved from the address listed on it so he didn't feel any qualms about supplying it.

We're still in discussions as to what to ultimately do about Rick. First and foremost, we've blocked his patron account from checking out anything further until he supplies a physical address and proper mailing address. Unfortunately, I doubt he'll bat an eye at that. In fact, he'll probably view it as proof that we're conspiring to get his physical address (and we are!) or he'll view it as some kind of great victory over us, refuse to supply the address and just never check anything out from us using his card again. He'll probably keep coming in with Gladys Knight, though, just to rub our noses in the fact that he's still getting his books on tape through her. Not a lot we can do about that.

We've discussed sending his overdue through Gladys Knight's address, which we assume is correct. They live together so it would piss him off good if we reached him that way. Me, I'm for just phoning him up, assuming the phone number he provided works, and telling him off. Or better yet, getting his physical address through other means and sending the sheriff after him like we told him we would.

Suggestions?

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Fun-Loving Malibu Juice


Today we finally found out what that strange belt-squeak noise was in the engine of my car. Of course, we had to find out the hard way rather than have a mechanic tell us.

As I reported recently, I knew my car was in need of some kind of repair from the odd sounds its engine was making. Since we were already having to go to service stations on a semi-daily basis for the wife’s car and it’s many recent flat tires, I decided to bite the bullet and take mine in for its 100,000 mile tune up. I took it to one of my two usual repair places, the local Chevy dealership. I’ve actually had mixed experiences with them in the past and was once even yelled at by one of their employees for a mistake he had made. But they were the Chevy dealership so they ostensibly would be the ideal place to take a Chevy, so there I went.

We dropped my car off late on an early March Tuesday night. It was a carefully chosen night, because the wife’s rotation in March gave her Wednesdays off so she would be able to shuttle me to work the next day. On the little after hours drop off sheet that I had to fill out with snow falling on my head and wind freezing my fingers, I noted that the belts should be paid attention to as there was a loose belt-squeal sound coming from them. I also checked that I would need an oil change.

“Did you mention the grabby brakes?” the wife asked as I climbed back into her car.

"Uh, no,” I said. I’d forgotten about the grabby brakes. They’ve actually been grabby for quite some time, but the local brake place said everything looked good in them so we shouldn’t worry too much. Still, who likes grabby brakes?

The following morning, the wife called the Chevy place and told them about the grabby brakes just to make sure someone did. They said they’d check them. Meanwhile, they’d already found that the car had a leaky engine intake that needed fixing to the tune of $700. The wife asked if this was something dire in need of fixing or if it was the kind of thing that might wait a few months. They said it could wait provided it wasn’t actively leaking antifreeze. Otherwise we needed to have it done. Well, we’ve seen no leaks whatsoever in our driveway, so they said we’d be cool until we did.

“Did you tell them to do the oil change?” I asked.

“No.”

“Well, it’s on the form I filled out, so I’m sure they’ll get it,” I said.

Despite claiming they would phone us when they knew what was wrong with the car, the garage never called. In the afternoon, I phoned them to learn that the car needed new brake drums in the back. They also said they didn’t want to go ahead with the 100,000 mile tune up because it would involve replacing bits that would have to be replaced again once we decided to have the intake fixed and they didn’t want to do the work twice. Whatever. I didn’t want to pay for it twice either, so that was okay. They also said they couldn’t hear any belt squealing so they hadn’t done anything with that either. I approved them to fix the drums and asked them to call me when they were finished.

Naturally, they did not.

Around 4:30, I called them back because I knew they closed at 5. Their receptionist was never able to get the repair department to answer the phone, but said she’d have them call me back.

Again, they did not phone, so at 5 p.m. I was left with no other conclusion but that my car was not fixed.

The next morning, the wife drove me back to the Chevy dealership where I planned to wait for my car to be finished. If worse came to worse and I needed to get to work, I could always just walk because it’s not terribly far to the library. However, when I arrived they claimed my car was already fixed. So I paid them for the brake drum replacement, noticed they’d charged me for a lube job, which I assumed was the oil change. It was only after I was driving away that I noticed they had not replaced the little Oil Change in X number of Miles sticker on the inside of the window, leading me to believe they’d not actually changed the oil.


The car ran okay for several days, despite the continued belt squeal sound. I could kind of understand them not being able to hear it because it only happened on warm days. Then, on the following Sunday, the right rear tire began to make a horrible clunking sound whenever brakes were applied at low speeds. Not good.

On Wednesday morning, we took the car back in and told them it wasn’t fixed. The man at the counter seemed a bit angry at this. He also didn’t seem to want to accept the car at all. He said he was 4 mechanics short that day and might not be able to get to it. We didn’t see how his lack of mechanics was our problem and told him we would much prefer it if they had a look anyway to see what was wrong being as how we don’t like driving around with horrible clunking sounds coming from allegedly repaired brakes. Dude wrote down a little of what we were saying, but wasn’t writing in near as much detail as I thought he should.

“And would you please have them investigate the belt-squealing sound that I’m still hearing in the engine,” I asked. “Oh, and please change the oil, too.” This seemed to make the man even angrier, but he agreed he would try if they had time.

I went to work.

Again at 4:30 I gave them a call. The Angry Man at the desk said they couldn’t hear any clunking noises coming from the engine nor any squealing noise from the tire. I corrected him that it was actually a clunking noise in the back right tire when braking at low speed and a squealing noise much liken unto a loose belt from the engine pretty much all the time. He still said they couldn’t hear either and suggested I come in the following day to help them hear it.

On Thursday morning, the wife dropped me off at work and I gave the dealership a call around 10:30 to arrange the aforementioned auditory aid session. Angry man answered and said they had driven the car again that morning and still couldn’t hear anything. I told them they might not hear the belt squeal, but the clunking was pretty obvious. He suggested I needed to come in and drive with them. Great! Super! It's only why I called to begin with.

“Sure thing,” I said. “Could I come by at noon?” He said that I could.

At noon, Mrs. B dropped me off at the dealership. Angry man was there and seemed angrier when he saw me. He told me that all the mechanics had gone to lunch from noon to 1, so I’d have to come back later.

“Well, I sure wish you’d mentioned that before you said it would be okay for me to come in at noon,” I said, very calmly.

Angry man flared. Likely he was mad because he’d been the one who screwed up and told me to come at noon when he clearly knew no one would be there. He was also likely mad that I’d pointed out his faux pas and was clearly in the right.

“Well, I’m not going to stand here and argue with you who was right or who was wrong," he said. "Let’s just go give her a drive now.”

“Sure thing,” I said, still remaining admirably calm.

Once he dug up my key and lead me outside, he started making for the driver’s side door of the car.

“Uh, would you mind if I drove,” I said. Angry Man did seem to mind, but didn’t really have any grounds to refuse me the wheel of my own vehicle. To make small talk while I started the car and maneuvered out of the parking lot, Angry Man started back in on the whole the Mechanics drove this car twice and couldn’t hear a thing thread from before. As he was doing so, I applied the brakes until the car was at a very low speed.

"CLUNK CLUNK CLUNK CLUNK CLUNK CLUNK!" went the back tire.

“Hear that?”

Angry man’s mouth dropped open. “Yeah. Yeah, I hear that. Anybody could hear that.” He then became incredibly angry at the incompetence of his mechanic for putting him in such an embarassing situation. I continued to drive the car out of the parking lot and on down the road, both to try and get the belt to squeal and also to make dude that much more uncomfortable for once again having been shown up. The belt never would squeal for me, but like I told him it usually didn’t do it when the weather was cold.

“Uh, you said you needed an oil change too, right?” Angry Man said as we drove back to the dealership. “Well, we did that when you brought it in last week.”

“Oh, really. I thought maybe you hadn’t since no one replaced the mileage sticker.” I pointed to it for him.

"Well… um… they’re supposed to do that,” he said.

We resolved to have them fix the clunk and I would save the belt squeal for a day when it was actually squealing.  And later in the day, after I'd phoned them to ask their diagnosis of my car, they indicated that when they had replaced my brake drums the week before, they’d managed to replace one of them with a faulty brake drum. Good job there, Peaches!


Jump ahead two weeks. The wife and I go out of town for a medical missions trip to Central America during which time my car sits in my driveway. Upon our return, the belt squeal has not gone away, but has in fact gotten worse. This past Saturday it sounded particularly bad and was doing its best impersonation of a choir of crickets throughout the driving experience. I was a bit concerned that something might go wrong with it before I could get to the "liberry" for my Saturday shift. I made it there okay, but almost didn’t make it home.

As I was nearly up the giant hill that leads to my street, I hit a dip in the pavement and heard something beneath the hood give way. As I reached the street itself, I noticed that the power steering was no longer working. As I reached my driveway, the battery light came on. I parked and opened the hood. Sure enough, the serpentine belt was completely off its track. And the reason it was off it's track is because the alternator had fallen off.

No, really. It. Fell. Off.

I’m talking, broken off from the engine block entirely at the bracket.

“Well, that sucks,” I said, staring at it.  "Those complete and utter morons," I added.

Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised by this. However, you'd think that when you go to allegedly qualified Chevrolet repair specialists at an automobile repair garage that deals specifically with Chevrolets and you tell them that your particular Chevrolet is making a sound that's reminiscent of a belt being loose that they'd actually, oh, I don't know, HAVE AN EFFING LOOK AT THE GENERAL BELT AREA or something and maybe noticed that the bracket connecting the alternator had CRACKS IN IT!

MORONS!


I don’t say nearly often enough how much I adore my car insurance company TEXAS-BASED AUTO INSURANCE COMPANY. Genuinely love them.

In addition to being very good insurance for the money we pay in, they also have customer service representatives that should be the envy of all other call centers the universe wide. Just the friendliest most helpful people you could ever care to deal with. And when you phone up USAA you don’t get a huge hassle from any automated answering service that makes you jump through hoops to talk to a real person. No. You get to talk to a real person, and a shiny happy real person at that. And the insurance reps are not only happy but are willing to actually help you out and make sure things are as easy for you as possible. It’s one of the most amazing concepts I’ve ever heard of!

For instance, Linda, the rep I spoke with Monday morning, commiserated with me over how much having one’s alternator fall off truly sucks. Then she cheerfully arranged for a tow truck to come and get my car and haul it to the nearest repair provider, which just happens to be within walking distance of my house. I think I’m in love! Even better, the towing is COVERED by my oh, so marvelous insurance! Glory Be!

The tow truck driver, who Linda said would probably not get there for an hour, actually came in 20 minutes and successfully hauled my car away.

After 8, I phoned Mrs. A and told her I might be late for my 1-5 Monday shift. She said she'd let Mrs. C know.

I then gave it an hour before calling the conveniently located repair place. I was expecting to have to explain why my car had been dumped on them and what I wanted them to fix and then have to wait upwards of a day for this busy garage to get around to doing anything about it. However, they already knew the whole drill about my car. In fact, they’d already been on the phone with parts yards looking for a new bracket for my alternator and expected to hear back from them any time. That wasn’t the truly shocking part, though.

“Did you know your alternator was missing a nut in the back?” my new repair guy asked.

“No. No, I didn’t,” I said.

Apparently, in the back of the alternator there is a bolt that helps hold the thing down and that bolt is supposed to be held in place by a nut. Without the nut, much vibration can occur which can and did cause the metal bracket of the alternator housing to weaken and eventually snap.

Now, I don’t know if the Chevy dealership is directly at fault for that nut being missing or not. I seem to recall them having to put in a new serpentine belt several months ago, (perhaps during the key-yelling incident) but I can’t swear to it. I know they didn’t do it on purpose, because these people seem to hate doing any work at all, let alone bringing more work down on their heads through sabotage. I am of half a mind to call them up and see if I can get a copy of all the work they’ve done on my car just to make sure.

I asked my new repair guy to give me a call when the car was ready. And a mere six hours later, he actually did. Imagine that; a repair shop that actually PHONES YOU when your car is ready, rather than making you guess. I walked on down the hill and picked it up with no problem. The bill was only $86, which didn’t strike me as too bad at all. And the guy was really nice, too. He showed me the old broken alternator bracket and the bolt upon which rested the entire lack of a nut. I think I’ve found my new repair shop.

The only real mixed blessing of the day was that due to lack of transportation, I missed all of my Monday shift.

Shucky. Shucky darn.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Buddy Goes Nutzoid

Not a lot happened today. It was really pretty slow. The only real excitement came when Buddy freaked out on his Unobstructed Doors aide.

It happened about a minute after they arrived, along with their usual "liberry" companion Harry the Killer Midget. Buddy seemed just fine as they walked in the door, but shortly after they went upstairs the screaming began. At first, Mrs. B and I weren't sure what was happening. We just heard Buddy shouting, "No, I will not!" Soon, we saw Harry coming down the stairs, headed for the door, shaking his head in a kind of inevitable way. Behind him came Buddy and their aide.

"BUDDY lower your voice," the aide was saying.

"No! No, I will not!" Buddy screamed.

"We're going back to office, then."

"No! I won't go to the office! I won't!"

"Back to the office."

We were all shocked to see Buddy so angry. He's always been one of the nicest and most soft-spoken of the Unobstructed Doors clients. He always asks your name and shakes your hand. Occasionally, he asks if you're his buddy. Seeing him riled up, though, I was a little afraid that Buddy was going to hit the aide. She didn't back down, though. And despite Buddy's protests that he was NOT going to leave, they left.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

The Fair Tax Plan Can't Happen Soon Enough!

I’m far more Libertarian than I am Democrat or Republican. The L-word can be a bad one for a lot of people, many of whom picture Libertarians as a bunch of pot-heads yammering for drug-legalization. And sure, there’s a lot of them to be found among the ranks. However, I hew more to the strict definition of Libertarian.

The World's Smallest Political Quiz defines Libertarians as those who, “support maximum liberty in both personal and economic matters. They advocate a much smaller government; one that is limited to protecting individuals from coercion and violence. Libertarians tend to embrace individual responsibility, oppose government bureaucracy and taxes, promote private charity, tolerate diverse lifestyles, support the free market, and defend civil liberties.”

Why do I uncharacteristically go all political and start mentioning Libertarians here? Because I like Neal Boortz.

That’s right, I said it. I like Atlanta-based radio on-air personality and card-carrying Libertarian Neal Boortz. He’s terribly entertaining and he’s the guy who I first heard singing the praises of the Fair Tax Plan a couple of years back.

What’s the Fair Tax plan? Well, in case you haven’t heard, the Fair Tax plan is a proposal by which the I R S would be done away with and a new National Sales Tax would be instituted whereby our income tax would be paid through the purchase of goods and services. Such basic necessities as food, shelter, transportation, etc. would still be taxed, but those people with incomes near the poverty level (i.e. folks who aren’t paying income tax under the current system anyway) would receive a monthly rebate of their taxes so they wouldn’t be unfairly treated.

All your frequently asked questions about the plan can be answered at the Fair Tax Page. One question they won’t answer, though, is why precisely am I bringing up Libertarians, Neal Boortz and Fair Tax in the first place.

Because if the Fair Tax system were in place now, I wouldn’t be having to deal with all the patrons coming in and bugging me for obscure income tax forms we don’t have!

Today, from the time I arrived, the next five patrons through the door were after tax forms. One lady looked as though she might bust out crying if she couldn’t get a state tax form right that second. Three others needed obscure forms we don’t stock, but which we can print out from the internet. So every time I’d print off a page or two for a patron and then return the browser back to our standard Opac home page, someone else would come in and need odd forms too and I’d have to go back to the I R S site and hunt them down. After the third time doing this in so many minutes, I just resigned myself to the fact that we’d be pestered by tax people all day and left an extra browser window open to the I R S forms & pubs site.

Of course, after doing that, I didn’t have another obscure tax form request for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

First Day Back

Today was my first day back in the "liberry" saddle following our two-week trip to Guatemala and El Salvador. It was largely uneventful as far as the usual "liberry" madness goes, but eventful in other respects. I popped in at 1p, laden with souvenirs for the library staff. Mrs. C and Mrs. B were the only ones in the front room, and they immediately asked how my trip went.

"Fantastic!" I said.

"I've got big news too," Mrs. C whispered.

"Yeah?"

She nodded furiously, then whispered, "I'm expecting."

This is huge news for Mrs. C. She and Mr. C have been trying to have a child for the past year and it's not been a fun time. Well, I'm sure it's been a fun time in some respects, but the results have not been what they've wanted. So congrats to Mr. and Mrs. C!

The staff, of course, had plenty of questions concerning my trip. Unfortunately, giving any kind of overview of a two-week mission trip in a short period of time is a very difficult thing to do. We had such an amazing time, saw and heard of such harrowing and heart-warming things and had so many mini-adventures in the process that you can't really Cliff's Notes it effectively. But I gave them a few highlights and lowlights. And once Mrs. A and Mrs. J came downstairs too, I gave everyone their souvenirs.

I bought five colorful pottery sun-faces at an Indian market in Antigua. They're essentially the same little ornamental sculpture, painted in different shades. Unfortunately, three of them were slightly chipped in a horribly true Continental Airlines-related incident at the Houston International Airport on the way home. (The chipping was actually getting off light in this case, as Ashley had part of a much larger pottery piece broken during the same incident.) Still, these were only chipped on the edges of a couple of the sun rays, so they’re still nice to display. I apologized for bringing them broken pottery, but gave them over anyway.

I also brought them each their own bag of fried plantain chips. These are plantains sliced lengthwise, salted and fried like potato chips. They’re just some of the most tasty fried chips you could ever want, though I doubt they are much better for you than potato chips. Sweet and salty all at once, they’re just tasty and good. Everyone broke open their bags and began sampling.

I asked what sort of incidents had occurred at the library in my absence? I fully expected them to relate something that I would fully regret having missed—like Chester and Parka having a shootout in the parking lot or something. Nope. The only notable incident they could recall was Mr. Stanky putting in an appearance yesterday and being particularly stinky even for him.

“You know,” I began, “I smelled a pretty wide array of B.O. when I was in Guatemala, but none of it came anywhere close to touching his.”

The only other possible incident was reported on our circ-desk note-pad. Our weekender, Miss K, noted that one of our long-time patrons, Mr. Crab, (who is also a long-time library donor and not afraid to let you know that should anything not go quite his way) had been in on Saturday and was completely pissed off that he couldn't use his old library card from the old nearly year-gone VTLS system. Mind you, Mr. Crab has a new library card on the new nearly year-old system, but he still carries his old card with him and is insulted that he can't use it. Miss K reported that Mr. Crab said he thought the way we had set up the new system was done in an unintelligent fashion and he insisted that we put his old barcode number from his old card in the new patron record so he could use it instead of his new card. I’m still not entirely sure what this man’s beef truly is, but even on his best days Mr. Crab could give Mr. B-Natural and Mr. Smiley a run for their Grumpiest and Second Grumpiest Old Man in all the World titles. Ms. K reported that she wasn’t sure what to do so she added the man’s old barcode to his patron record in addition to his new one just to shut him up. She indicated which barcode we should delete in case this was wrong. Mrs. A then had a note at the end of the account telling us to delete the old barcode.

I'm somehow sure this won't be the end of it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Lennie `n' Me

I wasn't completely solo yesterday. Lennie, our mentally handicapped Monday/Thursday volunteer came in for his shift at 1. Mostly when Lennie is in, he's there to talk to Mrs. C, who he's known forever. He talks to me too, but mostly to repeat his theme of the day or to latch on to something I've said that connects to something he's heard of. When I'm there solo, like yesterday, there's not as much communication. This is probably my fault, as I don't have all that much to say to Lennie beyond the usual small talk. He's not one for in-depth conversation and tends to return to such topics as N ascar, West Virginia college sports, how cold it is, or to whatever his theme for the day is.

Mostly, Lennie tries to be helpful, or at least look helpful. He straightens books and carries non-fiction upstairs to put on the cart. Sometimes he disappears upstairs for a whole half hour, where I'm sure he's doing more shelf-straightening. And since Mrs. C wasn't there to tell him not to, he used her computer to surf the web, look at pictures on _Yah oo_ and watch clips from the new _Sylves ter Stal lone_ reality show. That was fine by me, if it gave him something to do. Otherwise, he wanted to come over and keep resetting my computer timers.

We keep three kitchen timers set up at the circ-desk to time how long each computer patron has been on their computer. We give them a half hour and after that we don't run them off unless someone is waiting. The timers count down from 30 minutes and then I set them to 01, 02, or 03 seconds to indicate the order in which potentially bumpable patrons should be bumped. Lennie doesn't get that. He just sees stalled timers that need to be reset to 30 minutes and makes it his job to reset them. He won't mess with timers that are counting down, but if the little : isn't blinking, they're his to reset. So throughout Lennie's time there, I had to keep resetting his resets in order to make sure I was busting off the right patron when it came time to do so.

I tried explaining my system to him and he would nod as though he understood. This would only last for about a minute and he would go and reset the timers again.

At one point, a college-aged girl came in to use a computer. Lennie, who had been keeping vigil over the timers, wanted me to know which one was available. I thanked him and told the girl which one to use. She wasn't even out of the room yet before Lennie piped up with, "She's a good lookin' one, ain't she, JUICE?"

I don't know if she heard, cause I didn't make eye contact with her. I can't see how she didn't, though. All I could think to do was agree with him in the hope he wouldn't keep repeating his question until he got an answer, and saying, "Yes" was the safest response I could think of.


Monday, March 14, 2005

Solo Monday Hell?

Well, my much dreaded Monday solo-shift was no problem at all. In fact, if I didn't know it was Monday, I would have sworn it was a Sunday shift.

There was none of the usual Monday rush whatsoever. The computers did steady business, but I only had to bust off patrons twice and then it leveled out.

We didn't even have a call from Mr. Kreskin--an almost unprecedented occurrence considering that both Mrs. A and Mrs. C were gone. In fact, we didn't even have any calls specifically for Mrs. A or Mrs. C. I was dumbfounded.

Of course, Parka rolled in around 2. I told him I'd have a computer for him as soon as I could ask a patron to get off. He went back to wait in the next room. At that point, I noticed a woman standing in the front room who was giving me the stink eye. It occurred to me that she'd been standing there for quite a while.

"Um, can I help you?" I asked.

"Computer," she whispered. She seemed to have lost her voice.

"Ohhh... And you signed in already?" She nodded. "I'm sorry. I didn't know." I realized then that she'd signed in when I was out of the room about ten minutes before and I never realized what she was there for. And even though I'd already told Parka he could have one first, I didn't mind bumping him for the lady. Oddly, Parka didn't seem to care either, when I told him.

Once he got a computer, Parka stayed all the way to close. Correction: He actually departed at 10 til close, which was a good 5 minutes later than he should have. I had gone back at 4:35 to tell all the computer users that I was shutting the computers down at 4:45. I was hoping Parka would complain, but he didn't. Instead, he verbally acknowledged that he understood and thanked me for telling him.

The other computer users departed before the deadline, but I had to go back and remind Parka at 4:45 that it was time to get off. He didn't, but unfortunately I had a minor closing time rush to deal with up front, so I wasn't able to go back and tell him off. I so wanted to go back and say, "Look, I told you it was time to get off five minutes ago and I'm not playing around. Do you really want me to tell MRS. A that I'm having problems with you? Because she's already told me that she told you that if she gets one more complaint about you from her staff you'll be banned from the computers. Seems to me with as many computer access points as you've been banned from recently, you'd be a little more concerned about not pissing off the only one that will let you in."

Before I could get free from the desk to go do this, he finally relinquished his system and left at 10 til. He even shut it down for me. Bastard.


Saturday, March 12, 2005

Slow Sadderdee in the Snow

It snowed last night and dumped a good few inches on us, so the wife and I had to dig out in order to leave the house this morning.

My Saturday shift was very quiet. We didn't even have any patrons until 9:30, and then it was only Mr. B-Natural, who, as in accordance with tradition, tried to sneak his coffee back to the computers, again.

"And please leave your coffee at the front desk," I said, after logging him on. Mr. B-Natural started growling at this and seemed like he was gearing up for some sort of verbal complaint. By that time, though, I'd already walked away giving him no one to vent his frustration at. This is my standard policy in all things involving Mr. B-Natural. He is, after all, the grumpiest old man in the world and prone to grumbling and complaining when faced with being told that he can't have coffee by the computers despite the fact that we have told him that 12,000 times.

Beyond him, the day was very light up until closing time at 2p. That's when everyone decides it would be a fantastic time to head to the library and we had whole families pouring in starting at 10 til close. One family knew when we closed and gathered their choices and checked out in efficient time. Another family also knew when we closed, but they had neglected to bring their library cards so they couldn't check anything out and had to leave. A babysitter/sitee team didn't know when we closed, but were able to make a choice pretty quick. The holdouts were a dad and daughter who came in at 5 til and immediately camped out at the magazine rack upstairs. They acted surprised and vaguely offended when I told them, at 1:58, that we would be closing in two minutes.

"Oh, you close that early on Saturday?"

"Yes, sir, we do."

"I didn't know that," he said.  And he said it in a tone that indicated he didn't like it and wasn't sure if he would be complying with it. And he didn't. At 2p straight up, the guy and his daughter had made no move to leave. In fact, they didn't come downstairs until a full 4 minutes after closing time. I had plenty of book-shelving and other duties to attend to up front, so I didn't make a fuss. But I was annoyed. My annoyance hiked up several degrees when, after they finally came downstairs, the man announced, "Guess I need to find something to read."

What I did NOT say: Uh, no. It was time to find something to read at two minutes til close back when I first warned you. That window has now been painted shut and we have now pried open the window for Getting the Hell Out.

Fortunately, dude found a book quickly and actually had his library card. Glory be!

"I didn't know you closed early on Saturday," the man said again as I stamped his date due slip.

"Yup. 9 to 2 on Saturday."

"Is that new?"

"Nope. Been that way for quite a while now," I said. Try 15 years, dude!

"Oh. Shows what I know."

Friday, March 11, 2005

Actual Terrifying Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #21

SETTING: MY "LIBERRY", YESTERDAY.

MRS. C: Hey, JUICE. Got an internet question for you.

ME: Okay.

MRS. C: What's a blog?

(My heart does that thing where it stops beating for several seconds. All the blood backs up into my eyes making them go all tingley and stuff. Mrs. C walks over with a piece of paper that turns out to be from some library-related place, possibly from the library commission, but I didn't get a good look at it cause I was too busy trying to get my blood-engorged eyes to focus on anything that might look like it leads back to me. I can't find anything. Finally, I see that Mrs. C is pointing to a listing for Blogs that's nestled among those for other such online creatures.)

ME: (Adopting what I hope is a nonchalant tone.) They're like online journals.

MRS. C: Oh, like diaries.

ME: Yeah.

MRS. C: (Taking paper away.) Okay. I just wondered and figured you would know.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

I'll take "Albums By the Police" for $400, Alex

Despite the many many times I've seen it happen, it still never fails to astonish me when we the "liberry" staff can be talking about a person we haven't seen in months only to have them walk through the door hours or even minutes later. I call it Don't Say The Name, It Gives Them Power syndrome.

Wednesday afternoon, the subject of Conspiracy Guy came up. I don't even recall how it came up, exactly. I think Mrs. B was telling Mrs. A about Conspiracy Guy's last appearance as an example of patrons who get upset when asked to provide a driver's license number to get a library card. We all laughed.

Two hours later, after the rest of the staff had departed for the day, in he walked. It almost startled me to see him, as though he had known we were talking about him and was coming in to get angry about it. Nope.

"Do you guys have one of those... um. It's about this big," he said, holding his hands out about two feet apart, "and you use it to... You put the pages together and it clips them with the little plastic thing?"

"Uhhhh, do you mean one of those report covers, with the clear cover and the little plastic clip on the end?"

"No. No. This is big. About this big." Again, with the hands out. "You bind pages together with it, for like, booklets."

"Mmmm, I don't think so."

"They're about $100 bucks—more than a person could really pay for. The college used to have one, but theirs is broke. Do you guys have one?"

"Uh, no. No, I don't think so," I said again, still not entirely sure what he was talking about. Conspiracy Guy just stood there looking at me for ten seconds or so, as though I was suddenly going to realize that, Oh! Yes, indeed we do have such a device. And, what do ya know, here it is behind the counter! You can have it!

"No, that doesn't sound like anything we have," I added. He stared at me some more, but eventually gave up on that quest and turned toward the floor shelf where we keep our library card applications.

"Do ya'll still have that policy that you have to have a driver's license number to get a card?"

"Yes," I said. "We do still require that."

Conspiracy Guy looked like he might snarl. "That's just..." His voice trailed off, but I got the impression he was about to say "crazy."

"You know, they just passed it into law that we all have to have bio-metric drivers licenses. It's a national database."

"Yeah, I heard something about that recently, but I haven't looked into it in depth," I said. I'd actually heard exactly what he had just said, but it was in the traditional Internet Rumor Spam format, so I hadn't given it much thought.

"They said it was just the states doing it on their own, but now they've had to admit it's H0meland Secur!ty doing it. That's why I wanted the binding thing, so I could put some books together and maybe try to tell people about the rights they're about to lose. Not that they'll do anything about it."

"Ah," I said. I could feel my lips, cheeks and forehead tightening up in preparation for a good bout of stone-facedness. It was for naught, though. Conspiracy Guy turned away and said he would go have a look around upstairs. And I'm almost certain he was going to go have a look around for the mystery binding device that we were clearly hiding from him.

While he was gone, I figured I'd look into this driver's license national ID card to see what was up with it. I had heard some news stories about some standardization being legislated, but until the rumor-esque e-mail that had been circulated to me, I'd not heard about bio-metrics being legislated. 

After a cursory Google search, I found a few sites with news about it, but nothing that startled me too much. I initially found: From Christian Science Monitor, Joe Huffman's Blog, International Card Manufacturer's Association, and two links to reports on how my very state of residence is jumping into the bio-metrics pool with both feet, at Find Biometrics.com and HomelandDefenseStocks.com.

I've since gone out and tried to find actual conspiracy-related links about them. Most of what I've found is about state's allowing illegal aliens to have drivers licenses, but I did find a few more traditional conspiracy pages in this vein by Googling "national i d card con spiracy". If you're interested, you can go look and make up your own mind. Most of the sites I found read like semi-delusional ramblings from people, some of whom cannot spell the word NATIONAL, jumping with great force to as many sinister conclusions as they can reach. Doesn't mean they're wrong, per se, but I have no difficulty imagining a dozen Conspiracy Guy clones sitting at their computers, banging out this stuff in between trips to their local "liberry" to inquire about the use of mystery binding-devices.

Even more alarming, many of these sites currently seem to be big supporters of Hilary in 2008.

Conspiracy guy came back down after half an hour. He declined to say anything more to me. We'd hidden his binding device too well.

Well-played, Clerks.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Parka Engulfed

At 6:35 yesterday—that’s 25 minutes to close for those playing at home—Parka rolled in for his daily online skank-chat. He didn’t even bother signing up on our clip-board at the desk. He just followed me on back, like I was really going to let him get away with that.

“Uh, did you sign in?” I asked.

“Oh. I forgot. Sorry,” he said.

He went back to sign in while I logged him on the little computer by the stairs. This might seem an act of malice on my part, as Parka has had a long-standing hatred for the little computer by the stairs. However, since we bought two new Dells to replace the other two patron computers a few weeks back, Parka has preferred the old one by the stairs. This is because when our tech guys set up the new machines they reset all the passwords, failed to tell us the new admin password and then promptly left town without installing Microsoft Office nor several other programs our patrons are used to having access to. In their defense, the tech’s didn’t have any of those programs with them at the time of installation. But there seems to be no timetable as to when they’re going to come back and do the job nor whether or not we can just have the admin password so that we can do so ourselves. (In fact, from what I’m told, the techs have even gone so far as to suggest that they cannot install Office on the new systems because of some security issues and that they will instead be installing Wordperfect—a.k.a. The Devil. That sounds like a load of stall-tactic crap to me, so perhaps the person I heard this from was misinformed.) The new machines, things of speed and beauty that they are, thus have no word processing, nor some sort of Sound/Chat program that Parka likes to use when chatting with his e-skanks. He now almost always requests to be put on the little old computer by the stairs, cause it still has what he wants. I graciously obliged, despite his attempt not to sign in first.

At 6:55, I went back at let Parka know that he only had 5 minutes until we closed. He acknowledged what I’d said by saying, “Okay.”

At 7 p.m. straight up, I went back and told him, “It’s about that time.” Again, he acknowledged what I’d said by saying, “Okay.” However, as I returned to the front room, I heard him return to typing in his e-skank chat window.

In the front room, I noticed the runner carpet was filthy from all the snow/mud traffic we’ve had today. It would have to be vacuumed. I waited for a little, hoping Parka would come on and leave so I could lock up and vacuum in peace, but the sounds of his incredibly loud typing did not ease up as though he were planning to stop any time soon.

At 7:01, I went back to get the vacuum from the Hobbit door beneath the stairs. The Hobbit door is located directly beside Parka’s computer. He didn’t even slow in his chatting as I lugged the vacuum out.

“It really IS that time now,” I said as Parka’s second warning. He didn’t even look up.

I returned to the front room with the vacuum, but I was getting progressively more pissed as the seconds and typing sounds ticked by. Parka wasn’t planning to move. Instead, he was back there thinking: “What grand fortune! Library boy’s gonna be busy vacuuming for at least a minute, giving me extra time to chat with my e-skanks. And I won’t make any move to leave until at least a minute after he stops. Puh-puh-puh-Parkaaaa Powerrrrr!

I gritted my teeth and marched back to the computer hall where Parka was still typing away.

“Uh, no, really, it IS. THAT. TIME. NOW,” I said. I saw him look up at this, but he didn’t say anything. I returned to the front and began vacuuming, determined that if Parka hadn’t moved by the time I finished I was going to shut the computer off in his face and let him know he would never again be allowed to stay all the way until close. Hell, our official computer policy is that computers are to be turned off at 15 til close anyway. I was being more than generous in letting him stay til 7.

About mid-way through my vacuuming job, Parka came out. He said something to me that I couldn’t hear over the vacuum. I turned it off.

“What?”

“I said, what were you trying to say back there? I didn’t hear you.”

Bull, and might I add, shit. Sure, he’d had his headphones on, but even if he couldn’t hear my exact words there’s NO FREAKIN’ WAY he didn’t know exactly what the message was. Not as many times as this little closing-time scenario’s played out.

I blinked at him for a moment, then said, “I was letting you know, again, that we’re closed.”

“Oh. Okay,” he said. “Sorry. I had the headphones on and was kind of engulfed.”

“Uh huh.”

So let the word ring out. Officially, when Parka’s in house, I am forever more shutting off the computers at 15 til, just like our rules say we're supposed to. No more coasting past closing time for Mr. Parka A. Hole. And Lord help the man if he says a word about it.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Flat Monday

Here I was, fresh out of the bed this morning, had time to make coffee for me and the wife, rub her shoulders and help her get her stuff together for her long 50 minute trek to Town-R where she's doing her family practice rotation this month. I smooched her goodbye and she went out the back door. I figured I'd have some coffee, do some blogging about how my Sunday shift went yesterday, and then head to work at 12:30 myself.

"I've got a flat!" I heard the wife call from the driveway.

Sure enough, the back left tire of her Ford Escort station wagon was completely flat. I threw on some warm clothes and shoes and went down to help with what I knew would be an incredibly frustrating task.

Unlike, say, my car, the Escort is just a beeyotch when it comes to changing its tires. The lug-nuts fuse with their posts and it takes much cursing and sweat and pain and more cursing in order to get them off. We worked at it for fifteen minutes and not one of them would budge despite my liberal cursing and caveman growls of frustration.

"Do we have WD-40?" she asked. Yes, we did. I fetched it and sprayed hell out of the lug-nuts. Still no dice.

"Why don't we just have it towed?" I said. After all, our deliciously good auto-insurance covers towing. She didn't want to do this, though. Not for a tire.

We worked at it some more, taking turns grunting against the four spoke tire-tool, our hands burning with effort. Nothing.

"Maybe I can jack the car up just a little," the wife said. "Maybe there's too much pressure from the weight of the car itself." She got her jack out and slid it under the car, turning the crank until the car lifted off of the asphalt driveway a couple of inches. I then took the tire-tool and stuck one of its spokes onto the top lug-nut. I turned it and it gave with a jerk.

"Bless your brain!" I told her. I moved the tool to the next nut. It too gave with a jerk. I then went around each of the nuts like this until I got to the final one, which I continued to try and turn after the initial jerking give. The gives continued to jerk. It was only then that I realized that I had been using the wrong size socket on the tire tool the whole time, using one that was big enough to let the nuts slip around within its grasp, giving us the illusion that things were turning when they most certainly were not.

I turned my cursing up a notch at this, invoking an unpleasant image that involved a dog and, perhaps, a condom.

"We have to have this towed!" I said.

Nope. She still didn't want to tow it over a flat tire. Instead, she said we should let it soak in WD-40 for the day, applying new coats as needed, and if we still couldn't get the thing changed by tomorrow morning, then we'd call a tow. Meanwhile, I would need to drive her to work.

No worries there. I don't mind doing that at all.

I suspected, though, that this would only be the FIRST frustrating thing to happen to me today. It was, after all, a MONDAY.

Turned out, though, it wasn't so bad after all.  It was certainly hectic, but nothing two people can't handle. In fact, Mrs. A said that she'd never before seen more people pounding on the door to get in before our Monday opening time of 1p. I saw two more of them myself at 12:55. Can people not see the GIANT white sign pinned to the door that reads "THE LIBRARY OPENS AT 1 P.M."? No, they can't, or just obstinately try the door anyway, just in case.

The only real chaos came when some girls from one of the local homes for wayward youth came in with their guardian. Actually, they weren't even all that chaotic, except that they each wanted a library card, which made the desk kind of busy for a while. They all seemed nice enough, if a bit too made up in some cases. (I mean, come on; what 15 year old really needs half-inch eyelash extensions mascaraed out to darn nigh a full inch? Even Paris Hilton would have been startled by these.)

Three of the girls were looking for How-To books on witchcraft. ("Not the bad kind of witchcraft. The good kind," one of them said.) I knew they were SOL on this front, but did a search for them anyway just for show. We only own one book that comes anywhere close and that's the Dictionary of Witchcraft. It's hardly a How-To guide. We also have to keep it behind the circulation desk because whenever we actually shelve it upstairs it turns up stolen within a very short time and we have to buy another. I used to think it was being horked by would-be witches, but now I'm pretty sure it's more likely that non-Pagan patrons are doing the stealing, which seems somehow even more wrong. After all, the Ten Commandments don't say, Thou Shalt Not Steal, Unless Something Really Sticks in Thy Craw.

One of the girls already had a library card, but she had neglected to bring it with her. I know this because she opened her checkout attempt with, "You'll have to look my name up, because I left my library card in my locker." I looked her up and she did have a patron record, but I told her I couldn't check anything out to her without a card. She then suddenly remembered that she lost her card and how could she get a new one? Sorry, chick, not gonna fly. You already told me you left it in your locker and since I now know you have a card I'm not giving you a new one cause you inconveniently left yours elsewhere.

Other than nearly locking a slow-moving patron in the building trying to get the place closed at 5, work went pretty good.

I got home at 5:15 and sprayed down the lug-nuts with WD-40 again. Probably the fifth coat of the day. Then, with a little English behind it, I was able to genuinely loosen all but one of the lug-nuts. I soaked it good and waited. After picking the wife up at 8:20 and returning home by 9:20, we tried again and it finally gave too. Tomorrow I get to go find a tire place to repair the nail gouge in the
tire while she takes my car in to work.

Friday, March 04, 2005

The Near-Miss Returns of Barbara Turdmurkle

I was at the circ-desk on a Wednesday night, a couple weeks back. All of my fellow employees had departed, including Mrs. A who had just walked out the door. After a minute, the phone rang.

*RING*
ME: Tri-Metro County Library.

MRS. A: (From her car outside) Hey, it's me. I just wanted to warn you, Barbara TURDMURKLE may be on her way in.

ME: Mmm boy.

MRS. A: She's sitting in a car in front of the lib... oh, wait, no. She's getting out now. Just thought I'd warn you.

ME: Thanks.

MRS. A: Good luck!

There passed several tense seconds as I waited for Barbara Turdmurkle to show her face. I don't rightly recall what she looks like, as I have rarely had to deal with her beyond phone calls. Oddly, though, Barbara Turdmurkle never appeared at all. I don't know if she just parked out front and walked somewhere else or what, but she never came inside. Kind of a nice near-miss situation. (We'd had another earlier that day, when Mr. Stanky drove up, failed to find a good parking place for his Stankmobile and then drove away to befoul greener pastures.)

Though I haven't had to personally deal with Barbara Turdmurkle much in the past, I have heard tales from my co-workers that could curdle your blood. From all accounts, she is stark-raving mad but feels a deep-seated compulsion to convince everyone she meets that she's not. And if that involves producing documentation, often in the form of photographs of herself from back when she was "normal-looking,"--her words--she'll do it. (Again, I can't even say that she looks abnormal now, I see her so little.)

When not trying to convince everyone of her sanity, Barbara spends her spare time eavesdropping on the activities of her 20-something neighbor in the apartment next door to hers and phones the police to complain whenever she hears the girl having sex. We know this, because Barbara has made it a point to tell us that she frequently does this.

I say "us" but what I really mean is "Mrs. B," who is kind of Barbara's ambassador to the world.

See, crazy people looooove Mrs. B. This is probably because, unlike the rest of us, Mrs. B actually pays attention to the crazy people, sometimes give them rides places, and almost always returns their phone calls. You do that enough and you develop a reputation among the crazy populace as the go-to gal. Barbara is no exception. Barbara likes telling Mrs. B of her many problems, and about all the people she knows who either think she's crazy or otherwise aren't behaving as they should. It seems to come in cycles, though, for she's not a regular patron. Just every few months she gets it in her bonnet to come talk to Mrs. B and any other employees who happen to be there too. I have, unfortunately for this blog, missed out on most of her appearances. But I do get to talk to her on the phone.

For instance, the day after the above near miss with Barbara Turdmurkle, I had another one. I was running the desk for Mrs. C and Mrs. B while they were engaged with Thursday morning story hour.

*RING*

ME: Tri-Metro County Library.

BARBARA TURDMURKLE: Um. Yes. Is MRS. B... no, wait... that's not right. Is that right? What's that girl's name? MRS. B? Yes. Is MRS. B available?

ME: I'm sorry, she's not. She's in the middle of story hour right now.

(This, by the way, was the 5th such call I'd fielded for Mrs. B and/or Mrs. C, both of whom were engaged in separate story-hour groups. I'll give Barbara a pass on this, but all the other calls had been from people, often other librarians, who knew bloody well better than to call them during story hour.)

BARBARA TURDMURKLE: When will she be finished?

ME: Uhhh, I'd say 11:30 would be safe.

BARBARA TURDMURKLE: Oh. I see. Well then. This is BARBARA TURDMURKLE and I just wanted to ask her a question. So if you could give her my number and tell her to give me a call when she's finished.

Mrs. B did finish up around 11:30 and noticed the note I'd left her to call B.Turdmurkle. She sighed and picked up the phone.

Would ya like to take a guess as to what Barbara Turdmurkle wanted to ask Mrs. B about? Why, yes, you're right. She wanted to ask Mrs. B to renew the same bloody book I'd already assured her days earlier was NOT on her card in the first place. And the REASON it wasn't there? Turns out it's because when Barbara tried to check it out, she neglected to bring her library card and Mrs. B had checked it out on her own personal card in order to get Barbara to simply leave without a big scene. Now my own policy is that I never check books out to patrons on it unless they're sweet little old ladies who genuinely forgot theirs, and Never. To. Crazy. People. However, I can see the logic in resorting to such a move in order to get rid of someone as troublesome as Barbie T.

It took Mrs. B nearly a minute to explain the situation to Barbara in a way that finally seemed to convince her. After that, Mrs. B asked how things were going in Barbara's life, which lead to the latest installment of Barbara's ongoing battle with her over-sexed neighbor and how the police chief himself had now told Barbara to stop calling him about it and how she couldn't speak to the girl about it again because anything they said to one another these days came from a place of anger and was not constructive.

Barbara's latest mission is to find someone gullible enough to come hang curtains for her. She's told this to Mrs. B several times, but Mrs. B has wisely not taken the bait.

I might do it just to have material to blog about if I didn't know that such an act would get my name put on the Crazy People Go-To list for life. The less Barbara Turdmurkle knows my name the better.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

And on that Rogue related note...

...I nearly saw Chester get run over yesterday.

He was inside his Fugly at the time, but if he'd been two seconds quicker he would have gotten schmacked in the driver's side door.

I was on my way to the comic shop when I had to stop at our most hectic intersection to wait to cross the street. While there, a north bound car tried to make a last second left turn through the yellow light they had. They had assumed that the approaching south bound car (i.e. Chester in his Fugly) was going to stop and let them do this. Chester, however, didn't even look at them and decided to make a last second right turn on the yellow light before it could change to red, at which point he would have been legally bound to pay attention to the "DO NOT TURN RIGHT ON RED AT THIS INTERSECTION" signs hanging everywhere. He had nearly made his turn when he glanced up and noticed that the north bound car was about to crunk him a good one and he slammed on his brakes. He looked quite put out about it.

I'm actually glad he didn't get hit, though. As a witness to the incident, I would have been obligated to stick around and tell the police what I'd seen and I wasn't entirely sure if Chester was at fault. I would really have hated to lend his dumb ass any support. It might have lead to yet another sad attempt on his part to get me to shake his paw.

Rogue Rumors & Confirmations

Been a lot of news on the Rogue Rumor front this week.

According to Mr. Rob, the librarian over at the local community college, The Patron Who Must Not Be Named, a.k.a. Chester the (Potential) Molester/Community College Janitor, has been ordered by his superiors that he is not to set foot on the grounds of the community college unless he's actually scheduled to work that day and actually working.  Another way to put this is that all of Chester's off-hours are to be spent ogling women elsewhere rather than on community college grounds. I suppose by inference this means that he's free to ogle-away provided he's on the clock, but they don't want to see his face otherwise.

That's actually the rumor portion of the message, as Mr. Rob is uncertain as to whether the janitor in question is one in the same as our Chester. We know it has to be, as we have other sources who've confirmed that Chester's employed there. If the janitor Mr. Rob has mentioned isn't Chester, then they seem to have something of a pervert-hiring policy.

The other pervert sighting came Monday, when Parka stopped by (clad, of course, in his namesake big puffy white parka) to look at as much porn as our internet filters will allow him to. It's apparently more than we'd usually care for and has caused me to wonder whether the filters are working properly on the new patron computers we recently purchased.

Parka was in there for a couple of hours that afternoon. During this time, a 20-something woman who looked very familiar to me came in and used a computer too. After about 15 minutes, she came up to the circ-desk, smiled and in a low voice said, "The, uh, `gentleman' on the middle computer back there..."

"Uh huuuuh?" I said, adopting my best I know what's coming next tone.

"He's, um, well... I don't know what your policy is about this, or if you have one, but he's back there looking at... well, pornography."

"Uh huh."

"I know he's doing that because he's been asked to leave the ORNATHOLOGICAL COFFEE SHOP (Not Its Real Name) for doing that on our computers. I know. I work there."

"Uh huhhhh," I said, both at the revelation of Parka getting kicked out of one of our local coffee shops and from the revelation that that's where I knew this girl from. I told her, "Well, we don't really have any policy against it, but we are well aware of what he does back there."

She smiled knowingly, nodded and then departed.

It somehow warms my heart to know that we're not the only folks in town that are annoyed by Parka.

I think Parka's still out of work. Maybe I should tell him the community college is hiring.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Phone call from Dad

When you live nearly 700 miles away from your parents, it's always a bit disconcerting to receive a call from one of them at work. You immediately think the worst has happened and start preparing your heart for a bad fall. That's what I did with my heart, at least, when my dad phoned me at work today. Nothing at all was wrong, though. Dad merely wanted to know what name I went by back when I was DJing on the radio in Charlotte, NC.

Dad said he'd been doing his morning check of Statcounter for his website when he noticed someone from the The Charlotte Observer had come by for a look at some of his favorite sub-pages. Dad was quite curious as to what a major newspaper would be doing at his site. So much so that he gave them a call to find out. Nothing major was up on that front either. It turns out the visit came from a couple of guys down in the mail-room who were goofing around on the net and stumbled on the page by mistake. However, during the conversation(s) Dad had in order to gain that tidbit of information, he managed to mention that he had a son who used to work in radio in Charlotte a few years back. At that point, the person at the paper asked what my on-air name was, in case they knew me. Dad wasn't sure, but promised to call them back once he'd found out.

"It was Erik Winston," I told him. "Just like it was when I worked in Tupelo. I doubt they know anything about me, though, cause I only DJed on the weekends."

Dad seemed happy with this and we soon hung up. Less than a minute later, he phoned again to ask what station I'd worked at.

"107.9 The Link," I said. He hung up again and was off on his next adventure.

At that point, I looked up at Mrs. C and said, "How come my dad in Mississippi can manage to find the phone number here without a phone book, yet nobody in town can manage to find it with one?"

"That's a good question," Mrs. C said.

I say "nobody" can find our number in the phone book, but from the number of calls we receive each day obviously some people are able to find it. However, we do get quite a few calls from people who've had to phone other libraries in order to get our number because "It ain't nowhere in the phone book." They're always real loud about letting us know this, too. That's when we politely ask them to take their phone book out and turn to the business section and look up TRI-METRO County Public Library, `bout mid way down the second column on the page. They get a lot quieter then, but often still insist that they looked there before and we weren't listed then.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #20

ME: Can I help you?

MALE PATRON: Yeah. I was looking to see if you had the armed services entrance exam book.


ME: (I reach over to our deposit book shelf and grab up our copy.Sure do.

PATRON: I just need to borrow it for a couple of days.

ME: Very well. Do you have your library card?

PATRON: Uh, no. I'm from OTHER county.

ME: Okay. Well do you have your OTHER county library card.

PATRON: No. I don't have one.

ME: (Passes patron a library card application form) That's all right. If you wouldn't mind filling out this form...

PATRON: No. I don't want a card. I just want to borrow the book for a couple of days.

ME: I understand that, but you'll need to have a library card.

PATRON: You mean I can't borrow books without a library card?

(Long pause.)

ME: No.  No, you can't.

PATRON: You mean I gotta wait to get the library card before I can come and borrow the book?

ME: (Realizing that this guy thinks it's going to take weeks for his library card to be processed and mailed to him before he can use it, or something) Yes. But if you'll just fill out that application, it will only take me a couple of minutes to make one for you.

PATRON: Oh.  Um... Okay.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Weird Wednesday

Yesterday was Weird Wednesday.

Not every Wednesday is a Weird Wednesday, but when we have more than our usual share of mentally unbalanced or otherwise questionable patrons who weird us out, they are. It's not always on a Wednesday either. Sometimes we have Terrible Tuesdays, In Need of Therapy Thursdays and Freaky Fridays. Oh, and of course, Manic Mondays.

Yesterday didn't even have all THAT much weirdness, but still more than qualifies because of the appearance of two people, one of which was Ron the Ripper.

We've not seen Ron in several months now and the past few times he's been in he has been startlingly well-behaved and failed to rip anything, let alone a magazine. The only really notable thing about Ron's appearance today is that accompanying him was a woman who had to have been his mother (Ma Ripper) because she looked exactly like Ron except 20 years older; which is to say, a stout fellow around 5'7" with salt & pepper hair, well-shaven (for once) and not quite as manic a gleam in the eye as he once had.

The two of them went upstairs where I imagined they would both snatch up a couple of our good magazines before sitting together at one of our tables where they would both proceed to page-flip the magazines to death. I wondered if maybe Ma Ripper would emit caveman growls like her son when confronted about their destruction.

Alas, nothing so colorful happened. From what I'm told by my fellow staff members who observed them, Ron and Ma Ripper sat upstairs in the chairs by our magazine rack where Ma Ripper flipped very slowly and carefully through a magazine while Ron sat obediently in his own chair with no magazine whatsoever and seemed happy for the opportunity.

That guy has really mellowed out.

The other Weird Wednesday qualifier came just half an hour into my shift, when we were visited by yet another in our long string of computer illiterate technophobes.

Two Mondays ago (Manic Monday!) a gentleman phoned the library toward the end of one of the many bursts of Monday chaos to ask if we had internet access.

"Yes, we do," I told him.

He then politely explained that he was not at all familiar with how to use the internet and asked if we would show him how to use it should he come by. He said he needed some tax information from the IRS website. I explained that that particular day, again, a Monday, we would be unable to assist him in that regard being as how we was really just me and I was stranded at the circ-desk dealing with the Monday and wouldn't be able to slip away, even to take myself a whiz. However, if he wouldn't mind coming in on nearly any other weekday, we'd be happy to help him out.

This may seem strange behavior for me, as I've done my share of complaining bitterly in the past about computer illiterates and the techniques they employ toward their ultimate goal of driving me insane. (See: Ms. I.N. Phyte and Mr. Little Stupid.) However, this man was at least not delusional about having any computer skills and was willing to admit it, politely, and ask for my help. He hadn't just buzzed on by that Monday afternoon to insist upon it nor did he pretend he knew what he was doing and just plop down and stare at the screen for 20 minutes until someone noticed he was a moron. No, this gentleman had phoned, in advance, to inquire if we would be willing to help him! Now that's refreshing!!!

I told the man to come on down Tuesday through Friday, preferably in the afternoon when we have the most available staff. And, at this, he thanked me for my time and help.

Yesterday was his chosen day. Once again, he phoned ahead and spoke with Mrs. A, asking her if we could help put him on the internet should he come down. I know this because as soon as he'd asked it, Mrs. A looked to me--the guy who would be doing the actual helping--and asked if I was willing. "Sure thing," I said.

Fifteen minutes later, the man arrived. He had evidently been working out or jogging or was preparing to go workout or jog, for he was wearing nylon exercise pants beneath a pair of shorts. I've seen this look before and I've never understood it. What are people who do this trying to say? Is it: "Hey, check out these cool shorts I'd really like to be wearing except that it's too EFFing cold to just wear shorts, so I put `em on over my fancy nylon workout britches! "? Sorry. I just don't understand the look.

Anyway, we signed Mr. Shorts in at the clip board and I took him on back where I thought I would have to hand hold him through the process. Once in the computer hall, the man explained that he owned a computer but it wasn't hooked up to the internet at all. You might think this would make him a candidate for at least SOME computer skills, but, alas, no. Evidently Mr. Shorts's computer was not only not hooked up to the internet but it wasn't hooked up to a mouse either, cause he had quite a bit of trouble using ours. I explained the whole left click & drag the scroll bar thing in order to let him scroll down our home page to the IRS links I've helpfully placed there. It took him a few tries and I still don't think he was left-clicking properly. Eventually, he decided instead of dragging the scroll bar, he'd just click in the space beneath it so it would jump down to meet the mouse. He still wasn't left clicking properly, though, so it didn't work the first time either. Finally we got to the bottom of the page and he successfully clicked (double) on the IRS link.

Mr. Shorts explained he was looking for a publication that would help him with charitable deductions. I showed him where the forms & publications page was and how to search for things with the IRS search engine. I suggested some search terms and was prepared to stand there and further assist, but dude indicated that I'd helped enough and he thought he could handle it from there, so I told him to let me know if I could help further and returned to the circ desk.

For the most part, he was right. It took him ten minutes or so, but he did mange to find the publication he was searching for. However, he was mystified about how to get to the publication from the search page. He didn't realize that the linked publication title could be clicked to take him there. My fault for assuming he knew how.

Now, it might seem that I'm making fun of the man at this point, but I'm really not. I understand that there are people who don't know anything about the internet, even people as young as this guy (who was in his 40's, I'd say). I also understand that there are people who think it's fine and dandy to wear shorts on top of their pants regardless of how retarded it might look. Whatever. I'm still not making fun of him; just observing. The part where I actually make fun of him is coming up.

After he finished copying down the information he needed from the online publication, Mr. Shorts came back up front and once again thanked me for my time and for helping him out. Again, mighty nice of him. He then began browsing through some of our new non-fiction. This is when warning bells began to go off in my head and I became preoccupied in typing up spine-labels for some incoming new books in order to keep as far away from the circulation desk as possible. Mrs. A and C were both in proximity to the desk, so I was hoping they would be the ones who had to deal with what I knew was coming next.

After a few minutes, Mr. Shorts began to look as though he was ready to check out. That's when I took my avoidance of the circ-desk a step further by hauling ass out of the room with an armload of non-fiction to take to the book cart upstairs.

See I knew there was no way in hell this guy actually had a library card with us, except maybe on the old defunct system and not the new freshness. And as techno-phobic as he'd seemed before, I also knew there was no way he was going to want to jump through the hoops we require to get a library card without some kind of paranoid tantrum. Upon returning from upstairs, I discovered that I was very very right on this count.

Mrs. A was at the desk, peering down as Mr. Shorts filled out his application for a library card. He had only made it as far as the drivers' license number.

"That's a drivers license number. That's personal information," he was saying. "That's just as dangerous as giving out your Social Security number! There's no way you can guarantee me that that this system is secure!"

Mrs. A didn't even attempt to guarantee him that our system is secure. After all, it's not our job to have a secure system; that's the job of the tech-boys back at the head office. They say it is, we have to take their word on it. What Mrs. A did do was politely explain to dude the reasons why we insist upon having a drivers license number in the first place. I knew it was futile to do so. It always is.

Dude didn't hear a bit of it. He was too busy waiting to say what he said next, which was, "All a thief needs is your social security number and your drivers license number and he can steal your identity. I don't even put that information in my own computer."

That's right.

He said he didn't put that information in his own computer.

Y'know, the one that's not even hooked up to the internet in the first place.

Mrs. A continued to skillfully ignore his rants. She'd given her explanation to him and he hadn't torn up his application. In fact, he'd gone ahead and written down his license number for her, which she confirmed from his license, so he wasn't so bent out of shape that he didn't want the card anyway.

My master plan of not being the guy on the desk when Mr. Shorts did what I knew Mr. Shorts was gonna do worked like a charm. Mrs. A is far better suited to not going off on people than I am in such situations. Her philosophy of answering the questions she can and politely ignoring the rants in between seems to work for her pretty well.


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.