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.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Actual Semi-Paraphrased Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries LAST Week #15

SETTING:  My "liberry," this week.
 
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 PATRON 1: Do you have tax forms?

ME: We have state forms. We do not have any federal forms. We ordered federal forms late and when we called to find out why they hadn't arrived when they were supposed to we were told by the IRS that the order had not been processed AT ALL. We're now expecting them sometime in early February.

PATRON 1: Do you know where I can get federal forms?

ME: I've heard the post office has them.


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PATRON 2: Do you have 1099 forms?

ME: No, we don't have 1099 forms. Nor can we print them from the internet.

PATRON 2: Why not?

ME: Because it's a carbon copy form and when we bring them up from the website the form itself has "Info Copy Only" written across it.

PATRON 2: Do you know where I could get one?

ME: I've heard you can get them from LOCALLY OWNED OFFICE EQUIPMENT STORE, but I don't know that for sure. In fact, last year a man from LOCALLY OWNED OFFICE EQUIPMENT STORE came in here looking for 1099's himself, so maybe they don't. H&R Block used to carry them too, but I've now heard they aren't either.

PATRON 2: Well poop.


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PATRON 3: Do you have W-2 forms?

ME: No, we do not have W-2 forms. You're supposed to receive W-2 forms from your employer, not from the library.

PATRON 3: But THEY told me you would have W-2 forms.

ME: I'm sorry, but we don't. We don't even have federal forms at the moment.


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PATRON 4: Do you have tax forms?

ME: We have state forms. We do not have any federal forms.

PATRON 4: Do you know where I can get federal forms?

ME: I've heard the post office has them.

PATRON 4: I just came from the post office. They only have the booklets.

ME: Then, I believe Town-C's library has some. They're closed already, though, so you might try them tomorrow.

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PATRON 5: Do you have 1099 forms?

ME: No, we don't have 1099 forms. Nor can we print them from the internet.

PATRON 5: Do you know where I could get one?

ME: I've heard you can get them from LOCALLY OWNED OFFICE EQUIPMENT STORE.


(LATER)

ME: No one will leave me alone about these frickin' 1099 forms!

MRS. A: That's the one we can't print from the internet, right?

ME: Yeah. I hear the Locally Owned Office place has them, but I don't know for sure. Maybe I ought to call them.

(PHONES LOCALLY OWNED OFFICE EQUIPMENT STORE)

ME: Hi, this is JUICE from TRI-METRO library. We've had loads and loads of patrons in here looking for 1099 forms and I've heard that you guys have them. I just wanted to call and find out if that's actually true or if we're just irritating you by sending these folks your way.

LOOES RECEPTIONIST: We used to carry them individually, but we wound up getting stuck with so many of them after tax season that we don't any more. But we can order 1099 forms in 24-form packages for $7 and have them by the next day.

ME: Ah. So we're not irritating you.

LOOES RECEPTIONIST: Oh, no. We have had a lot of calls about 1099s today, though.

ME: Thanks. Bye.

(*CLICK*)

MRS. A: So?

ME: They don't have them on hand but can get a pack of 24 for $7.

(MRS A AND I STARE AT EACH OTHER, THE SAME THOUGHT DAWNING ON US BOTH)

ME: Want to make some money for the library?

MRS. A: You mean buy a box and sell em for $1 each.

ME: Exactly.

MRS. A: Go for it. Call `em back.


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PATRON 6: Do you have W-2 forms?

ME: (Trying to remain calm) No, we do NOT have W-2 forms. You're supposed to get those from your employer.

PATRON 6: No. I am an employer. I need blank W-2 forms for my employees.

(Gives patron an eyes at half-mast-long-slow-burn look designed to convey exactly how magnificent they are as an employer that they not only have no clue where to get W-2 forms but are actively trying to get free ones from us)

ME:  I'm sorry, but we don't have any.


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*RING*

ME: Tri-Metro Public Library.

AMATEUR ACCOUNTANT TAX FORM LADY WHO PLAGUES US EVERY YEAR: Hi, do you have federal forms yet?

ME: Nope. Looks like early February.

AATFLWPUEY: Well do you even have your tax form photocopy binder?

ME: No. We don't have the forms and we don't have the binder.

AATFLWPUEY: Poop. I need lots of copies of really obscure forms.

ME: Well, I could probably find them and print them from the IRS website for you. We do charge ten cents per page.

AATFLWPUEY: You mean, I could give you a list of them and you could print them and I could come pick them up?

ME: And pay for them, yes.

AATFLWPUEY: You'd do that for me?

ME: Sure. It's really slow in here.

AATFLWPUEY: Oh, you're so sweet. I'll need forms 1045, 1045-A, 1174, 1174 SCHEDULE S, 1174-K SCHEDULE HR24, 1040, 1040-A, 1040 H SCHEDULE-SOL, 1048-KNIGHT 2000, 8057, 8057-FU, 8057-YA MOMMA and 2099-DEEZ-NUTZ.

(*CLICK*)

(LIBRARY IMMEDIATELY BECOMES PHENOMENALLY BUSY)


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PATRON 7: You got federal forms?

ME: No. February.

PATRON 7: What about the deduction book?

ME: The what?

PATRON 7: The deduction book. The book that lists all the deductions?

ME: You mean the form instruction book?

PATRON 7: No. I want the book that lists all the deductions you're allowed to take.

ME: Ma'am, while I'm sure such a book might exist somewhere, I don't think we've ever had one here. It doesn't sound familiar at all and this is the fourth year I've had to go through all this.

PATRON 7: No, see, it's the deduction book. It lists all the things you can deduct from your taxes.

ME: I understand what you're talking about, ma'am. I'm saying, I don't believe we've ever had one. That sounds like the sort of book accountants and tax preparation agencies would have access to and the library is in NO. WAY. SHAPE. OR. FORM. a tax preparation agency.

(After patron leaves, I rush up to ask Mrs. A about the deduction book, just to find out whether or not I was talking out of my ass. She assures me that I was correct and while such books do exist we do not carry them because doing so tends to reinforce the public's mistaken perception that we are, in fact, some kind of tax preparation and financial advice giving agency.  Whew!)

Friday, January 28, 2005

New Threads

We were paid a visit by none other than Wal-Mart Jesus today. I almost didn't recognize him, though, because he wasn't wearing his usual white and blue striped table-cloth-esque robes. Instead, Wal-Mart Jesus was sporting the same basic flowing robe & turban but this time cut from a beautiful thick black cloth that looked nice and warm.  It's a good look for him. In fact, I dare say he looked really cool.

It did, however, raise paranoid concerns within my head. Such as, what if someone who knows Wal-Mart Jesus found this blog and read my critique of his previous outfit and told him about it. They might have said something like, "Dude says you look like a picnic table. He spread the word to international winds. Maybe it's time for some new threads, eh?"

If this was the case, Wal-Mart Jesus didn't let on, though.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Update on the Update

Long story short, the wife had her MRI this afternoon at 2 pm and, spoiler alert, does not have a pituitary tumor nor any other kind of tumor in her head. It's an enormous relief to us, as not having to go through brain surgery is always welcome news. I don't think it yet explains her visual field defect, nor cures it, but her Opthalmologist may have more ideas after she gives him the good news.

Here's how it went down:

I met the wife at the hospital at 1:30p so we could get paperwork filled out and any insurance hassles out of the way. (Our insurance, though MEGA Life And Health, is one such hassle and it sucks above and beyond the call of duty considering the amount of money we pay into it. However, it's pretty standard issue med-student insurance. This being the case, our insurance company is going to pay for as little of this test and the angiogram from a few days ago as they can get away with, which is to say quite a little.)

After paperwork, we sat around in the waiting room for a while until one of our friends from church, Sandra, arrived to keep us company. She'd heard last night about the wife's test getting moved up and wanted to come and lend us some comfort. She's spent quite a bit of time in hospital waiting rooms over the past year and a half as her grandson had leukemia, (though now he is thankfully in remission). We talked to her until they called our name and I went back to the MRI lab with my wife.

Of course, the wife had to take off all metal objects so I got to play keeper of the wedding set, while they ushered her in, had her lay on the sliding platform and told her to be completely still.

I can say for certain that sitting around an MRI waiting room while that giant GE magnet makes horrible loud farting noises as it tries to change your wife's polarity in the next room is not the least nerve-wracking experience I've gone through. After about ten minutes of nervousness, prayer, and reading and rereading the big warning signs that say "STOP! NO METAL TANKS" and a big warning carpet that read "MAGNET IS ALWAYS ON," I calmed down a bit and started flipping through a Time magazine. I decided that worrying about something I have no control over and which might not turn out to be bad news at all is pointless. I've decided that about 20 times in the past few days. It only helps until my brain kicks back in.

After a while, I calmed enough to start reading the Cerebus phone book I'd brought. Still, bad thoughts kept bubbling up. When we'd filled out the paperwork earlier, I had kept thinking, "Will this be the moment I'll remember as That Time We Were Filling Out Paperwork Just Before We Found Out My Wife had a Brain Tumor?" And as I read my comic, I kept wondering if I would forever associate Cerebus as That Comic I Was Reading When We Found Out My Wife had a Brain Tumor. Even prayer seemed weird to me, as I didn't know what to pray for. I mean, healing is always a good prayer and I've been witness to that working in the past with my grandmother, but I didn't really think aiming for a miracle was what I needed to do. So I just prayed that she would be calm and that the technicians would do their jobs as skillfully as they could and that the machine would be in good working order.

I knew that as much as I was nervous and worried, the wife was having no great time within the machine itself. She told me later that she was absolutely certain she was going to completely wig out in there due to the enclosed-in-a-big-tight-noisy-tube nature of it all. Those horrible farting noises I could hear through the wall were ten times worse in the room itself and she had to wear earplugs. However, she did calm down too after she decided she would just close her eyes and pretend that she was just lying on a padded table in an open noisy room, singing a song within her own head while trying not to move her eyes around.

Afterward the MRI was over, one of the technicians told us we were free to go and that they would likely have results for us in the morning. This was what I had feared--having to wait more. I really wanted someone to have a look at the results immediately so that I would be among the first to know what was going on and wouldn't have to sit around waiting for a dreaded phone call the next day.

Instead of leaving, though, the wife asked if she could take a peek at the MRI films. She's no radiologist, but has been trained to look at X-Rays. That's when the tech said that Dr. Mack, one of the actual radiologists, would probably be willing to go over them with her right then. Hallelujah!

The tech lead us through the maze of hospital corridors until we at last found Dr. Mack's office and Dr. Mack within it. Dr. Mack seemed cool with going over the MRI charts with us. As he did, he asked her what symptoms she had and why she was having the MRI done in the first place. He said her pituitary looked quite normal and actually had some extra space around it, (I presume, should she ever wish to develop a tumor there later). He said her eye sockets (he didn't actually say eye sockets--I think he said ocular orbits, or some such--but that's what he meant) and surrounding area seemed free of anything that might be causing pressure on her veins too. The only thing he did suggest was that she have her thyroid checked out--a conclusion he seemed to reach almost by intuition rather than anything on the charts themselves. Even this was more of a "just to be sure" kind of thing than a "I see thyroid problems" kind of thing. The wife is pretty sure she doesn't have any Hyper Thyroid problems, as folks with that condition tend to be a lot skinnier than she is.

On our way back out, we stopped back in the waiting room up front to make sure Sandra had left and wasn't still waiting around for us. She had only said she would stick around long enough to see if the MRI people were going to kick me out or not, so we figured she was gone. In her place, though, was her husband Gerry, who was snoozing sitting up. We woke him up to learn that Sandra had had to leave, but he wanted to come and wait and see how things had gone. I'm sure glad we stopped back in, cause we could have walked right past the door and he would have sat there sleeping for who knows how long. What great friends, though.

Thank you to all of you who've left comments or otherwise written to me to wish us well in this.

Real Life Update

Due to a cancellation in the radiology department, Ashley's MRI has been moved up to 2 p.m. today. That's not to say we'll know anything immediately, as the radiologists still have to decipher the MRI results, but we should know something sooner than later.

I'm going to meet her at the hospital at 1:30. I don't think they'll let me come in with her while the MRI is going on, but I want to be around and in the area all the same.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Meanwhile, back in my real life…

It’s been a monumentally huge couple of weeks for my wife and me as far as news goes in our real life. (Before you ask: No, no one’s pregnant.) I can’t really talk about it all yet, as there are some things technically still up in the air that shouldn’t be commented on solidly until all the paperwork is signed and so forth. (No, we’re not getting a divorce!)

Let me go in order of hugeness.

Huge News Item #1—In a couple of months, the wife and I will be headed to Central America on a medical missions trip. The wife went on a similar one to Guatemala and Honduras back in 2003 and had an amazing and sometimes frightening adventure (what with Guatemala suddenly breaking out in civil unrest while she was there, causing the team to have to trade medical services for passage through protest roadblocks that had been set up between all the major cities). I was back stateside for that one and had to make do with little bits of news like “Protests have broken out and the med-team is getting out of the country” which implies a lot more danger than they were actually in.  I’ll probably expound upon her `03 adventures in a future post as the date for our new trip draws closer. Suffice it to say, I’m going on the trip this year, headed to Guatemala and El Salvador despite my entire lack of medical training and extremely rusty Spanish-skills. Our passports even came in late last week and we’ve made our downpayment, so it looks like it’s official.

Huge News Item #2—The wife and I have made our decision of which hospital to rank #1 in terms of our choice of where we would like to spend her medical residency. I’ve written of this a little in the past and even threw out a couple of possible choices, (basically here in Tri-Metro or Clarksburg). Where ever we wind up will be our home for the next three years and has the potential to uproot our lives (not to mention our blogs) or keep them relatively stable depending on what goes down come February. This is the bit of news that I can’t say too much about, as nothing is set in stone yet. We’ve basically just ranked the hospitals in order of preference. That’s major news enough, but the O’Henry ending to it is we actually changed our minds this week as to where we wanted to go or stay due to having received some information that basically negated all the reasons for choosing our previous choice. We have it on good authority that the hospital we have now ranked as #1 is going to rank the wife pretty high too, so chances are we’ll get it. However, it could always go down another way. We might not get either of our choices, at which point we'll have to scramble to find a program that can take her. Can’t say for sure `til we do, though. I believe February 14 is the day we’ll learn for sure. Believe you me, though, if things go down like we hope they will I'll have plenty to spill then.

Huge News Item #3—Last week, while on her ophthalmology rotation, the wife's preceptor physician was demonstrating some of the equipment in the clinic using her as the demonstratee. During the course of his eye examination, he discovered that my wife's eyes have a visual field defect. This is a condition where the eye cannot see as well in certain sections of the normal range of vision. Often this is due to pressure being applied from within the eye socket itself. It’s nothing she has ever noticed before, nor would it likely have become known without the doctor's test. Further investigation by the doc indicated that some of the vessels in the back of her eyes are not moving blood out of the eye as efficiently as they should. This is not a normal condition for someone of her age, and it makes the doctor nervous. At the moment the vessels are just sluggish, but could eventually begin clotting with blood if the flow reduces further. This has the potential to permanently damage her eyesight.

This kind of thing can appear in people with diabetes or blood pressure problems, but she doesn't fall into either category. Another possibility for the sluggish vessels is that they are being pressed upon by something else in the area, like maybe an artery. In that case, it’s just how God made her and she’s probably going to need to take aspirin regularly to cut down on clot-potential. However, one other very common cause for such a visual field defect is a pituitary gland tumor. The wife came home joking about that last Friday. Then, the following Monday, she told me that her preceptor was actually very serious about getting it checked out and wanted to schedule an angiogram and an MRI. Yesterday she had the angiogram, where they pumped dye through her veins to see where it goes and how it flows. This proved there is some kind of pressure problem in certain vessels in her eyes. Unfortunately, we have to wait until next Tuesday for the MRI to, hopefully, find out what's causing it

Again, this could just be how she’s made. Or it could be a tumor. Or it could be something else entirely. The wife assures me that pituitary tumors are rarely cancerous and thus usually non-life-threatening. People have gone their whole lives with them and never known about it. Once diagnosed, they're usually treatable, though removing one would require surgery. We have to get it checked out all the same.

Naturally, part of me is freaked out that my wife might have a tumor of any kind, benign or not. Another part of me looks at this as providence, since finding a potentially eye-crippling condition and treating it before it causes damage is a very good thing.  She is also freaked out because having ticking time bombs in one's eyes is never fun.

So that’s the Huge News from Real Life. I’ll keep you posted as to how things work out on all fronts.


Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Chester the (Potential) Janitor

Rif, our teenage, home-schooled long-time "liberry" ally, who also takes a class or two at the local community college, dropped a bombshell of wonderment on us yesterday.

According to him, Chester the (Potential) Molester has somehow secured a job as a janitor at said community college. So now he has an official excuse to stand around ogling the young ladies who attend. And, also according to Rif, since standing around ogling is pretty much all Chester does when he's on the job, he's a spectacularly shitty janitor.

Now, being as how it's technically Chester's job to keep that place clean and being as how he technically might get fired for NOT keeping it clean, I suddenly find myself overwhelmed by a deep sense of kinsmanship with all the people who've been tracking ice, mud, salt and gravel through our library. In fact, I have a great urge to go buy some hip waders, find a large quantity of mud and go on a stroll down the halls of the community college. After all, if he's going to work there, he ought to be kept busy.

Barring that, and since most of the mud around here is frozen, I do know where I can get my hands on a copious and so far ever-replenishing supply of cat shit. I could use it to undertake a private study of just how accurately I could recreate the fecal-carpet-staining scene from Drop Dead Fred.

"Dog poo, dog poo, smelly smelly dog poo!"

Monday, January 24, 2005

Snow Job

Today, after nearly two hours of mopping up after the patrons who had tracked in more water, snow, ice, salt and gravel, I came to realize that I no longer cared if they ignored our doormat and wiped their feet off on our runner carpet, provided THEY WIPED THEIR FEET AT ALL!

Of course, I also have to admit that our genuine doormat on the front step is pretty much useless now, having been soaked through by slush and salt. I imagine that the few (try ONE) patrons who've used it have probably come in with more ice on their feet than they had before they stepped on the doormat. But that would be okay if they would just go ahead and use the runner carpet to get some of it off. No, they step right onto the hard wood and start sloshing a happy trail throughout the building.

I've noticed a propensity among the most-slush-ridden patrons to wind up using one particular computer in our computer hall. I can't really blame them for the choice, as I'm usually the guy who assigns them to the computer, but so far I've done so with no prior knowledge of the condition of their feet, yet the slushiest patrons always wind up at that one computer. I mop up after each one leaves, but as soon as the next one comes in there's another puddle.

Mrs. A just laughed at my efforts to keep the place dry. That is, until I pointed out the potential for lawsuits should someone slip, at which time she went outside to sweep the walk and try to get some of the salt out of the main path so people would stop tracking so much of it in.

Still, I'm just irritated to my core that people have no more manners than to track the corpse of Frosty the Snowman throughout my library. You KNOW they don't behave like that at home and would be disposed to unkindness should I show up at their doorstep and proceed to do the same to their floors.

I told Mrs. C that the whole thing makes me want to station myself at the front door with a mop-bucket full of road-slush. Then whenever a patron comes in and doesn't wipe their feet, or tries to wipe their feet on the runner, they get plastered in the face with a filthy icy mop. That'd teach `em. Might even be worth the resulting lawsuits.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Dirty Old Man Winter

Mrs. C phoned me at home this morning and asked if I could come in early. Turns out her nephew was being rushed to the ER with what the doctors already thought might be meningitis and her sister wanted her to be there at the hospital too. (I'll save you the suspense: it looks like he doesn't have meningitis, but a virus of some sort. And, no, not viral meningitis.) I told her sure thing, that I'd be there as soon as I could. This was easier said than done, though.

It seemed like the faster I tried to leave the house the slower I got out, what with having to dress myself, make lunch and dinner to take, carafe my coffee, etc. We also received a nice bit of snow this morning. Mostly it was just spitting until right around the time I was trying to leave the house, at which point I noticed that all the spitting had stuck and that it was no longer spitting but snowing proper and the roads and my driveway had filled up. I got out of our drive okay and slowly started down the hill toward Town-C then back up another hill toward Town-B and on to Town-A. There was nary a snow plow or salt truck to be seen and the roads showed it. I made it all the way to the street the library is on before nearly getting schwacked when my car slid on ice and into the middle of a fairly busy road. Made it okay.

So there I am, at work, three hours early on a very snowy day with little to no patron traffic due to the weather. Mostly I answered the phone, telling people that, Yes, we were open and, No, they could not speak to Mrs. C. And when a patron did brave the weather to come for a visit they, almost to a person, tracked in every last bit of snow, ice and wet that they could. A few of them stopped and wiped their feet off on our runner carpet which, as I believe I've ranted here before, IS NOT A DOORMAT!!!!! In fact, they had to walk across our real doormat, located conveniently on the front step where it should be, in order to wipe their feet down the length of our runner, soiling it with their ice and dirt. Then there were those who eschewed the runner in favor of just tracking snow and muck throughout the building, leaving it in puddles whenever they stopped to look at a book. I spent the day in silent rage. And in a state with a citizenry as given to frivolous lawsuits as ours, I thought it best to keep a mop handy and well-used lest anyone get any ideas or have any genuine accidents.

Speaking of which, one of our infrequent patrons is a lady who is known for bringing about allegedly frivolous lawsuits. She now walks with a cane, also allegedly due to the cause of such a suit, and has difficulty going up steps due to her condition. Yet this is a person who when visiting the library insists on NOT using our handicapped accessible door in favor of our front steps. The whole time she's in the building, we're on her like me on bacon, least she lose her balance and take a spill. Fortunately, she wasn't in today because I expect she would have been unable to resist taking a spill on the first droplet of snow-melt I managed to miss.

Late in the afternoon, a snow truck drove past the library. It wasn't shoveling the snow out of the way, but depositing a layer of gravel and salt onto it. So for the rest of the day, our patrons tracked in snow, mud, salt and gravel and wiped it on our runner carpet.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Here's your... well, you know

Ever have one of those days when nearly every question you were asked by a patron had a terribly obvious answer and you had to do some mental-gymnastics in order to come up with a way to answer them without seeming rude? Today was one of those days.

Granted, even though it’s MLK Day, we were open, which led to quite a number of obvious questions.

For instance…

Our first patron of the day today was actually one of our regular Wednesday patrons. He’s been in the library almost every Wednesday for the past couple of years and before that was a regular weekly visitor on other days. Today he chose to come in on a Monday. Ten minutes after we'd opened for the day, he walked through the front door, said hello to me and then stood there looking around for nearly a minute before saying, “The bank and post office are both closed for the holidays. Are you guys open today?”

That’s right. Dude drove to the library, walked through the open and unlocked door, stood in the middle of a building obviously open for business and asked if we were open. My inner Al Jaffe began dueling with my inner Bill Engvall for the privilege of coming back at him with a snappy answer to his stupid question. I didn't really want to be rude, but I knew that any answer I could give was treading on dangerous ground. Almost any reply to such an obvious question could be construed as rude no matter my intentions or tone of voice. Then, before I could actually make with my intentional or otherwise rude answer, I realized the perfect inoffensive out.

“Yes,” I said.

This seemed to satisfy the man and he immediately sat down at our card catalog computer. My temptation to be rude wasn’t over yet, though. A few minutes later, the patron said, “Hey, I don’t see a call number for this book here.”

I glanced over at the screen to see that he’d brought up a list of titles by an author but had not actually clicked on the Full Record itself for any of them in order to bring up information about an individual title. No problem. If you’ve never had to click Full Record before, it might not occur to you to do so despite the big FULL RECORD link beside each title. So I very politely explained it to him.

“Oh,” he said, clicking on the link. Then he rounded with a followup: “The call number is F Martin. Where would I find that?”

Now, keep in mind, this is a man who’s been in nearly every week for years. You’d think that in all that time the general fiction section would have given up all its deep and alphabetic classification mysteries to him before now. This time I could see no way for me to keep from possibly sounding rude. So I lowered my tone to what I hoped was a very pleasant and passive sounding one and said, “Um, it should be over there… in the M’s.” I helpfully pointed toward the M’s for him.

“Oh,” he said, with what sounded like the dawning of embarrassment creeping into his voice. "Oh, I see."

Not long after the first man checked out, another patron came in to use a computer. He asked in advance if the printer was turned on and I assured him that it was. After printing out a couple of things, the man returned to the desk and asked, "What's the most efficient way to print e-mail attachments? Should I save them to the desktop first or just open them and print them from there?"

Dammit, why must I have so much temptation in my path?!

“It would, um, probably be best if you just… opened them… and then printed," I said. "If you save them first, it just adds an extra step.”

The man looked at me as though I had just told him the most obvious thing in the world. Which I had—but, again, HE ASKED!! He wasn’t done with me yet, though.

“What’s the best way to print them, then?”

Now he was just taunting me, right? I mean, there really is NO good answer to that question. Almost anything I could say would sound sarcastic from a conveying-REALLY-obvious-information standpoint, so I might as well go whole hog and say something ultra-snotty like, Well, when I’m printing, I tend to get the best results if I use my little mousy to click on the PRINT button. Alternately, you could go to FILE and then PRINT, or just hit CTRL P, but I like using the little mousy cause it’s such a rush!

Before I could take either route, though, he said, “It’ll give me a print dialogue box, right?”

Urgh. Now this was a question that I couldn’t answer at all, or, at least, not clearly. See, our stupid patron computers don’t always give patrons a dialogue box for their printing convenience. Really, it depends on the program they’re trying to print from. If they’re printing from the web and just hit the print button, usually it just dumps whatever’s in the active window to the printer with no dialogue box provided. Without a print dialogue box, some patrons just keep hitting print hoping one will pop up and then gripe and moan because they printed eight copies of their document (or, more often, the entire website they were visiting). If they hit the print button from a word processor, or, better still, go to FILE and then PRINT, they’ll usually get a dialogue box. I tried to explain all of this to our patron in the hope he could find an answer he liked, but the long short of it was that I didn’t know what would happen if he was printing from an attachment because I didn’t know what program would be opening those attachments.

At the end of my lesson, he said, “You’re a real optimist, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am,” I said.

Bastard. Don’t ask if you don’t want to know.

As soon as he was out of earshot, I turned to Mrs. C and said, “You know, I’m going to stop trying to answer patron questions altogether. Next time somebody asks me what the best way to print is, I’m just going to tell them go give it a whirl, hit print and find out for themselves.”

You want a diagram of WHAT?

After hearing repeated suggestions from me that Mondays at the library should always be a tag-team affair, the powers that be have listened and instituted a new double-employee Monday schedule, with me and Mrs. C riding herd over the Monday Madness.  Yesterday was the first of these.

The shift went pretty well. It wasn't at all as chaotic as Mondays usually are, but then again most of our patrons told us that they'd driven down fully expecting to find us closed for MLK Day. (Our board of directors doesn't give us MLK off, but does give us West Virginia Day and President's Day. Racist bastards. (I joke! I joke! I kid, because I love! ))

Things were a little slower than usual. And despite nearly every patron reminding us what holiday it was, when Mrs. C handed me two twenties and told me to go down to the bank to get change, I still went. Like a moron, I bundled up and walked down the street in the 20 degree weather, the very snot freezing in my nose, only to turn the corner and find the bank closed. Oops.

Other than that, we were attacked by a small hoard of ten-year-olds doing research papers on animals, all of which were due the following day. One mom & son team huddled up at one of our patron computers to work on his, with mom doing all the typing. At first I thought she was writing the paper for him, but upon closer inspection found that she was merely taking dictation as read to her from his hand-written report. (Good going, Mom!) Unfortunately, after they'd printed, they made the mistake of leaving the report within eyeshot of me and my inner copy-editor couldn't resist having a gander. I found some its/it's possessive/contraction issues, which I pointed out to them before realizing that doing so revealed me for the snoop I am. They didn't seem to mind, at least not to my face. I don't think they reprinted either, though.

The other major report-writing-kid incident came when a different little boy asked to use a computer to find pictures of orangutans for his report. He was in solo, though, so I had to card him.

"Do you have a parental permission slip on file?" I asked.

Turns out he did not, but those are really only for internet usage, and I figured there would be plenty of printable pictures within our encyclopedia program in the computer's Kiddie Mode. I fired up the Children’s Room computer, loaded the encyclopedia and found him a snazzy picture of a couple of orangutans that he liked a lot.

“Now before I print this, I need to let you know that we do charge 10 cents per page.”

“That’s okay. I brought money,” kid said. (Good going, kid!) Then he said something that I completely didn’t know how to deal with. “I also need to have a detailed diagram of how orangutans reproduce.”

This is where I did one of those patented Scooby Doo "HrruuuuhhHH?!" exclamations of disbelief and confusion.

"You need... A DIAGRAM... of how orangutans... reproduce?" I asked.

"Yeah."

"Hmm. Well. Uh. Er," I said. "Let me go check on how your picture printed and I'll see if MRS. C can help you." I then ran away like a colossal chicken.

"This kid says he needs a diagram of how orangutans reproduce," I told Mrs. C, once I'd tracked her down.

"He wants what?!"

I repeated it, adding, "I can't imagine being assigned such a task at his age."

We're still not precisely sure what his teacher wanted, but to us "A Diagram of how Orangutans Reproduce" was equivalent to "A Sketch of Two Apes Doing the Nasty / Insert Tab A into Slot B" sort of thing. Anything similar to that showing up in a 5th grade classroom would produce such a tumult of laughter that the kid would either be scarred for life or instantly promoted to class clown. Surely, oh surely, his teacher had not intended that!

Mrs. C went back and talked to the kid indepth about what his assignment actually was. She then led him to some of our printed encyclopedias where she found descriptive material on orangutan reproduction cycles and behavior plus several more pictures that the kid seemed to be happy with. She photocopied the pages he needed and only charged him 10 cents per photocopy instead of our usual 25 cents per.

Better her than me.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Must be training them right

I came in a few days ago to find two huge cardboard boxes full of new books to process. I later learned from Mrs. C that this represented two completely separate book orders from weeks apart that both arrived on the same day. She had already catalogued them and Mrs. B and Miss K had already stamped them and affixed their spine-labels, but the books still had to be covered and/or have their spine labels taped (and/or/or entirely retyped, in the case of undetected half-assed typing attempts). That fell to me to do solo.

I had a surprise awaiting me on the top of the first box's pile, though. There, before my weary eyes, was a brand new hardback copy of Marvel's collected 1602 mini-series, by Neil Gaiman/Andy Kubert, with it's gorgeous Scott McKowen cover staring back at me. Fantastic! Even better than it arriving, though, was the fact that I hadn't even had to bug Mrs. A and Mrs. C to order it in the first place. I later learned that Mrs. A had seen it in her Baker & Taylor catalog and ordered it on sight. (Granted, she knows I'm a Gaiman fanatic, so it was an easy bet that I'd want it for our graphic novel collection, but it's still a nice gesture that she chose it on her own.)

Incidentally, Mr. Scott McKowen is now illustrating the dust-jackets of a new series of unabridged hardback classics. We already have just such a new edition of Little Women and we're sure to snatch up other volumes ASAP.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Honked Off

Did a 9 to 5 shift today, filling in for Mrs. C who was out of town at a meeting. For a Friday, it was terribly slow. I actually had to look for work to do to justify my existence, beyond playing Mrs. C for the day.

There was some good news, though. Mrs. A and one of our board members had to do a conference call with a grant organization, which tied up the phone line in the morning. I was thus blissfully spared such burning daily questions as “What time do you close?” and “Is MRS. C there?” for nearly an hour and a half.



Toward the end of the conference call, someone’s car alarm started to go off outside. We don’t really have much problem with car alarms here in Tri-Metro. In fact, I haven’t really heard that many since I left Charlotte in 2001. I guess most folks around here either don’t use them or the alarms just never have cause to go off. This one certainly was, though. For five minutes all we heard was HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK!

Mrs. A came downstairs to make sure it wasn’t her car.  It wasn’t.  Instead, it was some car up the hill, probably near the little apartment building around the corner. Mrs. A stood on the steps outside, trying to track the alarm sound back to its source, but by then the car’s owner must have finally come out to check on it because HONKing ceased.

Five minutes later, it started again. HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK! Then, a few long minutes after that, it again ceased. Then, a few short minutes later, it started again. I was just imagining some poor bastard trying to sleep in a bit, who kept having to get up and find his keys to turn off the infernal alarm. Then, he’d have just enough time to go back inside and climb into bed before some little kid hiding in the bushes would sneak out and smack the car again.

I knew exactly when the conference call ended. That’s when the phone started ringing off the hook with all the people who’d been trying to call for an hour and a half. The very first one was from a man who sounded excited that he was finally able to get through.

 “Is the library… are… are you open?” he asked breathlessly. At least he didn’t ask what time we closed.

Monday, January 10, 2005

The Borrowers

I drove up to the library one day to find a patron outside taking an unnecessary amount of time trying to park her car. Sure, all of our spaces are parallel spaces, but she wasn't even doing a proper job of parallel parking in one of them. Instead, she had driven into the handicapped space then leaned way out her window so she could better see the curb as she backed her car down the hill into the parallel space behind. After swerving to avoid hitting her car, I'd then had time to drive up the hill, parallel park my own vehicle, gather up my things, exit the car and start across the lawn to the library while she was still trying to back into her space.  I tell you all this because it further informs as to the sort of patron I was about to have to deal with.  For this lady, you see, was a prime example of an especially irritating breed of patron known as The Vid-Borrower.

Vid-Borrowers are people who come to the library for the sole purpose of checking out our free videos. Granted, this is a perfectly valid thing to do and, despite my complaints here, I am not the kind of library staffer who believes you're not a real patron unless you're checking out books. However, Vid-Borrower Status, like its dumpy cousin Intanet Crowd Status, often brings with it certain annoying and consistent eccentricities.

For instance, after Ms. Video had finally parked her car (still poorly) and come inside to turn in all her old videos, she then sniffed around the video shelf by the circulation desk for a few minutes and then blurted out, "Where do ya keep yer adventure moovies?"

I reached across the counter to the video shelf and grabbed Buns of Steel, but only Mrs. A noticed and laughed.

I explained to Ms. Video that we don't really have an Adventure Movies section. (In fact, our videos are not arranged in any particular order, mostly because our patrons refuse to leave them in any particular order and we're tired of fighting against this.)  Still, we did want to be helpful so Mrs. A and I came over to the shelf to look for adventurous sorts of movies.

"How bout this?" I asked, passing the patron our copy of Dances With Wolves. Seemed pretty adventurous to me when I saw it. After all, how much more adventurous can you get than a guy stuck on his own in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by potentially hostile Indians, homicidal assholes for superior officers and a damn dancing wolf?

"Noooo, I don't want no westerns," Ms. Video said in a most emphatic tone. "I want something outdoors."

Do what? She wants adventure movies... set outdoors... but no westerns? Yeah, well, good luck, Peaches! I guess it's a Milo & Otis evening for you.

Rather than wait for us to find something else for her, though, Ms. Video opted to take her current selection of movies and go home. At least she was nice and didn't complain about it, which often happens with Vid-Borrowers. A major problem with the Vid-Borrower patron archetype is that they seem to feel that if they're going to use us as a video store we should also have as wide a selection as a real video store. And when they learn we most certainly do not, they can sometimes get huffy.

For instance, one such Vid-Borrower of the past became irritated with us that while we owned the Julian Sands magnum opus Warlock we had somehow not had the foresight to stock Warlock II or III. According to her, the first one ended on a cliff-hanger and she wanted to know what happened next.

"I'm sorry, but we don't own Warlock II or III," I explained. I had already explained this to her once before, but it didn't take.

"Well, when are you going to get them?" she asked.

"Um. I doubt we will," I told her.  I then tried to explain that the only videos we ever EVER buy are for our children's collection and anything else we have has been donated. Therefore, if Warlock II and/or III were to ever appear in our library it would be because someone had donated them to us and not because we had purchased them. This did not set well with the patron. Not at all. She seemed downright hurt about it. I then suggested to her that one of our local genuine video rental stores probably had both titles in stock and on the shelf. Upon my saying this, though, there came a sharp intake of air from the Vid-Borrower followed by the phrase, "Oh, no. Videos is `spensive."

While I give lip-service to it being hunky-dory for patrons to borrow videos exclusively, I must admit that I do find people who wouldn't crack a book at gunpoint very annoying. It's certainly not an all or nothing thing with Vid-Borrowers, as there are quite a few who do check out books, just as there are book patrons who check out videos. However, when Vid-Borrowers do get books, I have noticed a propensity among them to exclusively seek books by author V.C. Andrews. I can't really speak to the true reasons behind this, but the rather obvious correlation I could make is that Flowers in the Attic largely revolves around consensual sibling incest and this IS West Virginia. That's SO stereotypical that I should be deeply ashamed, but dammit the stereotypes have to start somewhere! (Come to think of it, that would make a fine slogan for an Abercrombie & Fitch state T-shirt. "West Virginia: Dammit, the Stereotypes Have to Start Somewhere!")

I also find that a very high percentage of the Vid-Borrower Crowd are also members of the Intanet Crowd. One in particular, Mrs. Bellows: The Video Borrowing Gorgon, even made the Rogues gallery.

Mrs. Bellows: The Video Borrowing Gorgon is exactly as horrible as she sounds. She's a round and hefty woman who closely resembles Tweedle Dum from Alice In Wonderland in nearly every aspect except mode of dress. Slap some stripes and overalls on her and you've got yourself a literary figure the likes of whom would frighten Thursday Next.

Mrs. Bellows was mostly known for her video-borrowing during the first few encounters I had with her. She was of the very variety of Vid-Borrower who checks out her card-limit in videos and then complains bitterly about our lack of certain titles, as though we're responsible for stocking the latest blockbuster. We the staff used to cringe collectively when we saw her waddling up the walk because we knew we were in for trouble. We weren't sure why she complained so much, as her tastes in movies skewed toward the extraordinarily shitty. And this is hardly due to us having only shitty movies in our collection. We actually have a large majority of the films on my mental list of the top 50 greatest films of all time. However, she never wanted any of the good ones. Instead, she gravitated toward anything starring the likes of Michael Ironside, Dolph Lundgren, Brian Bosworth, Chuck Norris, Rutger Hauer, Pauley Shore, Tim Thomerson, Vanity, or any combination therein. (Oddly, we don't own a single Rob Schneider movie, but I'm sure she would have borrowed it if we had.)

Like I said before, though, often our Vid-Borrowers do double duty as Intanet Crowders and Mrs. Bellows was no exception.

There are many patrons among the Intanet Crowd who come in daily to check their e-mail, read news, play crosswords, chat with skanks, etc. However, there's a particular flavor of the Intanet Crowder that does all of the above in a very obsessive, possessive, and compulsive manner. They have a hunger for their e-mail, news, crosswords, chatting, etc. that is overpowering and they will defend their time on the internet with their lives and try to extend it by any means necessary. Mrs. Bellows was not one of these people, but I think she really really aspired to be. She definitely had the hunger to get on the internet and seemed to recognize what an colossal amount of time could be wasted with it, but unfortunately she just didn't have the brains to figure out how to actually do so. In fact, she could barely check her e-mail without calling for help, which is how she earned her nickname.

Mrs. Bellows, when confronted with an internet hurdle she couldn't jump, would not, like a nice patron, get off her duff, walk twenty paces, and politely ask a staff member for assistance. No. She kept her considerable keister planted in front of the computer and would, instead, bellow at us for help.

The scenario would play out like this: I'd be up at the circ desk and would hear...

"He'p!"

(Thirty seconds would then pass during which I would ponder whether or not I actually heard Mrs. Bellows bellowing for help.)

"HE'P!"

(Yup. Sure sounded like it. Amazing. She actually expected that she could bellow like that from way back in the computer hall and someone would come running to help her. How lazy is that? It's not like she's disabled or anything. She's just that lazy!)

"HE'PP!"

(Still not moving to "he'pp".)

"HEEEE'P!!"

($%#&!)

So I'd trudge on back to find out what stupid-assed thing had flummoxed her this time. Usually she had forgotten her password and couldn't get into her e-mail, forcing me to guide her through the I'M A DAMNED MORON AND LOST MY PASSWORD page for Hotmail.

Or, better yet, she'd been to this one site this one time but couldn't remember where to go to see it again and really wanted to and also she couldn't remember ANYTHING else about it that might give me a clue as to how to get her back there, but it was really nice.

Or, even better yet, she'd accidentally X'ed out of Internet Explorer and now CAN'T REMEMBER HOW TO GET BACK INTO IT!

I tell you, it was all I could do to keep from primal screaming in her face. This went on for weeks and she steadfastly refused to learn from her mistakes, or otherwise get any smarter, despite our many attempts to teach her how to use the computer.

Fortunately for us, Mrs. Bellows stopped coming round to see us. I don't know if it was because she ran through our shitty movie supply or if she just doesn't have reliable transportation to get here. I do know that she now lives in Town-C, which is a nice distance from us in Town-A. (And, hell, even if she lived closer it's not like she was really gonna walk.) We haven't seen her at our branch in months, but I did see her one time at Town-C's branch, when I popped in to return some ILL's to them one day. There she was, squatted on a chair in front of one of their computers, checking e-mail. She didn't bellow for help while I was there, but it would have been quite a bit less offensive had she done so, since Town-C's computers are in close proximity to the circulation desk.

It must be a transportation issue that keeps her from visiting us. Town-C doesn't have nearly the selection of videos that we do.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Actual Semi-Paraphrased Second-Hand Information Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #13

THE SCENE OPENS WITH MRS. B, MY FELLOW "LIBERRY" ASS. WORKING A SHIFT ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON. THE LIBRARY'S GLASSED OUTER FRONT DOOR SLOWLY OPENS AND THE FAMILIAR FACE OF A LONGTIME FEMALE PATRON CAUTIOUSLY PEERS IN.

MRS. B: Hello.

LONGTIME FEMALE PATRON: (Looks shocked) Your... your door is open. (Points to open wooden inner door)

MRS. B: Uh huh.

LONGTIME FEMALE PATRON: (Pauses) Is it okay for me to bring my books in?

MRS. B: Sure.

LONGTIME FEMALE PATRON: I... uh... I was just driving by to put them in the book return, but it was locked. Then I noticed the door was open and wondered what was wrong.

MRS. B: Wrong?

LONGTIME FEMALE PATRON: Yes. I mean it's Sunday, isn't it?

MRS. B:
Yes. But we're open on Sunday.
LONGTIME FEMALE PATRON: (Amazed) You're open on Sunday?!! Oh, my gosh, I didn't know that! How long have you been opening on Sundays?

MRS. B: (Not wanting to embarrass the patron by pointing out that Sunday has been a standard day of operation for nigh unto two decades) Oh, for a while now.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Gimme a C.... A Bouncy C...

A lot of people don't like answering machines, but when it comes to calling patrons about books on hold I love them. (And in the case of Mrs. West, I wish she'd get one.) It's not that talking to our patrons is any huge chore, but I only get to talk to the patron I'm calling about 25 percent of the time. Usually I'll get a spouse, or a teenager, or, worst of all, a toddler. I then either have to negotiate with them to speak to the patron, or I have to leave a message with them and hope they actually deliver it. Sure, I make notations on the hold slip as to who exactly I left the message with, should the patron not get the message and leave me needing someone to blame, but I find answering machines save me the most amount of potential hassle.

Usually.

One night, I got an answering machine that didn't play a traditional outgoing message. Instead, it began playing some sort of funky pre-recorded Casio keyboard music which, after several measures, was accompanied by the slightly off key voice of the patron herself. I wish to God I'd called her back and transcribed the lyrics, but they really weren't remarkable as far as answering machine song lyrics go. It was the standard We're not home right now and in a moment you'll hear a beep and you know what to do then sort of thing, only somewhat more creatively written than that. It was clear that this woman had gone to some degree of effort to pull off what she no doubt hoped would be cute and cheerful and day-brightening, but which in the end was just painfully cheesy. I almost felt embarrassed on her behalf at having to listen to it. Like she was going to suddenly pop on the line and ask my opinion of it and I'd have to slam down the phone and run hide behind the Hobbit door under our staircase.

What's worse, though, is that when the beep beeped and it was time for me to leave a message, I had the greatest difficulty saying "We have that Willa Cather book you wanted" without completely cracking up laughing. I should have done it in song.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Actual Telephone Conversations in Actual Libraries #12

SFX:  (Phone dialing followed by ringing)

LADY: Hello?

ME: Hi this is JUICE from the TRI-METRO county library calling for Laura Bethman?

LADY: Who?

ME: (Annunciating heavily) Lau-ra Beth-man.

LADY: I'm sorry, you must have the wrong number.

ME: (Quickly comparing the number from the interlibrary loan print-out with the number I just dialed on the digital readout of our phone; it's exactly the same) Um, can I just confirm the number I dialed. Is this 555-6543?

LADY: Well, that's our number, but there's no Laura Bethman here. This is the George residence.

ME: (Reconsulting the ILL printout.) Ah, hah. I see that I have mistaken the author of the book with the patron who requested it.

LADY: Oh.

ME: So I'm actually calling for Elliot George. We have a book for him. By Laura Bethman.

LADY: Okay. I'll tell him.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Mom said, "No."

Back near Christmas, we had a mom and her three kids come in one night to look for books. The kids were all within a year or so of each other, probably ranging from age 5 - 8, brother, sister, brother.

"Can I have a candy cane?" the little girl, said, pointing up at the five candy-canes that were hooked over the back of our Bookpage display.

"I don't see why not," I said. "As long as it's okay with your mom."

Girl and youngest brother dashed into the children's room to negotiate with their mom for a candy cane. Mom came and looked at the canes and seemed to think about it for a few seconds before saying, "No. You all had candy earlier."

I expected all three children to burst into pleading screams, but the girl heard, accepted it, and moved on with her life.  The older brother seemed indifferent about it. This left youngest brother, who wasn't willing to give up just yet. He instantly turned on the tears--not at full open spigot, but just enough to wet his eyes--then went into whine mode with the standard, "But moooOOOOOooommmmmm! I waaannnt ooonnnnnnNNNNnnnee!"

I knew--or at least, I thought I knew--how this little scenario was going to play out: Kid would whine for several minutes and would possibly enlist the aid of his siblings in a triple-ply begging session that mom would be hard-pressed to resist. It would go on so long that mom would finally relent on the grounds that it's easier to give in to their demands than have to listen to the crying. Either that or kid would be smacked down. Neither scenario was to occur, though.

The whining session from little brother did last for quite some time. He continued saying, "But I wannnnnnnt ooooooooonnnnnnneeee," repeatedly throughout the checkout process. Mom, to her infinite credit, stood fast in her resolve that the kids would have no candy. She had given them her edict and was not going to change it just because little brother wanted to whine. She backed this up with the phrase, "Mom said `No.'"

Little brother didn't want to hear this, though. He continued to whine and even poured on more tears, all to no effect. This crying fit lasted all the way to the car and, I suspect, most of the way home. No candy was had, though.

I so respected that mom. I've been witness to many a parental cave-in, but she was just so cool about it. Granted, they were in public and maybe that scene would have played much more vocally had they been at home. But she handled it so well that I had to chalk her up as a good mom teaching her kids good lessons whether they liked it or not.

That was several weeks ago.

This past Sunday, they returned. This time they turned in a bunch of their non-fiction bug videos, plus a few books, then they all went upstairs to look for more books. Evidently, Little Brother wanted another video too and had raised enough of a stink about it that Mom had once again said, "No." I know this because he came stomping down the stairs, 20 minutes later, crying, "Myyyyyy videoooooooooooo!"

Once again, Mom was having none of it. I think she'd given her part of the argument upstairs and was no longer in a mood to tell the kid "No" anymore. Just let him scream himself hoarse, seemed to be her attitude. Again, though, kid wasn't learning anything from history. He continued to wail "Myyyy videeeoooooooo! Myyyyyyyy videEEEEoooooooo!" while I checked out mom's books to her. His siblings watched with some amusement as their brother then collapsed onto the floor in an obvious display of painful video deprevation and continued to holler.

As the checkout process was nearing its end, little brother realized he had a very limited window in which to make and win his case and he really began pouring on the tears. Now he was lying on the floor, on his face, screaming directly into our runner carpet, "MYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY VIDEEEEEOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

Mom gathered up her books, directed her non-screaming kids toward the door and started moving.

"MYYYY VIDEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEOOOOOOOOOOOO!" kid squalled in a last ditch effort to get his way. It was ignored.

I watched them make their way to their car where the two good children obediently climbed into the back seat on their own while mom picked up the screamer around his waist and carried him around to the passenger side. She opened the door, inserted him into the car, glanced around--perhaps to make sure no one was actively calling child-services on her--then closed the door and departed. Only then did the wailing become inaudible.

I related that story to my dad yesterday and apologized for the many times when, as a child, I was that kid.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Turkey Call

My parents and sister are driving in this evening to spend much of the week with us.  In honor of their arrival, we cooked a giant 18 pound turkey for dinner last night. I got it for cheap at a local supermarket that ordered way too many for the Christmas rush and were in desperate need to liquidate their remaining stock.

We cooked it up and ate once the fambly arrived it and it was very good. Afterwards, the wife decided to put the turkey out on the back deck, as we had little extra room in our refrigerator and it's plenty cool outside.  I suggested we needed to put it in something a bit more sturdy than that new gripping cling-wrap stuff stretched over its basting pan, but she would hear none of it. She grew up in Alaska where her family regularly used the out of doors as extra freezer space. My point was that there are plenty of animals here that are both perfectly capable of smelling the delicious scent of turkey AND of climbing deck steps. But she would not hear of it. 

At 5:30 a.m. I was awakened by the sound of a strong wind. Sounded like a major gust outside, just the sort that might whip even grip-wrap off of a turkey and send it flying. I got up, walked to the back door, turned on the light and was just in time to see something small, dark, and cat-like haul ass around the top corner of the deck and disappear down the steps. Dammit!

The turkey itself didn't seem to have been touched. The grip-wrap seemed intact. I took the turkey pan inside and began studiously freeing up space for it in the `fridge. Only after I had space for it did I notice that the grip-wrap had been clawed open toward one end of the bird.

"Was it okay?" the wife asked as I returned to bed.

"No. A cat had gotten into it," I said, feeling a bit triumphant that my prediction had come to pass.

We both got up and went to inspect further. Under the clawed section of wrap was the half of the turkey we'd feasted from earlier in the evening. There, on a mostly clean turkey wing, were some claw and tooth marks, but the rest of the bird, particularly the whole remaining half, was untouched. It seems that I was just in time to rescue it from the thieving critter.

The odd thing, though, is that when I went outside to rescue it, the wind was not blowing at all. Had I dreamed it?