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.


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.

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An employee of a small town "liberry" chronicles his quest to remain sane while dealing with patrons who could star in a short-lived David Lynch television series.