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