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 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.

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