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.

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.


“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.

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.


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.