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.

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.

*RING*
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.

*RING*

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.

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