Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Dreaming of Me (Ooooo, la la la... OooooooooOOOOO)

It was an oddly synchronous kind of day, today.

My best example: This afternoon a college-aged girl came into the library. She was dressed in her best Brittany On Her Off Day blue-jeans and tight hoodie over pastel shirt ensemble, complete with extra makeup. She said she'd been in last week and was told that all of our dream-interpretation books were checked out and overdue. She wanted to know if they had been returned yet. I knew the answer even before I looked `em up on the OPAC. Sure enough, still very much out and very much overdue.

"We do have a couple in our reference room," I offered.

"No. Yew can't check them out," she said. She left, disappointed.

Having missing or otherwise checked out dream dictionaries is nothing strange. They're harder to keep on the shelf than The Da Vinci Code. The patrons who want them never EVER want to simply look up stuff in our reference books on the subject. No, they want a book, or better still BOOKS, they can haul away and pour over for months on end. And they ALWAYS keep them for months on end. After all, it's not like they're going to stop dreaming! There's always a new dream coming down the ol' brain pipe that will require intensive interpretation and consarnit they'd better have a book, or better still BOOKS, on hand to make with the interpretin'. You practically have to have a court order and a crowbar to pry them out of their sweaty little hands. Well, almost always...

Fifteen minutes after the first girl left, a second girl came in and returned ALL of our dream dictionaries. I was so astounded, I forgot to charge her a fine.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Fear me, children!

Mrs. C called me yesterday morning saying she had a big favor to ask. My first thought was that she was not going to be at work that day and it would be a solo Monday for the Juicemeister. However, it wasn't anything THAT scary.

Turns out Mrs. C has a case of shingles and was therefore contageous to people who haven't had chicken pox yet. To make matters worse, we had a kindergarten class visit scheduled for 1:15 and she didn't think it was a good idea that she give the tour. Could I do it?

"Sure. No problem" I said.

I'd never done a class visit before, though. I'd seen them done, but mostly from the other side of the circulation desk where my job was to wave at the kiddies when Mrs. C tells to return their books there and not put them on the book cart, which was only for our use. I didn't figure doing a tour would be a problem, though. I used to give class tours all the time when I worked at Pizza Hut back in college. At least at the "liberry" I wouldn't have to worry about keeping kids from sticking their arms in the oven.

Mrs. C assured me she would write up a list of all the things I needed to tell them.

"Or I could just make stuff up and they'd never know the difference," I said. "Whadda they know? They're in kindergarten!"


I rolled in to work at 1 and found a small stack of pages awaiting me for things I needed to convey. It was all standard stuff, but phrased in such a way as to connect to the mind of a Kindergartener. The kids didn't give me much time to crib, though, for they arrived ten minutes early. Mrs. C dashed out the back door just as the kids came pouring in and suddenly I was staring at a room full of five year olds looking up at me expectantly.

As easy as I thought explaining the library would be, I kept running into problems, even with Mrs. C's instructions to fall back on. See, I'm used to explaining how the library works to new patrons, but most of the time they at least have a knowledge base of how libraries typically work to build on. These kids were blank slates. So every time I told them anything I immediately realized I had to back track and explain base concepts. I also had to watch my wording. For instance, at one point I was explaining that we put "PB" on the spine-labels (book addresses) of all paperback books but not on the hard back books. I told them "that's how we differentiate between the two." Then I remembered that many of our ADULT patrons would scratch their heads at "differentiate" so I had to start over.

Fortunately, their teacher had been through the drill many more times than me. She helped me out whenever I would try to move on to the next room without explaining everything first--like, don't shove all the books back on the shelf and don't try to reshelve the books yourself and you can use your inside voice in this room, but whisper everywhere else. The kids seemed to pick up on a lot of it, though. And they were all quiet and well-behaved.

I was suprised how nervous I was about it. And I don't even know why. I mean, they're kindergarteners. What better audience could you wish for? You can get laughs with the lamest jokes with them. For instance, while schooling them on how much we charge for fines, I pointed out that we only make you pay for the books themselves if you lose them or if your dog decides to eat them. They would have to pay us for the book and then get their dog to pay them back. They liked that one.

While giving them the tour of the upstairs non-fiction section, I was explaining how they really needed to be quiet up there because that's where our tables are and sometimes people study there. "Like this guy," I said, pointing to one of our patrons who I know is a first year student at my wife's school. He was studying with earphones on, listening to boring lectures, no doubt. He looked up when I pointed to him and then waved to the kids. They stayed quiet.

Fortunately, the teacher is one of the good class-visit teachers who does call ahead a couple weeks ahead and sends over all the contact information for us to make library cards for all the kids. We'd already done all that and had even made photocopies of the backs of the cards so we could scan them from the paper without having to give out the cards and create confusion and chaos. (Let "teach" deal with that back at school, we say.) Each kid was allowed to pick out one book. I think the teacher wanted them to pick out a kids fiction book from downstairs, but a few of the boys had heard me mention race-cars and dinosaurs upstairs, so that's what they wanted. I went up and grabbed a selection and brought them down to pass out.

Over all, it went pretty well, but after they were gone, I kept remembering all sorts of things I should have told them. Then again, they'll probably forget half of what I told them anyway. Whadda they know? They're in kindergarten.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #23

SETTING: My "liberry," some weeks back.

ME: Hi, can I help you?

FEMALE PATRON: Yeah. I was looking for a book called the Da Vinci Code? (She says this in a tone which suggests I might somehow never have heard of it.)

ME: (Affects sudden intake of air) Welllllllll, that may be a hard one to find on the shelf.

PATRON: Really?

ME: Oh, yeah. See, while we own five copies of the Da Vinci Code, they're perpetually on hold. In fact, they've been on hold for nearly two years now. And whenever one does hit the shelf, it's gone almost instantly. I've never seen anything like it before.

PATRON: Wow. Somebody just recently told me to read it. They said it was really good.

ME: Well... it's popular.

PATRON: So when's one due back in?

ME: (Looks it up in the computer. Four copies are checked out, one is horrendously overdue and likely never to be seen again, one is checked in but is actually in the hold bin awaiting pickup, only three people seem to be actively on hold for the next available copy.) Looks like next week, but three people are on hold. Would you like me to put you on hold too?

PATRON: No. I think I'll just check back with you next week.

ME: Um... That's not going to work for this book.

PATRON: That's all right. I'll just check back next week.

ME: No, really, ma'am. I'm serious. It won't work. Any other book we have, sure, but not this one. I swear you'll get it faster if I just put you on hold for it.

PATRON: (Still very cheerfully) No, that's okay. I'll just check back next week.

(This patron has YET to see this book.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Unanticipated and Disappointing Early Return of "Sir Richard Weed"

I wasn't expecting a resolution to the situation with Paranoid Rick James so soon, but it happened and has settled out with no major fireworks. Rats.

I didn't even find out about it until nearly closing time yesterday, when I asked Mrs. C what she and Mrs. A were planning to do about Rick's returned overdue notice.

"Oh, I forgot to tell you... He returned his late tapes on Friday," Mrs. C said with a grin.

"Did he now?" I said, warming to what I hoped was a story of Rick James getting royally blessed out by a double-barrell Mrs. A/Mrs. C combo. I wanted to hear all the details of how they raked him across coals for knowingly omitting the fact that the address he'd given us was no longer valid. It wasn't quite so good as all that, but it's still a nice story.

According to Mrs. C, Paranoid Rick James ambled in by himself Friday afternoon and turned in his overdue books on tape. I'd certainly not expected him to return so soon, but it makes sense as he'd choose to do so on Friday and Rick, cheap jerk that he is, knew we don't charge fines on Friday. Otherwise his would have been in the $7.50 range. Well, they would have if we didn't have that darn $4 fine ceiling.

So Rick drops off his old tapes and heads on back to find new ones. Once he'd selected some, he came back to the desk to check out, where Mrs. C was lying in wait for him.

Can you guess what necessary item for checking things out Paranoid Rick James "neglected" to bring with him? That's right, surprise surprise: his "liberry" card!

"Oh," he said in what Mrs. C reports was a disdainful tone, "I have to have my library card, don't I?"

"Yes, you do," she said. "You also have to provide us with a valid mailing address and a physical address before you can check anything else out. We sent you an overdue notice about your books on tape and it came back to us as having an invalid address."

Rick protested claiming, "Well I told them when I got the card that it was my old address!"

Naturally, I was fuming when Mrs. C related this bit.

"NO. HE. DID. NOT!" I all but shouted. Then I realized I was shouting at the choir, for Mrs. C has heard more than one re-telling on my part of That time I issued Paranoid Rick James a card and she was well-aware that he had said no such thing. And even if she hadn't, it was utter crap that he would even make such an assertion because we're certainly not in the business of handing out library cards to people without valid mailing addresses. That was the ENTIRE POINT of the argument when he first tried to get a card with us, so there's no way we would have accepted a bogus address a week later, even if he had pointed it out, (WHICH. HE. DID. NOT!).

Mrs. C said she listened to him, then told him once again that he would be checking no items out until he provided us with the valid required addresses, not to mention his actual card. Rick wisely decided not to push the issue. He left his pile of books on tape there and said he'd pick them up later. Mrs. C then went up to tell Mrs. A who had been in. They were both laying money that Rick would turn up again, but with Gladys Knight's card just to try and "get one over" on us yet again. However, when Rick came back a few hours later, he had his own card and provided us with a valid mailing address--Gladys's, which is technically his too, since he does live there.

Here's hoping he stays away for another three months.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Juice's Not Quite So Butt-Hard Music Trivia

As I walked in the door last Thursday, Mrs. A, Mrs. C and our friendly neighborhood high-school aged unofficial-library-volunteer-staff-member, Rif, were standing around behind the desk. As soon as they caught sight of me, they said, "Well try it out on JUICE. I bet he'll know."

"Huh?" I said, walking up.

Mrs. A was holding the latest issue of Rolling Stone, the second special issue in their Top 100 Greatest Rock Musicians of All Time As Determined by 50 Cent and Quentin Tarantino series. On the cover was a grid of mug-shots of famous musicians, some of whom the library staff and would-be staff were having difficulty identifying. I took one look at it and said, "James Taylor, Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, Jerry Garcia, Eminem, Joni Mitchel, Frank Zappa, 2pac, Elvis Costello and Axel Rose." The only one that gave me pause was James Taylor, but only because it was a very old photo from back when he had hair and a really poor goatee. Those eyes, though, were unmistakable.

Of course, my fellow employees and Rif were astounded at my knowledge of musicians.

"How did you know all of them?" Rif asked.

"Well, I worked seven years in radio, for one thing," I said. However, I didn't want to tell them that even if I hadn't worked 7 years in radio and wasn't a repository for useless information of all kinds, those were not even a challenge for MOST people with even a passing knowledge of popular music over the past 30 years. Rif I excuse cause he's only 17 and recently admitted to having never heard a song by Prince. And Mrs. J I can excuse, cause I'm not sure she'd even acknowledge there are other genres of music beyond country. But it seems like everyone else should have known more of these. They weren't even curveball artists, like if they'd put Jello Biafra or even Nick Drake on the cover. These were mostly top-40 artists, with the exception of Jerry Garcia and maybe Frank Zappa. Even "Valley Girl" did pretty well for him, though. And, man, everyone knows Jerry Bear!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Maybe I should rename him "Sir Richard Weed"?

Since coming back from Central America, I've been wondering if I've stepped into the Twilight Zone or something. We've had very few Rogues Gallery sightings in the past two weeks. Even Parka, who's almost a daily presence, hasn't been in much at all. Other than Mr. B-Natural putting in a well-behaved appearance, there's not been much to write home about.

Then I arrived at work this morning and saw that by the computer was one of our overdue notices, returned to us by the Post Office due to an insufficient address. It was addressed to Paranoid Rick James.

That's right, the same high-strung little butt-salad-sandwich who, a few months back, raised 8 kinds of hell that we not only required a drivers license but also (GASP!) a physical address in order to get a library card. Yes, the same guy who, after having made such an enormous scene in front of nearly every other staff member BUT me, plus refusing to supply said information to get a card, then came back a week later when I was the only one on shift and gladly seemed to supply it. See he was operating under the mistaken premise that because I had not witnessed his first tantrum I wouldn't have heard about it. He'd even been happy to show me his driver's license and provide the physical address, and since I could find nothing wrong with it I let him have a library card anyway.

"Did you see this?" I asked holding it up for Mrs. C. She nodded and rolled her eyes. Mrs. A too just shook her head in mute fury.

It's not that I was surprised that Rick's overdue noticed was returned to us. I knew something was fishy with his address back in July simply because he was too happy to supply it. What I was surprised about, however, was that he'd actually checked anything out using the card at all. He usually prefers doing all his checkouts using his girlfriend Gladys Knight's card. Apparently he was caught in the library one day without her tagging along and was forced to dig his out.

How he hornswaggled us is very simple and I'm pissed that I didn't do the math until now. When he threw his original fit, it was because we wouldn't just accept his post office box as his address and required him to put down a physical address too. We only require this in the case of post office boxes. When he came back a week later and supplied an address, it was the non-post office box address on his drivers license. My thought is, while the license was current (I did check that much), he had probably since moved from the address listed on it so he didn't feel any qualms about supplying it.

We're still in discussions as to what to ultimately do about Rick. First and foremost, we've blocked his patron account from checking out anything further until he supplies a physical address and proper mailing address. Unfortunately, I doubt he'll bat an eye at that. In fact, he'll probably view it as proof that we're conspiring to get his physical address (and we are!) or he'll view it as some kind of great victory over us, refuse to supply the address and just never check anything out from us using his card again. He'll probably keep coming in with Gladys Knight, though, just to rub our noses in the fact that he's still getting his books on tape through her. Not a lot we can do about that.

We've discussed sending his overdue through Gladys Knight's address, which we assume is correct. They live together so it would piss him off good if we reached him that way. Me, I'm for just phoning him up, assuming the phone number he provided works, and telling him off. Or better yet, getting his physical address through other means and sending the sheriff after him like we told him we would.


Saturday, April 09, 2005

Fun-Loving Malibu Juice

Today we finally found out what that strange belt-squeak noise was in the engine of my car. Of course, we had to find out the hard way rather than have a mechanic tell us.

As I reported recently, I knew my car was in need of some kind of repair from the odd sounds its engine was making. Since we were already having to go to service stations on a semi-daily basis for the wife’s car and it’s many recent flat tires, I decided to bite the bullet and take mine in for its 100,000 mile tune up. I took it to one of my two usual repair places, the local Chevy dealership. I’ve actually had mixed experiences with them in the past and was once even yelled at by one of their employees for a mistake he had made. But they were the Chevy dealership so they ostensibly would be the ideal place to take a Chevy, so there I went.

We dropped my car off late on an early March Tuesday night. It was a carefully chosen night, because the wife’s rotation in March gave her Wednesdays off so she would be able to shuttle me to work the next day. On the little after hours drop off sheet that I had to fill out with snow falling on my head and wind freezing my fingers, I noted that the belts should be paid attention to as there was a loose belt-squeal sound coming from them. I also checked that I would need an oil change.

“Did you mention the grabby brakes?” the wife asked as I climbed back into her car.

"Uh, no,” I said. I’d forgotten about the grabby brakes. They’ve actually been grabby for quite some time, but the local brake place said everything looked good in them so we shouldn’t worry too much. Still, who likes grabby brakes?

The following morning, the wife called the Chevy place and told them about the grabby brakes just to make sure someone did. They said they’d check them. Meanwhile, they’d already found that the car had a leaky engine intake that needed fixing to the tune of $700. The wife asked if this was something dire in need of fixing or if it was the kind of thing that might wait a few months. They said it could wait provided it wasn’t actively leaking antifreeze. Otherwise we needed to have it done. Well, we’ve seen no leaks whatsoever in our driveway, so they said we’d be cool until we did.

“Did you tell them to do the oil change?” I asked.


“Well, it’s on the form I filled out, so I’m sure they’ll get it,” I said.

Despite claiming they would phone us when they knew what was wrong with the car, the garage never called. In the afternoon, I phoned them to learn that the car needed new brake drums in the back. They also said they didn’t want to go ahead with the 100,000 mile tune up because it would involve replacing bits that would have to be replaced again once we decided to have the intake fixed and they didn’t want to do the work twice. Whatever. I didn’t want to pay for it twice either, so that was okay. They also said they couldn’t hear any belt squealing so they hadn’t done anything with that either. I approved them to fix the drums and asked them to call me when they were finished.

Naturally, they did not.

Around 4:30, I called them back because I knew they closed at 5. Their receptionist was never able to get the repair department to answer the phone, but said she’d have them call me back.

Again, they did not phone, so at 5 p.m. I was left with no other conclusion but that my car was not fixed.

The next morning, the wife drove me back to the Chevy dealership where I planned to wait for my car to be finished. If worse came to worse and I needed to get to work, I could always just walk because it’s not terribly far to the library. However, when I arrived they claimed my car was already fixed. So I paid them for the brake drum replacement, noticed they’d charged me for a lube job, which I assumed was the oil change. It was only after I was driving away that I noticed they had not replaced the little Oil Change in X number of Miles sticker on the inside of the window, leading me to believe they’d not actually changed the oil.

The car ran okay for several days, despite the continued belt squeal sound. I could kind of understand them not being able to hear it because it only happened on warm days. Then, on the following Sunday, the right rear tire began to make a horrible clunking sound whenever brakes were applied at low speeds. Not good.

On Wednesday morning, we took the car back in and told them it wasn’t fixed. The man at the counter seemed a bit angry at this. He also didn’t seem to want to accept the car at all. He said he was 4 mechanics short that day and might not be able to get to it. We didn’t see how his lack of mechanics was our problem and told him we would much prefer it if they had a look anyway to see what was wrong being as how we don’t like driving around with horrible clunking sounds coming from allegedly repaired brakes. Dude wrote down a little of what we were saying, but wasn’t writing in near as much detail as I thought he should.

“And would you please have them investigate the belt-squealing sound that I’m still hearing in the engine,” I asked. “Oh, and please change the oil, too.” This seemed to make the man even angrier, but he agreed he would try if they had time.

I went to work.

Again at 4:30 I gave them a call. The Angry Man at the desk said they couldn’t hear any clunking noises coming from the engine nor any squealing noise from the tire. I corrected him that it was actually a clunking noise in the back right tire when braking at low speed and a squealing noise much liken unto a loose belt from the engine pretty much all the time. He still said they couldn’t hear either and suggested I come in the following day to help them hear it.

On Thursday morning, the wife dropped me off at work and I gave the dealership a call around 10:30 to arrange the aforementioned auditory aid session. Angry man answered and said they had driven the car again that morning and still couldn’t hear anything. I told them they might not hear the belt squeal, but the clunking was pretty obvious. He suggested I needed to come in and drive with them. Great! Super! It's only why I called to begin with.

“Sure thing,” I said. “Could I come by at noon?” He said that I could.

At noon, Mrs. B dropped me off at the dealership. Angry man was there and seemed angrier when he saw me. He told me that all the mechanics had gone to lunch from noon to 1, so I’d have to come back later.

“Well, I sure wish you’d mentioned that before you said it would be okay for me to come in at noon,” I said, very calmly.

Angry man flared. Likely he was mad because he’d been the one who screwed up and told me to come at noon when he clearly knew no one would be there. He was also likely mad that I’d pointed out his faux pas and was clearly in the right.

“Well, I’m not going to stand here and argue with you who was right or who was wrong," he said. "Let’s just go give her a drive now.”

“Sure thing,” I said, still remaining admirably calm.

Once he dug up my key and lead me outside, he started making for the driver’s side door of the car.

“Uh, would you mind if I drove,” I said. Angry Man did seem to mind, but didn’t really have any grounds to refuse me the wheel of my own vehicle. To make small talk while I started the car and maneuvered out of the parking lot, Angry Man started back in on the whole the Mechanics drove this car twice and couldn’t hear a thing thread from before. As he was doing so, I applied the brakes until the car was at a very low speed.


“Hear that?”

Angry man’s mouth dropped open. “Yeah. Yeah, I hear that. Anybody could hear that.” He then became incredibly angry at the incompetence of his mechanic for putting him in such an embarassing situation. I continued to drive the car out of the parking lot and on down the road, both to try and get the belt to squeal and also to make dude that much more uncomfortable for once again having been shown up. The belt never would squeal for me, but like I told him it usually didn’t do it when the weather was cold.

“Uh, you said you needed an oil change too, right?” Angry Man said as we drove back to the dealership. “Well, we did that when you brought it in last week.”

“Oh, really. I thought maybe you hadn’t since no one replaced the mileage sticker.” I pointed to it for him.

"Well… um… they’re supposed to do that,” he said.

We resolved to have them fix the clunk and I would save the belt squeal for a day when it was actually squealing.  And later in the day, after I'd phoned them to ask their diagnosis of my car, they indicated that when they had replaced my brake drums the week before, they’d managed to replace one of them with a faulty brake drum. Good job there, Peaches!

Jump ahead two weeks. The wife and I go out of town for a medical missions trip to Central America during which time my car sits in my driveway. Upon our return, the belt squeal has not gone away, but has in fact gotten worse. This past Saturday it sounded particularly bad and was doing its best impersonation of a choir of crickets throughout the driving experience. I was a bit concerned that something might go wrong with it before I could get to the "liberry" for my Saturday shift. I made it there okay, but almost didn’t make it home.

As I was nearly up the giant hill that leads to my street, I hit a dip in the pavement and heard something beneath the hood give way. As I reached the street itself, I noticed that the power steering was no longer working. As I reached my driveway, the battery light came on. I parked and opened the hood. Sure enough, the serpentine belt was completely off its track. And the reason it was off it's track is because the alternator had fallen off.

No, really. It. Fell. Off.

I’m talking, broken off from the engine block entirely at the bracket.

“Well, that sucks,” I said, staring at it.  "Those complete and utter morons," I added.

Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised by this. However, you'd think that when you go to allegedly qualified Chevrolet repair specialists at an automobile repair garage that deals specifically with Chevrolets and you tell them that your particular Chevrolet is making a sound that's reminiscent of a belt being loose that they'd actually, oh, I don't know, HAVE AN EFFING LOOK AT THE GENERAL BELT AREA or something and maybe noticed that the bracket connecting the alternator had CRACKS IN IT!


I don’t say nearly often enough how much I adore my car insurance company TEXAS-BASED AUTO INSURANCE COMPANY. Genuinely love them.

In addition to being very good insurance for the money we pay in, they also have customer service representatives that should be the envy of all other call centers the universe wide. Just the friendliest most helpful people you could ever care to deal with. And when you phone up USAA you don’t get a huge hassle from any automated answering service that makes you jump through hoops to talk to a real person. No. You get to talk to a real person, and a shiny happy real person at that. And the insurance reps are not only happy but are willing to actually help you out and make sure things are as easy for you as possible. It’s one of the most amazing concepts I’ve ever heard of!

For instance, Linda, the rep I spoke with Monday morning, commiserated with me over how much having one’s alternator fall off truly sucks. Then she cheerfully arranged for a tow truck to come and get my car and haul it to the nearest repair provider, which just happens to be within walking distance of my house. I think I’m in love! Even better, the towing is COVERED by my oh, so marvelous insurance! Glory Be!

The tow truck driver, who Linda said would probably not get there for an hour, actually came in 20 minutes and successfully hauled my car away.

After 8, I phoned Mrs. A and told her I might be late for my 1-5 Monday shift. She said she'd let Mrs. C know.

I then gave it an hour before calling the conveniently located repair place. I was expecting to have to explain why my car had been dumped on them and what I wanted them to fix and then have to wait upwards of a day for this busy garage to get around to doing anything about it. However, they already knew the whole drill about my car. In fact, they’d already been on the phone with parts yards looking for a new bracket for my alternator and expected to hear back from them any time. That wasn’t the truly shocking part, though.

“Did you know your alternator was missing a nut in the back?” my new repair guy asked.

“No. No, I didn’t,” I said.

Apparently, in the back of the alternator there is a bolt that helps hold the thing down and that bolt is supposed to be held in place by a nut. Without the nut, much vibration can occur which can and did cause the metal bracket of the alternator housing to weaken and eventually snap.

Now, I don’t know if the Chevy dealership is directly at fault for that nut being missing or not. I seem to recall them having to put in a new serpentine belt several months ago, (perhaps during the key-yelling incident) but I can’t swear to it. I know they didn’t do it on purpose, because these people seem to hate doing any work at all, let alone bringing more work down on their heads through sabotage. I am of half a mind to call them up and see if I can get a copy of all the work they’ve done on my car just to make sure.

I asked my new repair guy to give me a call when the car was ready. And a mere six hours later, he actually did. Imagine that; a repair shop that actually PHONES YOU when your car is ready, rather than making you guess. I walked on down the hill and picked it up with no problem. The bill was only $86, which didn’t strike me as too bad at all. And the guy was really nice, too. He showed me the old broken alternator bracket and the bolt upon which rested the entire lack of a nut. I think I’ve found my new repair shop.

The only real mixed blessing of the day was that due to lack of transportation, I missed all of my Monday shift.

Shucky. Shucky darn.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Buddy Goes Nutzoid

Not a lot happened today. It was really pretty slow. The only real excitement came when Buddy freaked out on his Unobstructed Doors aide.

It happened about a minute after they arrived, along with their usual "liberry" companion Harry the Killer Midget. Buddy seemed just fine as they walked in the door, but shortly after they went upstairs the screaming began. At first, Mrs. B and I weren't sure what was happening. We just heard Buddy shouting, "No, I will not!" Soon, we saw Harry coming down the stairs, headed for the door, shaking his head in a kind of inevitable way. Behind him came Buddy and their aide.

"BUDDY lower your voice," the aide was saying.

"No! No, I will not!" Buddy screamed.

"We're going back to office, then."

"No! I won't go to the office! I won't!"

"Back to the office."

We were all shocked to see Buddy so angry. He's always been one of the nicest and most soft-spoken of the Unobstructed Doors clients. He always asks your name and shakes your hand. Occasionally, he asks if you're his buddy. Seeing him riled up, though, I was a little afraid that Buddy was going to hit the aide. She didn't back down, though. And despite Buddy's protests that he was NOT going to leave, they left.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

The Fair Tax Plan Can't Happen Soon Enough!

I’m far more Libertarian than I am Democrat or Republican. The L-word can be a bad one for a lot of people, many of whom picture Libertarians as a bunch of pot-heads yammering for drug-legalization. And sure, there’s a lot of them to be found among the ranks. However, I hew more to the strict definition of Libertarian.

The World's Smallest Political Quiz defines Libertarians as those who, “support maximum liberty in both personal and economic matters. They advocate a much smaller government; one that is limited to protecting individuals from coercion and violence. Libertarians tend to embrace individual responsibility, oppose government bureaucracy and taxes, promote private charity, tolerate diverse lifestyles, support the free market, and defend civil liberties.”

Why do I uncharacteristically go all political and start mentioning Libertarians here? Because I like Neal Boortz.

That’s right, I said it. I like Atlanta-based radio on-air personality and card-carrying Libertarian Neal Boortz. He’s terribly entertaining and he’s the guy who I first heard singing the praises of the Fair Tax Plan a couple of years back.

What’s the Fair Tax plan? Well, in case you haven’t heard, the Fair Tax plan is a proposal by which the I R S would be done away with and a new National Sales Tax would be instituted whereby our income tax would be paid through the purchase of goods and services. Such basic necessities as food, shelter, transportation, etc. would still be taxed, but those people with incomes near the poverty level (i.e. folks who aren’t paying income tax under the current system anyway) would receive a monthly rebate of their taxes so they wouldn’t be unfairly treated.

All your frequently asked questions about the plan can be answered at the Fair Tax Page. One question they won’t answer, though, is why precisely am I bringing up Libertarians, Neal Boortz and Fair Tax in the first place.

Because if the Fair Tax system were in place now, I wouldn’t be having to deal with all the patrons coming in and bugging me for obscure income tax forms we don’t have!

Today, from the time I arrived, the next five patrons through the door were after tax forms. One lady looked as though she might bust out crying if she couldn’t get a state tax form right that second. Three others needed obscure forms we don’t stock, but which we can print out from the internet. So every time I’d print off a page or two for a patron and then return the browser back to our standard Opac home page, someone else would come in and need odd forms too and I’d have to go back to the I R S site and hunt them down. After the third time doing this in so many minutes, I just resigned myself to the fact that we’d be pestered by tax people all day and left an extra browser window open to the I R S forms & pubs site.

Of course, after doing that, I didn’t have another obscure tax form request for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

First Day Back

Today was my first day back in the "liberry" saddle following our two-week trip to Guatemala and El Salvador. It was largely uneventful as far as the usual "liberry" madness goes, but eventful in other respects. I popped in at 1p, laden with souvenirs for the library staff. Mrs. C and Mrs. B were the only ones in the front room, and they immediately asked how my trip went.

"Fantastic!" I said.

"I've got big news too," Mrs. C whispered.


She nodded furiously, then whispered, "I'm expecting."

This is huge news for Mrs. C. She and Mr. C have been trying to have a child for the past year and it's not been a fun time. Well, I'm sure it's been a fun time in some respects, but the results have not been what they've wanted. So congrats to Mr. and Mrs. C!

The staff, of course, had plenty of questions concerning my trip. Unfortunately, giving any kind of overview of a two-week mission trip in a short period of time is a very difficult thing to do. We had such an amazing time, saw and heard of such harrowing and heart-warming things and had so many mini-adventures in the process that you can't really Cliff's Notes it effectively. But I gave them a few highlights and lowlights. And once Mrs. A and Mrs. J came downstairs too, I gave everyone their souvenirs.

I bought five colorful pottery sun-faces at an Indian market in Antigua. They're essentially the same little ornamental sculpture, painted in different shades. Unfortunately, three of them were slightly chipped in a horribly true Continental Airlines-related incident at the Houston International Airport on the way home. (The chipping was actually getting off light in this case, as Ashley had part of a much larger pottery piece broken during the same incident.) Still, these were only chipped on the edges of a couple of the sun rays, so they’re still nice to display. I apologized for bringing them broken pottery, but gave them over anyway.

I also brought them each their own bag of fried plantain chips. These are plantains sliced lengthwise, salted and fried like potato chips. They’re just some of the most tasty fried chips you could ever want, though I doubt they are much better for you than potato chips. Sweet and salty all at once, they’re just tasty and good. Everyone broke open their bags and began sampling.

I asked what sort of incidents had occurred at the library in my absence? I fully expected them to relate something that I would fully regret having missed—like Chester and Parka having a shootout in the parking lot or something. Nope. The only notable incident they could recall was Mr. Stanky putting in an appearance yesterday and being particularly stinky even for him.

“You know,” I began, “I smelled a pretty wide array of B.O. when I was in Guatemala, but none of it came anywhere close to touching his.”

The only other possible incident was reported on our circ-desk note-pad. Our weekender, Miss K, noted that one of our long-time patrons, Mr. Crab, (who is also a long-time library donor and not afraid to let you know that should anything not go quite his way) had been in on Saturday and was completely pissed off that he couldn't use his old library card from the old nearly year-gone VTLS system. Mind you, Mr. Crab has a new library card on the new nearly year-old system, but he still carries his old card with him and is insulted that he can't use it. Miss K reported that Mr. Crab said he thought the way we had set up the new system was done in an unintelligent fashion and he insisted that we put his old barcode number from his old card in the new patron record so he could use it instead of his new card. I’m still not entirely sure what this man’s beef truly is, but even on his best days Mr. Crab could give Mr. B-Natural and Mr. Smiley a run for their Grumpiest and Second Grumpiest Old Man in all the World titles. Ms. K reported that she wasn’t sure what to do so she added the man’s old barcode to his patron record in addition to his new one just to shut him up. She indicated which barcode we should delete in case this was wrong. Mrs. A then had a note at the end of the account telling us to delete the old barcode.

I'm somehow sure this won't be the end of it.

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.