Friday, December 29, 2006

Christmas Party, the fifth

The wife and I attended the Christmas party for my writing workshop last night. For the past few years it's been held at the bed & breakfast run by one of our members, everyone brings great food and wine and a fine time is had scarfing it down. Then, afterward, we have readings of some of our latest material or Christmas related stuff. This year, though, our b&b member has sold his b&b and so we had to have it at a local tea-dispensing establishment, where we dined on heavy `horse's doovers' and then did the readings.

At the end, Linda, our nefarious leader, asked us for our best Christmas memories of things we found in our Christmas stockings. Most of our class is of an age where they can remember being terribly excited to receive fruit in their stocking. We think nothing today of popping down to the market for a nice pineapple, but such exotic conveniences are a relatively recent thing, even in this country, particularly in rural areas of my state. My family never did much with stockings, growing up, so I had no memories of that. However, I did speak of a relatively recent Christmas memory of a gift I still treasure.

In the summer of 1980 I saw my first episode of the British science fiction show Doctor Who. It was an episode somewhere in the middle of the story "Revenge of the Cybermen." I was instantly transfixed by the universe presented to me, its chief resident, the Doctor, his lovely companion Sarah Jane Smith and, to a far lesser extent, his other companion Harry Sullivan. I was hooked from that moment and hungrilly sought out all things Doctor Who, from the books about the show, to the novelizations, to magazine articles, to the comics and to, eventually, the toys.

Though I didn't quite vocalize it at the time, what I wanted most in the world as a 4th grader was a Doctor Who scarf just like the one worn by Tom Baker on the show. (Yeah, I know, there were like 5 of them.) It was such a monstrous thing in both length and color scheme, but I adored the show and therefore adored the fashion sense of its characters. At the time, I didn't even consider that I might one day have an actual scarf like it. That sort of thing was only found on TV, as far as my 9 year old brain was concerned. Instead, I borrowed a muffler from my dad's then girlfriend, Nell, which I still have not returned. It looked nothing like the Doctor's scarf, being white and with tied off tassles on the end, but it was all I had and I wore it habitually.

Time travel ahead a decade or so. My friend Joe and I took a weekend trip to Hotlanta and happened to find a Nerd Shop, somewhere on the outskirts of the city. We were nearly finished with our shopping and were on the way to the counter to check out when there, lying coiled in a basket like a multi-colored snake, we spyed a single Doctor Who scarf. It was a thing of beauty and we both coveted it. However, because there was only one scarf and two of us, neither of us could purchase it for fear of drawing the eternal jealous ire of the other. If we had bought it, we would have had to work out some kind of time share deal and that seemed unwieldy. Later, I was able to search out a knitting pattern for such a scarf on a Doctor Who Usenet newsgroup, but I didn't know anyone who could knit.

Time travel ahead another decade. I'm married to a wonderful woman who had the good fortune to have been given birth by another wonderful woman, my Ma-In-Law. Ma, I learned early on, is a crafty soul who can knit all sorts of yarny goodness, if of a mind. It took me a couple of years, but slowly it dawned on me that here was a gal who COULD knit and who loved me enough that she might do me up a scarf if I asked real sweet. On Thanksgiving, in 2002, I even brought the subject up to my wife, Ashley, and asked if she thought Ma might be willing. Ashley said, no way and that a Doctor Who scarf would take forever to knit and Ma just didn't have that kind of time.

One short month later, a day or so from Christmas, we were back in North Carolina visiting family for a day before heading toward Mississippi. I was sitting in a chair, watching TV when Ashley and Ma approached carrying a double lined grocery bag, tied off by its straps. They passed it to me and stood smiling down. I took it, not even suspecting what might be inside. As I was trying to untie the straps, I caught a glimpse of knitting through the top and instantly knew what it was. Deep inside me, the 4th grade version of me snapped to attention and I began clapping my nuts N bolts stained forearms together in pure 9 year old glee. At long long last, I had my scarf. And a beautiful scarf it was, 17 feet of green and tan and brown and orange--just fantastic! Ma said it was the ugliest thing she'd ever created, but she was glad I liked it. I wrapped myself up in its length and soaked in the coolness of the very concept.

"You're gonna sleep with that thing, tonight, aren't you?" Ashley asked.

"Hell, yes, I'm going to sleep with it!" I said.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Got on the bad foot

As we were closed on Christmas Day, Birthday lady was unable to phone us to inquire as to James Brown's birthday, following his death. So, instead, she phoned yesterday.

In case you have Birthday ladies of your own, it was May 3, 1933.

Now, of course, she'll be calling back for Gerald Ford. His was July 14, 1913.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Parties, the fourth and third

We're back from our Christmas weekend, spent mostly near Fort Bragg, NC, where we had Christmas festivities at my sister-in-law Amber's house. Beyond just Christmas, we were there to see off my brother-in-law, Jim, who's headed to Afghanistan at some point in January. It was a good time, hanging out with family of both the two and four legged varieties, stuffing ourselves stupid on fantastic food and never-ending snack tables and getting to meet family-in-law I'd not met before. The entire weekend amounted to a fourth Christmas party.

As to the third...

Back on Friday, our 8 a.m. Christmas party at the "liberry" went very well. I had to get up ass-crack of 6:15 to bake up my breakfast egg dish, because I'd forgotten to prepare it the day before. So I baked some eggy, cheesy, potatoey, sausagy, peppers & onionsy goodness and hauled it in to work to take its place along side the breakfast foods of my coworkers. We were all there, except Ms. S, who had to work at her other job. We replaced her with Mrs. S, the "liberrian" from Town-C. Tasty breakfast was consumed and theme gift baskets filled and exchanged.

My theory that many cookies could be had for under $5 each was correct, though not quite in the way I expected. My basket was overflowing with cookies, but except for the mason jar full of dry cookie ingredients given to me by Mrs. B, none of them were home made and many were of the Christmas cookie variety. Being Christmas time, this was okay, though I must confess I would have been just as happy with six packages of Oreos or Nutter Butters. (No Droxies!)

My only miscalculation was how much eggy, cheesy, potatoey, sausagy, peppers & onionsy goodness to bring. I baked a full lasagna dish and was actually worried that it might not be enough. However, with ALL the other food we had on hand, most of us just took a small square of the egg dish and still had a plate full of other stuff. Our stomachs were quickly packed, so I wound up taking more than half of it home to my houseguests. I will note happily, though, that Mrs. J, possibly the pickiest human being on the planet when it comes to food, went back for seconds of my dish. That's a Christmas miracle on its own.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Board Report

Every couple of weeks, when it gets close to pay day, one of the members of the "liberry's" board of directors comes around to sign paychecks. We always hope and pray it's Mrs. Em or Mrs. Aitch. Unfortunately, it's often Mrs. Day.

Since Mr. Kreskin's departure, our board of directors has been composed of a pretty easy-going bunch of folks who stay out of our ass. However, if there's any ass-spelunking to be done, Mrs. Day is always the one to harness up due to the fact that she's been on the board since the Pliocene epoch and enjoys wielding that tenure whenever the opportunity presents. Mrs. Day is an old white woman in every sense of the phrase and she's not happy about anything, particularly when it comes to matters of money. See, Mrs. Day is among the inheritors of a major toiletries manufacturer and has more money than the Pope. For all her billions, though, she's prone to being very very cheap. Whenever she has to come in to sign checks, she questions every penny. She's particularly obsessive about it if the amount of pennies she's questioning is very small. Big checks don't cause her to even blink—she'll sign them right away—but the smaller the check, the more interested in its purpose she becomes. Petty cash checks are always of deep concern to her, but of even greater concern, due no doubt to their being exponentially smaller, are our paychecks.

Mrs. A warned me today that Mrs. Day was scheduled to come in after lunch to sign checks, so instead of eating lunch at the circ-desk, Mrs. A, Mrs. B and Mrs. J were going to retreat to Mrs. A's tiny office upstairs where they would sit, cramped around the desk to have their meal. This is because Mrs. Day has the mutant ability to sense when there are employees behind the circ desk and she can magically appear whenever there is an inconvenient number of them there—say, over one—thus catching us in the act of having too many employees being paid to stand around behind the desk with no justification. (She almost always comes to sign checks on a Thursday, when we have a greater concentration of employees on scene because of Story Hour, often at lunch time, when those employees are there, gathered behind the desk eating.)

Mrs. Day arrived about ten minutes into lunch. I wasn't surprised that she was early, since Mrs. Day has never been known to arrive at the time she has specified. Usually she arrives hours or, in one case, a day, late. And whenever she does appear, it's usually at the least convenient time possible. I smiled, greeted her and fetched the checkbook, then stood back to watch the show.

"Their salaries keep going up up up," Mrs. Day said in a disdainful tone as she signed. "I don't recall ever signing checks for such a high amount before." Then, as though sensing it was unbecoming to complain about the money earned by the staff in front of the staff, she added, "It's fantastic," in a less than thrilled tone. It didn't occur to me at the time, but Mrs. Day was probably correct about those being the largest payroll checks she'd ever signed. See, it's also Christmas bonus time, but unlike the last several years, in which we've received separate checks for our bonuses, this year the accountant advised Mrs. A to include the bonus amount in our normal paycheck so that FICA can be taken out. Mrs. A countered that this was bad, because that would lessen the bonus amount. Another board member, a wise man named Mr. Eggs, told her to just raise the bonus amount until the FICA deduction would leave the amount at the previous bonus level, so as not to cause any financial drain of our bonuses. Either no one thought to inform Mrs. Day about this, though, or they'd informed her and she just hadn't listened. (Gosh, I wonder which is the more likely of the two?)

"Is MRS. A in?" Mrs. Day asked.

"She's at lunch," I said, neglecting to mention exactly where she was at lunch.

"Hmm. Well, I did get here early," Mrs. Day said.

Ah, so she IS aware of her bad timing! Hell, she probably engineers it.

"How many employees are working today?" Mrs. Day asked.

"Um... four?" I said. Technically, we'd had five, but Mrs. C had gone home early. Mrs. Day nearly spit at this number, though. "There's just no excuse for that. There should NEVER be more than two people working. This place isn't that busy. The library doesn't have that kind of money. Four employees! It's wasteful."

Did I mention that despite her decades of service on the board, Mrs. Day remains the least informed as to how a library truly operates of any breathing creature to have ever walked the earth? Oh, she's the least informed, all right.

I thought about explaining the whole story hour thing and how we always have more employees on Thursday mornings than at any other time of the week. I thought about explaining that, sure, while it wasn't very busy at that moment, in five minutes we'd be deluged with patrons wanting to surf the internet on their lunch hour, etc. I thought about lecturing her on the subject of overdue notices and how we always run them on Thursdays when we have enough people to be able to check the shelves for them AND run the desk AND help patrons AND log computers on AND shelve books AND answer the damn phone. It wouldn't matter, though. She wouldn't listen. Instead, I decided to throw her a bone.

"Well, ma'am, I'll be gone in a few minutes and then we'll only have three employees."

"Hmmpf," she hmmpfed. "Don't you tell MRS. A I was complaining."

After Mrs. Day left, I took the checkbook up to Mrs. A so she could distribute the checks within. I told Mrs. A that Mrs. Day had been complaining. She wasn't surprised. What did surprise us, though, was that Mrs. Day had probably known I was going to rat her out and had planned her revenge accordingly, because my check was the only one Mrs. Day had neglected to sign.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas Party, the second

Okay, we've now decided on the date for our "liberry" Christmas party. But that's not what I wanted to write about here.

No, we had a different sort of "liberry" Christmas party yesterday after our Friends of the Tri-Metro "Liberry" group bought us all lunch. I even came in an hour early to join in the festivities. We had a tasty sandwich variety platter from a local bakery along with a crock pot full of potato corn soup, chips and desserts. Mighty nice of `em.

As to our Christmas party theme, I should explain first that the year after I began working for the "liberry" we have always had to have a theme for our Christmas parties in order to limit the spending of our beloved Mrs. J. If we don't pick a fund-limiting theme and talk very sternly to her about sticking to it, she'll rush off and spend her entire paycheck on presents for us. (In many ways, we're the family she wishes was really family, because her own family is pretty awful. We've often threatened to adopt her in order to take away their visitation rights.) So, in year's past, we've chosen cookies as our theme, or comfort food, or something similarly cheap.

This year's theme is gift baskets. Mrs. A found very cheap, empty baskets and bought enough for each of us to have one. We were then asked to come up with a gift-buying theme for ourselves. For instance, Mrs. J needs stuff for her kitchen so Mrs. A told her to her choose KITCHEN STUFF for a theme. And since Mrs. B has like 5000 pictures of her first grandbaby laying around, she chose PICTURE FRAMES. (The themes were all supposed to done anonymously, so that no one knew whose theme was whose, but we're all good detectives so everyone knows everyone's theme now.) We then take our list of themes and go out and buy one item per theme, spending no more than $5, then we're to get together at some point and put our stuff in the baskets.

I decided to go with something a little less permanent and chose COOKIES as my theme. I chose this because I really like cookies and I know you can buy and/or make a lot of cookies for $5. I'll likely regret the decision, but I can always share.

And when do you think we chose to have our party? Why at 8 in the morning this Friday, of course! Yep. 8 in the morning, for a Christmas breakfast party. This was near about the only time we could all get together before Christmas and still wouldn't have to worry about needing someone to watch the desk. It wouldn't be so bad, except that I'm going to have friends from out of town staying overnight, who I'll have to temporarily abandon to run off and party. Maybe we can take them to the new pub down the street and get them faced on Guinness, the night before. They'll sleep right through it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas Party, the first

Ash and I headed out to a Christmas party, last night (no, not the "liberry's" party, which we have not yet decided a date for, though we do have an interesting theme for gift exchanging). The host of the party was a fellow I know from church and from The Outdoor Drama What I Did for the Past Two Summers. I've been to parties at his place before and know them to be enjoyable and food-laden events not to be missed. Most of the people at this party were folks I didn't know, being friends of the host. But I did recognize one lady there as a patron at the library and she me--or so I thought.

We had just arrived and I was on my way to the enormous food buffet on a quest to stuff little cheesy fried sausage balls down my gob when the woman spied me and waved me over. I think she even called me by name, though it was sort of loud so I can't be sure. She introduced me to a fellow she said was her nephew and then told him that I was doing a great job "teaching for us." As inaccurate as that sounded, I decided to just let it go in favor of politely excusing myself to the buffet. But she wouldn't let it go.

"You've been at TRI-METRO HIGH for how long, now?"

"Er... I'm not."

She blinked at me for a second then said, "Oh... well... I mean, not now, but you were there?"

"Nooo," I said. "No. Not me."

"Sure, I've seen you there," she said, rather insistently. "I remember seeing you there."

"I'm not a teacher," I said.

The woman stared at me, as though I were making this up. "You're not teaching now, but you were at TRI-HIGH," she said, as though trying to give me an out from my lie.

"Er... uhm... " I said. It didn't occur to me to just tell her, No, actually, you know me from the library where I've had to bust you and your boyfriend off the computers on several occasions, not to mention that I've had to teach, reteach and reteach again the process of attaching files to email to your boyfriend, who's about the most technophobic human being I've ever met and who was nearly in a nervous fit over the process, mananged to screw it all up twice after having FINALLY attached all the files he'd intended to attach and then nearly peed himself begging me to help him do it again, as though I was actually going to deny him assistance. No. Instead, I plunged further down the awkward road of denial.

"I think the only time I've ever been to TRI-HIGH was when I once rehearsed there with the chorale."

"Ohhhhhh," she said, as though the light had suddenly gone on in her head. "That's where!"

Never mind the fact that our chorale rehearsal had been on a Saturday and she had not been there. I decided to let that lie, now that the ajar door of her world seemed firmly shut again. I imagine we'll run into one another at the "liberry" soon enough. I also imagine she'll have no recollection of any of this.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #68

(Setting: My "liberry." A large and repulsively stinky man—stinkier still than Mr. Stanky himself—arrives and signs up for a computer. Our computers are all full and a female patron is already waiting for the one that's about to become available.)

ME— It's going to be a few minutes before we have a computer for you.

MR. STANKIER— Oh, do you think so?

ME— Yeah, I'm pretty sure.

(I go back to the computer hall, see that there is now a free computer, log it off and back on and then start back up front to tell the female patron her computer is ready. As I pass through the children's room, Mr. Stankier is on his way back to the computer hall.)

MR. STANKIER— So, you got me fixed up?

ME— (Pause) No. No, I don't. Like I said, it's going to be a few minutes before we have a computer available for you.

MR. STANKIER— Oh. A few minutes, then?

ME— Yes.

(What I really want to say to him, though, is: "What the hell is it with all the large, rock stupid, foul and stinky patrons we seem to attract? Is there a club of you guys I'm unaware of? And does it meet in the ass of a dead dog?")

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Oops, spoke too soon

A lady patron arrived at the circ desk and alerted me we had an interlibrary loan for her. I fetched it from our holds cabinet while the lady patron dug in her purse for her card. This often happens with ILL-seeking patrons, particularly in the past couple of years that we've been enforcing the YES, YOU NEED YOUR DAMN CARD policy.

"Oh, no," I said, "we don't need your card for interlibrary loans."

"You don't?"

"No, ma'am."

"Well, I didn't think so, but I came in without my card the other day and the young lady here said I had to have it. I tried to explain that I never have for interlibrary loans before, but she wouldn't back down. By the time I'd walked back home to get it, I decided to just wait."

"Do you remember which day this was?" I asked, knowing the answer already.

"Mmm... a couple days ago. Probably Saturday."

"Ah. I see." Yep, I was right. Not surprisingly, it had been Newbie Greenhorn Ms. S being overzealous about her job. "Well, I apologize for that."

"Oh, it's no problem. I needed the walk."

The lady patron signed her ILL slip and left, at which point I turned to Mrs. C and we both exchanged looks of befuddlement at Ms. S's stupidity.

"What did she even...? Was she trying to...? Is it even possible? I mean, how could...?" I said.

"I don't know," Mrs. C said.

Our confusion may seem odd, but that's probably just because you don't know how ILLs work around here. We don't require a card for ILLs because we don't check them out on the patron's library card at all. The interlibrary loaned books, you see, are already checked out on OUR library's library card before they're even mailed to us. Once we receive it, we check the appropriate accordion file folder to see who wanted it locally, process that information into our ILL binder so that we have a record of the book's title, the patron requesting it and its due date, then we give it to that patron and have them sign the accompanying ILL slip to show that they received it. Again, we DO NOT check the book out to them on their library card. That screws up the whole process for us and for the other libraries, as once a book is checked out to a patron and not a library it suddenly becomes subject to a much less generous loan time (say 2 weeks instead of a month) and causes other problems down the line. So the fact that Ms. S insisted on seeing a card might mean she's been checking the ILLs out on patron cards, screwing up not only our library but others as well.

The madness--it's spreading!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Auxiliary Trouble (or "Ms. S finally gets one right")

My once-a-month Monday shift went pretty smoothly, yesterday. The only real incident I had came with a 4p arrival of Brent & Brice: The New Devil Twins.

I've not seen much of the Devil Twins in a while, particularly after all the confusion we had with them back in June, during which we finally learned which of them was which and that, while they are brothers, they aren't actually twins in the first place. In the intervening months, Brice—the shorter brother, whose patron record fines tab was the far scarier of the two—actually brought all his books back or otherwise paid his fines, so he's been allowed to use the computers again. Brent, the taller one, still has a LOOOOONG overdue book out and is still therefore banned from computer usage. This fact, however, didn't stop him from signing up for a computer in front of me, God and everybody when the two of them walked in Monday afternoon.

I didn't have computers for either of them at the time, so I sent them away to wait while I double checked both of their patron records to make sure at least one was still in Dutch with us. Yep. Brent still owes $60 in fines and/or book replacement fees. So I went back and broke the news to him that I couldn't let him use the computer until that was taken care of. He tried to act surprised about it, but I don't think his heart was really in his performance.

Jump to today.

Not long after I arrived, Mrs. C mentioned that the twins had been on scene during another incident over the weekend. She said that on Sunday she received a phone at home from infamous Newbie Greenhorn Ms. S, our weekend warrior womanning the desk. It seems that Brent & Brice were in the "liberry" along with two members of the Brent & Brice Auxiliary League of Neighborhood kids. (Of course, they were all using computers since Ms. S didn't remember that there were any banning issues involved.) At some point during their visit, Ms. S had gone upstairs to drop off some nonfiction and when she returned downstairs she spotted a member of the League—a 10 or 11 year old kid who I'll call Tony—behind the circ-desk. Tony saw that he'd been spotted, for Ms. S said they locked eyes, and he zipped from behind the desk. When confronted as to why he was behind the desk, he claimed he was trying to find a pen with which to sign up for a computer. (Because the can of pens RIGHT BEHIND the computer sign in sheet wasn't obvious enough, eh?)

Now, the thing you have to remember about Ms. S is that she's terified of our cash box and the possibility that she might somehow miscount it by three cents and get brought up on charges. We've tried to explain to her that as long as the count isn't wildly off, it's all right and that miscalculations happen. She remains in fear of the box. Also, being a very very slow human being in both mind and body, she likes to do the end-of-the-day cash count as early in her shift as she can get away with so she'll have plenty of time to count and recount and recount should something come up wrong. And, since we close at 5 on Sundays, she'd already done the cash count some time between 3:30 and 4p. Luckily, this meant she was already aware that there had been a $20 bill in the cash box, the very bill which she saw was missing following Tony's visit behind the circ-desk.

"What do I do?" she asked Mrs. C.

"I'll be there in a minute," Mrs. C told her.

Minutes later, Mrs. C arrived and the kids were all still in-house. Ms. S pointed her to Tony and Mrs. C asked to speak to him in private. She explained to Tony that Ms. S had seen him behind the desk, that he was NOT supposed to BE behind the desk and, while we were not going so far as to accuse him yet, we were now aware that there was a $20 bill missing from the cash box. Had he taken it? Tony claimed he had not taken it and reiterated that he was looking for a pen.

"In that case, is your mom home?" Mrs. C asked.


"Would you call her for me?"


Tony dialed, but said the number was busy. So Mrs. C passed the time by talking to Brent & Brice and the other League member present, alerting them to the situation and asking if they knew anything about it? They said they didn't and recommended she call Tony's mom again. So Mrs. C had Tony phone home again, got through this time and reached mom. Mrs. C explained the situation to Tony's mom, stressing again that we weren't accusing him but that evidence did seem to point in his direction. Tony's mom said that she'd never known him to steal, but that there was always a first time for it. She agreed to deal with the matter and return the money should she find it. Then, she asked to speak to Tony and, from his growing petrified expression, apparently gave him the what for.

Mrs. C was relieved. Ms. S was even more relieved.

Jump back to this morning. Mrs. J, our sexagenarian "liberry" ass., was straightening up around our restroom and noticed a $20 bill behind the trash can. So it would appear that Tony, knowing Ms. S had seen him, ditched the money rather than get caught with it.

We don't, at this point, know Tony's phone number to call his mom back and let her know, but that will be easy enough to find out. My suggestion, in the meantime, is that we put a little note behind the trash can that reads:

Dear Tony,

So sorry, but we're afraid what you came to look for is no longer here.


--the staff
p.s.-- you're banned.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #67

SETTING: My "liberry." I've just logged a computer patron onto a computer. He sits down and sighs.

COMPUTER PATRON: Don’t know why I’m using this thing. Every time I print anything it always cuts off my prints.

ME: (Understanding that he meant the printer only prints what it’s capable of printing from a given screen and invariably winds up cutting off the right half of his prints due to a sidebar on the left side that forces all the text he wanted a couple inches to the right...) Yeah, sometimes that’s a problem when you have a sidebar on the left. But most email services have a Printer-Friendly-Version link at the top that will open your text in a new window that won’t have the sidebar on the left.

PATRON: But I’m not printing from email.

ME: Well, other sites often have one too. It’s usually at the top of the screen and will say Printer-Friendly-Version or Printable Screen.

PATRON: (Not listening to me whatsoever) But it cuts off the right side of my text.

ME: Exactly. So you just need to look for the Printable Screen link. Like I said, it’s usually at the top of the page and then you can then print without any problem.

PATRON: (Still oblivious to the information I am imparting at him) I just hit PRINT, and then it cuts off the right side of my text.

ME: That’s what I’m saying to you. Look for PRINTER-FRIENDLY-VERSION or PRINTABLE SCREEN. It will be in a link. It will usually be at the top of the web page. If you click it, it will open your text in a new window that won’t have a sidebar and won’t cut off your text on the right when you print from it. If you just keep hitting PRINT on the normal screen it will just keep cutting off your text. You have to look for PRINTABLE SCREEN or PRINT-FRIENDLY-VERSION. It’s usually at the top of the page.

PATRON: I don’t know much about computers.

(I nod and walk away.)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Lame Ducks

The patron known as Granny returned to the "liberry" yesterday, minus her destructive grandson. The rest of the staff had gone to lunch, so no one else had to smell the aura of stale cigarette smoke that clung to her. Granted, she was a far cry from the olfactory offensiveness of Mrs. Carol Satan, but my recent trip to Missouri has made me more sensitive to such things.

Granny turned in some books, inquired about the cost of a video she couldn't locate, failed to pay for it and then set about looking for more selections. After five minutes, or so, the door opened and a startling looking man walked through. I recognized him as Yosemite Sam, her husband who bears a striking resemblance to the cartoon character of the same name, albeit with black hair. It was far too cold for Sam to have clad his torso only in his trademark leather vest, but he wore the vest over a dark long sleeve all the same. The rest of him was clad in black clothing made, whenever possible, out of leather. The startling thing about him was that his hair was not pulled into a receding pony tail, but was down, splayed out in a tangly mess from beneath a black leather cowboy hat. His eyes were wide, wild and rather glinty. He could have passed for the malevolent father of Jeff Fahey's already malevolent character, Tyree, in Silverado; the very sort of fellow that, were you to come upon him on a dusty western street, near, say, a saloon, you would be well-advised to find the nearest horse headed out of town. I very quickly stopped making eye-contact with him. However, the temptation to look up soon became too great and I hazarded a quick glance only to find Sam's wild eyes staring right back.

"Yah'd think she'd be through, by now," Sam said, jutting a thumb in Granny's direction. I raised eyebrows in response, then quickly returned to my list of overdues. I caught a whiff of Sam, though. He smelled of stale cigarettes, but there were also two parts body odor and alcohol thrown into that three part mix. God, I prayed, please don't let him start in on his home-brew business with me again.

"Paul Harvey's out there calling everyone lame ducks," Sam said, indicating, I assume, the radio in his car. Before he could continue further, the door opened and A, B, C and J returned from lunch. I could tell by Mrs. A's expression that she too caught wind of Sam and soon she was looking for air-freshener. Sam and Granny only stayed a few minutes more and mostly confined their talk to themselves. Sam seemed to indicate that Granny had enough books at home as it was and that they ought to bring some of them and give them to us. Granny disagreed. Then, as they left, Sam lingered in the door until Granny was outside, then turned back to me and, with a few glances back over his shoulder to make sure Granny wasn't there to hear him, said that he was planning to sneak a box of Granny's books to us regardless of her approval. I just nodded and smiled and told him I had to occasionally watch my wife for such treachery, as she often gets it in her head to rid our house of clutter and usually eyes my clutter as the first to go.

"Oh, yew got one of them, too, huh?" Sam said. Then his boots clomped out the door. You could practically imagine the sound of spurs jangling as he left.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #66

(Setting: My "liberry." A man enters the building and approaches the desk, bearing a single volume from a set of encyclopedias.)

ME: Can I help you?

MAN: Yes, I wanted to see if your library would be interested in having these. I have the whole set and they're very, very nice.

ME: (I look down at his book, which is indeed a very, very nice E volume, gilded edges and all, from the year 1987.) Well, I'm sure we could accept them. We often sell encyclopedia sets in our book sale.

MAN: Oh. I thought you could use them here at the library.

ME: Well, no. We already have a current set of encyclopedias in our collection and yours are from 1987.

MAN: But, they're very, very nice.

ME: They are.

MAN: And you can't use them?

ME: Not for the collection, but we could possibly sell them in the book sale.

MAN: (Long pause) I... I... I'd rather give them to someone who'll use them. Maybe I can find someone else to take them.

ME: I understand, sir. I understand.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I'll take "Cap'ns other than Crunch for $400, Alex."

In what is perhaps his final appearance of 2006, Cap'n Crossdresser paid us a visit today. He was decked out in a quilted red coat, a low cut tangerine-colored blouse, baggy green slacks, a peach colored knitted scarf and dark boots.

That is all.

Monday, December 04, 2006

And her head she'd be scratchin' while her thoughts were busy hatchin' if she only had a... well, you know.

We think we've solved the problem of Newbie Greenhorn Ms. S, or at least have deduced why she's such a problem. Ms. S, we've determined, rarely if ever engages her brain in the course of doing her job. We have quite a bit of evidence.

For instance, despite the fact that we've repeatedly explained to her how to process new books, thereby also having explained to her the various color coded dots we place on the spines of our smaller paperbacks to differentiate them by subject, not to mention where to FIND said dots, Ms. S went ahead and put a few romance novels out sans dots. When confronted about it, she claimed she couldn't find the dots and didn't know what else to do. (For the record, the dots were in plain view atop the open basket of office supply crap beneath the front edge of the circ-desk.)

No, wait, I got a better one. Despite the fact that we've repeatedly explained to her how to put patrons on hold for books within our computer system, and that if a patron doesn't pick up their hold before their time runs out that she, Ms. S, is to cancel out that patron's hold, pass the hold to the next patron on the list and then be sure to put the original holding patron back on hold at the end of the list, Ms. S still can't quite manage to do it. Patrons keep coming in and telling us they missed their first turn on hold and want to know where they fall on the list now, only for us to discover they're not on it anymore. We know she's at fault because she's the one who initials the old hold slips, which we save in our rubberband bound Ass Covering Hold Slips Pile, which she somehow found beneath the circ desk.

No, wait, I got a better one. Despite the fact that we've repeatedly explained to her how to process interlibrary loans when they arrive, and despite the fact that she's been doing THAT VERY JOB for the past FEW MONTHS, she utterly failed to process an incoming loan that had been hand-delivered by a local branch. She even left a note saying that she didn't know what to do with it, so she was just going to leave it on the desk.

No, wait, I got a better one. Despite the fact that we've repeatedly told her that we do not renew books that patrons interlibrary loan from other libraries—simply because they're not OUR books to renew and getting the other libraries to cooperate on renewing them is a pain in the ass—she tried it anyway for a fellow who showed up with his ILLed book in person. I imagine that she first tried to renew it with our circulation software several times, scanning its barcode only to find the computer unwilling to cooperate due precisely to the above reason. So, instead, she just stamped a new due date on the date due slip and let him go. Then, the very next day, she found that same guy on her list of patrons with overdue ILLs, didn't make the connection that he was the guy she'd dealt with the day before, and she called and left a message for him that his book was overdue and he needed to bring it back. When he came in to complain about it to me—quite irritated about it, as you can imagine—I tried to explain the whole "We don't renew ILLs" bit and that his claim that Ms. S somehow had was not possible. The patron then became even more irate with me and said, "Well, whether it's possible or not, she did it! Look right here!" and showed me the stamp in his book—which, these days, means nothing, unless the computer also has that date, which it did not and, more to the point, could not.

No, wait, I got two better ones. Despite the fact that Ms. S has received all of the above training and BEYOND from us on MULTIPLE occasions, she cannot help but ask questions that have already been covered by said training or that have painfully, PAINFULLY obvious answers. And since she works her weekend shifts alone, Mrs. C is often the target of such querries via the telephone. A few weeks back, Mrs. C received a call from Ms. S, who said: "We're running low on 10 inch book wrap. What do I do when I run out?" Mrs. C told her that when she ran out of 10 inch book wrap, she could stop wrapping the 10 inch books. (My suggested answer: "Oh, that's easy! See, Mrs. A keeps the Philosopher's Stone up in her office bathroom. You can use it to transmute some 14 inch book wrap into 10 inch book wrap, no prob. Oh , and by the way, the Philosopher's Stone has taken the form of a big pair of scissors. And it demands you write a note on the pad that we need to order more 10 inch book wrap. Just thought I'd let ya know.")

And then there was last weekend, when Ms. S phoned Mrs. C at home to alert her that our canvas mail bag was completely stuffed with outgoing ILL packages, so she wanted to know what to do with the rest of the ILL's she'd packed up, which could no longer fit in the bag. She'd better be glad she didn't phone me with such a great setup line, for I would have been unable to resist telling her exactly where I thought she should cram the other packages.

No, wait, I got one last better one. Ms. S recently complained that she was running low on her orange shelving slips. Rather than go all the way over to the activity room and retrieve some orange paper to cut into new slips, she chose to use a more conveniently located stack of pink paper she found in our supply cabinet, which she cut into dozens and dozens of new slips. Then, so no one would get confused that she was now using both orange and pink slips, she carefully wrote her initials on each and every one of them. I remarked to Mrs. B that for someone who so frequently tries to get out of doing any work, this seemed like an awful lot of effort. Mrs. B countered that Ms. S was able to do that work while sitting down, which was the real objective of the operation. I'm starting to hope those aren't the only pink slips Ms. S sees.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Found Poetry (Or "Actual Hand-written Email First Drafts found in Actual Libraries")

Yesterday, while going back to log a computer on for someone, I noticed that the previous user of said computer had left behind a half-piece of notebook paper on both sides of which were handwritten words. Being a curious soul, and considering that the previous patron had been gone for over an hour, I picked it up.

You never can tell what patrons will leave at the computers, or, even, on the screens of the computers. Sometimes it's just a pair of sunglasses. Other times, though, we get comedy gold.

For instance, our late, lamented patron the Purple Nun, used to spend quite a bit of time composing emails which she would leave on the screen without sending them to anyone. When asked if she would prefer to send the mail to someone, the Nun simply replied that the person meant to find it would find it. (I don't know what any of the email said, as I was apparently not the predestined person.)

Or, there's the case of Stoner Lad, who once left on the screen a Microsoft Word draft of a grammatically incorrect mash note filled with wildly misspelled genitalia and other descriptives. He'd evidently pasted it into an email, but left the original draft for me to find. If only I'd saved it.

The note I found yesterday, however, I did save. It appears to be a paper first draft of two separate emails, written by a female to her boyfriend. (Who drafts email on paper, anyway?) Handwritten in pencil on the first side of the half-sheet of notebook paper is the following letter, capitalization and punctuation intact, though a name or so has been changed.

Hey baby, I miss you too,
see you soon though.
yeah we have to go to the cemetery.I get scared so easy! [the word "though" is scratched out here]Ugh. Come to WV!
If Matt says Anything to
you just don't say Anything
back okay?
he's trying to start shit.

But whatever.
I'll talk to you soon

*Big Hugs!*
xoxo, Lis

And on the other side of the paper was the following note.

Shut your fucking mouth
& leave me Alone.
[The words "I Hate you So" are scratched out on this line]

& I swear to god if you
start fucking with Andy
I will Rip your fucking face off.
This is the end of it.
So backup.
Wow. Quite a soap opera, huh? Entertaining and open to a few interpretations.

I suspect by posting this, though, I have violated my "liberry" ass. code of ethics in a most heinous way. However, it is the patron's own fault for leaving the note behind for someone else to throw away.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Actual Telephone Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #65


ME: Tri-Metro Public Library?

MAN ON PHONE: Yeah, I need to renew my books.

ME: Okay. Can I have your library card number, please?

MAN ON PHONE: (Pause, followed by a slight sigh of frustration) Well, this is a whoppin' big number. Where do I start?

ME: At the beginning.

MAN ON PHONE: (Long pause) Yeah. Okay. I guess so.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

TUAT on hiatus?

My TUAT story time has been put on hiatus. Much as with Joey's spin-off from Friends, the official reason is ratings. My boss, Mrs. A, found it difficult to justify the cost of keeping two employees on Tuesday nights if we weren't actually going to have any kids show up on a regular basis.

Sure, I had my good weeks, when I'd have up to 6 kids turn up for story time. Those were great weeks. But more often than not, I'd have 1 or less kids show up and that was kind of depressing. Mrs. A was sad to see the program cancelled, but thought we might be better off coming back as a series of specials centered around holidays. At least, for the time being.

My very last TUAT was on Nov 14. One kid showed up for that, too, had a great time and then I had to break the news to his mom that it was the final show. Mrs. C told me to put up a sign letting people know the program was no more, but I never got around to it. Most of the kids who turn up for story time don't often visit the library regularly otherwise, so it wasn't really going to do much good for them. Also, because I had the shortsightedness not to take contact information from the parents of the few regulars, and because I don't generally know their names, I didn't know how to get in contact with them otherwise. I didn't really think of this fact, either, because I've essentially been gone from the "liberry" since the Thursday before Thanksgiving.

Last night, around 6:38, the door opened and Good Alan and three friends came running in, his mom right behind him. Good Alan saw me at the desk and happily exclaimed, "All right, it hasn't started yet!"

"Er, uh, actually, I've got some bad news," I said. "I'm afraid I've been cancelled."

Good Alan's mom was shocked and seemed very sad about it. She asked me why this was the case and I tried to explain the whole ratings issue in terms that didn't cast blame on her for not bringing Good Alan every single week. (Frankly, Good Alan's mom is the best mom of any of the regulars because she frequenly brought more than just her kid and was constantly inviting her friends and their kids. One person can only do so much P.R., though.) She asked if this was a decision by the "liberry" board, but I said it was a simple matter of economics.

As for the kids, they didn't seem too put out about it. They were happy enough when Good Alan's mom took them in the children's room and read them a story or two herself. On their way out, Good Alan's mom stopped back by the desk and told me that it just wasn't the same without me reading. She said again that she was very sorry to hear of the cancellation and that she and Good Alan really enjoyed my program. As she spoke, her eyes began to blink rapidly and looked very wet. She seemed very much about to cry, which made me feel horrible and honored at the same time.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The trip home

On our way back, we passed through Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky, and stopped for the night near Louisville. We stayed at a Red Carpet Inn of the sort that's just this shy of scary, but you can tell that it was probably very scary not long ago before they refurbished the whole place with new stuff. It wasn't ideal, but it was cheap. That night we dined on ice cream from Cold Stone Creamery and watched The Fountain. (My review: it was a beautiful, strange film that I was completely enthralled with until the very last scene, at which point there was an ending that was not nearly as satisfying as I'd hoped it would be. This was the same feeling I had after seeing 12 Monkeys. Still, like 12 Monkeys, it's one of those movies that sticks in your brain and I've since come to terms with it a bit more, even if it didn't end ideally.)

The next morning, Ash wanted to look for bead stores. There was no phone book in the room, so I walked across the parking lot to the little lobby building and asked the lady at the desk if she had one.

"No, we can't keep them in the building," she said. "They just walk off."

While I was there, I stepped into the next room of the building and picked up some complimentary coffee and doughnuts and returned to our room. Around two minutes later, there was a loud screeching of tires and I saw a maroonish SUV speeding out of the parking lot. I wondered briefly if it had just been stolen. Later, when we went to check out, the lobby door was locked and the lady inside waved us over to an after hours window made of thick glass.

"I'm sorry," she said in unexcited even tones. "We've just had an altercation here and I can't let you in." In other words, they'd just been robbed, most likely by the people who sped off two minutes after I'd returned. Had I been two minutes later going for a phone book, I might have been caught in the middle of an armed robbery.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Little Known Facts about Missouri

We're back from our Thanksgiving roadtrip, a little heavier than when we began it. For the most part, things went well--turkey was eaten, naps were taken, small children entertained, pink eye was defeated, arguments argued (though only small ones), small angry dogs were infuriated and I was only sick for a day of it, having picked up a cold on Monday that by Thursday became a raging nose-clogger. Zicam is wonderful stuff, though, so the ill effects lasted only a short time. (By the way, I recommend taking Zicam but only in melt-on-your-tongue-pill form. The nasal gel is just evil evil stuff that causes your synuses to burn horribly and your voice apt to whine.) It was great visiting with family, some of whom I haven't seen for a couple of years now.

During our trip, we observed a few things that we'd not noticed before about Missouri.

For instance, did you know that Missouri not only had enough money in its highway repair coffers to fix all the massive potholes along the section of I-55 that I complained about two years ago, but they also had enough left to plant a nice shiny mile marker at every 1/10 of a mile? That's right, whereas most interstate highways have mile markers placed at a rate of, y'know, one per mile, Missouri I-55 has ten of them per mile. My best guess is that this was to help the towtrucks locate all those drivers who'd lost their front axles after plowing into a pothole at 80 mph, a couple years back, but I don't really know the real reason. It still seems excessive, not to mention taxpayer-money-sapping.

Also, did you know that it's apparently illegal for people in Missouri to be nonsmokers? Yep, pretty much every person in the state smokes a couple packs a day on either a first or secondhand basis. It's worse than North Carolina. Now, granted, I'm a nonsmoker, though not really an obnoxious militant one, yet. And I'm also probably spoiled because I live in a community where smoking inside of buildings within the city limits has been banned in nearly all cases except for private residences; so I can go for weeks at a time without smelling cigarette smoke. Even so, I never really thought about how nice it is to live in that sort of atmophere until heading to Missouri, where non-smokers in restaurants are clearly in the minority. We went out to breakfast with my parents every day we were there and without fail the smoker to nonsmoker ratio was wildly skewed toward the smokers. We even began taking bets on the number of people smoking we'd find in any given establishment and we always underestimated. By the time we left the state, we and our clothes smelled pretty much like the impacted anal glands of a cigarette butt and we were quite unhappy about it.

Also, did you know that in Missouri, they don't stuff the turkey with dressing at Thanksgiving, but instead use a mixture of raw cotton and crystal meth? Okay, well, our family doesn't, but I'm pretty sure there's some of that going on around there. Probably some cigarettes in there too.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Outta here

Since I'm not at the "liberry" at all this week, due to a variety of things, not the least of which is our Thanksgiving sojourn to Missouri, I'm taking the week off.

See ya back here on Nov 27.

And Happy Turkey Day!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Year Three in the Can

Today is the third anniversary of the beginning of this blog.

Whoo, and might I add, hoo.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Crab's Complaint

I was working the desk during story hour, today, when Mr. Crab, third grumpiest old man in all the world, habitual forgetter of his "liberry" card, and a man quite unafraid to mention that he's a $200 annual "liberry" donor, scuttled in.

I was glad he visited during story hour, because it meant Mrs. B and Mrs. C were otherwise engaged. So when Mr. Crab came to the desk with books to check out and then didn't have his "liberry" card, he would have to deal with me. Last time, and despite all good sense otherwise, Mrs. B let him get away with checking the books out on her card. This would not be happening on my watch. I imagined he'd wail and gnash and threaten to withhold his $200 annual donation from us, as usual, but it would do him no good. I would quote "liberry" consortium policy to him, shrug my shoulders in mock sympathy and then offer to hold his books at the desk until such a time as he could remember to bring his library card when setting out to come to the library.

While waiting for him to do this, there was a sudden rush on our computers, causing me to dash to and from the circ desk to sign people on and boot other people off. Soon enough, I saw Mr. Crab scuttling toward the desk to check out, but I was already in mid-dash and decided he could wait a whole 30 seconds until I returned. On my way out of the room, I spied Kanji the Kid coming in the front door.

When, at last, I returned to the circ desk both Kanji and Mr. Crab were waiting there. Kanji was standing nearest our computer sign in sheet, so I told him it would be a while before we had a computer, as they were all quite full.

"Actually, I don't need a computer. I need to renew some books I have out," Kanji said. He nodded toward the circulation desk computer, as though I should fire it right up.

"Do you have your library card?" I asked.


Ah ha, I thought. Just the situation Mr. Crab was waiting for. Would I treat anyone else differently than him? In this test, though, I would deny Kanji any such service, right in Mr. Crab's face, so he would know what he had coming to him before he tried to pull the same trick.

"That's why I called home and got my number," Kanji finished. He passed me a little yellow slip of paper with his card number written out.

"Ah. Very good, then," I said. I typed in his number, renewed his books and Kanji happily lumbered out of the building.

When I looked up at Mr. Crab, I expected to find him pre-surly for my convenience. But he just slid his books at me and then passed me his "liberry" card without a fight, or even his usual lengthy search of his overstuffed wallet, or his usual threats to withhold donations should he not find it and then be denied service. As I began checking his books out, our desk-side surl-o-meter began to ping.

"Rude!" Mr. Crab griped. "That young man was rude, shoving his way to the desk, like that, ahead of other people. Rude." He then gave me an expectant look, as though waiting for me to agree with him or otherwise give him a fight. I started to explain that Kanji didn't mean to be rude; he just has Aspergers. Then I decided that Mr. Crab wasn't owed any explanation, so I just shrugged. Mr. Crab took his books and made for the door, nearly plowing into a lady patron in his haste to exit.

"He's one to talk about rude," the patron said after Mr. Crab had left. "He nearly ran over me and didn't even say `excuse me.'"

I started to explain that Mr. Crab didn't mean to be rude; he's just an asshole. But I decided against it, so I just shrugged.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Actual Telephone Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #64


ME— (Answers Phone) Tri-Metro County Library.

MAN ON PHONE— Yes, in the book Gone with the Wind, does Scarlett actually say the phrase, "As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again"?

ME— Couldn't tell you. I might be able to do some research on this and get back to you, but I couldn't tell you off the top of my head. I've never read the book.

MAN ON PHONE— (Incredulous of tone) You haven't read the book?

ME— Nope.

MAN ON PHONE— What kind of library are... Who is this? (This last part was said in the tone of someone who wants very much to know the name of the one man on earth who hasn't read Gone with the Wind.)


MAN ON PHONE— JUICE? Do you have a last name?

ME— AARON. (Though, in reality, I said my real last name, which, when pronounced properly, frankly sounds kind of like a sneeze.)

MAN ON PHONE— Come again?


MAN ON PHONE— Oh my. (Long Pause) Well, I guess I won't bother you anymore then. (Hangs up before I can further offer assistance)

ME— (Looking around at my three coworkers and two sundry patrons who heard my half of the conversation) That was the strangest phone call I've received this month.

After relating the full call to them, the ladies immediately dove into this reference question with gusto and in under two minutes had produced the answer of Chapter 25. If only the man had left a number before hanging up.

So, no, as God is my witness, and despite the fact that I'm a southerner, I haven't read Gone with the EFFing Wind, nor have I seen the film, nor do I have any major plans to do either.  Ever.

It's not that I think they're bad, or anything. In fact, I hear they're both quite good, (though Mrs. A is of the opinion that while Scarlett in the book is a strong, likeable female protagonist, her film counterpart is a spoiled, whiny bitch). Consuming either of these versions is just ridiculously low on my priorities of things to experience in life. They're classified somewhere above "eating a mouthful of sand, again," but still well below "getting to meet that girl who played Annika in the Pippi Longstocking movie, who I had a crush on when I was a kid."

(Sorry, but some of these priorities were set for me roundabout 1979. I'm afraid there's nothing I can do about it.)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Coot

The Coot has been in the Benign Irritants column of our Rogues Gallery for a while now, but I've not had much to say about him because he's not been much of a hassle to me personally. Well, until this week.

As far as patrons go, the Coot is actually pretty ideal in most respects. He visits the "liberry" frequently and stays for several hours at a stretch, either reading books or periodicals. He doesn't hound us for computers, nor does he seem to have any use for them at all. He keeps to himself. And while he rarely checks anything out, thereby keeping our circulation numbers slightly lower than he might, he is a user of the library in its best sense.

Of course, not all is rosy with the Coot. He has, on occasion, complained in bitter tones to our staff about a lack of certain nonfiction titles on our shelves that he wants to read. (We've offered to ILL them and he has sometimes taken us up on the offer.) The Coot has also disingratiated himself to Mrs. A in particular by being a less than quiet patron.

See, Mrs. A's office is located beside our periodicals area, at which there are two semi-comfy chairs and a small table. This is where the Coot likes to nest, piling the tiny table high with periodicals and books that he peruses throughout his visiting hours. While he's perusing, though, the Coot is known to make many strange noises. Sometimes these noises take the form of the usual coughing and sneezing and snorting. More often, though, they manifest as loud and painful sounding moans, groans and wails. Sometimes, he sings. We don't know if the Coot is in actual pain, though we suppose it's possible. Our theory about his noises has evolved somewhat. Originally we thought he was in pain. Then we thought he might have some form of tourettes. Now, though, we are starting to suspect that the Coot moans and wails as editorial comment against the frequent phone calls Mrs. A receives throughout the day disturbing his reading time. Whatever the case, the noise he makes drives Mrs. A nuts and she's frequenly fled our office to get away from it. And sometimes, her noise seems to drive him further into our nonfiction room, where he relocates his nest to a different semi-comfy chair.

None of this affects me, so I don't really care if he emits the odd wail now and then. What does affect me is his seeming inability to put our periodicals back where he found them.

One of my duties as "liberry" ass. is to process and catalog the periodicals. When they arrive, I enter them into the system, put barcodes on the ones that need them, stamp REFERENCE ONLY on the ones that don't and haul `em all upstairs to stick in the magazine display shelf. Each magazine has its proper place on the shelf, clearly labeled for all to see. The Coot cares not for labels. If he actually manages to put a magazine back on the shelf at all—which is rare, because most of the time he just leaves them wherever he happens to be nesting when he's finished reading them—he refuses to put it back in its proper place. He just wedges it on in wherever his hand happens to fall and walks away. Granted, he's not the only patron who does this. (In fact, evidence suggests that most periodical reading patrons do this, but then again I wouldn't notice when a patron has put a magazine back properly, precisely because it would be put back properly.) However, the Coot is the most flagrant disregarder of our magazine labeling system.

At closing time on Monday, after a day of fending off book-shoving brats, I went upstairs and found our magazine rack in the most utter state of disarray I'd ever seen. Someone, the Coot, I'm guessing, as he'd been right there reading magazines all day, had relocated nearly every magazine we have on display to what I can only describe as its OPPOSITE location on the display shelf. Seventeen was shelved under U.S. News & World Report, Time under Organic Gardening, Rolling Stone under Mother Earth News, Atlantic Monthly under FamilyFun and Parenting was shelved under High Times. (Okay, I am kidding about that last one. It was really shelved as Teen People.)

I don't know for sure that the Coot was responsible. It could have been that book-shoving brat's revenge for busting him shoving books. But it seems like it could have been the Coot at play. I wonder what sort of editorial comment he was trying to make this time.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Monday the 13th

My once a month Monday solo shift, today, wasn't nearly as traumatic as Mondays typically can be. There was really only one moment during the whole day when the chaos threatened to overwhelm. However, from the state of our shelves when I arrived, the "liberry" appeared to have been locked in the throes of chaos all weekend long. Considering that Ms. S had been the weekend warrior riding the desk, this was probably true. Several partial shelves of books had fallen over, sans bookends. Other shelves had their books shoved back from the front edge of the shelf, the victims of one of our industrious book-shoving child patrons. Such children irritate the bejezus out of me.

Don't get me wrong: I do understand that "liberry" logic and little kid logic don't have much common ground. In "liberry" world, whenever possible, books must all line up neatly with the front edge of the shelf so that they are pleasing and uniform to the eye. In little kid world, books must be shoved all the way to the wall, because there's all that empty space back there and it's somehow satisfying to shove `em back into it. And keep shoving them back into it, until they've gone around an entire room. (Oddly, most book-shovey kids only shove books back on one shelf level, usually the arm-height middle level, leaving the lower and upper levels alone, regardless of whether or not they can reach them. I don't know if this is by design, or if it just doesn't occur to them that all the other shelves have books with space behind them too.)

What's even more irritating about the book-shovers is that it's difficult to catch them at it. Usually their work is only discovered long after they've left the building. So you can imagine my great joy today—after having spent a lot of time pulling all the weekend's shoved books back out to the front edge and righting and bookending their fallen comrades, not to mention swearing under my breath at the kind of terrible things that would make Dick Cheney blush that I was going to do to whatever brat was unfortunate enough to let me catch him shoving books—when I looked over the edge of the circ-desk to spy a newly arrived kid shoving a whole row of mysteries back with wild abandon.

"PLEASE, don't shove those books back, please," I said. I added the second please because kid's mom was standing right there and the first please was uttered in a rather harsh and possibly bloodthirsty tone.

The shover whipped around, mid-shove, with a gratifyingly frightened and guilty expression on his face. This was no tiny kid who could claim innocence, either. This was an 11-year-old who clearly knew better. His mom, like a doe sensing a whiff of trouble in the air, looked up, too. I then added, "We like to keep the books pulled out to the front of the shelf."

The two of them set about pulling the books back out, but, having not been trained in the proper method for doing this, they did it pretty half-assedly.

The subject of patrons doing basically harmless things in libraries that they are clearly not meant to do and also know better than to do is not a new one. In addition to our book-shoving brat, we were also visited today by another purveyor of "liberry" irritation: The Coot.


Saturday, September 09, 2006

DP for DPenedetta

A mom, dad and little kid came in, yesterday, put their books and assorted media returns on the circ desk and headed for the children's room to browse for more. Atop the stack of books was one of the Dad's returns, a DVD of The Rock's cinematic magnum opus, The Sc0rpi0n King. When I picked up the case, though, there was a curious rattling sound from within, unlike most DVD cases in which the user has properly seated the DVD upon its knobby little spindle. I opened the case to check and noticed immediately that while the DVD for The Sc0rpi0n King was actually seated properly, the DVD resting on top of it, entitled "DP My Pussy," was not. Yesirree, that's four hours of good, old-fashioned, European, double-penetration porn for your ass. Or, rather your... well, you know.

"Oh, my," I said, just as my coworker, Mrs. B, stepped behind the desk. I showed her my find. She tittered.

"Where did you...?"

"In here," I said, holding up the DVD case, the Rock's face grimacing from the cover. I nodded in the direction of the Dad, who could be seen, his back turned, just beyond the door to the children's room.

"What do we do?" Mrs. B said, still laughing.

"I have no idea," I said, barely containing my own fit of chuckles. Then the Dad stepped back into the main room and Mrs. B scattered, trying to regain composure. I continued to check in their other books, forcing my mouth into a frown to counteract the powerful forces working to make it grin. I debated what to do next.

First on my agenda was to unobtrusively slip over to the copier and photocopy the DVD's face, just so I could be sure to get my facts right when reporting it here later. This I did. The DVD appeared to be from a mailorder outfit similar to Netflix, only for porn. Next, the phone rang. It was for my boss, Mrs. A. So I left the circ desk, passed the Dad, passed the Mom & the Kid in the children's room, and went upstairs to tell Mrs. A she had a call.

"We just had a patron bring back some porn in the Sc0rpi0n King box," I whispered across the desk to her.

"Do you know who did it?"

"Yeah," I said. "He's still here. With his whole family."

Mrs. A cackled.

"I don't know what to do," I said.

"Give it back to him."

"You're serious?"

"Sure. Just tell him you found a DVD that wasn't ours in the case and you wanted to give it back."

I shook my head. "Yeah. This should be fun."

I returned to the circ desk. Within minutes, the Dad, the Mom & the Kid approached, books and "liberry" card in hand.

Now, here's where I may have made an error...

You know how every once in a while you'll hear a story in the news about some poor moron of a restaurant manager who fires an employee yet expects that freshly terminated employee to go ahead and finish out his shift? And, of course, by the end of the evening they find half a standy turd in the mole sauce and 50 cases of E. coli on their hands? Well, I kind of did the library equivalent. Instead of checking all their books out to them first and THEN passing over the porn, I served it up as my opening move.

"Um, we found... another... DVD in the Sc0rpi0n King box," I said. I slid the DVD face down across the desk. The Dad picked it up, took a one half second glance at its face and quickly pocketed it without even a mumbled "thanks." Only then, discomfort quite thick in the air, no eye-contact being made by ANYBODY, did I begin to check their books out to them.




(find where we hid the barcode on this one)


...through the first ten of the books they'd brought up.

"Uh, we've run out of room on this card," I said, eyes still averted, holding out the eleventh book, as yet unscanned.

"That's... that's okay," the Dad said in a low voice. He gathered up the pile of books in one hand, the Kid in the other and they quickly made for the door. I then flew to the window to see where they went, because I wanted a glimpse of how the scene was gonna play out once Mom & Dad hit the car. I could just imagine the verbal beating the Dad would receive for not only putting four hours of double penetration porn in the Sc0rpi0n King case, but returning it to the library to boot! How does one even DO that unintentionally? Of course, maybe it was her fault. Maybe they were in a big hurry to get out of the house and she was trying to gather all of Junior's things together, saw the partially open Sc0rpi0n King case on top of the TV, ejected whatever was in the DVD player and slapped it in there without looking. Maybe. Whatever the cause, I couldn't see any animation from them in the car that indicated an argument. Maybe that would have to wait until later, after they put Junior down for his nap.

I'm thinking we may never see them or the books they borrowed again.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Dear David McPhail... big, honking, prolific, Massachusetts-livin', fanny-deposit.

Why ya gotta write so many frickin' kids books, huh?

Sure, they're good and all, but they're a pain in my keister to have to alphabetize along with the rest of the Ms in our Easy Reader section.

Okay, so it's our fault that we kept that section pretty wild and chaotic for nigh unto two decades, allowing it to flourish unhindered by the toils of alphabetic classification except for the scantest trace of the first letter of the author's last name. And in that time it became a near-mystical land where patrons had little hope of locating specific books without a Sherpa, a bagpipe player and perhaps a tube of KY. Why exactly my boss got a wild hair up her hinder to bring order to this land, after all these years, I'm not entirely sure. In my view, the land became so wild and disorganized due entirely to the evil children who frequent it and their grabby, shovy, occasionally poop-encrusted little hands. In fact, while I was busy alphabetizing your particular acre of shelf-space, one such whelp came over, yanked out a book from a recently alphabetized section and immediately proceeded to cram it back in a random part of the shelf for no observable reason other than an inherent need to sew discord. I very nearly slapped her. It is furthermore my prediction that these same stinking crumb-crunchers will soon return the Easy Readers section to its previous anarchic state despite any and all efforts on our part to civilize the joint.

However, you, David McPhail, aren't helping matters! Out of the entire section of authors whose surnames begin with Mc-, yours was easily the most represented of any single author. You even beat out Robert McCloskey by a healthy margin. So while I appreciate the quality, care and attention to detail you bring to your work, you're doing too durn much of it and it's cheesing me off! Do you realize the hours of manpower it's going to take to keep your books in any kind of order? Dear God, man, just reading your shelf alone will be enough to drive a person mad! How can you live with yourself? You inhuman monster!

In your favor, though, at least the covers of your wonderful books don't include a goofy, little, Culkin-esque picture of yourself gawking out at readers from beneath one of the world's worst comb-overs. (Yeah, I'm talkin' about you Robert Munsch!)

Yours sincerely,

--da juicemeister

Friday, July 21, 2006

Kayla + Summa Reading + Mom & Sis / Aggressive Ignorance = Crazed Staff

It's our penultimate week of Summa Reading `06, but already we're clawing our way toward the end with anticipation. Once again, our demonic little friend Kayla is in attendance. (See episodes: 1234.) Oddly, though, our troubles this year aren't due to little Kayla.

Mrs. C and Mrs. B began complaining a week ago that while Kayla was surprisingly well-behaved in Summa Reading, her mom and little sister are driving them mad. Mom insists on accompanying Kayla to the Summa Reading sessions, not to mention dragging little sister along with her. Once in attendance, though, mom doesn't really do much other than lay around. Literally. Mrs. C said that during craft time last week, Kayla's mom stepped out into the center of the ring of craft-assembling children and lay down in the middle of the floor for a nap. Meanwhile, little sister was allowed to run amok through the activity room, terrorizing everyone by stomping on the Summa Reading kids' crafts, or even on the Summa Reading kids themselves when they thoughtlessly allowed their hands to stay within Sis's stomping range. Mom didn't even attempt her usual ineffective, "No, no, mommy said `stop that,' " leaving it to Mrs. C and Mrs B to keep Sis from destroying everything.

After last week, it was Mrs. C's stated intention that the next time Kayla and crew arrived (late as usual, no doubt) that she would take the mom aside and tell her that we think Kayla will do fine by herself and that she, the mom, is welcome to take Sis and wait downstairs. And this is precisely what Mrs.C did yesterday. According to Mrs. A, who watched safely from her office, Mrs. C took Kayla from her mother before they could even make it to the top of the stairs, ran off with her and closed the activity room door firmly behind her. Kayla's mom then stood on the stairs looking worriedly up at the closed door, as though she could hardly stand not being in there to aid in the chaos.

So for an hour, I got to watch Mom and Sis mill around the children's room picking out books. Little sis hasn't quite reached the level of destruction capable by her older sister, but I'm sure she's just working up to it.

When Summa Reading was over, Kayla picked out nearly her weight in board books which she marched up to the desk with, announcing she wanted to buy them. Her mom tried to explain that she already had several other books picked out and that they could only take what they had room for on both her library card and Kayla's. Before they could check them out, though, Mom said they needed to fetch all their returns from the car to check-in. I was afraid this would mean Mom was going to leave the little ones in our care while she fled to the car for a much needed break. Kayla had already been trying her best to pop all our inflatable animals in the kids room by violently attempting to ride them. ("No, Kayla, don't ride the animals. No, Kayla, mommy said don't ride the animals. Kayla? Are you listening, Kayla? Kayla?") Fortunately for us, mom took both kids to the car with her for the search.

After ten minutes of blissful silence, during which I pre-date-stamped their books for added speed to their departure and during which no animals were menaced nor any little sister voices raised in spine-rending wail, they returned with their check-ins, which I then checked in. Afterwards, I looked up at them expectantly only to find expectant looks from them already.

"Um, do you have your library cards?" I asked.

"No, I don't think so," Kayla's mom said. Expectant look, expectant look.

"I'm sorry, but you do need your library card in order to check books out."

"Oh, really?" Kayla's mom said without any of the usual conviction of people genuinely surprised at this news. "Well, let me see." She began leafing through her wallet, occasionally gesturing other patrons around her, as the line at the desk was backed up by this point. Meanwhile, little sis had discovered the two brooms we keep beside the front door and was walking around with them. I wasn't worried, at first, as it gave me a chance to make the joke, "Are you going to sweep up for us?" Then she dropped one of the brooms and began swinging the other one with a force that, had she been a baseball player, would have got her brought up on charges of `roiding. One such swing nearly took off her sister's head and another nearly took out the glass of our front door. Mom ignored her and continued to search her wallet, leaving Mrs. A to bravely run over and disarm the child.

"Maybe they're in the car," Mom said. She gathered up kids and went to the car, but came back far sooner than a lengthy search would have taken. Little sister was now wailing again.

"I don't have the cards," mom said.

"Well, I'm sorry, but we do require a library card to check out books."

"All right, then," Mom said, looking downcast and without a friend in the world. "I guess we'll just come back some other time." Pause, then eyes flash up, full of hope.

"Okay," I said.

Mom stood there at the desk for several more seconds, as though waiting for me to relent. Little did she know, I am relentless. Meanwhile Kayla had returned to the children's room to pop more animals so Mom went in seemingly to collect her. She told Kayla to stop jumping on the animals because they had to leave. Next, she added that they wouldn't be getting any library books because they didn't have their library cards. I expected Kayla to freak out and burst into loud tears at this. In fact, I think Mom was counting on that reaction too, hoping a tantrum incident would give us added incentive to let them check out anyway. However, Kayla didn't take the bait and went right on happily squashing our plastic elephant into the floor.

Instead of collecting Kayla and leaving as she'd just said they needed to do, Mom stepped back into the main room, stood in the middle of the main room's floor and held screaming little sis in her arms there for a full five minutes. There was no indication as to why, she just stood there and let the toddler scream herself silly. Wail, wail, wail, spine-clench, spine-clench, spine-clench. Occasionally, Mom would glance pittifully in the direction of the circ-desk, leading me to again reach the conclusion that Kayla's mom was intentionally inflicting her children on us so we'd relent just to get them all out of the building. It was extortion, and brilliantly played. However, I became all the more determined that my administration would not give in to terror. I stayed planted at the desk. There was no danger of us letting her check out sans card, but there was the possibility that someone on staff would take pity on Mom and let her use one of their cards to check out. Wouldn't be me, but I could sort of see Mrs. A possibly offering just to make the screaming stop.

After five minutes of screaming, Mom approached the desk again. I'd stepped away from the computer and was speaking to Mrs. A back at the window. Mrs. J was now nearest to the computer, so mom tried to deal exclusively with her in a very low voice. Unfortunately for Mom, Mrs. J is hard of hearing. After a couple of low-volume failed attempts, Kayla's mom finally explained at full-volume to Mrs. J that she wanted to check out the pile of books that was still on the desk, but that she'd forgotten their library cards. Hopeful look, hopeful look.

"Ma'am, we cannot check books out to you without a library card," I said, stepping over.

"But I have a library card," Mom said, pointing at the computer.

"No. We have to have the physical card."

"If you like, we can hold these for you until you come back," Mrs. A offered.

Mrs. B then came over to join the crowd behind the desk and asked if the little sister had a card yet. Mom looked hopeful at this, but then Mrs. B pointed out that they would only be able to 10 books on that card and not the full 20 she wanted, so Mom decided not to get any extra cards at all.

"We'll just come back on Saturday," Mom said.

"We're not holding those until Saturday," Mrs. A said. "I thought you meant you would come back later today."

Mom adopted a sad tone and said they lived too far away to make a second trip back.

"Okay, well, maybe you can find them next time," Mrs. A said. We then collectively dispersed from the desk, our business concluded with no further need for discussion, leaving Mom to look unhappy. After Kayla and family finally left, a good ten minutes later, Mrs. A said that she was worried that she'd offended Kayla's mom by saying we wouldn't hold the books for two days. (It really wouldn't have been an issue had there only been a couple of books, but our hold bin is packed to the gills right now and there isn't room for 20 extra books in there.)

"So what if she is mad?" I said. "What's she going to do? Not come back next week? Yeah, that'll show us."

Monday, June 12, 2006

Barbie T.: Master of the Internet (PART 1)

The situation: Late last week my boss, Mrs. A, secluded herself in her office to take care of “liberry” business. My co-worker, Mrs. B, had secluded herself in our storage area to work on more book donations. Everyone else had either fled town or at least the building. I was therefore Cap’n Solo when it comes to running the joint. I’d just logged a patron onto a computer and was on my way back to the front room when I crossed into the children’s room and saw an unwelcome sight blocking my way back to the desk.

“Excuuuuse me,” Barbara Turdmurkle said in her usual slow, breathy, singsong voice. Her voice was nearly a whisper and she began beckoning me over with quick waves of her hand. Beyond her, I could see there were three people lined up at the circ desk. I SO did not need this.

“Excuuuse me, but I’m going to need your help with something,” she said. Before I could stop her she continued, still in a whisper, “I’ve been getting these very eerie phone calls at my house recently and I think someone may be trying to interfere with my credit.”

“Okay, I’ll be right with you in just a minute,” I said. "I need to go back to the desk." I then wedged my way past her in the door frame

"No!" she said, then remembered to whisper. "no."

By then I was moving away from her at a sideways angle so I could look back at her and still keep moving toward the desk. “I have to go back to the desk."

“No, no,” Barbara said again, frantically waving her hand for me to come back. She too was now edging away, moving back toward the computer hall, “I need your help.”

“I’m sorry, but I need to go to the desk right now.”

“No, I need your help with…”

“I. Need. To. Go. To. The. Desk. Right. Now,” I said.

Barbara blinked at me for a second. “Are you the only one here?”

“Yes,” I said. “I’m the only one running the desk right now and I have to get back to it, right now. I’ll be with you in a minute.”

With that, I turned my back on her and went to the desk to take care of the patrons who chose to wait in line, rather than in ambush. When I was done and had signed the last of them onto a computer, I returned to the task of Barbara Turdmurkle. She had, by then, come into the main room and was waiting near the desk. Barbara Turdmurkle explained that for the past week she had been receiving odd phone calls at her house. Each time, the caller asked if she was Brenda. Rather than simply admitting that she was not Brenda and that this was likely a wrong number, Barbara T. had chosen to insist they the caller first tell her who they were and then she would say whether or not she was Brenda. The caller, in turn, insisted that she confirm her identity as Brenda first before they would say who they were. Eventually, stalemate realized, one of them would hang up on the other. Or, sometimes the caller would leave a message on Barbara's machine asking Brenda to phone him at a specific number. Adding to the oddity of this, Barbara Turdmurkle claimed the last four digits of the caller’s out of state phone number, as seen on her caller ID, matched the last four digits of her social security number. However, it did not match the number the caller had left on her machine. So Barbara Turdmurkle tried to phone the caller back at his given number. When the other line picked up it was answered, “Accounts.” And when Barbara began insisting that they tell her what sort of business they were running, the person on the other end said, “Brenda? Is this Brenda?” All of this evidence had thus convinced Barbara Turdmurkle that someone was trying to steal her identity and ruin her credit.

Now, I had to admit the events she described were odd, but not beyond the realm of explanation. Barbara Turdmurkle, however, was convinced her evil neighbor was behind it. (I’m not sure if this is the same evil neighbor she’s told us that she’s been to the police about on many other occasions, but it seems likely.)

Fortunately, Barbara is a member of some sort of credit protection program which she phoned right away. They told her they’d send her a credit report, but she needed to go online to their website and check her credit reports that way to make sure nothing seemed amiss. That’s what Barbara needed my help with because, as she said, "I don't know anything about computers."

I think we all know from my past experiences with Barbara Turdmurkle and technology, not to mention with computer neophytes in general, how well this is going to turn out.


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Borrowers, Get Out!

Our usual Monday Madness came late this week. It came on a Thursday. And while we had the staff to deal with it, none of us wanted to. We all had our own projects we were trying to attend to and wanted nothing to do with the circ desk.

Meanwhile, the phone would NOT stop ringing and the Brent & Brice auxiliary league of neighborhood kids would NOT stop coming in and demanding computers, which they insisted on sitting at in groups of three per computer, despite being told by Mrs. C and then again by Mrs. A and eventually again by me that they could only have one per cause they’re too damn noisy otherwise. Soon we had a 45 minute wait time for computers due to the backlog of patrons, neighborhood and otherwise. That's when I heard a familiar and horrifying voice at the circ-desk. Yep, it was everyone's favorite Vid-Borrower, Mrs. Bellows.

Mrs. Bellows was turning in all her videos from the last time she was in. On the counter, next to her heaping stack of returned videos, was a half-empty 2-liter bottle of Pepsi and a large clear plastic box with a handle on top in which every ratty-assed audio cassette tape in the world had been crammed. I prayed none of the audio tapes were ours and she didn't open it to disgorge any, so probably not.

After piling all her videos on the desk, Mrs. Bellows seemed to have several brain-farts in a row, then said, "Is there a... do you have one of them... You got a computer I could sit on for awhile?"

No!!! Please NO!!!!

Mrs. C informed her it would be a good-sized wait for one, as they were all still clogged with neighborhood kids for the foreseeable future.

"I'll just be over in the videos, then," she said. Well, naturally.

After about half an hour, the neighborhood kids left in mass and the computers were all finally free. This coincided with Mrs. Bellows finishing her selection of more painfully bad videos and bringing them to the desk for checkout. Mrs. C asked her if she still wanted a computer. No response. And it wasn't like Mrs. Bellows was clear across the room, either. She was right there at the circ-desk. So Mrs. C asked her again, but Mrs. Bellows was far more concerned with obtaining a large plastic grocery bag from us in which she hoped to carry her selection of bad videos home. After loading it full, she stuffed in her box of tapes too, causing the whole thing to bulge.

"Do you have a refrigerator I could put my pop in?" she asked, indicating her half-empty 2-liter. "I want it to keep cold."

Mrs. C said, no, we didn't have a refrigerator. Not precisely true, as we do have a little tiny one, but it's not for public use and Mrs. Bellows would be hard pressed to find room in it for something the size of a 2-liter anyway.

Mrs. Bellows walked away and Mrs. C, seeing that I was about to go refill my water bottle, asked if I would go try to tell Mrs. Bellows she could have a computer. I did and it took a couple of tries to get through to her, but she declined needing one. Then, as soon as I’d fetched my water and returned to cataloging, she decided she needed one after all. Mrs. C, noting my ire, told me to stay put, that she’d take care of it. She went back and logged on the last computer back and then told Mrs. Bellows which one she could use. Naturally, Mrs. Bellows sat down at the middle computer and, since it wasn’t logged on and therefore not of use, began bellowing for help before Mrs. C could even get away.

After that, I sat back to wait for further inevitable bellowing on her part, as she has never been known to use a computer without some need of assistance.

And I waited and waited and waited.

Soon everyone had left for the day except me and Mrs. A, who was still trapped in her office doing work. After a while, Mrs. Bellows collected her overstuffed grocery bag and departed. Only then did Mrs. A come downstairs and ask if I’d heard all the bellowing. Apparently, Mrs. Bellows had been bellowing for several minutes and Mrs. A had nearly abandoned her work to stomp downstairs and tell the woman to stop screaming for help and get off her lazy ass and walk to the front room to ask for it. Oddly, I’d not heard a single bellow, and I’d been listening for them.

I was already thinking that Mrs. Bellows should probably get her hearing checked, but now I’m starting to think I should too.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Winston’s Story (Or “The Amazing and Miraculous Thing that Truly Happened to Us”) (PART 5)

In the morning, I found myself very slow to get out of bed. Sure, I wanted to get a good look at our kitty visitor/captive in the daylight, but found I was hesitant to actually do so. What if my daylight glimpse somehow proved this was not the cat? What if all the evidence that had seemed so clear the night before had been misperceived?

I finally got up and went out on the deck, armed with our little Tupperware cup of cat hair samples. Kitty was still quite angry, as any wet trapped cat might be, but he was considerably drier now, thanks to the umbrella. Despite his scowl, he was not an ugly cat, by any means. In fact, he was sort of pretty, though in a hateful, claw-your-eyes-out kind of way. He looked like a small, lighter-colored bobcat, complete with tufted ear tips.

I studied the fur samples in my cup and then studied his damp fur. They still seemed a match in daylight. I could even clearly see the grayish blotches intermingled with the black and sandy colors in his fur, matching the gray hair in the sample. Our sample didn’t contain as much of the two-tone black and sandy hair as he had on his back, but most of Winston’s self-defense back-clawing would have taken fur from the cat’s underbelly, where there was no black hair that I could see. Our miracle-capture looked good, but part of me still wanted more confirmation.

We rolled in to the vet’s office around 8 a.m. Dr. Barrier was just arriving as we pulled up and saw me carrying my new live-trap with its trapped live contents.

“Merry Christmas,” I said.

“You got him?” he said, his eyes widening.

“Looks like it,” I said.

Once our trap cage was on the examining table, Dr. Barrier gave the cat a look and said, “Wow, he’s a big guy.”

We passed Dr. Barrier our cup of hair samples and told him what it was. He took one look the sample, then looked at the cat and said, “That’s this cat’s hair, all right.” Those were beautiful words to hear. It was confirmation—from an expert, no less—that I wasn’t just forcing the evidence into a desired mold.

“He’ll probably have some wounds on his stomach, too,” I said, recalling the blood on one of Winston’s back claws. Of course, he probably had a puncture wound as well, since Winston had quite literally broken her tooth off in him.

Dr. Barrier asked us if we knew if this cat belonged to anyone. We explained how it did not belong to any of the neighbors we’d spoken with and that some of those neighbors already knew of it and believed it feral. Granted, it could still have belonged to someone in the area, but I didn’t feel a bit bad about turning it over. I’d seen this thing tearing into my cat with my own eyes. No, I didn’t like that this cat was going to have to die in order to prove whether or not my cat had rabies—and would then either die or live herself—but if a cat was going to have to die in this situation, I was happy to choose the one who had come onto our property and viciously attacked a member of my family. If this cat was infected with rabies, his death would be far more pleasant than the one he would have had. If not, he would be a dangerous and aggressive cat removed from the kitty gene pool.

Dr. Barrier explained that the cat would soon be euthanized and the pertinent bits of him shipped out to a state lab for testing. He said that just looking at the cat, it didn’t seem to be rabid, so likely it was just a particularly aggressive. Being a Friday, we’d probably not hear from them until early in the following week. Still, it bothered me that this cat had attacked Winston at all. She’s the wussiest cat in the world, so she wasn’t the instigator. We don’t have cat food on the deck, so he wasn’t after that. And, having been spayed in 1993, she should not have been a target for mating. The situation seemed comparable to a young punk attacking an old lady for no reason—though an old lady apparently not afraid to scrap it up a bit if it came down to defending herself.

After having her broken tooth extracted, Winston was released to our care, taken home and showered with canned cat food, extra Pounces, painkillers, antibiotics and love. It took her a couple of days to get used to the feeling of having a missing tooth, and her face looks a little crooked as a result, so she’s picked up yet another nickname, “Snag.”

Tuesday morning, Dr. Barrier phoned with good news. The test results on the other cat came back and were negative. Just as he’d suspected, the cat that attacked her was not rabid, so Winston was in the clear, rabies-wise. I scheduled an appointment to come in and get all her vaccinations and a kitty tune up.

This morning, I brought her in for her appointment. Dr. Barrier looked her over and pronounced that her wounds had all but completely healed and her broken tooth looked free of infection. He said she was ready to go outside again whenever she felt like it. So far she hasn’t, but when she wants to I’ll be there to open the door for her.

Winston Churchill: a kitty still poor and little, but as of yet not dead.

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.