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.


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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.