An employee of a small town "liberry" chronicles his quest to remain sane while dealing with patrons who could star in a short-lived David Lynch television series.

Friday, 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."