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.

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.