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.

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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.