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.

Monday, December 31, 2007

"Liberry" Glossary: Coot Pile

Coot Pile
-noun

  1. The assorted books on philosophy, poetry, biography and classic literature left in piles on one or more of our reading tables each day by our patron The Coot. (Granted, we hate it when patrons try to reshelve books themselves and encourage them to leave any books they pull from the shelves on our conveniently located shelving cart, so it's not like we expected the Coot to do the work for us. However, it is still very irritating to be on the brink of locking the door to go home only to discover a pile of seven books and magazines from wildly different places in the nonfiction stacks to have to shelve before you can leave. Wherever he is when he's finished reading, that's where the book stays.)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Where has YOUR ass been?

By now I'm used to seeing unsettling things when I go in to inspect the men's restroom at the beginning of my shift and often at the end of the day. However, I was at a loss to explain what I found on the seat of our toilet when inspecting it today.

I found wet leaves.

Yes, you read me right... Wet. Leaves. On. The. Toilet. Seat.

Mind you, there were only a couple of leaves to speak of, but that's two too many to not be odd. See, in order for wet leaves to be found on a toilet seat, the person who left them there had to have either placed them there intentionally by hand or, at some point in the recent past, they had to have sat down, bare-assed, in some wet leaves and picked up at least two on a cheek that way.

I briefly considered the possibility that the person who left them had merely had wet leaves on the soles of their shoes and had stood on the toilet seat for whatever reason people have for standing on a toilet seat. However, if your shoes are dirty enough to have wet leaves on them they're dirty enough to leave shoe-prints, and I saw none.

Or, maybe they found the leaves stuck to their shoes while using the restroom, attempted to drop them into the toilet to flush, missed the bowl and then were so terrified of the deadly, ass-bacteria teaming on our toilet seat that they just left them there rather than risk contamination in the removal process.

Yeah, that seems about right.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

And now, we return to our regularly scheduled program.

So what have the "bad" patrons been up to since I took two weeks off from crapping on them quite so much?

Oh, the usual...

  • We still have the usual urinal non-flushers to deal with, who in recent weeks have taken to leaving sloppy drippage on both the front lip of the urinal edge as well as the floor beneath. Now they've stepped up their game and are somehow managing to get urine on TOP of the urinal itself, where it congeals in the hard to clean trench made by the sealant. Son-of-a-bitch, you'd think we'd had a pack of dogs in here marking their territory! I've now been a bit more observant when I visit public restrooms in other buildings and I must say I don't notice near the amount of excess spillage in them that I see on a daily basis at the "liberry." Engage in Intercourse with a small water-fowl, I hate `em!

  • In more excretory news, we seem to have a new Serial Shitter—a Copycat Shitter, if you will. We know it's not the original Serial Shitter for none of us have seen him in for months. However, just like his namesake, the Copycat Shitter has left his calling card splattered all over the interior sides of our men's toilet and made, from the evidence, only a cursory effort to flush. This Copycat Shitter may in fact be related to our next mystery rogue...

  • Some asshat has been frequently rendering our men's restroom a gassy no-man's land through the sheer power of his fecal fumes. I know, I know, this has been a regular complaint here about a LOT of different patrons over the years, but this is one guy with, presumably, one ass and the ability to completely void the warranty of any given room. We don't know who it is yet, but he has to be a regular patron, since it is occurring quite regularly. The stench is horrifying and lingering and defies our efforts to dispel it. And while I've never been on a CSI-style forensic field trip to know first-hand, to me this guy's product smells exactly like a bog corpse. And due to some damn genius having hid all the aerosol freshener, I had to combat this horror with a tiny bottle of pump-spray air-freshener and a crucifix. For a bit, I thought the responsible party might be Sunday Bob, who did return on a recent Friday and caused all hope to be abandoned by anyone entering the restroom after his departure. However, he's not been in regularly enough to be the culprit and has fumes of a different... um... flavor, I guess. We have now bought numerous cans of aerosol air-freshener, each a different scent and different brand because we know from experience with the likes of Mr. Stanky that this level of stench will wear out a given scent in no time flat.

  • The Coot has now taken to shaving in the men's room, which seems the next logical step in his campaign to make the "liberry" his home. This might have gone entirely unnoticed by the staff, except for the fact that, just as he leaves piles of books in his wake throughout the "liberry," he also leaves wads of shaving cream, stray whiskers and soap scum in the sink and seemingly makes no effort to clean up after himself at all. I personally suspect he may be the culprit behind at least two of the above three paragraphs.

  • While hauling boxes down to our lower-level storage area (or as we like to call it "the wine cellar), Ms. D noticed there was a light coming from beneath the unusually closed door of our story hour room. Opening it to investigate, she found two teenagers, a guy and a girl. They were both clothed, though the girl was just putting on her coat. Immediately they adopted what she described as incredibly guilty expressions. Before she could ask them what they were doing in an otherwise unpopulated area of the building that we prefer patrons stay the hell out of, they dashed out the lower level back door and were gone. None of the staff had seen anyone go downstairs in the first place, so we have no idea how long they'd been down there and, lacking any infa-red Woods lamps, can only guess what they'd been up to.



Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Death at Christmas

Around 11p last night, we finally rolled in to Tri-Metro, returning from our Christmas Holiday with the wife's family in North Carolina. My cat, Winston, mewed at the sound of our arrival and came out of the bedroom to complain at us for leaving her alone for a few days. As is usual, she was fat as mud from having gorged herself at her cat-feeder while we were away. All was not well with our other pet, though.

I had just listened to our answering machine messages and was about to head back down to haul up another load from the car when the wife came in and said, "Oh, no! My fish is dead!"

Yep. There in the crystal bowl on the table between the two comfy chairs was our Betta fish, Betta Prime. He floated on his side, his formerly vivid red and black coloration now a dull gray. The water around him was now a bit cloudy on the surface and there was a lone piece of fish food floating nearby. I'm no CSI: FISH expert, or anything, but he looked like he'd been dead for a few days.

For those of you who don't own Betta fish, they tend to die a lot. They're not exactly hearty little souls and have a life expectancy of around 2 years. In fact, Betta Prime was originally named Betta Gamma, as he was the third in a series of Betta fish we've owned since we first married.

Our first fish, Betta Alpha, actually lived for nearly four years, having survived three moves (one of which was interstate), algae poisoning, algaestat poisoning, a tussle with a cat, dozens of tussles with his own reflection and some pretty serious rage issues. We thought he was indestructable, though, until we woke up one day and found him dead.

Betta Beta, who came into our lives a couple of years later, was defective from the start and only lasted about two weeks. His downfall came in the fact that he did not seem to recognize fish food as something he should eat and refused to do so. Eventually, we discovered that he liked freeze dried blood worms and fed him those. However, the blood worms tended to disintegrate in the water, which wound up poisoning it and ultimately killed him despite a last minute water change. That's our theory, at least.

Betta Gamma was high quality from the start, though. He was bright red, feisty and full of life. Not only that, but my wife trained him to jump out of the water on command. Each night when she would go to feed him, she would hold up the red-lidded Betta fish food container and say, "Jump for mama! Juuuuuump for mama!" Betta Gamma would flair out his fins and glare up at the intruding container. After a bit of frustration that its bounty wasn't being distributed to him, Betta Gamma would leap out of the water and look very angry indeed. It was astoundingly satisfying to watch. We decided he was the coolest Betta ever and thus rechristened him Betta Prime. We loved him as much as any two people can love a Betta fish.

We don't know for sure what happened to Betta Prime. Before we left Saturday, the wife fed him well and gave him an extra food pelet or so, as we would be gone through Tuesday. (We took him with us during Thanksgiving, but he didn't like it at all and refused to jump for mama for a week as punishment.) After that, the wife poured some leftover water from two bottled water bottles into his bowl. She worried at first that the temperature variations might upset him, but the tank water was already heated by our fish water heater, so we figured it would settle out soon enough.

Our major theory at this point is that we might have overfed him or that he ate his food so fast he choked his fool self. The fact that there was still a piece of food in the water with him leads us to believe he died shortly after we left.

We'll probably get a Betta Delta, but likely not until we return from our upcoming trip to Austin to see my sister and parents.

Betta Prime: RIP.

Monday, December 24, 2007

"Liberry" Glossary: Holiday Hours

Holiday Hours
-noun (plural)

Days of the year during which the "liberry" is not open for business, such as Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Traditionally, on said holidays, our "innanet" crowd patrons repeatedly drop by to bang on the doors and try the handles in the futile hope that we were just kidding about that whole being closed thing and that at any moment we're going to open up and let them come in to surf. No amount of signs to the contrary can disuade them from this hope. Granted, we the staff are not there to witness this behavior and therefore have no conclusive proof that it indeed occurs. However, the fact that these same patrons exhibit this same behavior on days of the week when we do not open until 1p and have not opened until 1p for nigh on two decades, now, makes us fairly certain that they behave this way on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day all the same.

Friday, December 21, 2007

My Second Jackass Moment? (Dumbass Things I've Done Lately Week: Day 4)

I guess this might not really qualify as a Dumbass Thing I've Done Lately, unless getting my haircut at Wal-Mart qualifies as a dumbass thing to do in your book.

In the book Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, the character who's ostensibly the romantic hero of the book is a fellow named Newton Pulsifer. Newton an odd man out sort of guy, technology is beyond him, chaos follows in his wake and he cannot get a proper haircut to save his life. The text of that section of the book describes how throughout his life he had frequently gone to hair-cutting establishments armed with pictures of how he wanted his hair to look only to have it turn out wildly different due to his head's refusal to take stylish cuts. In the end, he resigned himself to the fact that the only thing he could really expect from getting a haircut was shorter hair.

I have felt like that quite a bit in life myself. In fact, the last time I received what I would term a really great haircut was in March of 2005 and it was given to me at Wal-Mart.

Before you scoff too much, I've consistently received better haircuts at Wal-Mart's Smart-Style haircuttery than at nearly any other place I've been to. And this can be said for not only my local Wally World, but also ones in towns I've previously lived in.

The woman who gave me that last really great haircut, let's call her Melissa, was just incredible. She seemed to psychically intuit exactly how my hair would look its best, with very little instruction from me, and gave me that exact cut. I was so amazed by it that I resolved at that moment to return to Melissa and only Melissa for the rest of my life.

Unfortunately, one of Smart-Style's major drawbacks is that its a first-come-first-served sort of place. You can't make appointments and can't really ask for individual stylists, unless you want to keep letting people go ahead of you until the one you want comes up in the draw. So the next time I returned to see Melissa, I was saddled instead with the girl at the station directly next to Melissa's. And that girl, let's call her Miss Twique, was actively on drugs. I'm not kidding. She was higher than 93 octane and I was fortunate to escape with hair at all.

Of course, at first, I gave her the benefit of the doubt and tried to imagine she was just a really spacy person with very red eyes and, just to continue the automotive metaphor, a habit of talking at 150 mph. My wife the medical professional walked up mid-way through the cut, exchanged four words with Miss Twique and mouthed "She's ON something" to me. Shortly after this, both Melissa and Miss Twique ceased to work there and I've not seen either of them again.

Still, it was with great hope that I returned to Smart-Style last week with a mop of hair in need of a lopping. I was seated immediately by a stylist I'd not seen there before. She was a middle-aged woman who seemed very happy but only in a High On Life sort of way. Soon the subject of what I wanted done with my hair was broached.

"Do you usually get a clipper cut? Probably about a number 2 guard?" the hairstylist asked.

Now, I do a #2 clipper in warmer weather, but thought, what the heck, let it be a little shorter. After all, it's been pushing 60 degrees around these parts lately. So I told her a #2 blended into a #3 on the sides and back would be fine.

"What about the top?" she asked. "Just a trim?"

"Yeah. Just a trim," I said. "But I want to get rid of all this," I added pointing to the excessively shaggy widow's peak in the front that had been driving me insane.

The lady started a-clippin', making small talk all the while. I could feel that #2 clipper getting higher and higher up on the back of my head as she talked. Then she switched it out to a #3 and I felt a little better. That is, until she ran it clear across the top rear portion of my cranium. A very large chunk of my hair slid down my shoulder and I realized that I had now committed to another VERY short haircut.

As has been chronicled here before, I'm unfortunately no stranger to the odd self-inflicted shaver shark attack. And while I have actually been contemplating another VERY short haircut in recent months, I've not had the sac to actually go through with one. It's the sort of thing that, for me at least, has to occur unintentionally and then become accepted.

Well, I got my wish. When she finished with me, it was ever-so-slightly longer than the skull cap look of four years ago, and barely that. Still, I thought it looked pretty good.

Of course, as soon as I left Wally World, the temperature plummeted, snow began to fall and I now keep snuggy knit hats on my person at all times.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

B.O. at the P.O. (Dumbass Things I've Done Lately Week: Day 3)

We have loads of packages we need to mail round the "liberry," but no one asked me to haul them to the Post Office. In fact, Mrs. C took petty cash to run to Wally World, so I couldn't have taken those packages even if I wanted to. Which I didn't. Like a dumbass, though, I used my afternoon break to go to the post office anyway to do some mailing of my own.

I truly hate going to the post office as part of my work duties, because we always have 50 ILLs to mail and they and the inherent slowness of whichever postal clerk happens to help me (usually the ONLY clerk) clogs up the damned line even moreso than it's usually clogged. However, I reserve a particular hatred for going to the post office in December; for it's in December that ehhhhhveryone is doing all of their last minute Christmas package-mailing—most of the actual packing of which they could have done at home, but decided to do at the post office, cause that's inconvenient for EVERYONE—and this screws up the line even more and generally making everyone feel less merry. In kind, our local post office usually responds to the increase in traffic by putting even less people on the desk.

yaaaay.

When I arrived, there were five other people wedged into the tiny corner that the local P.O. has set aside for queueing. One of them was Mr. Stanky. He wasn't as blazingly-stinky as I've smelt him before, and his clothes, while disheveled, were not outright filthy. In such close quarters, he was still most unpleasant. Everyone else in line was trying to give him a wide berth, but there was only so far we could move in our attempt to widen the space between he and we.

There were two employees running the desk, but the people standing at their stations were insisting on doing complicated transactions that took FOREVER, so we all had to wait for several minutes before one of the lines opened. Eventually and most uncharacteristically, a third employee came up and opened a new window. I thought "Glory Be! Someone in charge is using their brain." Then one of the other employees told the next person who was able to approach to hold on, that he'd be with them in a moment. He then disappeared for five minutes, leaving the rest of us to wait.

Mr. Stanky was eventually next in line, but hadn't done his package packing at home, so he had to stop and do that and then had to fill out paperwork about it.

Finally, the second desk guy returned and the lines began moving again and I was at last able to mail my single package and flee that stank-choked, line-filled purgatory.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Corduroy Conspiracy (Dumbass Things I've Done Lately Week: Day 2)

Bridal Veil Falls
One of my favorite items of clothing that I own is my corduroy coat. It's light enough to not be bulky, but lined with a wool-like substance that keeps me warm and snuggly. Other than a hole in the lining of the left pocket (which I'm sure my long-time-reader ma-in-law would be willing to mend for me come this weekend) it's perfect. In fact, it's the only coat I took with me to Alaska, back in May, (as can be seen in the accompanying photograph) and served me very well there.

This past Autumn, it went missing.

I'd taken it with me on a trip out of town back when the weather first began to get chilly around here. However, I never actually wore it during the trip. Instead, it remained on its coat-hanger, hanging from the hanger hook in the back seat of my car. Days turned to weeks and the coat remained in my car. In late October, after another out-of-town trip in which I had to borrow the Wife Wagon (or, as my friend Joe has dubbed it, "that ugly ass Honda Element") to do some hauling of boxes back to the homestead, I returned to find that the back seat of my car was littered with pine straw. I deduced that the wife, who had been driving my car, had parked it somewhere beneath a pine tree and left the windows down long enough for the straw to collect there. It took me a few days to get around to cleaning it out and by then I noticed that in addition to the pine straw there was also, on the back seat floor, an empty coat hanger.

I didn't immediately try to do the math on this, though. Instead, I assumed I'd taken my coat in the house. Only, the next time it got cold, I couldn't find it anywhere. Maybe I'd moved it to the trunk? Nope, not there. Maybe I'd taken it with me on that out of town trip and it was still in the Wife Wagon. Nope, not there either. Eventually, my brain processed the clues of the pine straw and the empty hanger and I began to wonder if someone hadn't nicked it from my car while the windows were down. That's certainly an asshole move, but on the flipside, perhaps it was someone who really needed a warm coat.

I asked the wife where all she'd been while driving my car, days before. My guess was that she'd been to Wal-Mart, had left the windows down, allowing some jerk the opportunity to hork my coat. It certainly couldn't have been my fault, because I lock my doors EVERY time I get out of the car, regardless of whether I'm at home or at work. The wife claimed, howerver that the only time she'd gone out was to go to a baby shower and it had been at someone's house way out in the country, with plenty of pine trees around, hence the needles. No one would have stolen my coat out there.

I accepted her word, but wasn't sure I really bought it. After all, this is the same woman who frequently can't find her car keys because she's left them in the ignition of her unlocked vehicle, with her pocketbook on the seat to boot. I believed her, but still wanted to blame her, because I couldn't resolve how my coat had been stolen unless she'd been the one to leave the car unlocked. She suggested I'd left it somewhere on my out of town journies, which I supposed was possible except that I'd never actually worn it and, again, would never have left my car unlocked, allowing someone to take it.

More weeks passed and I began looking for a new coat. The only trouble is, there just aren't any clothing stores in the area that sell the sort of coat I'm looking for. Oh, there are some corduroy coats to be found, but most are cheaply made things that do nothing for me. I wanted MY coat back, the one that probably still had alder and wild sage residue in the pockets from my attempt to make Alaska potpouri.

Then, one cold December day, it began to rain. I went to my closet to find my enormous black overcoat to throw on against the chill. As soon as I'd pushed back the hanging clothes around it, though, I burst out laughing. There in my closet, where I'd looked for my corduroy jacket many times, was my corduroy jacket. It was hanging on a coat hanger, but was hidden from view due to the enormous black overcoat wrapped around it on the very same hanger. My guess is, I'd had them both in the car and had wrapped the one around the other to haul them into the house with greater efficiency. I couldn't even be mad about it, cause at last I had my coat back.

It's a good thing, too, cause it's snowing again.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ceintures du Jus Deux (Dumbass Things I've Done Lately Week: Day 1)

It's Christmas Party season. I likes me a good Christmas Party--particularly when they're thrown by the hospital where my wife works and involve free-flowing rivers of heavy hors d'oeuvres and booze. In years past, though, I've always fussed over what I'm going to wear. Normally, I don't fret over my clothing so much, but such a swanky affair makes it feel like a high-pressure situation. I don't own any clothing even remotely festive, so I've sometimes worn a sweater. But then I always get there and feel like I've somehow dressed down, or could at least have tried for some sort of color, or should maybe have worn a suit, etc.

This year, I decided I would just wear a damn suit and be done with it. Only then I had the dilemma of what shirt and tie to wear with said suit. Naturally, I started making these choices about 30 minutes from the start of my Friday shift. Rather than rush into a bad fashion decision for the sake of getting to work on time, I just grabbed half my closet and put it in the car. I also made sure to take my black shoes, which were way too dressy for work, but which I could change into later. And I put on my black belt, which would go with the both the dress shoes and the black Chuck Taylors I was already wearing with my jeans.

As I hauled all this stuff in to the library and hung it on our coat-rack, Mrs. J rolled her eyes at me. She doesn't like her men to be fussy about fashion. Mrs. A and Mrs. C, however, delighted in helping me pick my outfit. In the end, we decided on the brown shirt and a black tie with blueishy brownishy circular designs on it. It wasn't particularly festive, but it all matched. After that it was just a waiting game for 7p to roll on by.

At some point in the afternoon, I went to the can. I reached down and undid my belt in preparation for dropping trou. Only when I got the belt unbuckled I found I couldn't feel the button of my jeans beneath it because there was something blocking it. I looked down and saw that beneath the black leather belt I had just unbuckled was a buckled brown leather belt. I stared at it for a long moment, then burst out laughing.

I still don't know how I managed such a feat, but apparently I'd put on a pair of jeans from a couple of days ago that still had my brown belt in them. It was only later that I added the black belt, and had been in too much of a hurry to get everything together that I didn't notice. It was genius, I tell you!

My coworkers have now christened me Juice Two Belts. They said it's my Indian name. Got it posted it on my locker and everything.

Dumbass Things I've Done Lately Week

I've often maintained that if a person is going to go around pointing fingers at the foibles of others, it's only fair for that person to occasionally take a look at some of their own. So, in continuance of our trend of not heaping on the "bad" patrons so much, let's spend a little time looking at some of the dumbass things I've done lately...

Monday, December 17, 2007

"Liberry" Glossary: Remnant

Remnant
-noun

  1. A deposit of patron feces consistently left behind in the toilet, discovered by a staff member each evening at closing time. Unlike those of previous fecalfeliacs, such as The Serial Shitter, these dollups of poo seem to be the result of the failure of our less than enthusiastic toilets to flush it down due to the criminally low water pressure they often exert. Still, it begs the question: if everything doesn't go down the first time you flush, are you really just gonna leave whatever remains on the theory that if it survived the flush "it be the will of God"?

Friday, December 14, 2007

When Bad Patrons Go Good: Take 2 (Tales of the "Good" Patrons Week: Day 5)

I was mindin' my own at the circ desk when a brightly-dressed lady entered the building, approached the desk and set some Danielle Steel books down.

"I'm bringing these back," she said in a genial tone. Then she moved off toward the New Fiction section.

Now the lady looked a little familiar but I couldn't quite place her face. When I checked in the first book, though, the patron record of one Mrs. Carol Satan popped up.

I didn't want to believe it at first. My eyes said the record was hers, but my other senses, particularly my nose, usually detect her presence long before I actually lay eyes on her. Mrs. Carol Satan, you see, traditionally smells like a heaping bowl of that old Christmastime favorite, Aunt Linda's 3-Unfiltered-Lucky-Strikes Salad.

(RECIPE: In a large dirty ash-tray, mix together three packs of half-smoked, unfiltered Lucky Strikes, three 10 oz cans of Veg-All, a handful of Junior Mints and three cigarette-pack-cellophane-wrappers full of balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Toss. Serves seven.)
After a few minutes had passed, Mrs. Carol Satan returned to the circ desk with a stack of seven or eight hardback books. She placed them on the edge of the counter, but did so a bit faster than advisable, for the whole stack tumbled over, avalanching toward the back edge of the desk. Fortunately, my "liberry" ninja skills kicked in and I caught the whole tower before a single one could fall. What happened next, though, came completely as a shock.

"Oh, I'm SO sorry!" Mrs. Carol Satan said. And there was genuine regret in her voice as she said it. Granted, it was regret crusted over by layers of tar, but it was regret all the same. "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to let them fall like that."

"That's... that's okay," I said.

Mrs. Carol Satan continued to be very nice as I checked out her books. First, she readily offered her library card without having to be asked, made chit-chat with me while I scanned and stamped each one and seemed remarkably pleasant for a woman who has repeatedly blessed me out for issues that were her own fault. She even smiled. SMILED! And still I couldn't smell any cigarette fumes coming off of her. In fact, she smelled... pretty good, really. Was this somehow a twin sister? Maybe a Mirror Universe escapee, sans goatee? Why was she being so nice to me?

And I still don't know. Mrs. Carol Satan gathered up her books when I was finished with them, wished me a good day and vanished through the doors, a smile still upon her lips. I was floored! This was a turnabout in behavior that could not possibly have been achieved without divine intervention, or at least a few visitations of the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, Future and Zyban.

Mrs. Carol Satan: recent divorcee?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

It's not Delivery, it's... well, okay, it IS Delivery (Tales of the "Good" Patrons Week: Day 4)

Any week devoted to tales of "good" patrons must include my favorite patron family of all time, the Asners.

Yep, no sooner had I issued myself the challenge of chronicling the nice folk who visit us than we were paid a visit by Ma Asner and her middle daughter. They approached the desk and politely, silently, waited for me to finish helping another patron. When at last I was able to turn to them, the daughter smiled and explained that she was selling pizza kits for her school and wondered if I would like to have a look at their catalog.

Now, unlike my personal telemarketer policy, I have a personal school-sales policy of buying from one out of every two kids who come to my door to sell me something. (I think they're catching on, cause they keep coming in pairs.) I spent too much time going door to door myself as a yout' to become the cranky, cheap-ass neighbor every one hates. (Plus, I probably still owe the March of Dimes money.) However, it's one thing to be kind and generous to neighborhood kids, but buying stuff at a workplace as public as mine is very dangerous. You get a reputation for buying fund-raising stuff there and suddenly you're overrun with kids selling $5 Hershey Bars and $8 popcorn balls.

However, because young Miss Asner was the one who asked and because I'm still charmed by all those times she said "God bless you" with her sisters as they departed the building, I readily accepted her catalog and spent $33 on pizza and breadstick 3-pack kits. Miss Asner was overjoyed and promised delivery to me within a few weeks.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

When Bad Patrons Go Good: Take 1 (Tales of the "Good" Patrons Week: Day 3)

I've complained before about our annoying patron called Ms. Green. I should stress, though, that Ms. Green is not a Rogue, per se. She's never seemed to be a bad human being by our estimation. She's never qualified as mean, nasty or antagonizing to any degree. However, she has certainly proven difficult to deal with due to her ability to drive the staff to the edge of madness as we attempt very simple, standard "liberry" transactions with her only to have her question us at every turn. It's not that she doesn't trust what we're telling her, it's that she just doesn't seem to understand it. She's not dumb at all, but just doesn't quite "get" a lot of things that we take for granted as being pretty obvious.

In recent months, however, Ms. Green and I have come to a bit of an understanding. I came to understand that the major sources of friction between us are that her personality type and mine aren't the most compatible (she being a brassy, outgoing, semi-oblivious and often prone to distraction Yankee; and me, not so much) and that her perspective as a patron and mine as a "liberry" ass don't always intersect. I also came to understand that Ms. Green has never seemed to hold a grudge about the times I've become annoyed with her or, more importantly, the times I've allowed it to show. In fact, while I may have been oblivious to it for a long while, Ms. Green has always been very nice and friendly to me, regardless of my behavior. Once I was able to wrap my head around this, my problems with her just sort of melted away and I suddenly found myself being friendly and nice back.

The last several time Ms. Green has been in for a visit, we've actually chatted for goodly stretches of time. And not chatted in that "I'm making small talk with a patron because it's polite and they won't go away" sort of chatted, but more of a genuine, unforced, friendly exchange. I tell you, I'm as shocked as anyone.

Oh, sure, Ms. Green still has ideosyncracies that can be annoying, but given my shift in perspective, I just don't take much offense at them and pretty much roll right along. And Ms. Green, for her part, has actively taken to being less annoying by doing things like taking her cell phone calls outside and now allowing her phone to blare on for ages. It's freaky.

A further example of how helpful she has become came last night. Ms. Green was in with her kids, they browsed, we chatted, they browsed some more and toward closing time Ms. Green asked if we could make a couple of photocopies for her. Sure thing. Only she wound up not having the 50 cents in her pocket to pay for them then and there and asked if she could pay us tomorrow. Annoying? Eh, sure, but she's made this request before and I knew she was good for it. We let folks slide on paying like this all the time and they almost always pay us back.

Closing time arrived, Ms. Green and her kids checked out and left. While I was waiting for a few last minute computer stragglers, I went ahead and unlocked the book return and locked the front doors. Soon the computer users had finally left, though not before one of them had gone into my perfectly cleaned restroom, pissed up the urinal and didn't flush. I had discovered this act of bad-patronage, remedied it and was just leaving the restroom when I spied Ms. Green standing again at the circ desk. That didn't make sense, though, because I'd just locked the front door.

"Oh, here's the 50 cents I owed you," she said, placing it on the counter.

"How did you just..." I started.

"How did I what?" she began. Then light dawned in her eyes. "Oh. You thought you'd locked the front door, didn't you?"

"Yeah," I said. "Wow. It's a good thing you came back."

Sure enough, I'd managed to lock one of the doors but must have turned the key the wrong way in the other. That could have ended very badly for us, because despite all the signs declaring our hours, and despite the absence of interior lights, nearly every patron who approaches that door when we are indeed closed has to try both handles and yank on them for a while before the message finally sinks in.

Whew! Several strikes in the positive column for Ms. Green. I may have to move her to the Sundry Others column, or maybe add a "Good" Patrons column, just to make it up to her.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Brother Trucker (Tales of the "Good" Patrons Week: Day 2)

Brother Trucker is a good patron I'm thankful to have around. As you might have guessed, he's a long-haul trucker and as such enjoys having something to occupy him when he's on the road. So he comes to us for books on tape and CD.

I've actually written about him before, detailing the first time I recall meeting him. At the time I didn't like him very much, because after turning in a stack of Robert Ludlum ILLed books on tape he told me to "gimme the next four" and started to walk away. I was offended that he thought this was how the ILL system worked, but it turned out he was right. He and ILL Queen Mrs. C had already made arrangements that once he found an author he liked she would just keep ordering new books on tape for him, heading right down the list of what the system had to offer, four at a time. It was a bit unorthodox as far as things typically go around here, but it worked.

Since then, I've come to realize that Brother Trucker is indeed a valued patron. Not only does he come in for his ILLs when called, but he pays the postage for them as well! Hardly any other ILL patrons bother to do this. He's worked his way through quite a number of authors this way and is constantly on the lookout for new ones to add into the mix. Mrs. C keeps detailed records of what she's already requested, so as not to do the same ones over. Brother Trucker seems to appreciate all the work that goes into this, which is possibly why he always pays the postage.

And being such a long-time, solid patron, Brother Trucker has become something of a friend of the "liberry." He knows Mrs. A, B and C and they him. Often he hangs around for a few minutes to chat with us, telling us the latest goings on in his family and listening to the latest on the staff's. In fact, I bet if we ever wanted to have a rumble with any of our Rogues, Brother Trucker would be there with a tire-iron to back us up. For you see, being at the desk for such stretches, he's also seen our job and some of the annoying things that accompany it.

For instance, Brother Trucker came in to turn in some old ILLs this week. We didn't have any new ones for him, so he went to see what was in our own audio collection. He was gone for a bit and since the desk was empty I stepped into the staff workroom and into the staff restroom to have myself a wee. I was only in there for 30 seconds or so, but when I came out there was Brother Trucker standing at the desk, waiting. He grinned and said, "It's Murphy's law: if you go in the bathroom you know somebody's gonna come to the desk while your in there."

"Yep," I said. "That's why I know I better look like I've been washing my hands when I come out."

Monday, December 10, 2007

"Liberry" Glossary: Good Patron (Tales of the "Good" Patrons Week: Day 1)

Good Patron
Adjective Noun Combo

  1. A member of the majority population of patrons at our "liberry"—probably the top 95 percent. This patron type is described as "good" because "Good" Patrons are generally liked and appreciated by the "liberry" staff. "Good" Patrons return their books on time, or, if returning them late, immediately offer to pay their fines in full. And "Good" Patrons are often shocked and dismayed when we refuse their offered fines on days when we are not charging fines, such as Fine Free Friday or National Children's Book week, and often give us the money they had earmarked for fine-payment as a donation. "Good" Patrons are not always necessarily smiling and happy people, but at the same time are generally pleasant to be around and not actively antagonizing the staff. "Good" Patrons never give us shit. "Good" Patrons always wear deodorant. "Good" Patrons flush. "Good" Patrons double check the toilet to make sure everything has gone down after the first flush, and repeat the flushing process until it has. "Good" Patrons always remember to bring their library cards, for they know without having to be told repeatedly that library cards are a requirement when checking out books. On the rare occasion that a "Good" Patron has left their card in their other purse or other cat's ass, they do not raise hell about it but simply accept the mistake as their own and request that we hold their books until they are next able to return with their card. "Good" Patrons bring us cookies at Christmastime. "Good" Patrons have smiling, pleasant children who are well-behaved and do not trash our children's area. However, were the child of a "Good" Patron to trash our children's area, their "Good" Patron parent would clean up after them. Good Patrons never bring fifty easy reader books back at the crack of closing. In fact, by definition, "Good" Patrons never exhibit any of the bad behavior I usually bitch about here.

Tales of the Good Patrons Week

A week or so back, a post-commenter commented that my posts of late seem to indicate that I am a good deal more bitter and in need of a vacation than the happy Juice of old. I'd not thought so until that moment, but upon consideration I can see how perhaps there is some merit to this observation. After all, I save up all these stories about the behavior of our "bad" patrons, yet give hardly any play to the other 90 to 95 percent of our patron population, or, our "good" patrons.

So this week, let's devote some time to looking at those "Good" patrons who prove that it ain't all bad down "liberry" way.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Cat Piss Man (a.k.a. "Bodily Excretions Week: Day 3")

In our local kingdom of stinky patrons, there are some royally fetid gems.

Naturally, the king of this empire is Mr. Stanky.

Second in line of succession, perhaps surprisingly, is Mr. Stankier who, while outranking Mr. Stanky in pure stank power, is still rated only second because, generously, he visits us only about a tenth as often.

Third up is The Sweatiest Woman in All the Land (ne, the Urineiest Woman in all the Land). I must say, though, that while she has been a more frequent visitor as of recent, I've found she no longer really smells sweaty or uriney at all. Maybe I'm catching her on good days, but let's hope this is a permanent change. However, even with her current diminished stank power, she's still third based on nasal-memory alone.

Fourth would be Bear Piss Man, who is no longer in the area, but ranks fourth all the same. He is so named not only because that's what he smelled like but also because we were pretty sure he had free access to such a substance in his line of work as a carny running an animal display at the local fair. Bear Piss Man became progressively more offensive as the days of the fair passed and progressively more insistent that the staff should come visit his booth at the fair. If we dropped his name, he said, we could get in for free. We had no desire to do this, however, because by the end of the week this guy could clear the computers of patrons within seconds of his arrival. We also learned we were wrong about the bear piss. By his own admission, late in the week, he actually ran the Freak Tent, which gave us all sorts of unsettling mental images to accompany his aroma.

Let us not forget Crusty the Patron, either, who I'll refrain from detailing as it is getting close to lunch time. (Okay, so it's only 9 a.m. here, but somewhere in the world it is indeed lunch time.)

And we've had an assortment of stinky drifters who smell of sweat, but who are often entertaining, so we don't mind so much.

Last week the stinky patron royal family saw a new and dangerous threat to their hierarchy amassing its armies on the horizon. I first noticed it shortly after arriving for my shift one day.

While shelving books near the computer area and comfy chair reading section, my nose detected the unmistakable odor of cat piss. I say unmistakable because, as the owner of a thankfully-retired former World Champion Cat-Piss-Distributor (the Official World-Champion Cat-Piss-Distributor of the 1996 Summer Olympics), I know it well. The smell seemed to be coming from a particular comfy chair, which disturbed me greatly. However, upon my next trip through the area, the smell had vanished from the chair. Moments later, though, as I was turning back to the desk, I caught it again, now coming from somewhere near the fireplace.

"Um... have we let a bunch of cats run free in the library recently?" I asked Mrs. C after returning to the desk.

Mrs. C shook her head. "It's him," she said, pointing back toward the fireplace. Sprawled there on one of our comfy sofas, practically on his back, his ass nearly completely off the front edge of the seat cushion, his legs jutting way the hell out in EVERYBODY's way, was the Coot.

Lord, beer me strength.

The Coot, it turns out, was wearing a winter jacket that has, evidently, been steeped in cat urine. It's quite foul and quite unholy and he seems to be either quite unaware of it or is quite aware of it but just doesn't quite give a damn. Frankly either of those options seems plausible.

So because of our stubborn lack of policy allowing us to point out to stinky patrons that they are making our very EYES BLEED with their stench, we had to sit in his cat piss fumes for most of the business day.

Two days later, the Coot returned, but no longer smelled like cat piss. Ah, very good, we collectively thought. He'd washed his coat or has otherwise been given a heads up.

Nope.

A day later, he was back and pissy-smelling. Either he'd worn a different coat on the intervening day, or his cleaned coat had been given a fresh cat-spraying.

So far the War of the Stankites has not commenced in full, as no other members of the royal family have been present to defend their territory from this new aggressor. It's only a matter of time, though, before the battle for the throne commences and the valley runs yellow with the secretions of our enemies.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Mommy, Mommy! Look what I made!

Whoo hoo! I finally made stinky! Had me a poo poo, I did! Honked out a dirt-snake. Dropped kids off at the pool. Etc.

I don't know if it was the mineral oil, the fiber or the half bag of Mrs. A's Olestra-based "light" potato chips I ate, but things are finally starting to move along.

That is all.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

More information about my bowels than is absolutely necessary!

Riddle me this: How is it possible to have a shitty day and a non-shitty day at the same time?

Easy... Just get really, really constipated and head to K-Mart!

It all started Monday evening when I began to feel crampy about my mid-section. After listening to my gut with her stethoscope, my physician wife diagnosed me as being full of shit. I've received this diagnosis often enough, but not in the literal sense for quite a while now. Nothing was moving inside and my guts were bound up tighter than two S&M Christmas turkeys awaiting a jolly good beating by their dominatrix. I tried to think about what I'd eaten that might have caused my condition, but other than that block of extra sharp cheddar, I couldn't come up with a single thing. So, after a fitful, gas-pain-filled night, and an empty toilet sort of morning, I decided to head out to K-Mart for mass-quantities of toilet paper and enemas.

Let me just say, I really hate the local K-Mart. It's one of the most irritating places a person can go around here. It's a big store, but only has about 1/4 of the employees of a normal K-Mart of the same size to help stave off bankruptsy, I suppose. With so few employees, some sections of the store, particularly the office supply area, have been allowed to become a wild-west no mans' land where chaos rules and you can't find a damn thing. You can also never find anyone to help you if, say, you want to try on clothing and need the dressing rooms unlocked or if you need to put something on layaway. In those instances, there are buttons you can press that summon employees to help you by sending automated messages out over the loudspeaker calling them to you. But, K-Mart does tend to have cheap toilet paper and since my fondest wish was to use some, that's where I went to buy it.

So, there I was, rolling through the aisles of K-Mart, cart packed high with Scott 16-packs, soothing Christmas music over the speaker system interrupted twice a minute by a very loud monotone recording saying "SERVICE IS NEEDED IN LAYAWAY! SERVICE IS NEEDED IN LAYAWAY!" Soon, other shoppers began to encroach upon my personal space and get in my way. And then the loudspeakers began to play Bruce Springsteen's Santa Claus is Coming to Town, which I hate, and hate even more when it's continually interrupted by "SERVICE IS NEEDED IN LAYAWAY! SERVICE IS NEEDED IN LAYAWAY!" and I came to the decision that I'm fed up with the place and it's time to go. I took my cart full of butt-paper and enemas to check out, only to find that the only two open checkout lanes were clogged even worse than my colon.

Each checkout line contained three people and from the brimming contents of their carts, they were apparently doing all of their Christmas shopping for this year, plus shopping retroactively backward in time for seven generations. The cashiers were, naturally, not the speediest of transactionists either and this was compounded by the fact that both lines seemed to have some sort of pricing issue, which brought the whole shebang to a halt. I was irritated enough by this, but then I saw that one of the tabloids this week was picking on poor Suzanne Plechette. What did Bob Newhart's TV wife ever do to them? Jackals!

"SERVICE IS NEEDED AT THE FITTING ROOMS! SERVICE IS NEEDED AT THE FITTING ROOMS!"

Meanwhile, my stomach blazed with gas pains and cramping and at that moment I wanted nothing more than to buy my TP, escape this hellish place and, oh, maybe go home and bust a poo.

Then I sensed a presence lurking up beside me, to the right. It siddled up closer and closer, then stoped a few feet away and paused in what felt like an expectant manner. I turned expecting to see someone I knew coming over to say hi. I was right, but not in a good way, for standing there was Chester the (Potential) Molester. What's worse, Chester was smiling at me as though I were somehow his friend.

In the years I've known Chester, I've done everything short of punching him full in the face to alert him to the fact that I hate his guts. When he visits us at the library, I stare daggers at him and give him the most rage-filled spiteful face I possibly can, hoping the message will communicate that he is an unwelcome presence. (I actually told him this to his face on one occasion, but it didn't take.) Yet, every time I see him anywhere, his first reaction is to smile and wave as though I am a dear friend. This drives me nucking futs! If only I had been capable of defecating at that moment, perhaps I could have delivered unto him a violently-applied turd across the face to help him remember not to attempt friendliness at me in the future. Instead, though, I just stood there cramping and firing as much ire at him as my face could muster.

"Uh, hey," Chester said, ignoring my expression yet again. "Is the library open today?"

I continued tearing him into little shreds with my gaze for a long moment.

"I'm afraid it is," I said very slowly and with what I hoped was threat in my tone. Then I turned away from him entirely and refused to look back. Chester stood there for a moment, then wandered off, oblivious to how despised he is.

When I arrived at work, a poopless hour later, I warned my coworkers of Chester's potential to appear. Fortunately, he never showed up.

Meanwhile, I'm downing mineral oil (which tastes exactly like drinking a Crayon) and anything with fiber I can find in the hopes of busting the clog before it busts me. So far, no go.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Actual Telephone Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #104

*RING*

ME— Tri-Metro County Library

MR. CRAB (FORMER ANNUAL $200 DONOR AND THIRD GRUMPIEST OLD MAN IN ALL THE WORLD)— This is MR. CRAB. Could you please renew my book (SAYS NAME OF BOOK)?

ME— Sure. Can I have your library card number?

(Pause)

MR. CRAB— (Only mildly annoyed) Ohhhh. Let me get my wallet and I'll give it to you

(Long pause)

MR. CRAB— Just a minute. I got too many pockets.

(Long pause)

MR. CRAB— Well, here it is... The last few numbers are... (GIVES ME THE LAST FEW NUMBERS OF HIS LIBRARY CARD NUMBER) Is that right?

ME— I'm not sure. I'd need the whole number.

(Pause)

MR. CRAB— So you want me to give you this millionaire of a number here?

ME— Yes, sir.

(Long pause)

MR. CRAB— (In a tone practically bristling with regret that he's already alerted us to the fact that he will be witholding his $200 annual donation this year due to some infraction on our part, preventing him from making that threat again at this juncture.) Okaaaaayyy...

(Mr. Crab reads me the entire number, but it sounds like it has too many digits. Nothing comes up. I try variations on it without as many zeroes as he gave me, but nothing is coming up.)

ME— Could you repeat that number? It's not coming up.

(I start him off with the first few numbers. He fills in the rest and I see that he'd inserted a nonexistent 3 in what he read to me originally. I renew his book.)

ME— There. I've got it renewed for you through the 17th.

MR. CRAB— (Not listening whatsoever) Well, that's the number I have here. Maybe I don't have the right card. I had two of them. And there's some other number written here, but I don't know what that is.

ME— No, I've already renewed it for you.

MR. CRAB— Maybe there's another card here, somewhere...

ME— (Louder) No, I've already renewed it for you.

MR. CRAB— You what?

ME— That's your card. I've got you right here on the screen and I've already renewed your book for you.

MR. CRAB— Oh, you did?

ME— Yes. Through the 17th.

MR. CRAB— (SAYS NAME OF BOOK IN SUSPICIOUS TONE, AS IF I MIGHT HAVE RENEWED AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT BOOK)

ME— Yes.

MR. CRAB— Oh. (Pause) Very good.

(One day I shall have to tell the story of the physical altercation Mr. Crab and I nearly got into at a wine and cheese reception we both attended.)

Monday, December 03, 2007

"Liberry" Glossary: Gorebits

Gorebits
-noun (plural)

  1. Small, often triangular wedges of torn paper towel found dotting the floor of our public restrooms at any given point during the day, but especially at closing time. These are fragments of larger paper towels that have been torn asunder due to the inability of our patrons to simply pull the entire towel from the towel dispenser, whole. We're not certain why patrons seem to be having such difficulty with such a simple a task, as we the staff have personally tested each towel dispenser and have found them to be in functioning order and containing towels that are quite easy to remove with no tearing necessary. However, the sheer amount of Gorebits left behind on the floor indicates that our patron population is indeed in need of assistance and/or a tutorial session when it comes to their use. It should be noted that at no time has it ever occurred to our patrons to deposit their torn Gorebits in the waste-receptical conveniently located DIRECTLY BENEATH the paper towel dispenser. No, the Gorebits are instead released to float on the fecal-particle-laden air-currents until they find a new home on the floor where they remain until the staff has to clean them up at the end of the day. Gorebits are named in honor of former Vice President Al Gore, who would no doubt be appalled to know that an entire paper towel's worth of paper is being wasted each day in the form of Gorebits.

  2. A wildly unpopular corn-based breakfast cereal released by General Mills in 2000. It was distinctive in that the cereal was manufactured in the shape of uncounted hanging chads and tasted like bitter defeat. It went out of production in 2002 after it was discovered the only person still eating it was its namesake.

Friday, November 30, 2007

We've Got Letters!

The following letter was originally sent to me as a comment response, but I think it deserves a closer look in a larger forum. So here we go...


Dear Liberry Ninja,

I live in an area with a county-wide liberry system that allows me to search the online catalog from home, reserve books that are checked out or living at other branches, and then pick them up later at my neighborhood branch. It even emails me when the book is ready to be collected from my branch's reserve shelf.

I visited the circulation desk the other day because the book I'd been notified about wasn't on the reserve shelf. When I gave the nice lady my name she said, "Oh, yes. I know that name." And she said this very inscrutably, so I'm trying to figure out if there was extra meaning there. I'm guessing I reserve a noteworthy number of books. But am I reserving too many books?

Am I being a pain in the ass?

--Don't Want the Liberrians to Hate Me

Dear Don't,

Are you being a pain in the ass? Eh, possibly, but probably not.

We too have a couple of patrons who do pretty big business when it comes to reserving lots and lots of books from home. Granted, we don't have a fancy system like the "liberry" in your area that can send emails and alerts. We barely have one that lets people reserve things on their computers at home and, unfortunately, we don't always remember to run the report to see what books have been paged so we can fetch them from the stacks. But when we do remember, and there are suddenly eight books on hold for a given patron, I can't say that we resent it much.

Frankly, I'd rather have patrons reserving those eight books from home than tying up the circ desk or (God help them) phoning us to reserve them. They always start rattling off titles to me at breakneck speed, as though our slow-ass computer is capable of allowing me to reserve them at that sort of pace, let alone my poor typing fingers. I have to stop them, write all the titles down on a piece of paper and do them one at a time later on. Otherwise there's lots of starting and stopping and repeating and, yes, resentment on my part. And if they're phoning from home, they always start with the rattling-off-of-titles and I have to interrupt them to ask for their library card number and they NEHeHeHEEVER have it handy, so they gotta go dig it out of the cat's ass, or wherever they keep it, to come back and start the whole thing over. Now that's maddening! So, to me, reserving things from home, quietly and without involving me so much is a very good and welcome thing indeed.

Our only real trouble with our major offen... uh, user of the home reserve system is that she reserves SO many books at once and then doesn't usually come pick them up in a timely fashion, needlessly clogging up the limited amount of space in our hold bin. The books stay there for five days, then get reshelved until they're checked out and returned by other patrons, starting the hold process over again, or until the patron who requested them finally comes in for them, days or weeks later. (Fortunately she never complains to us when all eight to ten books are not immediately available after she's let their hold time lapse and she's okay with finding them on her own.)

In our system, interlibrary loans have to be done through the library requesting them, rather than by patrons at home, so that's not much concern. Our major problem with ILL patrons is that some of them request the limit in books and then hound us for them, calling every couple of days to see if they've arrived yet, despite our assurances that it may take up to 10 days to receive them and oru promises to call them the moment the books come in. Then, once the books have arrived and we call them as promised, they let them sit in the ILL bin until nearly the due date a month later, then complain to us that they only get three days to read them all. Don't ever be that guy.

Otherwise, I think you're a good patron, I'd be happy to have you at our branch, and I doubt that your local liberrians think you're an ass. They're even probably happy for the circulation numbers you help generate. Way to go.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Paranoid Rick James Buys a New Card

Not seen much of Paranoid Rick James in a while. Yet, he appeared yesterday and asked if we had wireless capabilities. Ms. D told him that we did and he returned to his car to fetch a laptop, then returned to sign up. I didn't see where Rick went after that, but he wasn't seated at any of the tables in sight of the circ desk. And I didn't find him at any of our less observable tables, when I just happened to walk near them during the course of my "liberry" duties. Curious.

Even more curious, I later spied Rick's girlfriend, Gladys Knight, in the building, but was too busy riding herd over the desktop computer users to see where she went either. By the end of the workday, there was still no sign of Rick or Gladys and I began to wonder if they'd secreted themselves away in some out-of-sight nook of the building where they clearly weren't meant to be.

I asked Ms. D if she'd seen where he'd gone, but she hadn't. I then warned her that when Rick was about, there was always a high expectation of some shit being distributed, usually in our direction. So we searched the building down to the storage rooms and found no sign of Rick or Gladys.

Today Rick was back. He walked in, laptop at the ready and requested some time. I printed him out a login slip and told him how to use it (even though I knew he already had been told before).

"Yeah. It worked fine yesterday," he said. This time I saw him head for one of the back corner tables.

Later, while shelving in the area, only within sight of Rick through the gaps above the books in our back to back shelves, I noticed Rick look up suddenly at my approach.

"You, uh... You work here, right?" he asked. What was he, stupid? He'd just seen me behind the circ desk not 20 minutes before. I'd been the one who gave him his damn time printout.

"Yeah," I said.

"I... uh. I need a new library card," Rick said. "Is there a way I could get one?"

Inwardly I seethed. Paranoid Rick James bringing up the subject of library cards was a sure omen of an approaching shit storm. He is, after all, the same guy who used to refuse to check anything out on his own patron record AT ALL for years, then railed at us for being in league with homeland security and the devil for not only switching to a new library software system that required patrons to get new cards and have them present when checking items out, but also requiring a driver's license number and, *GASP*, a physical address before we would issue one to him. He's the same guy who then threw a big honking, screaming, shit fit about it, refused to apply for one, but then slunk back in a couple days later to apply for one anyway using an old license with an incorrect physical address, allowing him to skirt that part of the policy. This, of course, eventually brought down the anger of the "liberry" gods on his head and he was forced to pony up a real address. He's had several similar infractions since then, but has refrained from any more displays of ire.

"Sure," I said. "We do replacement cards, but we charge $1 for them."

Rick nodded amiably enough and I went about my business. I was determined, however, that if he was going to get a new card he was damn well going to show us a valid driver's license before we'd even look him up by name and it had damn well better match the information we have on file for him 100 percent.

About 20 minutes later, as I was moving to shelve some easy readers, I caught sight of Rick moving toward the circ desk. I'd planned to be there to help him myself, but suddenly switching gears to race back to do so when Mrs. B was already in place at the desk seemed like a hand-tipping move, so I continued on my way. As soon as I could, though, I crept back to the desk and tried to look busy rummaging in a drawer in order to witness the fecal hurricane that was sure to come.

Rick had, by then, already explained to Mrs. B what he needed. Before she could even ask for his license, though, he produced it for her. She looked at it, compared the information to that on the screen, replaced his barcode with a new one, collected his buck and sent him on his way. Mrs. C was standing nearby, I'm sure to be on hand for the storm as well.

"There's no way that license was valid," I said.

"Mm," Mrs. C said, noncommitally.

No, that exchange went way, way too easily. Granted, it's exactly the same process that would have happened for anyone with valid information, and there's always the off chance that his was. However, I somehow don't see Rick giving us anything as freely as he did unless he was scamming us. We've learned from experience that if transactions with Rick aren't like pulling teeth, he's up to something. Of course, maybe I'm the one who's being paranoid.

We grilled Mrs. B about the transaction, but she said everything matched up perfectly and there was nothing to call him on. I still doubt that Rick is actually living where his license and his account say he is, but we'll have no proof of it until he checks something out, keeps it too long and our overdue notice to him bounces back for a bad address.

Then again, I guess I could just Google his phone number.

Heh heh heh.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #103

ME— Can I help you?

WHISPERING FEMALE PATRON— (Nearly inaudible) I had some prints.

ME— I'm sorry?

WFP— (Even less audible) I had some prints.

ME— Prints?

WFP— (Nods)

(I go and fetch the prints.)

WFP— (Nearly inaudible) Do you have a stapler?

ME— (I cup my hand to my ear to indicate that despite the fact she is a mere two feet away from me, I cannot hear her) I'm sorry?

WFP— (Even less audible) Do you have a stapler?

(Pause)

ME— A stapler?

WFP— (Nods)

(I give her a stapler and she begins counting her prints and stapling them together. When she is done, she looks up at me.)

ME— How many were there?

WFP— (Completely inaudible)

ME— (Cup hand to ear, hoping yet again to indicate that I CANNOT HEAR HER!!!!!) I'm sorry?

WFP— Nineteen. (Pause) I'm sorry. I can't speak very loud right now.

Monday, November 26, 2007

"Liberry" Glossary: Ass-Shields

Ass-Shields
-noun (plural)

  1. Strips of toilet paper used to cover the seats of our public toilets, theoretically preventing the transfer of deadly, lingering ass-bacteria onto the asses of the patrons applying them. Ass-Shields ideally remain unseen by anyone but the Ass-Shield/Toilet Seat Applicant, because they are—again, ideally—flushed following use. There are, however, some patrons who refuse to touch the Ass-Shields after use, perhaps for fear of the deadly, lingering ass-bacteria that have soaked into the tissue fibers during the compressed direct contact with the toilet seat. The Ass-Shields of such patrons are then abandoned on the seat where they either fall partially into the toilet on the winds of air-conditioning and flatulence, or, more often than not, fall onto the floor where a staff member later has to deal with them, risking contamination by deadly, lingering ass-bacteria themselves. Patrons who abandon their Ass-Shields in this fashion are known as Ass-Holes.

Friday, November 23, 2007

More fun with signs

@ The Library has some spectacular signs, also long overdue.

A sign we desperately need.

To be placed directly above the urinal at eye-level.

NOTICE

Though we cannot fathom why this sign should be necessary, for the love of all that is good and holy in this world, and for the sake of the noses and eyes of our staff, please, PLEASE, PLEASE flush the damned urinal after you've used it. We the staff find it unacceptable that the urinal is full of bright yellow piss and a few pube floaters every time we come in for a scheduled inspection. It is a situation that must change and that change must start with you the patron.

Now, we understand that you may not wish to contaminate your hands with the penis-germs left by other urinal users who—in theory, at least—used their wang-hand to touch the flush-handle. This is indeed an unfortunate probability. To avoid contamination of your hands while flushing, we invite you to instead use an elbow, shoulder, foot, chin or, indeed, your own wang, to flush the urinal in lieu of digital manipulation. Alternately, one of the primary reasons God created toilet-paper was to act as a barrier between hands and mooky stinks. You will find a plentiful supply of said paper in the toilet stall directly next to you and are invited to use it for this purpose. (Please do us the courtesy of depositing your penis-germ-infected flush-barrier paper in either our waste-paper receptacle or in the toilet; not in the urinal. Depositing your paper in the urinal will only draw our ire and our wrath; for as unfortunate as it would be to contaminate your hands with penis germs, it would be even more unfortunate to have a stout metal book-end crammed up your ass by an irate gang of staff-members.)

When you've finished flushing, we invite you to wash your hands. Please note that it is not necessary to fling water everywhere during the process of washing your hands. It is perfectly possible and preferable that you simply soap them up, rub them soapily, rinse them and dry them without excess water flingage. Tutorials on how to accomplish this are available by appointment at the circulation desk.

In closing, flush the damned urinal, wash your damned hands, don't fling water everywhere doing it, keep the place clean and shut up.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

ohhhhhhhhhhhh...

...too much... food... to... blog.

can... barely... breathe.

only... meant... to get... a little more... food... on second... helping.

Failed...

... ate entire... brimming... second... plate.

cannot... stuff down... even one... more piece of... pumpkin pie.

must... lie... on... floor... and... digest...

...for three hours...

... before going back...

...for more.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Actual Telephone Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #102

*RING*

ME— Tri-Metro County Library.

MRS. CRAB (WIFE OF MR. CRAB, FORMER $200 ANNUAL DONOR AND THIRD GRUMPIEST OLD MAN IN ALL THE WORLD)— Yes, I'd like to see about renewing a book, please.

ME— Very well. Can I have your library card number?

MRS. CRAB— Oh. (Pause) Oh... (To husband elsewhere in the house) Do you have your library card number?

(Pause)

(Indecipherable grumbling)

(Pause)

MRS. CRAB— He's getting it, now. It's for the book (NAME OF BOOK) by (NAME OF AUTHOR) spelled (SPELLS NAME OF AUTHOR), if that helps.

(It does not. I wait in silence as I can do nothing with that information)

MRS. CRAB— Okay, I have it here. (Pause) Er... which number is it? There's this big long number and there's this other one he's written in.

ME— (Not sure what other number she could be referring to, as the only other number on the back of our library cards is our phone number.) Uh, I'm not sure. The library card number is the long one there below the bar code.

MRS. CRAB— Oh, okay.

(She reads me the number and I pull up Mr. Crab's record. Having no reason to have recognized Mrs. Crab's voice, I am delighted to see that the record belongs to Mr. Crab. I am warmed by this knowledge, as I know that Mr. Crab is now very annoyed at having to fish out and supply his number when he had hoped that having his wife phone in his renewal would relieve him of any hassles. I renew Mr. Crab's book, being careful not to accidentally hit RENEW WITH NO FINE, but instead RENEW WITH FINE, so he'll have a .15 cent charge to bitch about when he turns his book in. I hope I'm there to see it.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

"Liberry" Glossary: Basket Cases

Basket Cases
-noun (plural)

  1. Mentally unstable or otherwise crazy patrons.

  2. Patron parents, often with multiple children, who check out the full available limit in books on each of their children's cards, their own card and often on the linked cards of non-present family members. They do this in the mistaken belief that this will somehow keep their brood occupied reading for the longest possible amount of time, freeing they the parent from having to entertain or otherwise deal with them. The name for this patron type stems from their habit of hauling away the dozens of selections their children have made in a very large wicker basket or, alternately, a colorfully-painted washtub. This is actually all right with us, for we do like those circulation numbers. The only trouble is, that Basket Cases very often accomplish these mass-checkouts, which take upwards of five minutes for our staff to accomplish, on story hour day when the desk is overrun with OTHER basket case families doing exactly the same thing, creating a gigantic Basket Case clog. And because massive amounts of books are difficult to keep up with in the best of circumstances, Basket Cases are perpetually in hock to the "liberry" for overdue books. Often they insist that they returned said books and raise a stink about it and check our shelves to no avail, only to find them hidden at home, months later. Because of their perpetual indebtedness, Basket Cases, often insist on returning their books on Fridays, a day on which our branch traditionally does not charge fines. This would be perfectly acceptable to us, except that Basket Cases almost always insist on returning their hoards of books at approximately five minutes before closing time. And because it's never simply ONE Basket Case family that does this, the Friday closing staff member present (i.e. me) always has to spend an unnecessary amount of time shelving all those damn books after closing and is always late for his dinner.
(See also: Bag People)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Year Four in the Can

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

Wow. Four years of "liberry" goodness. Who'da thunk it? I figured I would have gotten bored with it long before now, but so far I've not.

Lemme just say, I couldn't have done it without my crazy patrons, so to them I say "Thanks." Their crazy antics and annoying ideosyncracies have given me ample material to cover and recover

Also, I probably wouldn't have kept this blog going without you the audience being there. You're not an enormous crowd by the usual "innanet" standards (meaning, I don't have the kind of numbers most folks would be interested in advertising to) but from the stats I've seen you're a very faithful and regular bunch--and ever-increasing! The numbers have steadily climbed as the years have gone by, which warms me greatly. Even the wife has come around to viewing it as not a complete waste of time, particularly since so many of her coworkers are now fans of it because she can't keep her mouth shut about it no matter how many times I keep telling her this is supposed to be strictly on the Q.T! (But, I'm glad to have them too!)

Suffice it to write, I'm quite happy everyone is here and I hope to keep you on a bit further.

Which brings me to my next point...

Even after four years of this, I'm not yet ready to give up. I've learned a great deal about the blogging game along the way and feel like I've got this machine firmly within my control. There are still implications and secrets yet to be revealed and I'm certain I can keep chunking up quality posts for a while yet... oh, let's say at least the next seven months, or so.

At least.

Could be longer.

We'll all have to wait and see.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Visit from the Fambly

There's this good friend friend of mine whom I've known since 8th grade. Let's call him "Matthew." Now, I don't know for sure what "Matthew" eats today, but after moving out on his own during college he traditionally avoided raw vegetables like they were made of poison.

I've had several occasions to share a meal with "Matthew" since then, usually in such fine dining establishments as, say, a Ryan's buffet. When at such buffets, my first course of the evening is always to visit the never-ending salad bar for a good sized plate of greenery to help off-set all the brown food I'm about to eat. For "Matthew," however, salad doesn't even factor into his world. It's not that salad was considered and decided against in favor of tastier fried grub; no. Instead, salad as a concept was never on "Matthew's" radar to begin with. And upon sitting down with our first courses before us, "Matthew" has always given my choice of greenery a most bewildered look. It's an expression that clearly states: "Dude, we're adults now and our parents aren't here. We don't have to eat that shit anymore." Nevermind the fact that I always finished my salad and then put away twice as much fried crap as "Matthew" (and nevermind the fact that with every trip to the bar we both were secretly stuffing packets of crackers into our pockets so we could have a big, juvenile cracker-crumb-spitting fight in the parking lot afterward, returning ever-so-briefly to those blessed post-cafeteria, 8th grade, big cracker-crumb-spitting fights of yore), he was still offended that I would even eat lettuce at all.

Some folks are like that with libraries. (Actually, "Matthew" is like that with libraries, but that's cause he's dyslexic and hates reading, hence why I feel completely safe talking about him here.)

For some folks, the very concept of a library has never once popped up on their radar and if they enter one at all it's due to one of three reasons: A) because they have mistaken it for the water department (which probably only happens around here, since the water department is indeed next door), B) there's something we have that they need, and for free; or C) because THEY sent these folks to our door.

These library neophytes are easy to spot too. There's just a certain air about them of "liberry" inexperience that permeates their being—their very body language—and causes them to stand out in a bad way, kind of like Tag body spray.

A whole fambly of such anomalies visited the "liberry" a couple weeks back, determined to use them a compooter. Actually, only two of the anomalies, the grandmother and the older brother, wanted to use them a compooter, which they had been told (perhaps even by THEY) they could use to apply online for a job with a local chain grocery store. The other two fambly members, a 10 year old younger brother and his adult mentally-handicapped cousin, were left to wander the building.

I observed them for a while, much as a primatologist might observe the behavior of a couple of orangutans in laboratory conditions. They seemed wildly out of place, yet still fascinated by the sheer volume of books we had on display. After exploring for a while, the little brother came up to the circ desk.

"Um... do you have books on dinosaurs?" he asked.

"Oh, do we have books on dinosaurs," I said, grinning. "Let me show you where they are." I lead him to the expansive 567s, which he seemed quite impressed by. He immediately set about pulling books out, giving them a gander and then woefully misshelving them. I left him to it. After about five minutes, during which I had to help grandma and older brother with their job application website, which was admittedly a little wonky itself, little brother came back to the desk.

"Um... How much do these books cost?" he asked.

I told him they were free to borrow, but he would need a library card.

"How much does a library card cost?" he asked.

It too, I noted, was free.

The kid's face lit up and he quickly dashed to his grandmother, card application in hand to see if she would let him have one. She filled it out and sent him back and, after confirming with our computer that he didn't already have one, I soon had a shiny new card to pass to him.

Off he went to find more books, but was soon back at the desk.

"Do you have books about pirates?"

Actually, pirate books were a bit thin on the ground, outside of fiction, so I showed him some age-appropriate storybooks featuring pirates. He'd barely touched them when he decided he'd rather have books on dragons. They too were kind of scarce outside of fiction, and most of the fictional books were aimed at either far smaller children or far older adults. I was trying to find a happy medium when the mentally-handicapped cousin interrupted to ask for books on outer space and telescopes. Easier to find, I took him to them, then had to turn back to the dragons cause the kid was getting insistent. I found him the Deltora Quest series, which I thought might not have as many pictures as he would like, but he didn't seem to care and took most what we had of the series. He checked them out, along with a dinosaur book or two, but soon returned to trade out books for other books he wanted more. Before I knew it, the kid and the cousin were running me ragged throughout the building in search of books on wildly different subjects. Their glee at each discovery was so strong, though, that I could hardly be offended by it.

"Do you have zombie books?" the kid eventually asked. He then gestured back toward the computers. "They're for my brother."

The brother looked to be at least 16, so I fetched World War Z and told the kid it was probably the best (and possibly the only, unless you count I Am Legend) zombie book we had on hand. Brother and grandmother eventually finished up their work application and then, at the kid's insistence, the older brother came to get a card to check out his zombie goodness. No sooner had I made the card, though, then the two siblings began a vicious argument as to which of them would get to actually check the book out. The little brother, perhaps out of some sense of gift-giving or courtesy, wanted to check it out on his card while the older brother rightfully wanted it on his own. I broke it up by saying that it was the older brother's book so it was going on the older brother's card, and they both seemed fine with that.

I was a little dubious as to whether we'd get any of our books back, as "liberry" neophytes are so often oblivious to such requirements. However, the cousin has since returned his books and as of today I spied World War Z back on the shelf.

Maybe I've turned them to the other team.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

And the cycle starts anew

Among the books that arrived with this week's B&T shipment was a brand new copy of Dave Pelzer's A Child Called It.

Now, I've not read the book and I've no intention of reading the book. However, looking upon our shiny new copy of it, I realized that this is probably the eighth or ninth copy of that particular book that we've purchased in the past six years.

"Wonder how long this one will last?" I asked Mrs. B, holding up the book for her to see. She took one look and shook her head, knowing well what I meant. Our rookie "liberry" ass., Ms. D, on the other hand, looked on confused.

I explained to Ms. D that of all the books in our library, A Child Called It truly deserves an award for being one of the most-circulated and certainly one of the most-stolen library books of the past twenty years. We cannot keep a copy of it on the shelf for more than a few months at at time before it's gone again.

I used to wonder why a nonfiction book about an abused child would be in such demand and so often criminally overdue. Is it such a good book that people become emotionally attached to it and cannot let it go? Eh, I've seen that happen before but it's not so likely. There are some possible explanations.

The first one that comes to mind is that people are just assholes.

A second, more charitable explanation stems from the fact that I'm pretty sure there's a teacher at the local community college who regularly assigns it as reading for class. My theory on this is as follows: students check it out, read it, maybe take too long reading it, try to renew it, find that they can't renew it because eight of their fellow classmates now have it on hold, discover that it's now overdue, decide they don't want to pay the fine and prefer to wait for some sort of amnesty day (nevermind the fact that we have one weekly), fail to return it and continue holding onto it until they forget they ever had it. Because they're students, their mailing addresses are apt to change, particularly if they transfer to a four year college, leaving their parents to receive all the overdue notices we send out. The parents don't want to deal with it and decide to teach their kid a real-world life lesson by letting them face the consequences, but since we rarely hunt people down with pointed sticks over library books (unlike Mr. Rob, the community college librarian, who has been known to go to people's houses to retrieve books) this amounts to little. And so we order a new copy and the cycle starts anew.

A third, more charitable explanation, is that there are certain people in this world who just don't fathom how libraries are supposed to work. I reason this from the number of people who request A Child Called It who then have to be issued library cards before they can check it out. (If they were all community college students, they would already have library cards, as cards are manditorily issued as part of student enrollment.) These library neophytes, as I think any library professional can atest, are rarely seen in libraries unless there's an outside reason that brings them in. Once there, they might try to play along with our quaint "rules" and "policies" but their hearts really aren't in it.

I think all three explanations are probably true, but the third theory does bring to mind a recent visit by a family of "liberry" neophytes that amused me greatly...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"Liberry" Glossary: Patron Squeezings

Patron Squeezings
-noun (plural)

  1. The prints and smears left atop our computer desks following the departure of the majority of our "innanet" crowd patrons. A greasier bunch of human beings would be difficult to imagine. We should have bought stock in surface cleaning/disinfectant spray. Either that or we should start enacting prison-style washdowns in the foyer.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Mother-In-Law's Love

Recently, the wife asked me to read an email her mother had sent. The email content itself is of no bearing to this story, except for a post script which read something to the effect that she, my wife, was to take my photograph when I opened a package that was soon to arrive for me.

"I have a package coming?" I asked.

"You weren't supposed to read that part," the wife said.

I started to argue the merits of asking me to read an email message without warning me in advance of the bits of it I wasn't supposed to read, but decided that as I still didn't know the contents of the package, no harm had been done.

And so it came to pass that in two days time a large box arrived addressed to us. Unfortunately, the wife was on call at the hospital that night, so I decided against opening it for fear of retribution for lost snapshot opportunities. When she returned the following day, however, I alerted her to its arrival and of my good behavior in not peeking at its contents. The wife told me that I was going to freak out with happiness when I saw what it was. And I knew she spoke the truth, for surprises from Ma designed to freak me out in a happy way always do. After all, my mother-in-law is the very lady who knitted me an eighteen foot long Tom Baker Doctor Who scarf a few Christmases ago, an act which caused me to leap about the room, giggling and clapping my Chex-mix stained hands together in glee, possessed firmly by my inner fourth-grader. Shortly thereafter, I was heard to to utter the phrase, "Hell yes, I'm gonna sleep with it!" when asked if I was planning to do so. And sleep with it I did.

The wife was practically giggling herself when she turned on the camera and prepared to record the moment of freakage she was sure was about to occur. Carefully I cut the tape holding the box flaps down, taking my time with it to prolong the moment. (I get so few positive freak-out moments in life, so it's best to savor them when they do come my way.) I then sliced the tape down the center of the box, slowly opened the cardboard flaps and peered into its depths.

My first glimpse of the contents was of an emergency roadside tool kit, the very kind I've been meaning to purchase for several years now. It was not, however, a freak-out worthy present. A bit to the left, I next spied a pair of lounge pants printed with the characters of South Park. Again, a fine present, but I was not freaking out.

Then I saw it.

Tardis Cookie JarPartially submerged in the sea of pink packing peanuts within was the object at right, a Doctor Who TARDIS cookie jar.

I completely and happilly freaked the hell out!

I cannot show you the images the wife took of my freak-out, for they are even more embarassing than my admission of sleeping in my scarf. Suffice it to say, I have yet to pass through my kitchen without reaching over and pressing the blue light atop the TARDIS's lid, which is the hidden switch that causes the beacon light to come to life while the sound effects of the craft dematerializing play for several seconds. It's truly one of the most satisfying kitchen-items I own.

Three Tardises and a Tin DogAt the moment, my TARDIS cookie jar is sadly filled with Kashi snack bars instead of unhealthy cookies, but I plan to rectify that as soon as the wife can be persuaded to bake up a batch of oatmeal rasin.

And, no, I haven't slept with it yet, but the week is young.

(At right, a TARDIS triad and a tin dog.)