Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Encroaching on Second

Mr. Crab, third grumpiest old man in all the world, was in yesterday. He left the lights of his vehicle on despite its patented "Hey, Jerkweed, Your Lights Are On!" *bing*bing*bing* automatic alarm. I didn't know any of that, though, until a succession of patrons came in to tell me about it. Still, this is Mr. Crab we're talking about, so I wasn't in any big hurry to let him know. Nearly an hour later, another patron mentioned the lights and alarm, so I finally decided to go tell Mr. Crab, just so people would leave me alone about it.

On his way out the door to go check on his vehicle, Mr. Crab dropped a book onto the circ desk, saying, "I'll be back for that in a minute." True to his word, he returned a minute later. By then, I was was busy helping another patron, so I didn't notice immediately that Mr. Crab had come up to the desk, picked up his still uncheckedout book and was headed for the door until he was nearly there. It was exactly as if he thought I had somehow magically checked that book out to him without the benefit of his having first supplied his library card. (And this, I'm certain, is Mr. Crab's greatest fantasy.)

"Excuse me," I called. "Excuse me?!" I called again. Mr. Crab stopped, scuttled around and gave me a dirty look, as if to say, What?

"I didn't check that out to you, yet," I said.


"I haven't checked that book out to you, yet."

Mr. Crab grumbled something under his breath and returned to the desk to wait his turn. When I finished with the previous patron (coincidentally, the same lady he nearly ran over during my last encounter with him) he stepped up to the desk, set the book down and, as in accordance with tradition, stood there as though the next move were somehow mine.

"I'll just need your library card," I said.

Mr. Crab didn't actually make any negative comment on my asking him for his card, (you know, like mentioning how he was going to deprive us of his annual $200 donation for making him fish it out), but his expression said volumes about how much he really really wanted to and how much I was crushing his fantasy of not having to have it to check things out, (being as how, of course, he's such a major donor).

As he was digging in his wallet, he gestured toward our circ-computer and said, "You know, when people have a library card here, there ought to be something you could just click there that would tell you they have a library card without them having to tear up their wallet."

I had the sudden and nearly overwhelming urge to say, "Oh, but, sir, we DO have something we can click to tell us whether or not you have a patron record with us. It's called A LIBRARY CARD!!!! Whether or not you `tear up' your wallet in retrieving it is entirely your business, but retrieve it you shall, you cantankerous, great, honking asspipe."

I don't know how I managed it, but my lips remained tightly tightly sealed in a rigor mortis-like smile.

Mr. Crab regarded me for a long moment before saying, "No comment?"

I shook my head silently, in the negative, smiling like a maniac. Mr. Crab nodded back and scuttled out the door.

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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.