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, June 25, 2007

Got them Gravity Hill, Ain't Got No Card, Oh, Wait, I do Have a Card, or DID Have a Card, AND Fines, Blues.

Mrs. J was sweeping the front walk when a large lady came huffing and puffing up the gravity hill. She was about to fall over from the strain. (In her defense, the gravity hill doesn't look like much of a problem to ascend, but, being the gravity hill, it always is.) Mrs. J didn't know the lady, but they talked for a minute or two. I learned later that the lady had asked Mrs. J how she might obtain a library card and Mrs. J had told her we needed her to fill out a form and produce a drivers license. I didn't know that then, though.

The lady and Mrs. J came inside and between wheezes the lady was all, "Oh, lordy mercy, that hill!" and "I should stop smoking," and "Oh my gosh, that hill," and stuff. She barely made it to the circ desk, where she deposited her brick of a pocketbook and began digging in it, I presumed for her library card.

"What I need is a basic math book," the lady explained. I looked one up for her and Mrs. J volunteered to head upstairs to nonfiction to retrieve it, so that the lady's heart wouldn't explode going up our staircase. While we waited, the lady continued digging in her pocketbook for her card, going through several thick, rubber-band wrapped stacks of cards and papers and the like. I went back to processing magazines while she searched.

"Will you take an insurance card?" she asked.

Wow, that hill really had addled her brain.

"No, ma'am. We need the actual card."

"What about a driver's license?"

"I'm sorry, but we need the actual card," I said.

"What card?"

"Your library card."

She gave me a long confused look.

"But I don't have one."

"You weren't just searching your purse for your library card?"

"No. I was looking for my license to get a card."

Oohhhhhh, now I got it. I whipped out an application, which she filled out and handed over. Then, when I started creating the card in the computer an identical record popped up before I'd even arrived at the Unique ID section. Same name, address, phone and drivers license popped up in the previously existing record. It also had $179.80 worth of fines and was blocked.

"Ma'am, it looks like we do have a patron record on file for you already. Looks like it's from TOWN-D."

"TOWN-D? Oh, I haven't been to TOWN-D in years and years and years and years and years. I don't have a card from there."

"Well, I've got you right here with the same name, address, telephone number and drivers license number, from TOWN-D. I'm afraid this says you have $179.80 in fines with them, so I can't check anything out to you until you take care of that."

"How much?" she asked in a cool measured and not entirely surprised tone.

I told her and it still didn't seem to phase her. She didn't ask what the fines were for, didn't bat an eye. For that amount of money, I would have spotted her a tantrum, but she didn't get upset at all.

"I'll just go right over there and pay that," she said. "Then I'll come back here and finish getting this card."

"Actually, your card from Town-D will work here."

"Oh?" she said calmly.

"Yes."

"You have a good day," she said, moving toward the door.

"You too," I said. "The hill's easier going down."

She laughed and left.

After checking out a few more patrons, I looked up the lady's account to see what she had out that cost $179.80. Turned out the fines were for four videos—basic Hollywood movies, most likely purchased at Wally World and donated—checked out in 2004. Town-D assigned a replacement value of around $44.95 each to them. My guess is, they'll never see it nor the videos nor that patron ever again.

Then again, nor will we.

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