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, July 30, 2007

Actual Telephone Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #85

*RING*

ME— Tri-Metro County Library.

TEENAGE GIRL— I need to... um... I have some books and I... um... I need to... um... re... um... re... I need to get them again.

ME— Okay. Can I have your library card number, please?

TEENAGE GIRL— Um... I don't have it.

ME— I'm sorry, but I'll need your library card number to renew them for you.

TEENAGE GIRL— They were... um... checked out on my mom's card. I don't have it.

ME— Then you'll need to get your mom to call later with her card number and we can renew them for you.

TEENAGE GIRL— Um... okay.

(Minutes Pass)

*RING*

ME— Tri-Metro County Library.

TEENAGE GIRL'S MOM— Yes, my daughter just called about renewing some books and I'm calling to give you my library card number.

ME— Okay.

(Wait)

(Wait)

(Wait)

ME— Can I have your library card number?

TEENAGE GIRL'S MOM— Hang on a sec, I don't have it yet. You answered the phone too fast.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Secret Identity of Ron the Ripper ("LOST" ROGUES WEEK DAY 5)

The time has come to tell the tale.

Some years back, on an otherwise normal day, I decided to fill my water bottle from our drinking fountain. The fountain is located at the far end of our reference/computer hall—a narrow passage where our reference books are shelved, near our three public-access computers, which are in turn in close proximity to not only the fountain but also our most-unfortunately-placed public restroom beneath the stairs. So I walked from our front room, through the children's room and was about to enter the reference hall when an unsettling and familiar odor hit my nose.

Oh, dear Lord, no!

I rounded the corner of the hall and nearly ran headlong into Ron the Ripper. Ron looked guilty and amused at the same time, but Ron always looks guilty and amused so this was nothing too suspicious. What was suspicious was that Ron and his Unobstructed Doors aide were coming from the direction of our restroom beneath the stairs. And following along behind them was the thick, yet invisible cloud of ass-stench I'd detected seconds before.

Oh, no, no, no, no, no, please, no.

Hesitantly, I passed them by and waded through the fumes toward the restroom. There could be no doubt that Ron had befouled our restroom, but the actual degree of befoulment was what had me worried.

Please, please, please, I prayed, please, let him at least have flushed!

Alas, the answer to my prayer was "No." What I found within the bowl of our toilet was yet more evidence on a mounting pile, one which would prove that two of our most notorious rogues were actually one and the same person. Ron the Ripper, you see, had a secret identity. Ron the Ripper was none other than... the Serial Shitter.

I first became aware of the Serial Shitter shortly after I took my job with the "liberry" in 2001. The Serial Shitter, I was told, was an anonymous soul who frequently had foul, unholy and always unflushed poo-festivals in our restroom and did so with such frequency and apparent glee that it had to have been done on purpose. About twice a month, usually while cleaning up at the end of the day, one of the staff would discover the Serial Shitter's "calling card" plastered all around the inside of our toilet. For you see, it was apparently the Serial Shitter's fondest joy to park his keister on our bowl and vent his bowels so explosively that the resulting spray barely even reached the water but instead splattered onto the interior wall of the bowl like turd-stucco. And because the Serial Shitter never EVER flushed, this turd-stucco would sit there, sometimes for hours, would dry and then would NOT come off without a big ass toilet-brush, a liberal amount of Clorox Cleanup, ten minutes of effort and complete privacy so as not to soil the sensitive ears of our patrons with the streams of cursing spewed forth by whoever had to clean it up. Son of a bitch, we hated the Serial Shitter!

And, oh, the stench! Sweet merciful Krishna on a bicycle, the stench could be terrible! The trouble was, it was also stealth stench, rarely reaching the circ-desk. If we didn't go back near the restroom for a while, we might not know of the turd stucco's existence. However, we soon learned that when our usual computer addicts began making for the door, something foul was afoot.

It took us a long time to start piecing together the clues as to the true identity of the Serial Shitter. We really really wanted to know who it was, so we could finally have someone one of us could grab by the shirt collar and scream "FLUSH, DAMN YOU, FLUSH!" while another of us soaked them in a glossy coat of Lysol.

After cleaning up the Serial Shitter's mess for the fourth time one month, I decided to put an end to the mystery and put on my detective cap. The Shitter's fecal hobby was definitely the result of an unhinged mind, so I began suspecting our more unhinged patrons. Unfortunately, that's a sizable portion of our patron population.

I considered that it might be Mr. B-Natural, a man who was, back then, pretty much dedicated to doing things he thought would annoy the library staff, such as sneaking in coffee, signing his name upside down on the computer sign in sheet and generally being the grumpiest old man in all the world. This didn't seem to be his style though, since he always made certain we knew when he was trying to annoy us.

Mr. Big Stupid was another suspect. He was often on the computers and looked to be the kind of man who could tear up a toilet, but I could never place him at the scene during any of the Shitter-Event-Horizons.

The Untalented Mr. Ripley, Mr. B-Natural's arch-enemy, was also on the computers quite a bit in those days, but as strange as he was I just couldn't picture his skinny butt having the capacity for the sheer volume of material we were seeing.

I even briefly suspected Chester the (potential) Molester, but while he did spend time near the computers it was only time spent between opportunities to cruise the children's room.

The more I thought about it, though, the more it seemed that the only person who was in house on the same days as and before the incidents occurred was Ron the Ripper. It fit his personality too, for Ron enjoyed doing everything with gusto, be it ripping pages from our magazines, to caveman grunting to, most likely, taking a shit. Our next move, I determined, was to keep watch on the toilet when we knew he was in house, make sure it was spotless and then do a quick recheck after he used it to prove he was the Shitter. If we could catch him in the act of leaving that shit behind, we could force his Unobstructed Doors aide to pay attention, do his job and actually make Ron flush the toilet.

Alas, the confrontation was never to come. The particular aide Ron was with the day they barely escaped quit his job, or quit Ron, soon after. Ron was notorious for burning out aides and this guy was just one in a long line. Subsequent aides didn't bring Ron to the "liberry" very often and we had no more incidents of serial shitting for many months. In fact, we saw Ron almost none at all for many months (further cementing the proof). The next time I saw him, he had lost a lot of weight and seemed on a much more even mental keel. I think his overseers must have found the magic combination of meds to mellow him out. The mischievous gleam that had been ever-present in his eye was replaced by something much more akin to what you see in Malcolm McDowell's eyes at the end of A Clockwork Orange.

Oh, we've had restroom incidents akin to the Serial Shitter since—some so horrifically impressive that we were led to question our original theories about his identity—but by and large the Serial Shitter is no more.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Footnotes from the Quattuorvirate of Lameness IV: Mrs. Quaalude ("LOST" ROGUES WEEK DAY 4)

`I'm shy. I can go on a trip for days and not go because I won't sit on a toilet seat on a plane. I'm certainly not going to go on somebody's lawn. Could you imagine, in a cocktail dress?' -- Farrah FawcettThe patron known as Mrs. Quaalude is actually one of the nicest people you'd ever care do deal with and is certainly not a "rogue" per se. She is however a difficult person to deal with in that everything takes three times as long to explain to her due to her brain seeming to be in a fog. I don't know that Mrs. Quaalude is necessarily medicated, but it would sure explain a few things. Not only does it take longer for her to understand things being said to her, it takes her a long time to communicate to others because her speech is very... very... slow... and... her... voice... so... very... very... low... and... tranquil... like...a slower... female version... of the... Hal 9000. You can feel yourself... getting... drowsy, just talking to her... as though the condition is... psychically... contagious.

While Mrs. Quaalude does check out the occasional book, her real claim to infame is as a computer patron. She used to come in weekly to check her email or otherwise surf the net, but for a very long time she needed assistance doing so with nearly every aspect of it. Often that assistance came in the form of her daughter, who would roll her eyes and explain to her mother, for the umpteenth time, over the course of 15 minutes, how to find H0tmail. A few months later, though, her daughter went all goth-chick on us, which meant that while she would come to the library she was way too cool to hang with mom anymore, so it was up to the "liberry" staff to help Mrs. Quaalude navigate the mysteries of the web. To Mrs. Quaalude's credit, our lessons did eventually take and by the time she stopped showing up as often she rarely needed help at all.

I know for a fact I've had several noteworthy and frustrating experiences with Mrs. Quaalude, but because I failed to write them down, (or perhaps because of her psychically contagious brain fog), I cannot relate them here even from memory.

Footnotes from the Quattuorvirate of Lameness III: Narcoleptic Nelson ("LOST" ROGUES WEEK DAY 4)

Narcolepsy in action!Much like his name suggests, Narcoleptic Nelson was a genuine narcoleptic. At any given point in the day, his head might nod forward and he would find himself asleep. This no doubt caused problems for him while walking and driving, but we only ever witnessed him nodding off while he was using our patron computers. Each week, on the same day, Narcoleptic Nelson would arrive to use a computer and the staff would begin making wagers as to how long it would take the man to surrender to the sweet grasp of Morpheus. It usually took no longer than 10 minutes.

Narcoleptic Nelson's computer sleeping habits were really not a problem for us otherwise. No, the only hassles we endured as a result were usually doled out by other patrons, who didn't appreciate having to wait to use a computer that was currently occupied by someone who was fast asleep. The usual complainant in such cases was our old friend Parka, however, a person whose happiness in life we couldn't have cared less about. Our point to him was twofold: A) while we don't encourage it, we technically have no policies against sleeping in the library; and B) we give each of our patrons half an hour on the computer and if they choose to use their time asleep it's all the same to us. Parka was not amused. We were.

Narcoleptic Nelson has not been seen in quite some time. I hope this means he's off being the subject of an intensive sleep study, rather than the less-pleasant notion that he crashed his car on the way there.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Footnotes from the Quattuorvirate of Lameness II: T-Shirt Man ("LOST" ROGUES WEEK DAY 3)

A similar character to Sad Sack, T-Shirt Man basically fulfilled exactly the same patron role—that of a quiet, loner, oddball, given to behaving himself at all time—albeit wearing a white T-shirt, year round.

But why?

For a long time I suspected that T-Shirt Man chose to wear only white T-shirts because he couldn't afford any other kind of shirt. However, in this day and age, t-shirts come in a wide variety of styles and colors, all for pretty much the same price. This guy could choose a different color for every day, but he sticks with white. This has lead me to theorize that T-Shirt Man, much like his fellow patron, Fatty Manchild, must have spent a goodly number of years in a coma following a period of arrested fashion development.

The Mild OneT-Shirt Man's fashion arrest may have come after viewing the classic biker gang flick, The Wild One. In this theory, T-Shirt Man went to see The Wild One and really thought the look sported by the young Marlon Brando—white ringer t-shirt stretched over his frame, biker jacket, hat, angst in eyes—was super keen. Unable to find himself a proper ringer T-shirt, biker jacket or hat, though, T-Shirt Man settled for plain ol' white and began sporting the look as best he could manage. Then, following a tragic 15 mph moped accident, T-Shirt Man was sent into a coma and awoke 30 years later to find himself in a world he hadn't made, fashion sense forever frozen that moment in his youth. And his vanilla, white-clad, "Mild" One saga continues to this day during his rare visits to the "liberry."

(T-Shirt man also disinguishes himself from Sad Sack by his ability to use a computer, no doubt prowling ebay for bulk deals on more of his namesake.)

Footnotes from the Quattuorvirate of Lameness I: Sad Sack ("LOST" ROGUES WEEK DAY 3)

There are four patrons who I had great hopes would one day expose themselves as rogues, or at least rise to the position of benign irritants. Alas, they have not yet managed and remain footnote characters with little story potential. They have become the Quattuorvirate of Lameness. Their first member is Sad Sack...

Sad SackSad Sack was named because he looks exactly like the old comic character of the same name, albeit with about 30 years and 30 pounds under his belt. He's too young to have been in WWII himself, but perhaps there is still a connection to the original character.

Poor Sad Sack. After he was finally discharged from the Army (still at the rank of private) and was able to escape the gaze of the irate Sgt. Circle, he quickly found that he was incapable of maneuvering the perils of life without the rigidity of military structure. He wound up going off the rails and became a drifter, traveling from state to state. Eventually he made his way to West Virginia, where he remembered he was far too lazy to try and hike over all those mountains. So he put down stakes, married himself local gal and eventually produced a son who grew up to resemble his father in both look and manner.

The son went on to haunt the streets of small towns, doing odd jobs and occasionally inquiring at the local "liberry" about obscure medical conditions he thought he might have.

Sad Sack Jr. is today a rare sight.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Red Alert ("LOST" ROGUES WEEK DAY 2)

The man known as Red Alert exists in every library across the globe. He's that guy; the one who, perhaps, used to be smooth with the ladies, back when he was in his 20s; the one who, perhaps, is recently divorced and therefore eager to begin distributing some of that smooth stylin' once again, no matter how inappropriate; the one who, perhaps, doesn't realize that what had been smooth stylin' in 1976 has now become an 8-mile stretch of poorly patched, pothole-speckled road, abandoned by all except similar creatures of his ilk and which sounds really creepy coming out of the face of a 53 year old man, particularly when aimed at girls half his age.

Yep. That guy.

In the late days of last century and the early days of this one, Red Alert enjoyed distributing his particular brand of "smoothness" to certain female members of our staff, i.e. the very married Mrs. B, the then unmarried Mrs. C, and our former weekend warrior Miss. D. At the height of Red Alert's notoriety, Mrs. C and Miss D were both less than half his age. Mrs. B was closer to his age, but, again, very married. This mattered not to Red Alert, who seemed to fancy himself quite the ladies man, and he would spend increasing amounts of time trying to chat with them whenever he could. And let me be clear, Red Alert was never exactly offensive or lurid in his words with them, so there was nothing Mrs. A could kick him out about. However, it was evident from his manner that he was on a fishing expedition; he knew he wasn't necessarily going to catch any fish but he could enjoy the scenery while he tried. He seemed to enjoy the raport he clearly thought he had with the ladies—a raport which they quickly began to discourage by becoming intensely busy with official "liberry" projects whenever he came around.

And that's how Red Alert attained his monicker, because "Red Alert!" was the warning call that used to ring out from the staff whenever we saw him coming. As soon as the warning was sounded, there followed a sudden exodus of Mrs. B and Mrs. C, if there were other staff members who could run the circ-desk. If not, it was basically a coin toss as to who would be left behind to deal with him and who would escape to the safety of Mrs. A's office.

Early on, Red Alert used to arrive in his distinctive hooptymobile, but I imagine he eventually noticed that that the only female staff-member this tended to net him was our sexagenarian "liberry" ass. Mrs. J. I deduce this because soon Red Alert began arriving exclusively on foot. Unfortunately for him, we were quite vigilant and as soon as we spied him prowling up the gravity hill we'd shout "Red Alert!" and the ladies would head for the bunker.

Miss D, however, was not to be spared. She was the lone weekend warrior "liberry" ass., after all, and had nowhere to escape whenever he lurked by on a Saturday. Thus, she was the first of the staff to get officially asked out by Red Alert. Quite wisely, she turned him down, but that didn't put him off his game. He was a regular weekend visitor.

I've often wondered if Red Alert was half the reason I was hired in the first place. Mrs. J, the usual defensive shield, only worked in the early half of the day and Red Alert learned that he could pin down at least one of his quarry if he arrived in the afternoons. Once I was on staff, though, both Mrs. C and Mrs. B could go to ground and wait him out, leaving me at the desk to disappoint him. Red Alert didn't hang around to talk to me, other than occasionally dropping skin-crawling little phrases, such as, "Only us roosters here, today, eh?"

In such cases, he would stroll on past the circ-desk and head upstairs to the periodicals to leaf through the daily newspapers. Unfortunately, Mrs. A's office is right by the periodicals section, which trapped the ladies in that office until Red Alert had finally moved on.

Months after I'd joined the staff, Red Alert came in one night after the ladies had gone home for the evening. He went upstairs to read papers for a bit, then left the building. Soon after, an attractive regular female patron in her mid-40s came downstairs to the circ-desk and asked if I knew the identity of the man who'd been upstairs reading newspapers. I said I did, adding, "What did he do?" I was fearful that he'd exposed himself to her or otherwise offended her, yet also hopeful, because if he had we could finally kick him out.

The lady smiled and said, "He hit on me. He asked me out."

"Oh, I'm sorry," I said.

"No, no. I told him I was married," she said. Then she smiled again. "It's just been a while since someone hit on me, like that. It was kind of nice to be noticed."

Score one for Red Alert, I guess.

Eventually, Red Alert left the area. The story that we heard was that there was some sort of incident at his place of employment. And while we never heard the details, we can certainly speculate.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Old Devil Twins ("LOST" ROGUES WEEK DAY 1)

We've covered the The New Devil Twins and The New Devil Twins Auxiliary League of Neighborhood Kids, but I haven't really given mention to the original Devil Twins who inspired that next generation.

The Devil Twins (no relation to Mrs. Carol Satan) were two nine-year-old boys who were also, as their name suggests, twins. Not long after I joined the staff, they paid us a relatively tame visit, but I was warned about them after their departure. I was also warned about their mother, who I was told could be an extreme pain to deal with, particularly when it came to the behavior of the twins. The boys were notorious for loud, obnoxious behavior and for trashing our children's room. Their mother was, in turn, notorious for being blind to her children's antics and for defending them to the point of delusion.

The major incident, which was cited by Mrs. C and Mrs. B in their warning, was a visit months earlier during which the Devil Twins began loudly trashing the children's room right in front of their mother. Mrs. C said she kept waiting for Devil Mom to notice their antics and tell them to stop, but she made no effort to do so, preferring to sit in the children's room and read while the chaos bloomed around her. When Mrs. C fingally approached the boys and asked them to settle down, Devil Mom finally looked up and then flew into a rage. Mrs. C tried to explain to Devil Mom that her children were actively running around, knocking books from shelves and disturbing other patrons with their raised voices. Devil Mom countered that the only reason Mrs. C was pointing this out was because the boys were black.

"Wait... They're black?" I asked at this point in the telling of the story.

"That's what I said!" Mrs. B exclaimed. None of us had even realized the Devil Twins were of African-American descent. Sure, they were slightly darker than your average white boys, but their mom was white and they looked pretty Caucasian otherwise, so how were we to know? Turns out, Devil Mom was actually their adoptive mom, but we didn't know that until later. Even if we had known it, though, I would probably have guessed the kids were Brazilian.

Mrs. C had to assure the Devil Mom that our request that her boys stop tearing up the children's room had not been made due to any race-based motivation, but were made instead due to our concern that her boys were tearing up the children's room. Devil Mom evidently didn't buy this, for she gathered up her boys, swore she would never again set foot in the building again and stormed out.

Devil Mom's memory must have been pretty short, because she returned within weeks, twins in tow. She kept her race-baiting to a minimum thereafter, but her children's antics grew no better.

Now, most people would probably chalk their rambunctious behavior up to the childish exuberance of a pair of energetic nine year-olds, but not me. As far as I'm concerned, they were evil geniuses in the making, for I witnessed them working their mischief as a team. During a visit in late October of 2002, I noted how one Devil Twin kept Devil Mom occupied in the children's room, allowing the other to repeatedly sneak up to the Halloween candy basket we kept at the circ-desk, taking candy from it, then rushing back to tag out, allowing the other brother his turn at the basket. I watched them do this until each and every piece was gone. I didn't intervene, figuring Devil Mom had pretty much baked that casserole of deception all on her own. After they left, it took me ten minutes to find where they'd stashed all the wrappers, deep in the children's magazine display.

A more amusing encounter with them happened one evening when Devil Mom signed the twins up to use the internet. Because they were under 12, our policy stated that Devil Mom would need to stay with them at all times to keep an eye on their computing. Unfortunately, the only two computers I had were the one in the children's room and the little computer by the stairs in our computer/reference hall, which meant she had to keep going back and forth between the two, checking up on them. After about 20 minutes, I heard a sharp cry from the computer hall, followed by the sound of rolly chairs rolling and feet stomping in the direction of the circ-desk.

Devil Mom rushed up, eyes wide and said, "I think I'm going to need your help. I'm afraid there's some," looks left and right, then whispers, "pornography... on the screen." This wasn't exactly surprising, as in those days we didn't have filtering software and were regularly dealing with pornographic email pop ups.

I followed Devil Mom back to the computer hall to find her kid's screen was turned off. She covered her child's eyes and pressed the power switch. When the monitor warmed up, there on the screen was a topless Jennifer Aniston.

"Ah," I said.

Devil Mom explained that her son claimed he was only looking for a Garfield the Cat website and had typed that into a search engine when Jennifer suddenly appeared. Devil Mom, having no computer skills, had no idea how to get rid of Jennifer, so she'd switched off the screen and run for help. I closed down the browser, rebooted the computer to clear the history and logged it back on for them.

Minutes after I returned to the circ-desk there came another sharp cry from the computer hall. I headed on back before being asked to find Jennifer and "the girls" staring perkily out of the screen once again and Devil Mom's hand clapped tightly around the kid's eyes. Yeah, that first time might have been an accident, but the kid was clearly a quick study. Mom decided it was time to leave.

From what I understand, the Devil Family left the area not too long after that. It took us a while to realize we hadn't seen them recently, what with being too busy enjoying all the books that were remaining on the shelves and the sound of quiet. However, nature being abhorant of a vacuum, and all, we were soon sent a new set of Devil Twins to plug the hole. Their adventures continue.

"Lost" Rogues Week

When I first set up the Tales from the "Liberry" Rogues Gallery, most of the initial Rogues I included were patrons with whom I had already had encounters or whom I knew I would one day be able to relate stories about. Granted, some of them had not beheaved at all badly at the time, but I could sense their inner-potential toward roguishness and stocked them in advance. In most cases, they rose to the challenge. Others, however, disappeared forever the moment I added them to the list, or had disappeared prior even to the composition of the list and never returned as I hoped they might. I've told tales about most of them anyway, but there are a few loose ends left to be tied up, not to mention long hinted-at secret-identities that, as yet, remain secret.

That being the case, let's cover and uncover those "lost" inactive rogues and unchronicled sundry others.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Master P's Theatre

One of our frequent and favorite patrons is Master P. No, not the rapper, but the sensei at the local Tai Kwan Do dojo. He comes in, several times a week to use the internet and do lots of faxing. Sometimes he doesn't bring enough cash for his faxing, or brings bills too large for us to break, so we let him by and he always pays us later in the day or the following day. He doesn't speak English very well and often doesn't understand us on first try, but he's a good guy. We like him. We do not, however, like his phone.

Master P's phone—a Razor—has not actually been a problem in the past. He's used it only occasionally, usually to confirm that the faxes he's sending have gone through, speaking in Korean to whomever is receiving his information. In fact, the only problem we've had with his phone was when he accidentally left it at the circ desk today.

Initially, his phone behaved itself. We put a note on it indicating that it belonged to Master P and set it aside, assuming he'd come back for it as soon as he found it was missing. After an hour or so, I decided to phone the dojo to let him know. No one answered at the dojo, but as classes don't usually start until after school, this wasn't too surprising. I decided to try again later and, barring an answer, could even walk it down to him at the dojo.

Mid-way through the afternoon, the Razor came to life and scared the hell out of everyone by blaring an incredibly loud house-music ring-tone at us. It was disorientingly loud, the kind of ring-tone that sets your teeth on edge and yet makes you want to dance a little at the same time. By the second time it went off, I found myself chanting along to the beat, "Oont. Oont. Oont. Oont." And it was still annoying from two rooms away. Who needs a phone THAT loud?

At five, the rest of the staff had left for the day and it was just me and the phone. I'd be minding my own business, going about my job, when when it would suddenly roar to life, startling me and causing me to curse as I flung myself at it to muffle its speaker with my hands. I imagined Master P had discovered it was missing and was phoning it repeatedly, hoping to hear where he had laid it down at the dojo. I tried to find a way to turn it down, or, better yet, turn it off, but the Razor would not give up its secrets to me. Eventually, I did find a way to switch it to vibrate mode, after which it would buzz loudly every couple of minutes or so.

Only after it had rung six or seven times did it occur to me to look at the incoming number. It matched the number for the dojo itself. So I picked up our phone and gave the dojo a call. Master P answered and was happy to hear that we had his phone. He said he'd be up for it right away. True to his word he arrived minutes later.

I tried to explain the whole business of attempting to phone him earlier in the day, figuring he wouldn't be back in until classes in the afternoon, figuring he was trying to call his own phone to locate it and then deciding to give him another call. Throughout my explanaion, Master P looked at me like I was speaking English. When I finished, he said, "Thank you very much," in measured tones, took his devil phone and departed.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Is it wrong to lick...

...the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows copy that we received in advance?

Really?

Unethical?

Unhygenic?

Aw, c'mon! It's not like I read the ending, or anything. In fact, I didn't even crack the covers of either of the two copies of the book we have on hand. I just figured that if I licked one of them, I'd likely be the only person in the entire world licking that particular title, a feat I daresay millions of children would sell their younger siblings into servitude in order to trade places with me to achieve. The Power! THE POWER!!!

Okay, so I didn't really lick it. But I did touch it. And I thought about licking it. And I do plan to abuse my library employee status by being the first to check out the book on CD, which I may also yet lick, as it's shrink-wrapped and stuff. However, I will play fair and wait until Saturday to do so. (The checking out part, that is. The licking, I'll probably get to later today.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #84

SETTING: My "liberry." A gentleman enters the building and approaches the circ-desk looking very hopeful.

ME— Can I help you?

MAN— I'm looking for marriage b0nds.

ME— Marriage b0nds?

MAN— Marriage b0nds.

ME— Um... Marriage b0nds?

MAN— Yes. When people got married, they used to have to get marriage b0nds. Do you have them here? (He gestures vaguely in the direction of our closed case collection of historical books and geneal0gy material.)

ME— So, we're talking historical marriage b0nds?

MAN— Yeah, that's it. I've seen them collected in a book before.

ME— I've never ever heard of us having those. My thought is that the historical s0ciety will be the ones to have them, but let me ask.

(I turn to Mrs. C, who is conversing with Mrs. B. She looks up.)

ME— Marriage b0nds.

MRS. C— Marriage b0nds?

ME— Marriage b0nds.

MAN— Yes. People used to have to get marriage b0nds when they married. I've seen them in a book before. They said you would have it.

ME— "They" say a lot of things.

(There was a pause at this point and I thought I detected an annoyed expression cross the man's face.)

MRS. C— That's not something we have here. You might try the historical s0ciety.

MAN— Okay.

I don't know if it was intentional or if it was simply due to the high winds we had, but the front door was slammed as the man exited it.

The incident above, among many others, prompted our entire staff to take a group tour of historical s0ciety's collection to see just what they had on hand. We thought it might also give their staff the chance to tell us how pissed off they were with us for sending people over for all the stuff we don't have for years and years. They said they didn't mind at all. After all, they tend to have all the stuff we've been sending people over for. They also charge admission for access to their collection and have probably raked in quite a bit of money due to our efforts.

And, yes, they did have a book of marriage b0nds.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Postcards From My Coffee Table

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I'd kind of half-noticed this little guy sitting on my wife's Hallmark calendar, atop our coffee table, for 15 minutes before I realized it was a little guy. My brain said stray leaf that fell off the houseplants, which was exactly what my brain was supposed to think, instead of, hey, there's a fuzzy bug, smash it! Then I touched the calendar, the moth's fuzzy little legs moved and I stood back amazed.

If you click on the image, you can see that the calendar he's on has a flower on the cover. I imagine he was just trying to blend in.

Some people would argue this is a perfect example of the wonders of evolution. Others would argue it's an example of intelligent (divine) design. I'd say it's both.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Mousse Trap

On Friday, Mrs. C announced that she had ordered the staff a chocolate mousse cake from a local bakery.

"Who's birthday?" I asked, for we'd ordered a similar cake for Ms. M's birthday not long ago.

"No one's," Mrs. C said. She explained that she just wanted some and thought the rest of us would too and it was cheaper to order a whole cake than individual slices.

The cake arrived and was a dark, rich-looking, frozen disc of beauty. That is, it would have been if I cared at all for chocolate. I've actually come a long way over the years to get beyond my former hatred of chocolate. As a kid, I used to shun most anything to do with chocolate, but have mellowed as time has gone on. Chocolate and I don't get along too well, but we have mutual friends, such as peanut butter and caramel. I can tolerate the presence of chocolate when either of the other two are around. Or, if chocolate is mixed into other things, such as cake, milk, ice cream or Oreo cookies. Generally speaking, though, I just don't seek it out in its purest form. A Hershey's Kiss is about the most I care to eat in a sitting. And while I had to admit that the chocolate mousse, still frozen in its box, was very nice-looking, I really didn't want to break my recently restarted shunning of sugar unless it was for something sweet I truly loved. I decided to take my piece home to the wife.

"WhaaAAAAt? You don't LOOOOOVE chocolate?!" Ms. M stammered between bites of her own mousse. Her tone suggested that psychological counseling might be in order.

"WhAAAAAt?!" Ms. S said, astounded at what she'd overheard from her fellow former newbie greenhorn.

These were typical, yet actually restrained, reactions of "chocolate" people to my non-chocolate-loving status. Usually once "chocolate" people calm down from the shock of having their world-view jostled, they begin to try and convince you that you are delusional and wrong to dislike chocolate. They say things like, "That's only because you've never tried good chocolate before," and, "Oh, I know some chocolate that would make you love it." The greenhorns refrained, but I could tell they were thinkin' it.

After a few minutes of dedicated chewing, Ms. S, her face alight with a chocolate-rush, took her still not quite empty plate over to the trash can and dropped it in. Ms. M started to scream, then caught herself, at the wasted three bites of mousse now in the bin.

"What are you doing?!" Ms. M said, accusations of traitorous behavior clearly dancing behind her eyes.

"I'm full," Ms. S said. "I couldn't eat any more chocolate."

"You know, we have a fridge," I said. "You could have saved it for later."

A look of regret crossed Ms. S's face. Clearly she'd not considered this and was probably now debating how much shit she would have to take from us if she fished her dessert out of the trash can. After a few seconds, she shrugged and said, "No, I'm done."

"Thank God she didn't get it out of the trash," Ms. M said, still working on her own mousse. "I would have died!"

"Hell, I would have eaten it," I said.

Ms. M laughed, as though I were kidding.

"I'm serious. I've eaten worse."

I then told them a story...

When I was a lad of five, my father and I temporarily lived on my Papaw's farm in south Mississippi for a few months, before moving away to Starkville. One day, while in town, a friend of my dad's, who ran a gas station in Waynesboro, gave me a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket full of Super Bubble Bubble gum. It was one of the greatest gifts a kid could be given and I was in gum chewing heaven for weeks, going through multiple pieces in a day. Around this time, I learned how to blow bubbles with my gum and tried to practice this skill on a near constant basis. I wasn't great at it, though, and would occasionally drop my gum on the floor, or launch it across the room, in my attempts to learn. Still, I had so many pieces I could always get a fresh one, so it didn't really matter.

After several weeks, I was finally down to my very last piece of Super Bubble. I was determined to make it last. I started chewing it after breakfast, took it out for lunch, and was prepared to continue chewing on into the afternoon and hopefully beyond supper. That afternoon, while following Papaw around on his late afternoon chores, I attempted to blow a bubble and the gum shot out of my mouth and landed on the ground inside the barn. I don't know how much you know about barns, but this particular one housed cows and its dirt floor was actually composed of dried, powdered cow manure. Not wanting to give up on my final piece of gum for the foreseeable future, I picked it up, examined the grains of dried cow poop attached to it, brushed them off as best I could and popped that gum back in my mouth.

When I finished my tale, Ms. M was staring back at me with a look of pure revulsion on her face.

"Enjoy that chocolate," I told her.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Mr. Butts Shows his Ass

I've never before written of our patron, Mr. Harold Butts. Never had cause to, really. Oh, sure, he's one of our most frequent patrons, visiting us on at least a weekly basis, and is therefore a common sight to be found. And sure, some of my fellow employees have warned me in the past that he can be difficult to deal with and is known for occasionally freaking out on the staff. However, in the five plus years I've worked here, I'd never experienced the slightest bit of ill-behavior from him myself. That is, until recently.

"Where are all your Michners?" Mr. Butts asked in a fairly demanding tone. He was standing in front of the M-section of our hardback general fiction shelves, in our main room downstairs. I looked up from my shelving across the room and could clearly see there were only two or three books by James Michner in that section. The situation struck me as one with a fairly obvious answer, so I gave it to him.

"Well, if they're not on the shelf there, chances are they're checked out."

"Checked out?!" Mr. Butts said, irritation thick. "You're saying all your James Michners are checked out?"

"I can't say that for certain," I said slowly, "but if they aren't on the shelf, chances are pretty good that they are checked out. I can check."

Mr. Butts became quite angry. "I can't believe all your Michners are checked out. I just can't believe that!"

Now that I thought about it, it did seem kind of far fetched that we would suddenly have a run on James Michner, but stranger things have happened. We do have several patrons who are known for vacuuming up every single book by a given author, making their way around the room, checking out their limit in just this fashion. There were also other possibilities.

"We probably have a few in paperback, too," I offered.

"Why wouldn't you have Michners here?" Butts demanded.

"Again, I don't know off hand," I said. "We do sometimes have to weed out books that are in bad shape or haven't been read in a while, but I doubt we would have weeded any Michners without replacing them."

"He's a major writer! You would throw his books away?!" Butts said, as though I hadn't just covered and debunked that possibility. Apparently he had a real jones on to read some Chesapeake. I decided to stop talking to him at this point, as he was clearly not interested in listening. Instead, I did what I should have done in the first place, which was to casually and leisurely walk over to the circulation computer and look up some damn Michner, for yet another possibility occurred to me at that point.

A year or so back, my boss Mrs. A went on a weeding jag that included books we normally would not weed but which had not actually circulated in over two years. Now that I thought about it, James Michner took a pretty big hit then. Instead of deleting his books from our collection, though, we'd simply boxed them up, along with those of many other authors, and put them in remote storage for future use on the distant, beautiful day when we somehow grew proper shelf space or just gave up on that whole laws-of-physics-thing and started shunting them into an easily retrievable, pocket-dimension-based, shelving system. We labeled each box with a list of its contents and stacked them neatly in the storage area. Of course, as soon as those books went into storage, a startling number of patrons coincidentally found they had developed a sudden, desperate need to read those very books which had sat untouched for two years previous. We also discovered that no matter the author and no matter the title, whatever book they wanted was invariably in the box on the bottom of the pile. This being the case, we had to institute a policy in which we would go and fetch the books for the patrons at a more convenient time for us, rather than immediately, agreeing to have them on hand by the following Friday. This saved us the inevitable hassle of having to go to the storage area and slip a disc shifting boxes—a task that's often difficult to do when one is running the desk solo.

I looked up Michner in the computer and found that most of his works were indeed in the box at the bottom of the pile in remote storage. I offered to put Mr. Butts on hold for whichever specific title or titles he was looking for, but Mr. Butts refused to divulge any such information. In the end, he didn't actually want to read any Michner, he was just deeply offended we didn't have the man's full catalog on hand. He didn't spell that out in actual words, but his expression of disgust said it for him, and loudly.

Throughout the rest of Mr. Butts' visit, I was sickeningly sweet in my customer service. This is my usual policy for dealing with assholes, because it annoys the bejezus out of them. Just overly helpful and all Hope you have a delightful day! After he left, I mentioned to Mrs. B that Mr. Butts had shown his ass. She just shook her head and said, "He can be nasty."

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Actual Telephone Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #83

Usually when people phone the "liberry" and ask to speak to someone by name, it's one of the staff they're referring to. On the rare occasion that people have phoned to speak to patrons, an explanation of precisely who they want to talk to is given first. Not so with the New Devil Twins Auxiliary League of Neighborhood Kids.

*RING*

ME— Tri Metro County Library.

KID— Yeah, can I speak to Michael?

ME— I'm sorry, no Michael works here.

KID— No, I just need to speak to Michael.

(Pause)

ME— I'm sorry, but there is no Michael employed here.

KID— No. I know he doesn't work there. But he's there. He's on the computer? He's a kid on the computer?

(Long seething pause)

ME— There are no children currently on any of our computers.

KID— But he was supposed to be there.

ME— Well... he's not.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Linguistics Lessons not found in the 463s

A patron approached the circ desk and announced that she needed a new Social Security card. She added that "THEY" said she could get one at the "liberry." Could I help her?

Now, while I really wanted to tell this lady, "No, ma'am. You can't get a new Social Security Card here. That's the job of the Social Security Administration and we're a library," I did not. That's because after five plus years of working in this joint, I, like most of my "liberry" ass. brethren across the world, am semi-fluent in Patronese. Yes, Patronese, that mysterious language in which patrons say things that are seemingly nonsensical or wildly out of place but which given the proper perspective can be interpreted to mean something entirely different by those with the skill to do so. (It's a remarkably similar to Customerese, which derrivates from Fuktardic, the family of languages also containing Crackheadish, Patient-speak, Dumbassian and Crazy Talk.)

I consulted my inner English/Patronese dictionary and discovered that despite what she'd said, this patron did not actually expect us to fork over a new SS card on the spot. Instead, she hoped we could assist her in applying for a new SS card, perhaps even online. Of course, knowing what she wanted and achieving it are very different things, particularly when it came to dealing with a bureaucratic governmental agency that I doubted would be willing to reissue her a Social Security card without first seeing seven forms of photo identification, a note from her third grade teacher, and, probably, a Social Security card. I explained to her that while I could help her find the SSA website, I did not know off-hand if applying for a new card online was even possible. She was welcome to log on and have a look, though.

The woman looked very sad. "Well, I already went to the library in TOWN C and their computers couldn't do that," she said. "Do your computers have the same.... uh... the same... um..."

"Internet?" I guessed.

"Yeah," she said.

Again, I already knew what she really meant, which was to say that Town C's library hadn't been able to help her out, most likely due to having a volunteer manning the desk who wasn't entirely computer literate, or perhaps that their computers didn't have the correct version of Flash installed to navigate the SSA site. I would be able to help her find the SSA site and likely directions to a form to print out. Unfortunately, I also knew from her particular dialect of Patronese that she didn't really want to do any of this herself, but wanted me to do it all for her. I probably would have done it too, as helping patrons is MY JOB (and I should really look into shutting up bitching about it so much). However, before I could even offer, her cell phone went off. Her or her caller's reception must have been very bad because she kept having to repeat herself. She looked up at me during this and gave me a very disdainful look, as though her crappy phone were somehow my fault.

"Oh, just forget it," she said, standing up to leave. Of course, you already know that was Patronese for, "This is far more effort that I'd hoped to expend. I really did expect you to give me a new Social Security Card on the spot and you're a terrible human being for crushing my expectations by insisting I take some part in achieving my goals. Screw you guys, I'm going home."

Friday, July 06, 2007

Random Facts (and Rules)

I recently learned, via The Onion's AVClub, that Hitchhiker's Guide creator Douglas Adams and Bloom County/Opus creator Berkeley Breathed were friends. Now that's a pairing I both completely see working and yet still find unexpected. Then again, Adams had a pretty amazing group of friends, from Pythons to rock-star-naturalists to actual rock stars.

This quote is taken from The Onion's Random Rules feature, wherein a celebrity puts their digital music player of choice on shuffle and discusses the ten songs that come up.

http://www.avclub.com/content/feature/random_rules_berkeley_breathed

SONG David Gilmour, "There's No Way Out Of Here"

Berkeley Breathed: Eric Clapton isn't God. There isn't one. But David Gilmour and Pink Floyd fill the void. My good friend Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, died shockingly early, but lived long enough to step onstage and play guitar alongside Gilmour for a birthday present. Almost worth dying young. I think of Douglas when this song pops up, and that's good.

AVC: Who arranged that present for him?

BB: Gilmour, who was a friend of Douglas'. There's something to be said for celebrityhood as a writer.

Still, that sounds like a lot of fun to try. Here are five tracks that my player spit out at random...

"Uncle Walter" Ben Folds Five from their self-titled debut.

I really like Ben Folds Five, particularly their first and third albums. I always thought Ben sounded like the guy from the Kleenex commericals in the 1980s, the ones with the jingle that ended with "Kleenex says... bless yooouuu." Except, I imagine Ben would change those lyrics to something a good bit more rude.

"Sleep to Dream Her" Dave Matthews Band, from Everyday.

Everyday was the album Dave released instead of the material from the now legendary Lillywhite Sessions, most of which was retooled for Busted Stuff. I remember being very disappointed in Everyday initially because it wasn't the same great songs I'd just heard in a live Dave Matthews concert some months beforehand. However, it's a great little album on its own merrit and speaks to the talent DMB possesses. It's sort of a, Ah, we don't fell like releasing all those fantastic songs we already recorded so we'll just dash off a few other fantastic songs and release them instead.

"Armida" Vinx from The Storyteller.

I like Vinx a lot, but I have to confess I've not listened to this particular album more than a couple of times in the 6 or 7 years since I bought it. I tend to listen to his debut album, Rooms in my Fatha's House, instead, which was produced by Sting and is just brilliant stuff. Actor Roscoe Lee Brown, who recently passed away, has a part on it and Sheryl Crow sings backup on a song or two (albeit billed as Cheryl Crow). I feel a little bad that I liked Vinx's first album so much yet haven't given his next two that I own a fair shake to stick in my head, nor have I sampled any of the 10 albums or so he's put out since.

"How We Won the War" Patton Oswalt from Feelin Kinda Patton.

Patton Oswalt is my favorite comedian working today. This track is particularly funny. He has a new comedy album being released next week. I'm there.


"I Know What I Know" Paul Simon, Graceland.

Whether it's true or not, I've long claimed to be my generation's greatest Paul Simon fan. Graceland was my introduction to him. Actually, his appearance on Saturday Night Live, round about 1987, just a few months before Graceland was released, was my first introduction to him. Since then I've gobbled up about everything he's put out and gone back to seek out past records, including, of course, Simon & Garfunkel. "I Know What I Know" is not my favorite song from Graceland, but I like it all the same.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Further Confessions of a Complete Goober

My moms in law is in town this week. As always, it's been fantastic! See, Ma likes to spoil us with comfort foods, including such favorites as blackberry cobbler, strawberry rhubarb crisp and her world-famous banana pudding. Also, because Ma can't stand a mess, our house is more or less spotless. I tell you, there's no downside.

Since I had the day off, and since Ma was around to provide me with transportation, I decided to take my car to the repair shop down the road to have a few of its many ailments seen to. I walked back, resumed my day off and soon discussions turned to what we were to have for dinner. We didn't have quite all of the ingredients for the chicken alfredo pizza Ma had proposed, so I agreed to take her car and head out to the store.

"I'll probably stop by the gym, first," I told her. Gotta work off some of this cobbler, after all.

I unlocked Ma's vehicle using the key fob button on her keychain, but found I couldn't open the driver's side door. Ma had warned me, though, that her driver's side door doesn't always open via the handle, so I would have to go around and open it from the passenger side. This I did.

On arriving at the gym, I found myself with a dilemma. Ma's keychain is a massive construction, largely due to the commercial-kitchen-sized canister of pepper spray she lugs around on it. Now, I have no problems going to the store and buying maxi-pads or tampons or Midol or any of the other things most guys typically have issues with being sent to the store to buy. I just don't see what the big deal is about it; after all, no one is going to assume I'm buying such items for myself, but, instead, will assume that I'm buying them for a girlfriend or wife, further indicating that I am equipped with a woman and therefore not a complete loser.

That said, damn if I was lugging a big ol' can of pepper spray into the gym on a set of gargantu-girly keys. Instead, I removed the vehicle's key from the key chain, clipped it to my own keys and went in to work out.

Afterward, I returned to Ma's car where I again had to open the driver's side door from the passenger side. I didn't even have to use the key, though, for I'd left the car unlocked.

At the grocery store, I decided to leave my MP3 player in the car. To make sure that it was still there when I returned, I hit the door lock and headed on into the store. Some 20 minutes later, I emerged, laden with groceries, and attempted to unlock the driver's side door with Ma's key. The key barely made it half-way into the lock before stopping. No amount of wiggling would allow it any further.

Oh, that's the broken door, I thought. I then tried the passenger door and had the same result. No deal.

Aw, shit, I thought. I've locked myself out of the car. How dumb. My MP3 player stared up at me from the passenger seat, as did the enormous can of pepper spray and the magic door unlocking key fob clipped to it. I stood there for a minute, the sun beating down on me, my two canisters of Minute Maid concentrated orange juice mix thawing in the plastic bags at my side. Then I dug out my cell and phoned Ma.

I've had to confess a lot of dumb things to my mother-in-law over the years. For instance, there was the time I drove from Tupelo, MS, to Hickory, NC, to see Ashley, but took a wrong turn in Atlanta and wound up taking I-75 instead of I-85. Unfortunately, I was in Chattanooga before I realized my mistake. I knew I'd need to phone Ashley to let her know I would be late, but didn't have her number at work, so I had to phone Ma to get the number, at which point she interrogated the truth out of me. Not fun, but to her credit Ma did eventually let me marry her daughter despite my repeatedly proven status as a complete goober.

Ma took the door-locking incident in stride. She admitted that she wasn't sure if there was even a door key on the ring, as she always used the key fob to unlock the door. She did say that she had an emergency back up key in her pocketbook, but since there were no other vehicles at home I would have to find a way to come get it.

"Can you get a ride with someone you know there?" she asked.

Oddly, I had seen a handful of patrons in and around the store who knew me from the "liberry." There was Mrs. French, who is a patron I like a lot and have worked with in local theatrical productions, but I'd just seen her drive away as I arrived at the car. There was also Mabel, a lady who used to be one of our resident amateur geneal0gists before Gene Gene the Geneal0gy Machine usurped her throne. I'd seen her heading into the store on my way out. And, unfortunately, there was also Mr. Perfect.

I've only written about Mr. W. Perfect peripherally in the past. He's a patron of ours who's a nice enough guy, but distinguishes himself through his insistence on using only W0rd Perfect for his word processing. He loves W0rd Perfect and, given the opportunity, will go on and on about it, praising Corel for having created the program in the first place, lecturing us on how it has enriched his life and proclaiming his undying devotion to it. I personally hate W0rd Perfect, mostly because of Corel's insistence of refusing to use the same keyboard commands as other, superior products and generally being in league with the devil. I therefore find such devotion to it irritating and kind of creepy. Whatever. Unfortunately for Mr. Perfect, only one of our patron computers still has W0rd Perfect on it and he tends to only need to use it when that computer is otherwise taken. He's always very cool about it and never raises a stink, but often fills any amount of time he has to wait for it with flowerly soliloquies about how grateful he is to live on the same planet as W0rd Perfect and his barely platonic love for the program.

Even as I stood there in the parking lot, I spied Mr. Perfect approaching his own car. I considered going over and asking him for help, but asking someone to drive you home and then back was kind of a big favor to ask, particularly of someone you're not friends with in the first place. I didn't imagine he would turn me down, or anything, but I really didn't want to owe Mr. Perfect any favors. There are patrons I like, patrons I don't like, patrons I tolerate and patrons I'm more or less indifferent to. I'm indifferent to Mr. Perfect, other than that whole vaguely creepy feeling about his lust for W0rd Perfect. But our relationship is pretty much one of cordial distance and I like it that way and don't want to upset that balance.

As I watched, Mr. Perfect opened the hood of his car and began staring into his engine. Ah, great. So he too had car problems. Maybe he was just putting in new oil.

I turned away and began searching the wheel wells for the magnetic key holder that Ma had said had been hidden in one of them at some point in the past. I didn't find it in any of them, so I lay on the pavement to check beneath the car itself, trying to ignore the strange looks I was receiving from passers by.

I considered my options. I could try calling my insurance agency, but I didn't think they would pay for a locksmith to open someone else's car. I then considered phoning Mrs. A or Mrs. C and asking them to come over. They'd probably do it, but I hated to have to ask. I could just sit there and wait for Ashley to get off from work, but she's working out of town this month so a wait for her return would be fairly lengthy. I could walk home. As the crow flies, I didn't live very far away, but there was really no crow-path to my house that didn't involve crossing angry-bull-inhabited fields.

I sighed and looked back over my shoulder toward Mr. Perfect's car. It was gone. In its place, however, was a new car driven by my church choir director, Martha. I almost wished Mr. Perfect had still been there, because I owe Martha pretty big already. I've not been to choir practice, let alone sang with the choir since before going to Alaska. Granted, I've been out of town a lot and our summer choir practice schedule has been fairly thin, but that choir is hurting for tenors and I haven't been out of town so often that I couldn't come in. Martha would never broach the subject, but I knew she was thinkin' it.

"Are you having trouble?" Martha asked.

"Uh huh," I said.

Upon hearing my tale of woe, Martha graciously offered to drive me home and back. My fear was that Ma's back up key would be another ignition key, but instead it was an emergency door key that unlocked the doors just fine. I thanked Martha and told her she was my guardian angel. And though it was never discussed, I estimate that it will take at least three months of regularly attended choir practices to pay off this debt.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Ah, Inconsistently Executed Public Service, You are Indeed a Harsh Mistress

While I often feel the urge to scream at patrons, it's a rare occasion that I want to haul off and belt one. I'm still not convinced I really wanted to belt annoying patron Ms. Green, Sean Connery-style, but I was tempted to cram her cell-phone in her mouth and tatoo some basic library policy somewhere on her person that she might notice it.

Ms. Green came in to return a book. Before she could, though, she spotted a friend of hers and the two of them began conversing next to the circ-desk, recommending books to one another and having a good old time. No problem. We weren't busy and they weren't so much in the way. Then Ms. Green's cell phone went off.

"Oh, wait, let me see if this is someone I want to talk to," Ms. Green said, taking a gander at her phone's screen. She stared at it for a few seconds while its irritating and lengthy chirp continued at full volume. (And what company would willfully design a ringtone as annoying as THAT one? For that matter, why would anyone willingly choose THAT ringtone? "Let's see... Out of all the ringtone choices I have here, I think I'll pick the one that sounds like a convicted cockatiel's first night in Cell Block-D. Yeah, that'll be a good one.")

"Nah," she said, and set the phone down on the desk where it continued to chirp, long and loud. She didn't decline the call. She didn't put it on silent mode. She just let it do its thing and went back to her conversation over the racket. Whomever was calling was pretty intent on talking to Ms. Green, too, cause the phone continued to chirp for nearly half a minute. Strike one against Ms. Green.

Shortly, Ms. Green's friend went off to search for a book while Ms. Green remained at the desk, leafing through the book her friend had just returned and recommended. Ms. Green's own return lay on the desk before her.

"Are you returning that one?" I asked.

"Yes, but I need to wait and do it in a minute because I forgot my library card."

Now, what Ms. Green was indicating was that she wanted to wait until she was ready to check out before actually returning her book so that, when I scanned her book to check it in, her patron record would pop up on our screen, allowing us access to her record without her card and, she hoped, allowing her to check other stuff out on it. This is a back door method for checking books out without a card that we USED to employ back before our library consortium cracked down on such rules violations and which some of our staff, on occasion, still use even today when no one in authority is looking. Strictly speaking it's not allowed, especially for patrons with strikes against them.

"Um, I'm really not supposed to do that either," I told Ms. Green. "You need to have your library card to check out books." This is not news to Ms. Green, for we've all had the You need to have your card... conversation with her many a time before. It did not, however, stop her from giving me an appraising look, perhaps sizing up my potential for being swayed by either charm or hissy fit. She decided to try charm and began blinking at me in what I can only assume was an attempt at sympathy-seeking puppy dog-eyes.

"Reeeallllly?" she said. Blink blink blink.

Unmoved, I nodded.

She blinked at me some more, before adding, "This look's not working, huh?" She actually said that. I smiled politely, but gave no quarter.

I thought she might next try for "fit" but she only lightly complained that she really needed something to read before heading to the health club, but now wouldn't have anything and would be forced to read a magazine instead. Oh, the pain.

Y'know, if aquiring something to read was so all fired important to her when she decided to come to the library, it seems like she might have, oh, I don't know, brought her card with her, or something. I mean, isn't "Repeating the same behavior and expecting different results" the very definition of insanity? And beyond that, I continue to SO completely fail to understand patrons who keep doing things like this. Is it truly that much of a hassle to keep up with your library card?

After a few more minutes of browsing and chatting with her friend, it suddenly occurred to Ms. Green that she still had one other book checked out. Her manner suggested that she was afraid the book might be nearly overdue and in need of a renewal. I knew what was coming when she returned to the circ-desk.

"Oh, oh, I have this other book out I'd like to check on," she said. "It'll be under Mary Green." Then she did that frantic little hand wave at the monitor patrons always do when they want us to just work our magic with it when they don't have their card. It's the very sort of gesture that says, yeah, yeah, we all know you can look us up by name no matter what you tell us, so just make with the lookin' up and we'll all go home happy.

"Ma'am, I'm sorry, but I really do need your library card to access your patron record."

Ms. Green looked surprised for a second, as though I was telling her something she'd never heard before. She opened and closed her mouth a couple of times, as if she were about to say something, most likely about previous "liberry" ass.es who'd let her look up her record in just this manner despite it being against the rules. A mildly annoyed expression crossed her face and I thought she might be reconsidering her hissy fit, but she didn't attempt one nor a return to the puppy dog-eyes. What could she say? "But, Mrs. B let me get away with breaking the rules!"?