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."


Anonymous said...

Ah, yes - THEY said you could grant a divorce here, THEY said you could file our taxes for us here, THEY said you could get my child support modified for me here . . . (sigh)

arkansas wes said...

THEY said I could leave a comment here. Juice, what would you do, or have you done, if afflicted with an acute episode of 'if you're not on the toilet in thirty seconds, you're going to crap your pants' diahrea during your solo Monday shift. These horrible ordeals can sometimes require a half-hour commitement, and by that time Stoner Lad could have stolen all the good magazines and Grampa Sam would be waiting forever for his fresh typing of the Constitution.
Please allow me to burden you with one more question. If you were a literal juice, what kind would you be?

Foxy said...

The other day a woman demanded the adoption papers for her brother, which she heard were housed by the library, and said it wasn't right that we were withholding that information.

Woeful said...

Maybe she thought it was like the passport service that so many libraries are offering these days... Hell, if the U.S. Department of State works in mysterious ways why not the SSA?

Juice S. Aaron said...


I have fortunately not yet had a "potty emergency" of that magnitude, but I have had to hold my bladder for well past it's expiration date because of shifty looking people lurking in the front room, cash-box theivery in their eyes.

If I were literal juice, I would probably be apple. Or cat.

Janet said...

"Dumbassian" -- ROTFLOL. We get less of that here in an academic medical library... or I should say, we get a different dialect of it, probably a cross between Dumbassian and Patient-Speak. My personal favorite: the person who wanted to know if it was possible to be overweight and starve to death, or why can't someone lose weight by just not eating. And don't get me started on the patron from a few years ago who had heard a novel theory about the effect of certain bodily fluids on human affection. Never a dull moment around here.

crsunlimited said...

"THEY" should be taken out and shot. Because Missouri, as of last year, now requires a birth certificate to renew your license we had a heck of a time getting it through patrons heads that although you could print a form to request them from other states we could not in fact pull them up on the internet, nor indeed print a certified copy of one from the internet. "THEY" told our patrons that it could be done from here, but "THEY" where wrong.

You will respect my athoritah!

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.