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."

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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.