Monday, August 13, 2007

Mother Hover

When the lady who I quickly came to know as Mother Hover entered the "liberry," I didn't recognize her. She could have been any nameless, faceless, middle-aged lady out for a book. I paid her little mind as she began moving around the room, leisurely browsing. Meanwhile, I shelved books, checked shelving-slips and attended to “liberry” duties that didn’t necessarily require me to be at the circulation desk.

After about 20 minutes, a few selections in hand, Mother Hover attained the look about her of a lady who was ready to check out. (You know the look; kind of contented, body aimed generally in the direction of the circulation desk, feet starting to move, etc.) I stopped what I was doing and headed for the circ desk to assist her toward this goal.

As Mother Hover approached, I picked up my barcode scanner in preparation, but at the last second she veered off, having spotted something interesting across the room. I thought this would be a momentary pause in the checkout process, so I waited. And waited. After nearly a minute, it seemed clear that she was firmly engaged exploring a new section she'd not noticed before, so I put down my scanner and started to return to what I had been doing, away from the desk. Of course, as soon as I stepped from behind the confines of the circ desk, Mother Hover turned and resumed her previous course, causing me to nearly break my neck trying to turn around to help her once again.

I returned to my station by the barcode scanner, only to find that as soon as Mother Hover got within a four foot proximity of the desk she spotted some new item of interest on the other side of our main room and hovered away to read more copy from the inside of another dust jacket.

I was irritated. I became even more irritated when this sequence played itself out yet again a minute later.

Sensing a behavior pattern, I began limiting my productivity to desk-related issues, such as phoning patrons for books on hold. Of course, whenever I'd pick up the phone and start to dial, here she'd come again. I'd hang up the phone, reach for the barcode scanner only to find Mother Hoever had suddenly been distracted, magpie-like, by some glimmering bit of book wrap across the room and had hovered off in that direction. Dammit!

After quite a while, Mother Hover stopped hovering and physically set her books upon the desk. She then hauled out a massive red wallet, in which she began to dig for her card. And let me tell you, this was a wallet that would have impressed the Peruvian Incas with its tiered use of space. It had at least 16 different pockets where cards and other sundry bits of paper could be stuffed and each of those pockets was packed full. Unfortunately, none of its many pockets seemed to contain a library card, a fact that was only discovered after a full three minutes of excavation in which she dug everything out of each pocket, then put everything back, then redug everything out of each of them again. All the while, Mother Hover kept saying things like, "Well, I might not have a card... I know I had a card... I cleaned out my wallet a little while back..." and, the ever-popular, "You can just look me up by name, right?"


"Well, I might have to get a new card." DIG DIG DIG. "What does it look like again? It's red, right?"

I showed her an example of one of our decidedly non-red cards.

"Oh, no. I never had one of those," she said.

And, it turns out, she had not. Even now, nigh on two and a half years since we got our new circulation software and ditched all the old patron records, she'd still not visited us and aquired a new card. So I gave her an application and set her up with one. I'm not exactly sure how she was able to wedge the new card into her wallet, as it was clearly over-capacity, but hopefully she filed it somewhere she'll notice it when next she hovers in for a visit.

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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.