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.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Mr. Creepy Guy

While walking across the parking lot on my way in to work, I noticed a man seated at the drivers seat of a woody station wagon, smoking a cigarette through its open door. The guy had backed his car into the parking space so that the rear of the woody was practically touching the embankment beyond the space itself. The guy was wearing some sort of uniform top, the kind with the name embroidered on the breast. I didn't see what company it was for. I figured he was probably just not a "liberry" kind of guy and was waiting for someone else, perhaps a wife, to finish browsing.

An hour later, while talking to Mrs. B, Mrs. J came up and pointed out the window.

"You see that man in that old beat up car out there?"

I looked out and was surprised to see that the rusted woody station wagon was still there, its driver still smoking behind the wheel. Mrs. J then said that she'd had an encounter with the man in the library that morning. He'd been sitting at one of our tables when Mrs. J happened to walk by him. The man stopped her and asked what her name was, so she told him. He told her that he remembered her. Then he grinned real big and added, "I just love how you talk. I just love to hear it."

In his defense, Mrs. J does have a distinctive, countryfied way of speech about her, but this didn't stop her from being creeped out by him. She quickly went back to her shelving. Later on, though, she noticed him staring at her and when he caught her eye he started grinning again in a manner she found most unsettling.

I found this to be pretty creepy too and my paranoid nature began to take up the threads of the story in my mind. The hood of the guy's car was pointed almost directly at the front doors of the "liberry," where he'd have the vantage point for watching people come and go. What if he was out there waiting for Mrs. J to leave for the day so he could follow her home? Sure, he would have had no idea she got off work at 2, but the fact that he was still there at all might mean he was willing to wait however long it took.

"Hey, if you need someone to walk you to your car, I'll do it," I told her. Mrs. J said she just might. Then I realized how awful I would feel if after I'd walked her to her car, Mr. Creepy Guy just started his engine and followed right behind her. How could I keep him from doing that? Fake a seizure and jump on his hood?

Mrs. B was thinking along the same lines, and told Mrs. J, "I could go out and start my car first, drive in front of his then pretend like I forgot something and just park it there while I searched, letting you get away."

"Yeah, that would work!" I said.

We then stood there, staring out the window at Mr. Creepy Guy, wondering what he was up to. I thought about going out there and writing down his license number. It would be hard to do this subtly, as he was parked with his license facing away. I'd have to climb the hill behind him in order to see the back end of his car at all and he's surely see me doing that. I didn't really care if he saw me, though, because it would at least send the message to him that we were keeping an eye on him.

Before attempting this, I thought it might be best to alert the boss. I went to Mrs. A's office and told her there was a creepy dude out in the parking lot.

"Yeah, that's MR. CREEPY GUY," she said, using his real name.

"You know him?"

"He's a con man and a creep and you should never take your eyes off him." The tale she then spun was of a patron who is essentially an old rogue from back in the early `80s, when Mrs. A was just a "liberry" ass. herself. At the time, Mr. Creepy Guy used to come in and try and sweet talk the female staff, thinking himself as charming as a James Garner type, or—dare he think it—a Burt Reynolds type, but failing miserably at it. In addition to being a prototypical-Red Alert, dude was also a full participant in any get-rich-quick or pyramid scheme of the day and would attempt to rope others in as well. And—extra-creepy bit here—at one point Mr. Creepy Guy was an official suspect in a local murder but managed to avoid being charged due to lack of evidence.

I told Mrs. A that he had been eyeing Mrs. J earlier and that we were trying to find a way to sneak her out to her car without him following her home.

"Oh, he's not waiting for MRS. J," she said. Mrs. A explained that Mr. Creepy Guy tends to prefer girls far younger than Mrs. J's sexagenarian status. He is also well known for sitting in his car in front of area establishments, smoking for hours at a time. She wasn't worried. Still, if Mr. Creepy Guy needed defeating, Mrs. A was glad to help out. She and Mrs. B devised a plan wherein the two of them would go outside together and walk out to Mrs. J's car. Meanwhile, Mrs. J herself would sneak downstairs and out the back door. Mrs. B would start Mrs. J's car and drive around back out of sight of Mr. Creepy Guy, where Mrs. J would then take the wheel and head home unseen.

It was brilliant and it worked like a charm.

Mrs. B snuck back in and when Mrs. A returned she reported that Mr. Creepy Guy had been eating lunch in his car.

"He probably lives in his car," she said.

Half an hour later, Mr. Creepy Guy entered the library. He was indeed wearing a uniform shirt with "Mr. Creepy Guy" embroidered on the front, only using the letters of his real name. He had the slicked back, thinning, dyed semi-pompadour of a Sha Na Na auditions reject. As I watched, he did a walk through from one end of the building to the other. I can't say for sure, of course, but I got the impression he was looking for Mrs. J. Not finding her, he used our restroom, left the building and drove away.

I sure hope it's another 20 years before we see any more of this asshole.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dear Community College Student in Your Mid 40's...

...you clueless, clueless thing, you.

Okay, so I genuinely feel sorry that you spent over an hour typing up a paper only to have our patron computer crash on you because it didn't like the cheap-ass Wal-Mart jump drive you inserted into it at the very end of the typing process. (A cheap-ass Wal-Mart jump drive which, I might add, also crashed every other computer in the building that we used to test it further.) That was unfortunate and could not have been predicted.

Fortunately for you, but disturbingly for us, the computer crash coincided with our computers collectively deciding that they all no longer wished to participate in the use of our usual patron-information-protection software, which is supposed to return each system to a blank slate and wipe out anything patrons foolishly saved to the hard drive each time the computer is logged off. Now we have to deal with people angry that their Hotmail logins come pre-filled-in for their convenience and having their complete Netflix queues available to be viewed by one and all. Happily, though, this meant that your paper was there waiting for you when we logged your computer back on for you, despite my assurances to you that it would not be.

Having warned you against the use of cheap-ass Wal-Mart jump drives in our computers, we then sold you a 3.5 diskette on which you could save your paper. We even held your little hand and showed you step by step how to save your paper to it. You claimed you already knew how and did not ask for further help at the time you eventually saved it.

Why, therefore, have you now returned, days later, and asked me why your paper is no longer on your disk?

I have no way of saying for sure why your paper is not there. If I was to hazard a guess, I'd say you didn't save it to your disk in the first place or somehow managed to delete it afterward. However, I won't suggest that, but will instead politely give you the benefit of the doubt that it was the fault of cosmic rays, big scary monsters, or, as you have now implied, that our disk was bad and ate your file. Stranger things have happened. Oh, sure, the test file we saved onto your disk while showing you how to save stuff is still there, but I'm sure it's our disk's fault—and, therefore, our fault—that your paper is no more.

Now, please listen very closely, for I'm only going to say this for the third time...

IF YOU NEED HELP SAVING YOUR FILE TO YOUR DISK AND STILL DON'T ACTUALLY KNOW HOW TO DO IT, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, COME GET A STAFF MEMBER TO SHOW YOU HOW.

Failure to do so will result in having your disk painfully inserted into your A:Drive, if you know what I mean.

Every-so-Joyfully Yours,

--juice

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #94

SETTING: My "liberry" as a female patron approaches the circ-desk from the direction of our nonfiction section.

PATRON— Hi. I'm looking for Jane Eyre.

ME— Ah. That will be over in our fiction section, under Brontë.

PATRON— No, I need the biography of her. About her life.

(Pause)

ME— Um... (Pauses again to consider how best to politely break the news to her. Realizes there is no good way. Proceeds...) Jane Eyre is a fictional character in a book written by Charlotte Brontë.

PATRON— (Long pause) Oh. (Long pause) I must have misunderstood.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Mr. Stanky: The Return

A seizure of horror gripped me as I casually glanced out our front window. There, in our parking lot, was the open-sided, plywood-roofed Jeep that we know as the Stankmobile. More horrific still, it was empty, which meant its owner, one Mr. Stanky, was no doubt coming up the walk outside of my field of vision. This was the moment I'd been dreading for weeks.

Because of our recent introduction of additional patron computers, we've increased the amount of time our patrons can have at a station from a half hour to a full hour. This is almost meaningless, however, for we only enforce that time limit on the rare occasions that all the computers are full, including the 15 minute stations. Most of our regular computer patrons, such as Gene Gene the Geneal0gy Machine, really like the new rules since it means they potentially have no time limits whatsoever. As long as there's at least one computer available, and there usually is, they can stay on all day. The major drawback I foresaw weeks ago was that this new setup would also work to the advantage of our more tenaciously repulsive patrons, such as Crusty the Patron and Mr. Stanky. I was afeared to my very soul.

Within seconds of my Stankmobile sighting, the front doors bumped open and in he came, clad in the usual sweat-soaked, sweat-stained T-shirt and shorts, which he had, no doubt, been clad in for at least a week. I remained at the far end of the desk, away from the computer sign-in sheet, which Mr. Stanky noticed shortly and for which he made a slow lunge. I hadn't yet caught a whiff of him, and was looking to prolong the time before I was gifted with that inevitable experience.

I scurried away from the desk and went out to log him onto a computer, so that I would then have time to scurry away from the computers before he got close. But which one to put him on? There were only two people on computers at that moment, but despite the fact that one of them was Gene Gene the Geneal0gy Machine (who had already been on the entire morning), I politely decided to place Mr. Stanky equidistant from both computer users. Before I could get that particular machine logged in, though, Mr. Stanky was upon me. I tried to take in enough breath to sustain me back to the circ-desk, but he was too close and I wound up inhaling some of his fumes.

Sweet Melissa!! It was worse than usual, if such a thing is even possible! Had he been rolling around in a carcas all morning?!!

I made my escape, but the stench just seemed to follow me. It felt like it was not only in my nose but permeating my clothes, sticking to my skin like some sort of stank napalm. I wanted to take a shower—a nice, long, radiation-scrub shower administered with a wire-bristle brush on a long stick, Silkwood-style.

Where the hell was the Febreeze?! The Lysol?!! The Easy-Off?!!!

I retreated to the staff workroom, but the fumes followed me in there, too. Every time I took a sip of my instant tea from my hard-plastic sippy cup, my nostrils pulled in Odeur de Stanquet, nearly causing me to gag.

Unfortunately, I couldn't stay in the relative safety of the workroom because the front doors opened wide, a stream of people seeking computers began to flow through them and beyond Mrs. J, I was the only staff member not out at lunch. I tried keeping the newcomers away from Mr. Stanky, but there was only so much I could do before most other available spaces were taken. When Mrs. J took a turn at logging people on, she sat some poor kid directly next to Mr. Stanky despite the fact that the 15 minute station furthest away from him was available. It would have been kinder to seat him beside a mace-fogger, really.

Fortunately, Mr. Stanky didn't stay the entire afternoon, but cleared out shortly after an hour. If only the lingering evidence of his presence had cleared out with him, for we were forced to share space with its slowly diminishing returns for another couple of hours still, thanking God that we'd had the good sense to order vinyl-covered computer chairs to replace the old cloth ones.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Dear Mr. Perfect...

...I realize that you are in deep, abiding and passionate love with the word processing program W0rd Perfect.

I realize that you adore this program to a degree bordering on and possibly crossing into a religious fervor.

I realize that you miss W0rd Perfect dearly, having gone so long without seeing it on the majority of our patron computers.

I realize that you feel all other word processors are lesser programs that have only come to wide use due to a conspiracy instigated by Micr0soft in which they prefer to bundle their own suite of programs with their own operating system and do their best to block all other programs from being used, even if and possibly because, as you believe, those other programs are superior in all respects to the dreaded 0ffice suite.

I realize that while your great love of W0rd Perfect is currently chaste and chivalrous in nature, I suspect you would indeed make sweet sweet love to it if only we had the technology.

I realize these things. You do not have to explain them to me... YET. AGAIN.

I now need for you to realize that while we do still have one remaining patron computer that contains W0rd Perfect, it is currently in use by Matilde the Cranky Wiccan and I will not bust her off of it merely to allow you to suckle at your lusty, Corel-spawned teat.

No.

Please also realize that while I have spoken on your behalf to my superiors and have asked if there was any chance we could see our way fit to purchase and install W0rd Perfect on all our computers, I did so not out of any service-oriented nature but merely in the hope that if we granted your wish you might finally shut the f*ck up about it. I have since been informed by my superiors that this "ain't gonna happen," which I believe I have explained to you on one previous occasion already. Purchasing said program for each of the patron computers would be costly and redundant as those computers already contain a word-processing program that is, to our way of thinking, far superior to your particular choice of unrequited visual affection, which, incidentally, blows more goats than Halle Berry's Catwoman.

Also, note that I in no way believe that granting your wish would actually accomplish our ultimate goal of getting you to shut the aforementioned f*ck up. In fact, I am fairly certain that doing so would only lead to lengthy sessions of proselytizing to the staff, and any other patrons unfortunate enough to stray too close, as to the wonderfulness of your electronic dream-bride and how unworthy Micr0soft W0rd is of sharing four of the same letters in her name.

Please also realize that I have exhausted the avenues available to me to do anything to help you and am leaving the responsibility for bothering my superiors on this particular issue entirely in your hands from this point forward. In other words, I would appreciate it if you would leave me the hell alone about it.

You should do this, if not for my sake, then for your own...

...for there is one last thing I wish you were capable of realizing, but that I know you are not...

...you, sir, have no idea the mental gymnastics I have to go through in order to keep my limbs within my control and prevent them from setting you aflame every time you bring up your favorite topic. I do not know how much longer I can stave off the commands of the voices whispering in my head. If you must return to bother me some more, please, for your own protection, do so only while wearing fire-retardant clothing. Some kevlar couldn't hurt either.

Your greatest fan for ever and ever (but only if you go away for ever and ever),

--juice

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #93

(Setting: My "liberry" as Mr. Little Stupid approaches the circ-desk with a question.)

MR. LITTLE STUPID— How do you spell steel?

ME— Steel? As in the metal, or as in, "to steal something"?

MR. LITTLE STUPID— No. As in, "I'm steel goin' someplace."

(Pause)

ME— Oh! "Still." Sure. S-T-I-L-L.

MR. LITTLE STUPID— (Writes it down) Thanks.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I'll take "Captains Other than Jack Harkness for $800, Alex."

And now for the fashion report:

Cap'n Crossdresser was in today. He was decked out in a blue, untucked, plaid shirt, an off-tan, mid-thigh-length skirt and high, black platform-sandals.

That is all.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #92

SETTING: My "liberry" as an unfamiliar woman arrives at the circ desk.

ME— Can I help you?

LADY— Yes, can you tell me where your books on tape are?

(I give her directions on how to find our books on tape section. Five minutes pass by before the lady returns to the desk, empty-handed and mildly-annoyed.)

LADY— You only have books on tape.

(Pause)

ME— You asked for `books on tape.'

LADY— But I need them on CD. You only have them on cassette and I need them on CD.

(I then had to explain to her that while our books on CD collection is admittedly smaller than our books on tape section, it does exist and was, in fact, right there at the end of the books on tape section she had just been browsing. She seems doubtful, but returns for a second look.)

Monday, September 17, 2007

"Yeah, let's hire her."

An unfamiliar-looking mother and her eight-year-oldish daughter approached the circ-desk and announced they needed library cards.

I started with the daughter's card, reading the information from the form I'd had the mom fill out. As soon as I typed in the daughter's full name, our circulation system's backup warning functions kicked in and popped up a window warning me that there was a pre-existing patron record with the same name and contact information.

"Looks like we already have her in the system," I said. "She has a card listed with TOWN-C."

"Oh, yeah. We had cards there, but we've moved and we can't find them anywhere," the mom said.

I explained to her that I could make her replacement cards, but we would charge a dollar for each of them. She said that was fine and produced two bucks.

While changing the barcode of the daughter's card, I noted that there were fines in her record equalling $70. I clicked the fines window to see that Town-C had levied $35 fines for each of two videos the daughter had checked out in 2005. I pointed this out to the mom and let her know that while I could go ahead and replace her cards, we couldn't circulate anything on her daughter's card until those fines were taken care of with Town-C. Mom said she understood.

I then pulled up the mom's record to replace her barcode number and found the mom had been fined over $200 by Town-C for six books she'd not returned from 2005. I informed her of this and went ahead and printed off lists of both sets of listed unreturned items.

After studying her own list for all of two seconds, mom said, "No, no, no, we brought those back. Yes, we got the letter in the mail and we brought those..."

I held up a hand. "It's neither here or there to me. I have no control over those fines. That's between you and TOWN-C. And, like I said, we cannot check anything out to you until those fines are taken care of with TOWN-C."

The mom nodded, then immediately started back on her "we brought those back" theme, but stopped short of a full retelling, possibly because of my I've said my piece and set my foot and am now tuning you out expression.

My boss, Mrs. A, happened to walk behind the circ desk during this and saw generally what was going on with the mom and daughter. Then, perhaps sensing that the chief "liberrian" was present, the mom popped up with, "Hey, can I get a job up here? I need me a job in a place like this."

Mrs. A turned and smiled and told her we had no positions open at the moment.

The mom seemed to take no offense, but picked up the new cards I'd made for them (and which, moments after they left, I would load up with notes and warning flags indicating to anyone else in the consortium that they were to do no business with these people until their fines were paid) and departed.

"Yeah, let's hire her," Mrs. A said in a low voice as soon as they were through the door.

This probably marks the second major deadbeat patron that I've heard of to express interest in a job at the "liberry"; the first being Ma Fagin.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Attack of the S.E.W.S.

Recently, I began noticing that every time I checked our public men's restroom to make sure it was clean and stocked with necessities, the countertop around our sink was awash with water. This seemed very odd, to me, because the sink's faucets are quite tame in their water pressure and wouldn't have splashed onto the countertop without a goodly degree of help.

I theorized that we had another mystery patron on our hands, akin to the Serial Shitter. This new shadowy figure, however, could only have been known as the Serial Excessive Water-Splasher, which isn't nearly as sexy a name.

Now, granted, we're very happy that our patrons are washing their hands after making tinkle or stinky, but it's very annoying to have to mop up excess water several times per day. And, sure, our paper towel dispenser is nearly three feet away from the sink itself, requiring some degree of travel from the sink, over the countertop and a small section of floor to reach the towels. However, the fact that I'm perfectly capable of washing my hands in the very same sink without leaving even one drop on the counter would seem to indicate that this wasn't the root cause of the problem. I tried various ways of testing the sink to make sure it wasn't a defect in its manufacture, but could not recreate the water pooling effect through natural use. The additional fact water is often splashed on BOTH sides of the sink and not just the one nearest the paper towels indicated to me that someone was intentionally moistening our countertop.

Mrs. A suggested it was the doing of some of our Unobstructed Doors clients. That I would be able to accept, but for the frequency of the occurrence. This was happening not only daily, but multiple times during the day. This was the fault of a regular, which narrowed the spectrum of the search somewhat.

Right away the list of my top suspects included Gene Gene the Geneal0gy Machine, Mr. Little Stupid and The Coot. I was particularly suspicious of The Coot, because while Gene and Mr. Little Stupid can hog up the innanet for hours at a time, the Coot regularly stays parked in our comfy chairs by the windows for the entire day. He builds himself a little nest there, with stacks of books and magazines and personal belongings on the tables nearby. We even had a recent incident in which the Coot vanished, leaving his nest behind including his glasses and a light jacket. We searched the entire building for him, fearing he'd crawled off somewhere and died, but couldn't find a trace of him. Eventually, he walked in the front door, having gone on a stroll outside for a while, returned to his nest and remained there for the rest of the day.

Yeah, I could see the Coot splashing water. He was probably one of these people who eshewed the use of paper towels entirely, preferring either an air-dryer or, because we lack an air-dryer, to just fling the water from his hands in the general direction of our countertop. The only problem with this is that there is never water to be found on the mirror above the sink, which you would expect to find following a hand-flinging. Also problematic, the water on the countertop usually appeared in a volume that was more than could have dripped off of two hands on one try. Again with the evidence of premeditation.

Days later, I noticed the Coot was in-house and that someone had again moistened our bathroom counter excessively. I cleaned it all up and set about to keep watch on the people who went into the restroom. After a couple of hours, the Coot gathered up his belongings (leaving behind all the piles of magazines and books he'd been browsing) and departed the building. Less than 30 seconds later, he returned, stepped into the restroom for a minute, then departed for good. I bolted for the restroom. Sure enough, there was a damned lake atop our counter!

"AH HAH!" I cried in a low whipser upon exiting and making my way back to the circ-desk. "It's the Coot!"

Mrs. B looked confused until I told her the breakthrough in my investigation. She found it improbable that the Coot was the only suspect, as the ladies room seems to have its fair share of excess water splashing too.

I then dashed to find Mrs. A and tattle on the Coot. I figured she'd be up in arms, as he's one of her least favorite people, even though he no longer parks outside her office to groan and fart and sing. She wasn't surprised at the news, but said there wasn't much we could do about it. It would just be one more thing to add to the list of annoying habits this man exhibits in our presence, for several hours at a stretch, on a daily basis.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Try the 364s, kid.

A group of girls from one of the local homes for troubled youth arrived, in care of two female guardians. One of the guardians explained that the girls all needed cards so we proceeded to pass out applications and watched as they each tried to figure out what the address of their troubled youth home actually was.

I've noticed a few consistencies that take place during visits from the boys and girls of the homes for troubled youth—y'know, beyond the whole factor of their frequent loss of our materials. One of the ones I've noted before, didn't come up during this particular visit. Another, though, is that in any group of troubled youth applying for new library cards, at least half of them will already have cards in our system. This is to be expected, as many of them are from counties elsewhere in our consortium. But they never EVER actually have their cards with them, which prompts our usual speech to their guardians about how they can't check out anything unless they first purchase a replacement card. The guardians—whose job, I realize, is difficult and which I do not envy—do not want to hear this because they just finished promising these kids a trip to the library to get lots of free stuff. They then try to negotiate with us to waive our $1 fee for replacement cards, or, as was the case with this most recent visit, say, "Can't you just look them up and let them check stuff out anyway?"

"Not without a library card."

"You just said they had cards."

"Yes, they were issued cards. But they actually have to have them here in order to check out books," I said.

"But we're from TROUBLED YOUTH HOME. We don't have money for cards. Can't you just look them up in the computer?"

"No."

"Can't they just check out books anyway?"

"Not without a card."

"But we're from TROUBLED YOUTH HOME. We don't..."

(Repeat as many times as needed)

The other major consistency of their visits seems to be a little more gender-based. With the boys from the homes for troubled youth, we rarely have any problems. They check out books about wrestling, or Nascar, science-fiction novels or Harry Potter. Okay, sometimes the boys have been caught smoking in the boysroom, but that seems to be the extent of any worrisome behavior from them. The girls are a more disturbing bunch by far, but I can't quite tell if it's behavior of the genuinely disturbed or if it's behavior calculated to appear genuinely disturbed. Each time a group of them visits at least one of the girls will ask for either the Anarchist's Cookbook (as I've noted before) or will ask ask for books about serial killers. Every. Single. Time.

Even more worrisome, during this most recent visit, the girl who wanted the book about serial killers wouldn't ask for it herself but instead had their guardian ask for it on her behalf. And then the guardian had to check it out on the guardian's own card because the girl in question didn't have hers, nor a dollar to pay for a replacement.

That's, like, a danger sign, isn't it? When your charge is trying to bone up on killing people and they're a resident in a home for troubled youth, that's like the very sort of thing their guardians are supposed to be vigilant about, right? They're supposed to discourage that kinda behavior, correct? I only ask because after five years in this place my sense of normalcy has become a bit warped.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Actual Conversations That Child-Aged Patrons Have Always Suspected Occur in Actual Libraries Now Ocurring in an Actual Library #91

SETTING: My "liberry." The day was otherwise quiet and peaceful until the arrival of "Danger" Ben Stout. I don't know what set him off, but Danger Ben, in short order, began running around the library at top speed, squealing in delight with the full capacity of his little lungs. It sounded as though the child had been given a Red Bull with a banana Runts chaser and then paid a lengthy visit by the Tickle-Monster, who was even then continuing to invisibly chase him. The racket this happy child was making ferociously attacked the spinal columns of every adult in the building, causing us to cringe and wish destruction upon those allowing such noise to continue unabated.

MRS. A— (Wincing at the sounds of glee reverberating from the very walls) It sounds like someone is having too much fun.

ME— Yes. (Pause) We must make it stop.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

And the stars aligned (a.k.a. "The Password STILL is...")

Wow the computers were lousy with Rogues! At one point we had Matilde the Cranky Wiccan, Jimmy the Anonymous Snitch, Gene Gene the Geneal0gy Machine and three members of The New Devil Twins Auxiliary League of Neighborhood Kids using at the same time. This is even more impressive than last week's Rogue Constellation Alignment when Mr. Big Stupid and Mr. Little Stupid were both using at the same time.

As usual, the League of Kids descended on us in a clump to sign up for computers. I went out and logged them onto the second, third and fourth computers on one side of the computer bank, skipping the first one, a 15-minute station that I'd logged off not five minutes before. I then returned to the sign in clip-board to mark which computers I'd placed them on and make sure they'd listed their sign on times. When I turned `round again, though, I noticed that one of the kids was seated at the 15-minute station and had its desktop loaded up and everything.

Dammit! They knew the passwords AGAIN!

Okay, so it wasn't exactly a difficult password to hack, especially considering it was actually the old password that the League already knew. With all the recent computer installation and printer and password issues that have been going on, we finally got the tech guys to go in and set all the logins and passwords to the same thing and make the stations all print to the same printer. Only, the tech guys changed all the passwords back to the old old password, the same single letter it had been back before we got them to change all the passwords to my initials. The League all knew the old old password, so here they were again with free access.

Not that it really matters in the grand scheme of things, since the only reason to have passwords—y'know, beyond our whole need to wield power over people and feel all mighty and stuff—is that requiring them forces patrons to come sign in at our clip board, allowing us to both count them as computer users in our stats and to know who signed on when so we'll know who to kick off when.

I busted the kid off the 15 minute station, didn't say anything to him about knowing the password and then went to write a note to Mrs. A explaining the situation.

We've now changed all the passwords, this time to the initials of a staff member other than myself.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #90

(SETTING: My "Liberry" where an Early Middle-Aged White Lady approaches the circ desk.)
EARLY MIDDLE-AGED WHITE LADY— Can I have two tickets for LOCAL EVENT WE'RE SELLING TICKETS FOR?

ME— Sure thing. (Gets tickets) That will be $50.

EMAWL— (Plunks down a credit card)

ME— I'm sorry, ma'am but...

EMAWL— (Irritated, yet still making this as a statement and not an inquiry) You can't take them.

ME— I'm afraid not.

EMAWL— (Fishes in pocketbook) I don't see how you can't take them. How do you ever deal with fund-raising if you can't take them?

(Not being rude enough to say, "Most people just write us a check," I merely shrug. The lady frowns and plunks down $60 cash and I fetch her $10 change. Meanwhile her husband, a regular book-reading patron who has always been nice to us, approaches the circ desk, book selection and library card in hand.)

EMAWL— (Peers over her husband's offered card) I suppose I need a library card as well.

ME— Sure thing. I can whip one up for you quick.

(While she's filling out her application, I check out her husband's book. It occurs to me that while this early middle-aged white lady is still a good twenty years away from being "old", she's well on her way to becoming an Old White Woman all the same. She clearly has the attitude of entitlement brewing away in a great heaping kettle on the stovetop of her persona. This being the case, I know that when she reaches the line on our application requiring a driver's license, she's going to gift me with a consignment of shit. And as with most Old White Women, this consignment will not be delivered due to any sort of mistrust of giving us that particular information, but will be due to her deep-seated feeling that she, herself, should be immune from having to supply it. She'll be fine with it on a conceptual level and is probably content with everyone else in the world supplying it; she just doesn't think SHE should have to on a strictly personal level.)

EMAWL— (Reaching the driver's license blank and pausing there, pen hovering in the air, eyebrow raised...) So, if I don't have a driver's license, I can't have a library card?

(I start to explain our reasoning behind requiring that unique identification number, but can tell from her expression that nothing I have to say on the matter is of any consequence to her. My salvation comes from her husband, who at that moment interrupts her, adopting the perfect tone of a man who's not going to put up with his wife's unnecessary crap THIS time, and says...)

HUSBAND— But ya DO have one.

(I detect an icy chill in the air following this, but the Early Middle-Aged White Lady has no counter-argument that can defeat this logic. Instead, she sniffs, writes down her number and passes me the form. Shortly she departs with her new card, which I'm absolutely certain will never, EVER be used.)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Fine Free Late Arrivals

A couple weeks back, the wife announced that she knew what she was going to get me for my birthday.

"But I don't think it will get here by your birthday," she added. "Do you want to know what it is?"

"No," I said. "I want to be surprised." For you see, unlike SOME PEOPLE, I don't feel the need to pester my loved ones for hints as to what my presents are until they accidentally let something slip or allow a stay psychic impulse to float into the air where I can catch it and ruin their day by guessing my present.

So she let it go... for the moment. But did warn me that I was not allowed to go to our bank's website and snoop, for the charge would soon be appearing there. Uh huh, I thought.

On last Saturday, the day before my birthday on which we went out for my birthday dinner, the wife reminded me that while she had a card picked out, she did not yet have my gift. "It will be here Thursday," she said. "Do you want to know what it is?"

"No."

"Do you want a hint?"

"No. I don't want to guess it and make you mad that I ruined the surprise."

"You'll never guess it," she said, tauntingly.

"That's right," I said. And then demonstrated this by not guessing at all.

On the day of my birthday, she again began plying me for guesses.

"C'mon! What do you think it is?"

"No, I don't want to guess and spoil it!"

"You're never gonna guess. You would never expect this."

"Okay, so give me a hint," I said.

She was reluctant at first to even hint, but when I pointed out that I always give her hints (and she always winds up guessing anyway even though my hints are immaculate), she relented.

"It's classy," she said. "But you'll just use it for nerdness."

Well, that was no good, cause that could be said about a great many things. But it was a start. So I asked if it was something we both could use.

"Yeah," she said, though there was something in her voice that made me thing Not so much.

"Is it an item of clothing?"

"No."

I thought some more and then started putting the pieces of the puzzle I did have together. Whatever it was would probably be from a specialty store that is instantly recognizable for a single type of product; cause if it was from Amazon or eBay or an other online store, it wouldn't matter if I saw it on our bank site because just seeing the online shop's title wouldn't give away
what it was. I told this to the wife.

"No, it could still give it away," she said. After all, if it was through eBay, our PayPal payment could be listed as having been made to an online retailer, such as WhoNA, purveyor of all things nerdy and Doctor Who-related. Did she get me a Tardis cookie jar? Nah, she'd never think that was classy. (Plus it would compete for counter space with my Darth Vader-head cookie jar.)

She pestered me for more guesses as to the actual identity of the item and I gave her a few, but still she wanted one last one.

And suddenly, out of thin air, I knew what it was. It was an item from a specialized company, the very name of which is recognizable for a similar line of products that speak of both class and quality. It was something I would not have otherwise expected. It was something I would use for nerding. All the clues added up and the sum was a certainty.

"I know what it is," I said. Oh, I should have kept my mouth shut.

"What is it?" she asked.

"I can't tell you. It will ruin it."

"No. Go ahead."

I steeled myself and said, "You got me Bose headphones."

There was a long pause before she said, "I'll never tell."

I explained to her my deductions on it, noting that I had, just two weeks back, mentioned that I thought I would soon be needing a new pair of headphones as I'd accidentally dipped the right earphone of my Zen Vision's pair into the water fountain at the gym and it just hadn't sounded right since. I must have even subconsciously suspected headphones might be involved, because I nearly bought a pair of new phones while in the mall the night before, but put them back at the last second, fearing I might spoil something.

The wife continued to ply me for hints and guesses afterward, but I was pretty sure she was only doing so in order to conceal that I'd nailed it.

Yesterday, upon my arrival home from work, she presented me with a gift bag in which I found a new pair of Bose in-ear headphones. They're spectacular! The sound is just everything I'd hoped for in a headphone. They fit quite comfortably in my ears and the sound seems to be coming from somewhere in the center of my cranium.

"Do you love them?" the wife asked.

"I haven't known them long enough to love them," I said. "But I think I might be in lust."

Thursday, September 06, 2007

"Trimetrcntypblicliberry?"

Not that it's any surprise or enormous feat, but Ms. D is already leagues better than Ms. S when it comes to being a newbie greenhorn "liberry" ass.

When answering the telephone, she very calmly and clearly says, "Tri-Metro County Public Library" as her greeting, and in a very pleasant tone to boot. This is in fantastic contrast to Ms. S, who consistently used as few syllables and, indeed, vowells as possible and used them at 743 mph and which sounded like, "Trimtrcntypblcliberry?"

(And yes, the only part of that train-wreck of a greeting she actually annunciated was the word "liberry" and with no trace of irony whatsoever. I've long suspected that irony as a concept was completely lost on Ms. S.)

Of course, Ms. S's greeting was still better than that of Mrs. J, who has been known to answer the phone using the phrase, "What?" and has thus been restricted from answering the phone at all.

I predict Ms. D may graduate to full "liberry" ass. status in record time, though perhaps not without some fun speed bumps. I've already suggested that we tell her she has to go through a few hazing rituals, as the newest newbie. We should tell her that we're gonna go rearrange the 641.5s and she has to read and reshelve them properly, using only her butt.

Mrs. A countered that we should make her do the 800s instead, as they're far messier right now.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Mr. Griffith Drops a Hissy

After years of being one of the most lenient libraries on the planet as far as enforcement of fine collection and printing fees goes, Mrs. A recently announced that it was time to change our ways and we would soon be cracking down. Our previous unofficial policy was that if the patrons didn't bring up the fact that their books were a few days late we didn't hound them for fine money, or even bring it up. It still got put into the fines tab of their patron record, but unless the amount there crossed the $5 threshold, we didn't pay it much mind. Similarly, if patrons were printing from the internet and Hotmail printed one last sheet of paper with only a couple lines of links or a damned banner ad, we didn't force them to pay for that particular useless page and just carved it up for scrap paper.

No longer.

Our You Print It, You Pay For It policy is now to be enforced to the most extreme extent of the definition and we've been giving our patrons notice that, come September, they'd better have cash on hand when they bring in late books or, God help them, an ass-whuppin' we will go.

Enter Mr. Griffith, a regular but previously-unchronicled patron. He visits, often with his sweet family in tow, and has been very pleasant to me in most regards, other than his habit of trying to rope me in to some kind of glorified pyramid scheme he himself had been roped into. One night, Mr. Griffith came in after 6p to do some net-surfin' and eventually printing. Only, the particular computer he was using was one that recently decided to default to a non-existent printer instead of the usual laser the others are set to go to, so none of his prints were actually printing. I explained the matter to him, telling him to try printing again, but to be sure and select the laser printer from the list of three printers the print-dialogue box would offer him. A few seconds later, the printer spat out five sheets of paper.

When he came to inspect his prints, Mr. Griffith was very annoyed that there were five sheets as he'd only intended to print one. This wasn't because all his previous printing attempts went through, either. It had been a five page document, but he'd only wanted the first page. I asked if he had used the print dialogue box to tell the computer to only print the one he wanted, but he said it hadn't given him the chance. What he'd done, it seems, is double click on the laser printer icon instead of merely clicking once, as is necessary. (Some people think you have to double click EVERYTHING when it comes to using a mouse.) The computer had taken this command not as "Please use the laser printer to print these pages" but as "Please use the laser printer to print these pages NOW." Sure, it was an honest mistake, but it had been his honest mistake. I figured he would just pay for them all and count it as a lesson learned.

After half an hour of making more-controlled prints, Mr. Griffith came to pay for them. He said he didn't think he should have to pay for the other four pages from the first set. I explained that our policy, as is clearly stated on numerous signs around the computers, is one of You Print It, You Pay For It. Mr. Griffith didn't like this.

"Can't you cut me a break?" he asked.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I'd like to be able to, but I have to do what my boss tells me and she's says we're enforcing the rule."

Mr. Griffith began to grumble again, but I cut him off.

"I have to do my job, here," I said. "You're welcome to contest it and try to get a refund, but you'll have to talk to MRS. A about it and she won't be in until next week."

Mr. Griffith said he thought he just might and left. I hated to see him angry, but in the end it's only 40 cents and it was his fault. I wrote the incident up on our notepad for Mrs. A to see on her return.

Jump ahead to the following week. Mr. Griffith came in, signed up for a computer and was very friendly. He didn't even mention the incident from before. Shortly, Mrs. A returned from lunch and decided to finally check the note pad for important messages from the previous week. She read my note about Mr. Griffith and, as she would explain later, confused him for someone completely different. Not realizing he was seated a few yards away, she loudly announced, "No, we're not issuing MR. GRIFFITH a refund. If he didn't want it he shouldn't have printed it. Can you imagine the kind of chaos we'd have if we..."

"he's sitting right... over... there," I whispered, nodding in Mr. Griffith's direction without looking at him.

"I don't care where he is!" Mrs. A blasted. Then she paused and looked over to the computers where she didn't see the fellow she'd mistaken him for.

"Which one is he?"

I pointed.

"Oh," she said. "He's not the MR. GRIFFITH I thought he was."

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Actual Telephone Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #89

*DIALING*
*RING*
*RING*
*RING*

MAN— Hello?

ME— Hi, this is JUICE calling from the TRI-METRO County Library. I'm calling for FRANCINE HUGHES.

MAN— She's not here right now.

ME— Can I leave a message?

MAN— Yeah, okay.

ME— Recently FRANCINE checked four books on CD from us, but when she returned them we found that their cases seem to have been soaked in gasoline.

(Pause)

MAN— Oh, no. Aw, man. Oh, I was afraid of... I'm sorry. She put those in the back of my truck, but she didn't know I had gas back there and... well, I guess it's my fault, really. What do we need to do?

ME— We just needed to let her know she needs to pay for those.

MAN— Oh. Oh, man... How much?

ME— $106.73.

MAN— Whoo. (Sadly.) I guess... I guess I'll need to pay for those... then.

ME— Thank you so much.

(While this conversation took place some weeks ago, the audio books in question remain sealed in a Wal-Mart bag atop the far back corner of our circulation desk, as yet unpaid for.)

Monday, September 03, 2007

One score and fifteen years ago...

I turned 35 over the weekend. The wife and I celebrated by leaving Tri-Metro and driving to a larger town equipped with an Outback, where we feasted on Aussie Fries, steaks, and a giant can of Fosters. It was great.

At the end of the meal, our waitress came over and asked if we were too full for dessert. I looked to the wife to see if she was going to give me the excuse necessary to order something wicked involving fried apples, but she just shrugged and said, "It's your birthday, do what you want."

"Oh, it's your birthday?" the waitress asked.

"Er... yeah," I said reluctantly. I'd not intended for the waitress to learn it was my birthday. Giving out knowledge such as that to wait staff is a dangerous thing in my book because it often leads to loud singing of specialized restaurant celebratory songs by entire flocks of them. Sure, it might net me a free dessert of some sort, but it really isn't worth it to have to sit through something like that. It's not that I'm embarrassed of the attention; I simply HATE loud interruptions of any kind when I'm trying to dine peacefully and find these kinds of stupid "customer friendly" displays unbearable when directed at anyone, but especially at me. Nothing burns me more than sitting down to a nice quiet meal only to have it interrupted by multiple choruses of "It's your BIRTHDAY BIRTHDAY BIRTHDAY and we're here to celeBRATE! So on your BIRTHDAY BIRTHDAY BIRTHDAY here's a f**king piece of CAKE!" (I say multiple choruses, because it's never just one; if some jackass has a birthday and gets that treatment, suddenly there are at least two more that have to have it too.)

So I sat there and awaited the onslaught of obnoxiousness.

A few minutes later, our waitress returned alone and placed an envelope on the table.

"Happy birthday" she said quietly.

I opened the envelope to find it was a simple Outback birthday card signed by the entire wait staff, wishing me a happy birthday. No song, no fuss, and no clutching of conveniently-large steak-knives necessary. Okay, there wasn't a gift certificate in there like I'd hoped, but in effect the card itself was a gift certificate. It was a "Get-out-of-Hellacious-Song-Free" card.

When the waitress returned with the check we told her that we greatly appreciated the card as opposed to the usual song. She said that it was a new policy instituted only a few weeks ago. If I'd not had the good fortune to be born so late in the summer, I might not have escaped unscathed.

So, in addition to fantastic steaks and cheesy bacony fried potatoes, Outback now makes my Christmas card list for ditching the woefully unnecessary choral numbers. Thank you sirs and madams of the Outback management for your wisdom.