Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Kanji the Coffee Lover

Until this week, I don't think I'd seen our Aspergers afflicted patron Kanji the Kid for several months. Maybe he's been coming in at times when I'm not at work, but as of late I've been at work nigh on every weekday, so the liklihood of this is far less than in the past. Despite the trouble he's made for me in the past, when he came through the door it felt like I was seeing an old friend I'd not visited with in months. I even smiled and nodded when we made eye contact.

Kanji made a loop around our entire main floor, scoping it all out before eventually approaching the circ desk to set his backpack down. About that time, Mrs. A arrived via the staff workroom door and announced to me that she'd just purchased some new coffee that she and I (being the only coffee drinkers on staff) could use in our workroom coffee-maker. It was coffee processed by a local artisan coffee shop, so we knew it would be good stuff.

"I asked for dark," she said, holding up the little bag, which was still sealed tight. "This stuff is so dark, though, it stinks." She took a good whiff of the outside of the bag and made a face. She was about to pass it to me when Kanji spied it.

"What is it?" he asked.

"Coffee," Mrs. A said, seeming to notice him for the first time.

Kanji reached out and took the package away from her and snorted deep the aroma.

"Yeah," he said, as though agreeing that it indeed smelled like good coffee. He passed the bag back to Mrs. A, who stepped into the staff workroom to put it away. Kanji followed her.

"You make it in here?" he asked, stepping into what is traditionally a Patron-No-Man's-Land.

Mrs. A looked a little uncertain as to what he was doing there, but she didn't appear to want to apply our as-yet-fictional Patron Taser to him.

"Can I get a cup?" Kanji asked.

"Oh, we don't have any made, right now," Mrs. A said.

I half expected Kanji to ask us to fire up a fresh pot, but he just looked around and then stepped back to the correct side of the circ-desk and left us alone.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #98 (a.k.a. "No, seriously, we STILL don't take those!")

SETTING: My "liberry" as a lady approaches the circ desk with an open topped box of books.

LADY— Where would you like donations?

ME— (Points to lower section of circ-desk) Right there would be fine.

(I see in her box a number of text books along with sundry study guides.)

ME— Oh, um, ma'am, I'm afraid we don't accept text books.

(The lady huffs and looks flustered in a way rarely seen outside of cartoons.)

LADY— But I'm... but they're not text bo.... They're not ALL text books.

ME— Actually, ma'am, it looks like quite a few of them are text books. We can't accept text books.

(And now that I look at her, I am unconvinced that this is not the very same lady who tried to bring in a box of text books a couple weeks back. Strange that she would so openly attempt it again without even covering the box. )

LADY— But I'm not even bringing them for myself. I'm bringing them for someone else.

ME— I understand that, ma'am, but we still don't accept text books.

(The lady fumes at this, flashing her eyes and huffing some more.)

LADY— Well, what am I supposed to do? Throw them away myself?!

(She snatches up her box of books and begins hauling it toward the door. Not wanting her to go away angry, I stop her.)

ME— Ma'am, if you like, I can have my library director look at them and see if there's anything we can take there. But we don't accept text books.

(The lady suddenly becomes very calm. She turns and puts her box on the desk.)

LADY— I'll be back.

(The lady then proceeds to haul in two more enormous boxes of text books from her car and sets them down on the desk next to the first box. Once they're all in, she turns and exits the building without waiting for me to first fetch Mrs. A to examine her wares. I let her go. I'm pretty sure she was indeed the same patron from before. This time we'll just throw her books away for her.)

Friday, October 26, 2007

I'll take "Places you shouldn't go" for $300, Alex.

A man I'd not seen before came in and passed a book across the circ-desk to me. I checked it in, closed out the screen without looking and turned back to him as he was still standing there.

"I need a book on electrical wiring," he said.

"Sure thing."

I looked one up for him and, as no other patrons were in need of help, walked him down to the nonfiction stacks, right to the aisle and shelf where it was located.

Twenty minutes later, he returned to the circ-desk, set his book down and looked up at me expectantly.

"Can I scan your library card, please?" I asked.

"Don't have one."

"You don't have it with you?"

"I don't have one at all."

I paused.

"You just turned in a book to us, right?"

He nodded.

"So, at some point you did have a card, right?"

"It was on my wife's card," the man said. "Use hers." And he then did that familiar, dismissive hand-gesture toward our computer's monitor, the international sign language for "Just make that dealie do the deal."

"I'm sorry, but I have to have her actual card in order to look up the record," I said.

The man's eyes flashed and I could tell he was about to go THERE. Yep, he was about to secure himself a place in the book of Patrons Who Don't Have a Library Card and, Furthermore, Plan to Throw a Shit-Fit Tantrum when Confronted by the Fact that they WILL be Needing One. We've had to deal with listed members of this particular book for quite some time and will continue on into the future.

"I can hold this for you here..." I began. And as I said it, the man's eyes flashed again, he opened his mouth and proceeded down the road to THERE. "...OR," I continued, interrupting right back while flipping a "liberry" card application onto the circ-desk with all the nimbleness of a very nimble ninja, "we can just let you fill out one of these and give you your own card."

The man started to go THERE again, paused, seemed to think a moment, perhaps considering the logic of the suggestion, and then closed his mouth. He picked up the pen I was even then nimbly offering him.

Didn't even give me shit about his drivers license or anything.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Actual Telephone Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #97 (a.k.a. "Juice Dashes Yet More Dreams!")


ME— Tri-Metro County Library.

PATRON— Um, yes, I was wondering… I'm calling from out of state and I was wanting to give someone in your area a Christmas present of a… a gift cer… a gift car... or, well, a gift of a library card. Is that what you have there?

ME— Library cards? Yes.

PATRON— I wanted to give them a library card for Christmas. Or, maybe there's a way you could tell if they already have a… an account? Could I do that?

ME— Well, ma'am, we would really need them to apply for… (Pause) Wait, is this for a child or an adult?

An adult.

ME— Ah. In that case, ma'am, we would actually need them to apply for that card themselves. See, we require a drivers license number in order to issue cards to adults.

(Long pause)

PATRON— So you couldn't just let me give them the card as a gift, then?

ME— I don't think that would work very well for us.

PATRON— (Sadly) Okay.

(Giving library cards as gifts? It's a nice sentiment, I guess. A nice... cheap... sentiment.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


"You missed all the fun on Friday," Ms. M told me upon my arrival for work Monday. "We had a fight."

"A fight?!" I said, practically salivating that fisticuffs were engaged in and wondering what on earth could have caused a "liberry" throw down. Maybe someone finally hit Gene Gene the Geneal0gy Machine in the mouth? Maybe Parka came back and got into a fight with Mr. Creepy Guy over which one of them was rightfully the skeeveist? Maybe there was some sort of Mr. Stanky and Bear Piss Man Vs. the Sweatiest Woman in all the Land and Mr. Stankier tag-team stank off?

"What happened? What happened?" I asked.

Ms. M shrugged. "I don't know," she said.

"You... you don't know?"


Perhaps after seeing my confused expression, Ms. M then explained that on Friday, while everyone else was out at lunch and she was running things solo, there had been two adult women in the library who apparently got into some sort of intense disagreement with one another and decided to take it outside. Evidently it was the least disruptive intense disagreement in the history of such things, because despite the fact that they and Ms. M were all essentially in the same room, Ms. M's first and only clue that anything was amiss came when a police officer entered the building twenty minutes later to inquire what Ms. M might have witnessed of the fight.

"There was a fight?" she reportedly asked.

"Yeah. In the parking lot. You didn't see it?" the no doubt surprised officer reportedly then said. After Ms. M admitted her cluelessness, he went on to say that, according to the ladies themselves, they'd started out arguing in the library and then resolved to take their argument outside and transition it into one of a more physical nature. Ms. M told the officer that she never heard any raised voices, nor saw any other indication that anyone was unhappy with anyone else inside the library or out. It was all news to her. The officer took her statement and went away.

Later in the day, the husband of one of the ladies phoned the library and spoke to Ms. M to apologize on behalf of his wife for causing such a ruckus. Ms. M assured him it was fine and that she hadn't actually noticed any of it, had no idea what it was about and didn't need to know.

This, of course, just pissed the rest of us right off, cause if there's going to be fighting in the "liberry" we damn well want to A) see it for ourselves, or B) get all the juicy details about it otherwise. Ms. M had clearly fallen down in her duties as a member of the "Liberry" Clubhouse Junior Detectives and/or "Liberry" Junior Gossip-Observers League.

Mrs. A has now vowed to use her connections in the police department to learn the details, but so far everyone is keeping mum.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dear Future DUI Arrestee Patron...

...please do not think for even a moment that I did not see you go out to your vehicle, rummage around in your back seat floor and emerge with five or six empty beer cans which you then attempted to cram into our book return.

I don't know if you were being a douchebag intentionally or if you're merely illiterate and thus incapable of reading the giant BOOK RETURN sign on the front of the book return's door or if you were already too drunk to see it clearly. I personally suspect a combination of illiteracy and douchebaggery may be in evidence, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt on the whole public-drunkenness thing as I did not detect fumes about your person earlier nor did you seem at all drunk.

Whatever the case, your little depository plan did not work so well due to the fact that we keep our book return locked during the day. As I noted, you seemed a mite confused on this point, until you glanced around and finally noticed the conveniently located trash receptacle nearby. Thank you for then managing to get all of your cans in ours.

Please gnaw on a loin.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Juice `N' Ash's Weekend Virginia Adventure

The wife and I went out for a bit of camping this weekend. And while there are loads of places in our area to do this, none of them are conveniently located near a gem and bead-craft show, so we traveled to Chantilly, VA to camp.

It's been a while since Ash and I have camped. In fact, the last time we set up our tent was during my first visit to the Tri-Metro area, in June of 2001, when we first came up to look for a place to stay during her schooling. The last time we camped otherwise was just after she graduated, when we took her folks over to Kumbrabow State Park for a couple of days spent in their teeny tiny camper. It was a fun time, but we spent two days searching the streams and creeks for "big trout" until a ranger clued us in that the little six inch trout we had been catching were the big trout.

While our old tent is a nice one and easy enough to set up, it's not exactly comfortable and uncramped for more than one person to stay in. This being the case, we went to K-Mart and bought a gargantu 18' by 11' tent on the logic that A) it was on sale; and B) we'd like to own a tent inside of which we could set up our old tent and still have plenty of room for us. Thus armed, we set out for Chantilly and our camping location of Bull Run State Park.

Just before we arrived at Bull Run, it rained. It was dry enough by the time we found our campsite, but the humidity rose to the point where we could see haze in the air. This felt like having our own personal Mississippi surrounding us and made setting up our new tent a sweaty experience. Having gone through a similar sweaty camping experience when tent-camping in the Florida Keys, we both thought we would soon be at one another's throats. However, after the tent was set up and we'd had a quick rinse off in the shower house, the haze cleared out and a nice breeze began to blow. We headed out for an evening's dining, Cold Stone Creamery-eating and film-watching (Stardust is excellent, by the way). By the time we returned to the tent, everything was nice and cooled off.

Bead shows are to my wife Ashley what comic cons are to me and my nerdy friends. And just as Ashley would probably be able to tolerate an hour or so spent in the dealer's room of a comic con, I can take about as much of a bead show before my eyes grow tired of all the glittery things and I have to escape. So after barely an hour spent at the bead show on Saturday, I fled to find a nerd store.

Ever since our local comic shop died back in April (the "selling new comics each week" part of it actually died in back in December, but the rest of it lingered away on life-support for a few more months) I've had to do all my comics ordering online and am still playing catch up for a lot of things. Visiting towns with proper nerd stores is a thrill for me again.

The first such store I visited was Game Parlor. As you might expect, Game Parlor was a gaming store, but with a smattering of comics. As game stores go, it seemed to be an excellent one, with three store-front sections of retail space and loads of space for actual game play in the back. Comics were thin on the ground, though, so I negotiated with the guy running things for directions to a shop with more. He drew me a map to Phoenix Comics in Fairfax.

Phoenix Comics & Toys is a fantastic little comic store. They don't have a huge amount of space, but what they have is used to its fullest. They have a great selection of current books, arranged alphabetically, as well as an impressive selection of trade paperbacks and graphic novels. And they do what I've seen only one or two other comic shops do, which is have a completely separate trade and GN section arranged by author. I spent well over an hour there and could have gone absolutely spend-crazy, but managed to reign myself in and only bought around $20 worth of stuff (including 52 #40, Doktor Sleepless #1, Following Cerebus #10 and the Vol.2 trade of Runaways).

By the time I got back to the bead show, Ash was also sick of the place and we fled to go dine on Indian food at a buffet we'd noticed earlier.

We spent another night at the campsite, for which the weather was even better. I perfected my Reese's-Peanut-Butter-Cup-Smore-Making-Technique while Ash made fun of me and constructed a more classic type of smore.

Our trip home was eventful because we were finally able to visit the Green Valley Book Fair. This is a book fair that I've been hearing about from patrons for a year or two. It's located near Harrisonburg, VA, way out on a farm that's had one of its buildings converted into retail space. Several times per year, they open it up for a week to sell of remaindered books at 60 to 90 percent off retail price. I actually found almost all of my purchases within six minutes of entering the building, for they had a table of graphic novels prominently displayed. I picked up Eddie Campbell's the Fate of the Artist, Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda, Grady Klein's The Lost Colony, Vampire Loves, and the Infinite Crisis novelization by Greg Cox, all for around $3 each. Later I found Neil Simon's memoir, Rewrites. All in all, it was a fun day and a weekend well-spent.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Jumpin' Gene (PART III)

At some point during Gene's detailing of his rock & roll heritage, my ears tuned out again. Probably when my fight or flight skills kicked in and I began plotting clever ways to escape.

If only I'd had the good sense to leave my cell phone in silent mode, I could have reached into my pocket and touch dialed the front desk, allowing me to escape to go answer it. Better yet, I should have had the foresight to program the number into one touch dialing! Then again, Ms. D was still at the desk and would likely have answered the phone before I could move.

While Gene wasn't looking, I glanced back at Ms. D over my shoulder, hoping to catch her eye and, using only my eyebrows, give her the international sign-language for &%$*ING COME SAVE ME!!! She was still engaged talking to a patron, though, and didn't look up.

Meanwhile, Gene was still climbing up through limb after limb of his family tree. Eventually, and I shit you not about this, he was able to show me what he thought was proof that he was not only related to Elv!s, as he'd already shown, but was also related to L0retta Lynn. Ah, so he was related to both rock and country music royalty.

Unfortunately for Gene, ten minutes had now sailed by with all the speed of the Pigot Glacier and my good will with him had run out. Why had I thought being nice would get me anywhere? I was much happier back when I was steely and rude and all Shields Up with him.

Even as he was talking to me, I began to edge away from him, positioning my body in such a way that it was practically facing back toward the circ desk, a less-than-subtle indication that this was the direction in which I was hoping to move. Gene kept on. In fact, even though only a little of what he was saying was actually making it past my boring-ass-lecture filters, I could tell that Gene had actually moved on from the subject of his own geneal0gy and had now started telling me the details of a completely different family he wasn't related to in any way! Not only that, but the details he was conveying were about the family history of another patron. I can only presume he was doing this to somehow show the superior nature of his own family history in comparison. This must be how geneal0gists in the wild establish which of them will be the dominant alpha geneal0gist of the pack.

"Hah hahhhh! My Elv!s trumps your Joey Bishop. The more comfortable computer chair is mine!!"

(Whoa! I was trying to pull the name of one of the lesser members of the Rat Pack for that reference and found that my choice of Joey Bishop just died yesterday. OooooWEEEEOOOO! NOTE FOR BIRTHDAY LADY: February 3, 1918.)

Through a series of hand gestures, pointing back toward the desk, I was eventually able to escape Gene's clutches and return to what I hoped was the safety of the circulation desk. It still didn't feel safe enough, though, so I hid in the staff workroom, leaving the desk to Ms. D. Unfortunately, she left for the day soon after and I was forced out of my darkened hidy hole. I should have started programming my phone right then, for Gene was not done with me. On two occasions over the course of the evening he attempted to engage me in lectures again. The first time he spied me attempting to shelve some books and beckoned me over. At first I thought he was finally asking me to help him attach a file, so I went over only to have him say "You want to see something interesting" as I got within his field of power. I was able to escape fairly quickly, but vowed to not leave the desk again. So on the second attempt, Gene came up to the desk bringing printed pages of "something interesting" to show me there. I went all glassy eyed and stone faced in an attempt to fend him off and he left after only a minute.

I soon took to lurking just inside the door to the staff workroom, where I could see approaching patrons, but Gene could not see me. Eventually, I was able to come out of hiding, not because Gene left, but because an older couple he knew had entered the building. They often come in together to check email and, being in Gene's general age-bracket and having at least a minor interest in geneal0gy, are frequent victims for his lecture traps. I like to call them, Mr. and Mrs. Alternative Target. I boldly came out of hiding to watch the action.

Gene spied them and pouched. Mr. Alternative Target, being a gentleman, stepped into the attack zone, allowing Gene to seize upon him and his wife to escape unharmed. She retreated to the comfy chairs to read the newspaper while her husband was being mauled. The mauling went on for some time, throughout which I moved freely about the floor, safe in the knowledge that I was now immune from attack.

Apparently, the internet was not big enough to contain the lecture and Gene wound up leading Mr. Alternative Target to our local history room to continue. He looked SO happy. At this point, Mrs. Alternative Target bravely attempted to save her husband by stepping near the door to the local history room and interrupting Gene to alert her husband to the fact that they needed to leave soon. Unfortunately, Gene's power increases in the presence of dusty old tomes and Mr. Alternative Target was mired but good no matter how visibly impatient she looked. She stepped over to the circ desk.

"That man is certainly... interested in family history," Mrs. Alternative Target said to me.

"He sure is," I said.

"I suppose it's good to have something you can be passionate about like that."

"I suppose so."

Not long after the Alternative Target family finally made their escape, Gene left too. He seemed tired after such a long day, but very happy all the same.

The next morning, I related the tale of my evening to my coworkers. I also told them of my plan to program my phone to dial the desk in emergency situations. Mrs. A suggested we also needed to set up a series of signals we could give one another in order to facilitate rescue in case any of us were caught in Gene's vortex of boredom. Stomping our feet, Mr. Ed style seemed the most popular of the possible signals we could use. However, the signal we adopted was Mrs. C's suggestion: If any staff member sees any other staff member engaged in conversation with Gene we are to immediately run over and save them by any means necessary.

The simple solutions are always the best.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Jumpin' Gene (PART II)

Having made my decision to have a good attitude in my dealings with Gene Gene the Geneal0gy Machine, I greeted him warmly when next he darkened our door. And Gene, for his part, seemed to notice my good mood. In fact, he seized upon the opportunity to mention that he was looking to take one of the genuine long lost relative pictures he'd been emailed him and resend it to his daughter. He wondered if, perhaps, I might show him how to attach it to an email later.

"Whenever you're ready to send it, come get me and I'll show you how to do attach it," I said cheerfully.

That was pretty early in the day. Throughout much of the remaining six hours Gene was with us, I kept waiting for him to call me over to do the attachment. I was actually looking forward to putting my best face on it and being a helpful and service-oriented "liberry" ass. instead of the spiteful, passive-aggressive one I'd been lately.

Around 6 p.m., when only I and Ms. D were still on shift, Gene finally called me over to his computer. I should have been alarmed when I saw that his screen wasn't immediately open to his email account, but no warning alarms sounded within my head. Even when he uttered his familiar and usually terrifying phrase, "Let me show you something interesting," I still somehow was not afeared. Only when he clicked to a new window and I saw the branches of a family-tree pop up on the screen did I finally scent danger.

"Look here..." he began, and immediately trailed off into his latest geneal0gical discoveries.

Oh %#$&ing heck, I thought. I've just allowed myself to be willingly lured into one of Gene's patented geneal0gy lecture traps!!

And indeed as I thought it, it sprung shut around my foot.

For months now, I and the rest of the staff have kept a very Shields-Up policy when dealing with Gene. We try not to make eye contact. We try not to linger in proximity to him. We try not to speak to him in anything but the most clinical and utilitarian of language. For we know if we allow him even the smallest of openings, we'll be trapped in geneal0gy lecture purgatory until one of the other staff members can emergency dial Zelda Rubenstein and she can come and pull us from Gene's deadlights. (Just to mix my Poltergeist metaphors with my Stephen King's IT metaphors.)

Even before my forced good mood, however, I suspect we've gotten a bit lazy about our Shields Up policy. Now that we have more than three computers at our disposal, there have been zero occasions when Gene has had to wait around until a computer came free and he's therefore had no cause to inflict such lectures on the staff in order to motivate us to get him a computer faster. Recently, though, Mrs. J and Mrs. B have become mired in Gene-land by being too friendly too close to him and now it was my turn to suffer.

I braced myself for this earthly equivalent of Vogon Poetry and hoped I could find an excuse to dash away or, more likely, to claw my way across the carpet, prone and nearly lifeless. Alas, there was no readily apparent excuse to do so. Sure, there were people at the circ desk, but newbie Ms. D had them neatly in hand—damn her ungreenhorn-like efficiency and natural ability!

Then something Gene said caused my ears to actually turn on and listen. It took them awhile to overcome their natural aversion to boring-ass-lectures, but if I was hearing correctly, I could have sworn Gene had just proven a lineage trace to someone who had actually been interesting.

"You're related to... Elv!s?" I asked, just to be clear. Gene gave me an odd look, for he'd clearly just told me that, albeit in long-and-rambling-begat form.

"Yeah," he said, and pointed back to the screen where there was a detailed family tree showing how Elv!s's people had come originally from North Carolina and then a branch of them had gone to Mississippi where the king himself was eventually born. This seemed interesting enough for the moment, so I listened as he did more begats. Minutes crawled by.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Jumpin' Gene (PART I)

I decided that I've had something of a bad attitude about my job as of late.


Yes, yes. I know it is difficult to accept, but it is indeed true. I have had a bad attitude at times, particularly when it comes to dealing with Gene Gene the Geneal0gy Machine.

Okay, sure, Geneal0gy People are among the most irritating of all the patron archetypes—what, with their frequent whining about your library's lack of vital research documents, such as a complete archive of all county and state obituaries, passenger manifests for every ship that crossed any given body of water from the years 1476 through 1957, and, of course, a complete and accurately-researched geneal0gy record for their entire family, and all. But it's also very easy to get annoyed with those who don't whine, especially when they spend as many hours per day hard at their own research as Gene does, not to mention constantly tormenting the staff with tales of their boring-ass ancestry. Still, even all of that should not be cause enough for staff members to be rude to the Geneal0gy People, even if said Geneal0gy People have decided to take their irritation a notch further.

Case in point, Gene recently purchased a jump drive because somebody told him he should. It's actually not a bad idea, because instead of printing out a ream of paper per week, as Gene does, he could simply save all those important online documents he finds to his drive and explore them later. Gene doesn't quite see the logic in this, though. No, mostly what he wants to save are pictures of his long, lost, dead relatives that have been scanned and emailed to him by other long-lost yet recently-found, not-yet-dead relatives. Unfortunately, and despite my best efforts to kill the rumor, I've developed a reputation around the "liberry" as the go to guy for tech questions, so Gene always comes to me for help.

So, one day I showed Gene how to save things to his jump drive.

The next day, I had to show Gene how to save things to his jump drive again.

The next day, I showed Gene a third time.

And so the pattern went, with me becoming increasingly irritated about it the more times I had to show him.

Part of my irritation was that each time I showed Gene how to save images, he kept trying to make the process far more complicated than it actually is. He would open all such tutorial sessions by complaining about his inability to see his picture in advance of saving it. I repeatedly tried showing him how to choose OPEN from the selection provided by the download menu, but, depending on which computer station he was seated at, nothing tended to happen when he did this. This further cemented the complaint in his mind and the irritation in mine. And the more irritated I became, the more it showed in my voice and manner, which surrounding patrons could no doubt detect too. (Granted, they were all probably very sympathetic to me, having been on the receiving end of Gene's lengthy lectures about the intricacies of his family tree, not to mention how interesting the life of his great aunt Loofie had been, many times themselves. But still.)

The other major annoyance was that only one of the images he asked me to help him save was actually of a relative of his. The rest were just odd internet flotsam; like a picture of three dogs against a field of blended colors, or a texture tile jpeg. Gene couldn't figure out why the long-lost relative he'd been corresponding with had chosen to send these to him, and he was angry that she was wasting his time. He was also angry that each and every one of her emails to him had at least two such images attached.

During our third tutorial session, after I'd showed him how to save an image that turned out to be animated smiley faces, I finally realized that the lady wasn't intentionally attaching any images at all, but had set her email account to include them as part of her signature file or as backgrounds for the email itself. I nearly laughed out loud at this, and it fortunately served to diffuse my anger at having to deal with Gene, for I had been about to strangle him.

I then explained the concept of Signature File Crap to Gene and told him to ignore those images unless a third image was attached titled with the name of one of his relatives. He seemed satisfied by this. In fact, Gene seemed downright apologetic over the next couple of days. Whenever he came in, he'd be sure to tell me how he'd attempted to save a few things again and he thought he might have even gotten it right. "I'm still learning," he'd say.

That's when I started to feel bad about my own behavior and decided to adopt a better attitude toward Gene. There was no reason to be pissy with him. No matter how many hours he might spend hogging up our computers per day, he's still pretty green to computers. I really should be able to help him do whatever he needs to do without ire, if for no other reason than it's my damned job.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Creep Sweep Blues

I only recently began closing on Fridays again, but wouldn't you know that first one I was scheduled for would coincide with me having some place else I was supposed to be come our closing time of 7p. Not wanting to trade out with Ms. M (who I already owe for numerous previous trades) or Ms. D (who was working the rest of the weekend) I decided to just work extra hard to get all my crap done early so I could depart as close to 7 as possible (i.e. get Gene off the damn computer at least 10 minutes til close). I figured I could do it, as the place I had to be was nearby.

Shortly into the last hour of my shift, a lady patron came in. A minute later, another lady patron, a friend of the first, came in and they saw one another. The two apparently had not spoken in ages, so they went into the nonfiction stacks and conversed most of the hour away while browsing, usually in front of the section where I was looking to shelve books.

About fifteen minutes until 7, they wrapped up their conversation, the first lady checked out some books and then departed. The second lady, still tucked deep in the stacks, slipped out of my mind entirely and I forgot she existed. After all, I was busy trying to get Gene and the computer users to relinquish their computers so I could shut them down and clean up all their grubby fingerprints. Soon they were all gone, the building was completely quiet and I was at last able to finish my crap in peace.

Minutes later, when I went out to unlock the book return, I noticed a vehicle still in the parking lot. I was pretty sure I was alone in the library, so I wondered if the vehicle belonged to someone who had simply parked in our lot to walk elsewhere in the area. Didn't seem likely, as we're not exactly located conveniently near anything of interest, but stranger things have happened. I locked the front door and proceeded to finish writing down the stats for the day.

Normally when closing alone, I do a creep sweep of the entire building, moving along one side of the nonfiction stacks, eyeing each aisle and every nook and cranny, then checking young adult to make sure the Coot hasn't fallen asleep in the comfy chairs there again. Then I circle back around to the other side of nonfiction, then through reference, cross the main floor, check the mysteries and general fiction stacks before cutting past large print books and into the juvenille and easy reader sections, pop in for a check of the restrooms and then head downstairs for a quick once over. However, on this particular night, due to my need to be elsewhere and my false confidence that I was the only person in the building, I decided to forego those steps. For a moment, I did consider activating our intercom system to announce we were closed, just in case the owner of the vehicle outside was indeed still in the building and was, perhaps, downstairs, but I couldn't remember how to activate it, so I just gave up and shut off all the lights.

"Ahhh!" a female voice called from the nonfiction stacks.

"Oh. Oops," I said, flipping the lights back on.

"I take it you're closing?" the voice called again.

"Yes, ma'am. Sorry, I thought I was alone."

The second lady from earlier came out with her selection of books and apologized for being so quiet in the library. I apologized for nearly locking her in, checked out her books and sent her on her way.

Then, so as not to make the same mistake twice, I went ahead and did the creep sweep of both floors, found no one and hoofed it out the door myself.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #97

SETTING: My "liberry" as a female patron approaches the circ desk.

PATRON— Can you help me? I just did an email on one of your computers, but when I tried to go to it I can't.

(I pause to try and interpret what she has said, but find my inner-Patronese translator doesn't seem to be functioning.)

ME— Um. What was that again?

PATRON— I just did an email on your computer, and I need to see if they got it, but it won't let me.


(Nope still no translation. The closest I get is that this is yet another patron who has activated our non-functioning MS Outlook and has sent a non-email into the ether.)

ME— I'm sorry. I think you need to show me what you're talking about, because what you're saying doesn't match up with what I know about email.

(Goes to computer where patron brings up the login screen of Yahoo Mail and points to the login username and password blanks.)

PATRON— I just set up this email and it won't let me look.

ME— Ohhhh. You set up an email account.


ME— I see. Okay. Well, do you have your username and password?

PATRON— Uh huh. But when I type it in, it takes me to this page...

(Points to screen again which I now notice is Yahoo's "This ID is not taken yet" page, indicating a misspelled or otherwise incorrect username has been tried.)

PATRON— I typed in Hamdinger_Heaven291@yahoo.com (not her real address) but it won't take it.

ME— Just try Hamdinger_Heaven291 by itself. That's your username. You don't need the rest. Then do your password below that and it should work.

PATRON— Ohhhhhh. Okay. (Starts a typin'.)

ME— Um, be sure to do the underscore.

PATRON— The what? Oh... Oh, yeah.

(I leave. Minutes later, she's back.)

PATRON— This thing is still not letting me do this!

(I return to her machine.)

PATRON— It's saying there's no Hamdinger_Heaven291@yahoo.con. It's saying .con, not .com, but I typed .com!

ME— Looks like a typo.

PATRON— Yeah, it did to me too, but I typed .com!

(I started to return to my earlier theme of how she needed to type neither Yahoo.com nor .con in order to access her email account when I happened to notice that the address that was actually written on her piece of paper was Hamdinger_Heaven291@hotmail.com.)

ME— Wait. Do you have a Yahoo email account or a Hotmail account?

PATRON— Well, I was trying to get into Yahoo.com but it won't...

ME— (Holds up hand, then starts to pull out own hair with it. Voice strains to remain calm...) All... I need... to know... is if you signed up for... a Hotmail account... or a Yahoo account.

PATRON— I… I… (Pause) Can you tell?

(She hands me another piece of paper, a copy of an email she'd evidently sent earlier from a Hamdinger_Heaven291@hotmail.com.)

ME— Looks like Hotmail. But you're on Yahoo's page.

PATRON— I know. I tried to go to Hotmail and it took me here.

(Ah, another victim of the seemingly random tendency for our computers to ignore all possible avenues leading to Hotmail except typing "msn.com." She probably did type in Hotmail.com and it took her to a Yahoo search engine by default. I ask her to type MSN.com into the address bar and then choose Hotmail from there. Once she types in her correct username and password she was in.)

PATRON— I'm so sorry.

ME— That's okay. Don't feel bad. It's not like MSN goes out of its way to make things easy.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

No, seriously, we don't take those.

A lady came huffing and puffing through our double doors, lugging a medium-sized box which she set on the circ desk.

"I've brought you a box of donations," she said.

"Oh. Thank you very much," I said. One flap of the box was open and allowed me a limited glimpse into the box itself. There I could see a row of books that looked remarkably close in size and shape to text books.

"Are some of these text books?" I asked.

"They're all text books," the lady said.

"Um... I'm sorry, but we don't accept text books," I said. "We don't take donations of Readers Digest condensed books and we don't take text books."

The lady stared back at me, but was not angry at my dismissal of her gift. "Yes, that's what the woman I spoke to on the phone said. But," she added, adopting a hopeful tone, "she said you could sometimes get rid of them for us?"

No, what the woman she'd spoken to on the phone had probably said was that if we received any text books we would just throw them away. Not the same thing, but I could now see her angle on this. This lady wasn't thoughtfully donating books she thought we could use; she clearly knew we wouldn't use her text books. Instead, the idea of throwing them away herself was so repulsive that she was intentionally passing her moral book-dilemma on to us. She had already been told that we would throw them away, but if she didn't have to be there to see it then it somehow wasn't as bad. It's like the practice of loading one gun in a firing squad with blanks; she's allowed to live in a world where she can hope that maybe, just maybe, we took pity on those books and added them to our collection despite policy. This is, after all, the primary reason people donate so many boxes of moldy, rat-gnawed, estate-sale books to us: because they can't bear to throw them out. And it's why our annual book sale is such a public service. We throw out a vast quantity of books most years, but the public is spared the horrors of seeing us do so.

In retrospect, I probably should have been Mr. Cool, taken the lady's text books, patted her on the shoulder and assured her we would take good care of them. I could then have put the box out by the garbage and she could have gone on living in her happy, sunny, little candy-colored world, where all books are loved and have cozy homes and get snuggles and treats. Yep, that would have been the Mr. Cool move to make. But I wasn't feeling like Mr. Cool. I'd had a bad afternoon of it already and had just spent several tense minutes trying to teach Gene Gene the Geneal0gy Machine how to use his #%&*ing jump drive, YET AGAIN, and was not in the mood to coddle anyone. She'd turned up knowing full well that we didn't accept what she was bringing and she could therefore throw her own books away.

"I'm sorry, ma'am. I don't know who you talked to, but our policy is that we do not take text books."

The lady looked a little sad, but gave me a sheepish grin and hauled her box away.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

"Mr. Stanky? Is that you?"

The Stankmobile was in our parking lot when I arrived for work today. And here I was hoping for a good day.

I entered the building, expecting to be hit about the face and neck with Mr. Stanky's reek. Surprisingly, though, the air smelled fresh. I crept to the workroom door to peer out at the computers and spied Mr. Stanky seated about mid way down the row. Other computer patrons were seated to his immediate left and right. They were also conscious. I still detected no foulness on the wind.

Then I noticed that Mr. Stanky's hair had been trimmed and combed and his usual sweat-soaked/stained t-shirt had been replaced with a blue-green colored suit coat. Upon closer, yet still distant inspection from the other side, I saw that he was also wearing a shirt and tie, which looked rather crisp.

Mr. Stanky had apparently undergone one of his quarterly hosedowns. It's a rare occurrance, that we've noticed in only about one out of every ten visits he pays us. And as pleasant as it is not to be attacked by his stench, it's also sort of disconcerting. It's like you're encountering the Mirror Universe version of Mr. Stanky, where he's a fine, upstanding and lemon-scented citizen. Of course, this illusion doesn't hold up so well if you get too close to him. No matter how scrubbed and polished he might seem at first, his foulness is so pervasive that he usually has some degree of contact stench left over from his house.

Still, I'll take any amount of relief I can get when it comes to him.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Dear Fatty Manchild...

... I realize that you are far too busy surfing the internet to be bothered to answer your cell phone. On most occasions, I might even respect this. However, whoever is phoning you clearly wishes to speak with you in a most desperate manner, for they have been phoning and rephoning you once per minute for the past eight minutes, allowing each ring cycle to ring its fullest. And while we currently have no anti-cell phone policies preventing you from allowing your phone to ring ad infinitum, I must take issue with your decision to do so, as opposed to simply turning it off or declining the calls. I say this, because your decision to allow your phone to ring so frequently has meant that the rest of us have been subjected to repeated performances of your ringtone choice of Kid Rock's "Bawitdaba" at your phone's top volume.

One very practical and satisfying method for muffling that noise comes immediately to my mind, sir. Pray I don't entertain it further.

Yours with malice,


Monday, October 08, 2007

My Ass: Fate Gives in to Temptation and Takes a Second Bite

It is of course well known that careless talk costs lives... or, at least, sanity.

I tangentially referred to Chester the (Potential) Molester in my post on Friday morning. Not even a name check, but a link to a name check. So, naturally, he had to turn up at the "liberry" later in the day. Since this rarely fails to happen when he is referred to in any way, I should probably just make it a rule to stop referring to him in any way. Now that the spell has been cast and completed, however, here's what happened...

Chester strolled in shortly after 5, when I was the only staff member on duty and thus unavailable to shadow his every move throughout the building. Fortunately, he didn't start casing the joint for underage girls and came right over to me at the circ desk, moving with ease and fluidity despite the unconcealed look of hatred and death I was beaming in his direction. (Others have withered beneath the power of my gaze, but Chester has been infuriatingly immune to it.)

Care to take a guess what Chester asked me for?

Why, yes, you are correct: Yet another #%$&ing FAFSA form!

Course, it took me a couple of tries to actually understand what he was asking for, because of his traditional low mumbling and general refusal to speak up and enunciate, but a FAFSA form it was.

I told him we didn't have any and that I hadn't seen any for months. This was completely true. And it's not that we don't like having FAFSA forms available for our patrons, it's just that our lack of forms is almost entirely due to Chester having taken ALL of them during previous visits. (I suspect he's making an underage papier-mâché sex doll out of them.)

Chester mumbled something about the community college library being closed for the evening, hence why he sought them from us. Then he asked for a computer.

My major dilemma in giving him a computer was that the only two available computers were near another one being used by a high school-aged girl. My choice was to either seat him diagonally across from her, where he'd have a good line of sight on her, or I could seat him directly next to her where he'd be directly next to her. I opted to put him across from her.

I lurked at the desk, watching him like a hawk—albeit a hawk who's seriously considering becoming a vegetarian, cause the prey around here is unappetizingly bloated and gamey-looking and tends to wear ratty knit hats. During my surveillance, I never saw Chester at the girl at all. And from what little I could see, his web-surfing seemed to be limited to sports-related sites and nothing Chris Hanson might be able to bust him for. (Now there's an episode of Dateline I would love to see!)

Chester left after around 10 minutes without further incident and without his precious FAFSA form. And while I will now shut up talking about him, so as to avoid repeat visits, I suspect he might make another appearance soon because his arrival reminds me that we need to warn Ms. D about him and he will no doubt be summoned by the forthcoming mention of his name.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Actual Creepy Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #96

My hope that we'd not see Mr. Creepy Guy for another 20 years lasted only a week. Holy shit, is that guy creepy! And this time, I got to see some of it first hand.

There were already bad omens of his return a day or two back when I heard Mrs. B discussing Mr. Creepy Guy with Mrs. A. Okay, first off—and I cannot stress this enough—if there's one basic rule I've learned when it comes to creepy assed patrons and keeping them away, it's: DON'T SAY THEIR NAME, IT ONLY GIVES THEM POWER!!! Time after time, and example after example, I've seen unsavory and unwanted patrons magically appear at the sound of their own name. This particular discussion of Mr. Creepy Guy arose because of issues over his permanent address on his patron record. It seems he doesn't have one and, much as Mrs. A predicted, truly is living in his car. Still, he had a valid card issued by a neighboring branch, so we apparently let him check out a book anyway.

Today he appeared in a puff of brylcream fumes to return his book. As he passed it to me to check in, he was all genial smiles and actually seemed, at first, to be a fairly normal and not necessarily creepy soul. I'd assumed his thinning mane of slicked hair was dyed due to its raven-black sheen. However, if you're living out of your car, can you really afford Just for Men? Maybe I'm wrong on that point.

Mr. Creepy Guy asked if there was a pay phone in the building. There is not. Generally, we let patrons use our desk phone if it's just a short call, but I didn't want him using our phone, so I suggested a pay phone down the street. Mr. Creepy Guy then asked if he might use our desk phone if he paid for his call. I had to then admit that, yes, this was possible, as long as it was a local call. While I was saying this, though, the phone rang, Mrs. B answered it then passed the receiver to Mrs. A, who happened behind the desk at that moment. I told Mrs. B that Mr. Creepy Guy needed to use the phone. And while I didn't spell it out, I was pretty sure the indication that Mr. Creepy Guy should have to wait his turn and use the desk phone only after Mrs. A was finished with it went without saying. Apparently, though, it did not and I should have spelled it out. I was, however, busy trying to find an excuse to get away from the desk myself and grabbed some books to go shelve.

I returned from shelving, less than a minute later, to see that Mrs. A was off the phone but Mr. Creepy Guy was nowhere to be seen. At first I assumed he'd left or gone to the can. Then I heard his voice, looked around the corner and saw him in the staff workroom, seated at Mrs. B's desk, yacking away on her extention.

ME— (In low voice to Mrs. A) Why is MR. CREEPY GUY in the staff workroom?

MRS. A— I don't know. (Turns to Mrs. B) Why is MR. CREEPY GUY in the staff workroom?

MRS. B— (Looks deservedly guilty) Well... you were on the phone... so I told him he could use... my phone.

(Long pause)

ME— That's not a good idea. (Pause) At all.

MRS. A— No. It's not a good idea at all. You'd better watch him like a hawk. He's a con-man and he'll steal us blind.

ME— (Looking at Mrs. B with hurt expression) My stuff's in there.

Immediately, I went into the workroom and made my presence known. It sounded as though Mr. Creepy Guy was trying to confirm that someone had received a change of address request from him, switching from General Delivery to a P.O. box. As I pretended to do something with my computer, I glanced down and noticed that the top page of my Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist note cube atop my desk contained the exact description of Mr. Creepy Guy's woody station wagon as well as his full real name. I'd been standing in that very spot almost exactly one week before, taking down the description while scoping out his car through the window. And I'd written his real name at the bottom of it just in case he shot me dead during my proposed attempt to sneak out and jot down his license plate number. Good thing Mrs. B had put him at her desk instead of mine. I removed the page and put it in my pocket.

Mr. Creepy Guy finished up his call and stood up. He thanked me for the use of the phone and said he'd pay us 50 cents, as that's what it would have cost him at a pay phone. Not making eye contact with him, I told him he didn't need to do that, but he insisted, so I told him he could pay Mrs. B.

MR. CREEPY GUY— What's your name?



(Why couldn't I have just said, "Cecil"?)

MR. CREEPY GUY— Good to meet you, JUICE.

And there followed another pause, but I refused to turn away from my screen for fear of being offered a paw to shake.

Mr. Creepy Guy left the room, returned to the proper side of the circ desk and paid Mrs. B his 50 cents. What I next heard him say, however, I was scarcely able to believe, even while hearing it with my very own ears.

MR. CREEPY GUY— (To Mrs. B) What's wrong with you?

MRS. B— What do you mean?

MR. CREEPY GUY— Well, yesterday you looked beautiful...

(Wait for it... WAIT FOR IT...)

MR. CREEPY GUY— ...but today you look plum gorgeous.

(And the world shudders at the concentrated power of his skeeviness.)

MRS. B— I think you need to get your eyes checked.

Mr. Creepy Guy ended the above exchange by telling us all to have a nice day. He then went and fell asleep in a comfy chair by the window, where he snoozed for nearly a full hour. We don't have any policy against sleeping in the library, cause it so rarely comes up. However, if we'd had a policy against it, I don't think any of us would have enforced it then. I'd much rather have him asleep and quiet than awake and chatty.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Additional Rogue Returns

Wow, it's a banner couple of weeks for returning stinky patrons!

I was no sooner through our front door, arriving for my afternoon shift, when I spotted an old rogue at the computers. We've not seen, nor better yet smelled, the Sweatiest Woman in all the Land (ne the Uriniest Woman in all the Land) for nigh on three years.

After the first two years of her absence, I had begun to wonder if she'd moved away or, perhaps, passed away. However, I spotted her in a restaurant several months back and knew she was still around.

One question popped into my mind: Was she still as putriffically stinky as before? Did I dare risk walking near enough to find out?

No. No, I did not dare to.

Soon the Sweatiest Woman in all the Land departed.

After much procrastination, during which no other employee made a move to go log off her computer, it was left to me to do. This I did, holding my breath as I walked over, only risking a test sniff after I'd successfully ordered the computer to reboot.

Yep. Still sweaty and/or uriney.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

I'll take "Captains Who Didn't Date Toni Tennille" for $.79 cents, Alex.

And now, the fashion report:

Cap'n Crossdresser dropped by. His outfit was a blue denim sundress and pink shirt.

I didn't get a look at his shoes.

That is all.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Actual Telephone Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #95


ME— Tri-Metro County Library?

CALLER #1— Yes, I'd like to renew some books.

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

CALLER #1— (Long pause) Oh. Oh, I didn't realize I would need that. Let me find it.


CALLER #1— (Rumaging) I've never needed it before.

ME— Could I put you on hold for a moment?

CALLER #1— Yes.


ME— Tri Metro County Library.

CALLER #2— Can I renew books over the phone?

ME— Sure thing. I just need your library card number.

CALLER #2— (Long pause) Oh. I didn't realize I would need that. I never have before. Let me find it...


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.