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, November 30, 2007

We've Got Letters!

The following letter was originally sent to me as a comment response, but I think it deserves a closer look in a larger forum. So here we go...


Dear Liberry Ninja,

I live in an area with a county-wide liberry system that allows me to search the online catalog from home, reserve books that are checked out or living at other branches, and then pick them up later at my neighborhood branch. It even emails me when the book is ready to be collected from my branch's reserve shelf.

I visited the circulation desk the other day because the book I'd been notified about wasn't on the reserve shelf. When I gave the nice lady my name she said, "Oh, yes. I know that name." And she said this very inscrutably, so I'm trying to figure out if there was extra meaning there. I'm guessing I reserve a noteworthy number of books. But am I reserving too many books?

Am I being a pain in the ass?

--Don't Want the Liberrians to Hate Me

Dear Don't,

Are you being a pain in the ass? Eh, possibly, but probably not.

We too have a couple of patrons who do pretty big business when it comes to reserving lots and lots of books from home. Granted, we don't have a fancy system like the "liberry" in your area that can send emails and alerts. We barely have one that lets people reserve things on their computers at home and, unfortunately, we don't always remember to run the report to see what books have been paged so we can fetch them from the stacks. But when we do remember, and there are suddenly eight books on hold for a given patron, I can't say that we resent it much.

Frankly, I'd rather have patrons reserving those eight books from home than tying up the circ desk or (God help them) phoning us to reserve them. They always start rattling off titles to me at breakneck speed, as though our slow-ass computer is capable of allowing me to reserve them at that sort of pace, let alone my poor typing fingers. I have to stop them, write all the titles down on a piece of paper and do them one at a time later on. Otherwise there's lots of starting and stopping and repeating and, yes, resentment on my part. And if they're phoning from home, they always start with the rattling-off-of-titles and I have to interrupt them to ask for their library card number and they NEHeHeHEEVER have it handy, so they gotta go dig it out of the cat's ass, or wherever they keep it, to come back and start the whole thing over. Now that's maddening! So, to me, reserving things from home, quietly and without involving me so much is a very good and welcome thing indeed.

Our only real trouble with our major offen... uh, user of the home reserve system is that she reserves SO many books at once and then doesn't usually come pick them up in a timely fashion, needlessly clogging up the limited amount of space in our hold bin. The books stay there for five days, then get reshelved until they're checked out and returned by other patrons, starting the hold process over again, or until the patron who requested them finally comes in for them, days or weeks later. (Fortunately she never complains to us when all eight to ten books are not immediately available after she's let their hold time lapse and she's okay with finding them on her own.)

In our system, interlibrary loans have to be done through the library requesting them, rather than by patrons at home, so that's not much concern. Our major problem with ILL patrons is that some of them request the limit in books and then hound us for them, calling every couple of days to see if they've arrived yet, despite our assurances that it may take up to 10 days to receive them and oru promises to call them the moment the books come in. Then, once the books have arrived and we call them as promised, they let them sit in the ILL bin until nearly the due date a month later, then complain to us that they only get three days to read them all. Don't ever be that guy.

Otherwise, I think you're a good patron, I'd be happy to have you at our branch, and I doubt that your local liberrians think you're an ass. They're even probably happy for the circulation numbers you help generate. Way to go.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Paranoid Rick James Buys a New Card

Not seen much of Paranoid Rick James in a while. Yet, he appeared yesterday and asked if we had wireless capabilities. Ms. D told him that we did and he returned to his car to fetch a laptop, then returned to sign up. I didn't see where Rick went after that, but he wasn't seated at any of the tables in sight of the circ desk. And I didn't find him at any of our less observable tables, when I just happened to walk near them during the course of my "liberry" duties. Curious.

Even more curious, I later spied Rick's girlfriend, Gladys Knight, in the building, but was too busy riding herd over the desktop computer users to see where she went either. By the end of the workday, there was still no sign of Rick or Gladys and I began to wonder if they'd secreted themselves away in some out-of-sight nook of the building where they clearly weren't meant to be.

I asked Ms. D if she'd seen where he'd gone, but she hadn't. I then warned her that when Rick was about, there was always a high expectation of some shit being distributed, usually in our direction. So we searched the building down to the storage rooms and found no sign of Rick or Gladys.

Today Rick was back. He walked in, laptop at the ready and requested some time. I printed him out a login slip and told him how to use it (even though I knew he already had been told before).

"Yeah. It worked fine yesterday," he said. This time I saw him head for one of the back corner tables.

Later, while shelving in the area, only within sight of Rick through the gaps above the books in our back to back shelves, I noticed Rick look up suddenly at my approach.

"You, uh... You work here, right?" he asked. What was he, stupid? He'd just seen me behind the circ desk not 20 minutes before. I'd been the one who gave him his damn time printout.

"Yeah," I said.

"I... uh. I need a new library card," Rick said. "Is there a way I could get one?"

Inwardly I seethed. Paranoid Rick James bringing up the subject of library cards was a sure omen of an approaching shit storm. He is, after all, the same guy who used to refuse to check anything out on his own patron record AT ALL for years, then railed at us for being in league with homeland security and the devil for not only switching to a new library software system that required patrons to get new cards and have them present when checking items out, but also requiring a driver's license number and, *GASP*, a physical address before we would issue one to him. He's the same guy who then threw a big honking, screaming, shit fit about it, refused to apply for one, but then slunk back in a couple days later to apply for one anyway using an old license with an incorrect physical address, allowing him to skirt that part of the policy. This, of course, eventually brought down the anger of the "liberry" gods on his head and he was forced to pony up a real address. He's had several similar infractions since then, but has refrained from any more displays of ire.

"Sure," I said. "We do replacement cards, but we charge $1 for them."

Rick nodded amiably enough and I went about my business. I was determined, however, that if he was going to get a new card he was damn well going to show us a valid driver's license before we'd even look him up by name and it had damn well better match the information we have on file for him 100 percent.

About 20 minutes later, as I was moving to shelve some easy readers, I caught sight of Rick moving toward the circ desk. I'd planned to be there to help him myself, but suddenly switching gears to race back to do so when Mrs. B was already in place at the desk seemed like a hand-tipping move, so I continued on my way. As soon as I could, though, I crept back to the desk and tried to look busy rummaging in a drawer in order to witness the fecal hurricane that was sure to come.

Rick had, by then, already explained to Mrs. B what he needed. Before she could even ask for his license, though, he produced it for her. She looked at it, compared the information to that on the screen, replaced his barcode with a new one, collected his buck and sent him on his way. Mrs. C was standing nearby, I'm sure to be on hand for the storm as well.

"There's no way that license was valid," I said.

"Mm," Mrs. C said, noncommitally.

No, that exchange went way, way too easily. Granted, it's exactly the same process that would have happened for anyone with valid information, and there's always the off chance that his was. However, I somehow don't see Rick giving us anything as freely as he did unless he was scamming us. We've learned from experience that if transactions with Rick aren't like pulling teeth, he's up to something. Of course, maybe I'm the one who's being paranoid.

We grilled Mrs. B about the transaction, but she said everything matched up perfectly and there was nothing to call him on. I still doubt that Rick is actually living where his license and his account say he is, but we'll have no proof of it until he checks something out, keeps it too long and our overdue notice to him bounces back for a bad address.

Then again, I guess I could just Google his phone number.

Heh heh heh.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #103

ME— Can I help you?

WHISPERING FEMALE PATRON— (Nearly inaudible) I had some prints.

ME— I'm sorry?

WFP— (Even less audible) I had some prints.

ME— Prints?

WFP— (Nods)

(I go and fetch the prints.)

WFP— (Nearly inaudible) Do you have a stapler?

ME— (I cup my hand to my ear to indicate that despite the fact she is a mere two feet away from me, I cannot hear her) I'm sorry?

WFP— (Even less audible) Do you have a stapler?

(Pause)

ME— A stapler?

WFP— (Nods)

(I give her a stapler and she begins counting her prints and stapling them together. When she is done, she looks up at me.)

ME— How many were there?

WFP— (Completely inaudible)

ME— (Cup hand to ear, hoping yet again to indicate that I CANNOT HEAR HER!!!!!) I'm sorry?

WFP— Nineteen. (Pause) I'm sorry. I can't speak very loud right now.

Monday, November 26, 2007

"Liberry" Glossary: Ass-Shields

Ass-Shields
-noun (plural)

  1. Strips of toilet paper used to cover the seats of our public toilets, theoretically preventing the transfer of deadly, lingering ass-bacteria onto the asses of the patrons applying them. Ass-Shields ideally remain unseen by anyone but the Ass-Shield/Toilet Seat Applicant, because they are—again, ideally—flushed following use. There are, however, some patrons who refuse to touch the Ass-Shields after use, perhaps for fear of the deadly, lingering ass-bacteria that have soaked into the tissue fibers during the compressed direct contact with the toilet seat. The Ass-Shields of such patrons are then abandoned on the seat where they either fall partially into the toilet on the winds of air-conditioning and flatulence, or, more often than not, fall onto the floor where a staff member later has to deal with them, risking contamination by deadly, lingering ass-bacteria themselves. Patrons who abandon their Ass-Shields in this fashion are known as Ass-Holes.

Friday, November 23, 2007

More fun with signs

@ The Library has some spectacular signs, also long overdue.

A sign we desperately need.

To be placed directly above the urinal at eye-level.

NOTICE

Though we cannot fathom why this sign should be necessary, for the love of all that is good and holy in this world, and for the sake of the noses and eyes of our staff, please, PLEASE, PLEASE flush the damned urinal after you've used it. We the staff find it unacceptable that the urinal is full of bright yellow piss and a few pube floaters every time we come in for a scheduled inspection. It is a situation that must change and that change must start with you the patron.

Now, we understand that you may not wish to contaminate your hands with the penis-germs left by other urinal users who—in theory, at least—used their wang-hand to touch the flush-handle. This is indeed an unfortunate probability. To avoid contamination of your hands while flushing, we invite you to instead use an elbow, shoulder, foot, chin or, indeed, your own wang, to flush the urinal in lieu of digital manipulation. Alternately, one of the primary reasons God created toilet-paper was to act as a barrier between hands and mooky stinks. You will find a plentiful supply of said paper in the toilet stall directly next to you and are invited to use it for this purpose. (Please do us the courtesy of depositing your penis-germ-infected flush-barrier paper in either our waste-paper receptacle or in the toilet; not in the urinal. Depositing your paper in the urinal will only draw our ire and our wrath; for as unfortunate as it would be to contaminate your hands with penis germs, it would be even more unfortunate to have a stout metal book-end crammed up your ass by an irate gang of staff-members.)

When you've finished flushing, we invite you to wash your hands. Please note that it is not necessary to fling water everywhere during the process of washing your hands. It is perfectly possible and preferable that you simply soap them up, rub them soapily, rinse them and dry them without excess water flingage. Tutorials on how to accomplish this are available by appointment at the circulation desk.

In closing, flush the damned urinal, wash your damned hands, don't fling water everywhere doing it, keep the place clean and shut up.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

ohhhhhhhhhhhh...

...too much... food... to... blog.

can... barely... breathe.

only... meant... to get... a little more... food... on second... helping.

Failed...

... ate entire... brimming... second... plate.

cannot... stuff down... even one... more piece of... pumpkin pie.

must... lie... on... floor... and... digest...

...for three hours...

... before going back...

...for more.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Actual Telephone Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #102

*RING*

ME— Tri-Metro County Library.

MRS. CRAB (WIFE OF MR. CRAB, FORMER $200 ANNUAL DONOR AND THIRD GRUMPIEST OLD MAN IN ALL THE WORLD)— Yes, I'd like to see about renewing a book, please.

ME— Very well. Can I have your library card number?

MRS. CRAB— Oh. (Pause) Oh... (To husband elsewhere in the house) Do you have your library card number?

(Pause)

(Indecipherable grumbling)

(Pause)

MRS. CRAB— He's getting it, now. It's for the book (NAME OF BOOK) by (NAME OF AUTHOR) spelled (SPELLS NAME OF AUTHOR), if that helps.

(It does not. I wait in silence as I can do nothing with that information)

MRS. CRAB— Okay, I have it here. (Pause) Er... which number is it? There's this big long number and there's this other one he's written in.

ME— (Not sure what other number she could be referring to, as the only other number on the back of our library cards is our phone number.) Uh, I'm not sure. The library card number is the long one there below the bar code.

MRS. CRAB— Oh, okay.

(She reads me the number and I pull up Mr. Crab's record. Having no reason to have recognized Mrs. Crab's voice, I am delighted to see that the record belongs to Mr. Crab. I am warmed by this knowledge, as I know that Mr. Crab is now very annoyed at having to fish out and supply his number when he had hoped that having his wife phone in his renewal would relieve him of any hassles. I renew Mr. Crab's book, being careful not to accidentally hit RENEW WITH NO FINE, but instead RENEW WITH FINE, so he'll have a .15 cent charge to bitch about when he turns his book in. I hope I'm there to see it.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

"Liberry" Glossary: Basket Cases

Basket Cases
-noun (plural)

  1. Mentally unstable or otherwise crazy patrons.

  2. Patron parents, often with multiple children, who check out the full available limit in books on each of their children's cards, their own card and often on the linked cards of non-present family members. They do this in the mistaken belief that this will somehow keep their brood occupied reading for the longest possible amount of time, freeing they the parent from having to entertain or otherwise deal with them. The name for this patron type stems from their habit of hauling away the dozens of selections their children have made in a very large wicker basket or, alternately, a colorfully-painted washtub. This is actually all right with us, for we do like those circulation numbers. The only trouble is, that Basket Cases very often accomplish these mass-checkouts, which take upwards of five minutes for our staff to accomplish, on story hour day when the desk is overrun with OTHER basket case families doing exactly the same thing, creating a gigantic Basket Case clog. And because massive amounts of books are difficult to keep up with in the best of circumstances, Basket Cases are perpetually in hock to the "liberry" for overdue books. Often they insist that they returned said books and raise a stink about it and check our shelves to no avail, only to find them hidden at home, months later. Because of their perpetual indebtedness, Basket Cases, often insist on returning their books on Fridays, a day on which our branch traditionally does not charge fines. This would be perfectly acceptable to us, except that Basket Cases almost always insist on returning their hoards of books at approximately five minutes before closing time. And because it's never simply ONE Basket Case family that does this, the Friday closing staff member present (i.e. me) always has to spend an unnecessary amount of time shelving all those damn books after closing and is always late for his dinner.
(See also: Bag People)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Year Four in the Can

Today is the fourth anniversary of the beginning of this blog.

Wow. Four years of "liberry" goodness. Who'da thunk it? I figured I would have gotten bored with it long before now, but so far I've not.

Lemme just say, I couldn't have done it without my crazy patrons, so to them I say "Thanks." Their crazy antics and annoying ideosyncracies have given me ample material to cover and recover

Also, I probably wouldn't have kept this blog going without you the audience being there. You're not an enormous crowd by the usual "innanet" standards (meaning, I don't have the kind of numbers most folks would be interested in advertising to) but from the stats I've seen you're a very faithful and regular bunch--and ever-increasing! The numbers have steadily climbed as the years have gone by, which warms me greatly. Even the wife has come around to viewing it as not a complete waste of time, particularly since so many of her coworkers are now fans of it because she can't keep her mouth shut about it no matter how many times I keep telling her this is supposed to be strictly on the Q.T! (But, I'm glad to have them too!)

Suffice it to write, I'm quite happy everyone is here and I hope to keep you on a bit further.

Which brings me to my next point...

Even after four years of this, I'm not yet ready to give up. I've learned a great deal about the blogging game along the way and feel like I've got this machine firmly within my control. There are still implications and secrets yet to be revealed and I'm certain I can keep chunking up quality posts for a while yet... oh, let's say at least the next seven months, or so.

At least.

Could be longer.

We'll all have to wait and see.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Visit from the Fambly

There's this good friend friend of mine whom I've known since 8th grade. Let's call him "Matthew." Now, I don't know for sure what "Matthew" eats today, but after moving out on his own during college he traditionally avoided raw vegetables like they were made of poison.

I've had several occasions to share a meal with "Matthew" since then, usually in such fine dining establishments as, say, a Ryan's buffet. When at such buffets, my first course of the evening is always to visit the never-ending salad bar for a good sized plate of greenery to help off-set all the brown food I'm about to eat. For "Matthew," however, salad doesn't even factor into his world. It's not that salad was considered and decided against in favor of tastier fried grub; no. Instead, salad as a concept was never on "Matthew's" radar to begin with. And upon sitting down with our first courses before us, "Matthew" has always given my choice of greenery a most bewildered look. It's an expression that clearly states: "Dude, we're adults now and our parents aren't here. We don't have to eat that shit anymore." Nevermind the fact that I always finished my salad and then put away twice as much fried crap as "Matthew" (and nevermind the fact that with every trip to the bar we both were secretly stuffing packets of crackers into our pockets so we could have a big, juvenile cracker-crumb-spitting fight in the parking lot afterward, returning ever-so-briefly to those blessed post-cafeteria, 8th grade, big cracker-crumb-spitting fights of yore), he was still offended that I would even eat lettuce at all.

Some folks are like that with libraries. (Actually, "Matthew" is like that with libraries, but that's cause he's dyslexic and hates reading, hence why I feel completely safe talking about him here.)

For some folks, the very concept of a library has never once popped up on their radar and if they enter one at all it's due to one of three reasons: A) because they have mistaken it for the water department (which probably only happens around here, since the water department is indeed next door), B) there's something we have that they need, and for free; or C) because THEY sent these folks to our door.

These library neophytes are easy to spot too. There's just a certain air about them of "liberry" inexperience that permeates their being—their very body language—and causes them to stand out in a bad way, kind of like Tag body spray.

A whole fambly of such anomalies visited the "liberry" a couple weeks back, determined to use them a compooter. Actually, only two of the anomalies, the grandmother and the older brother, wanted to use them a compooter, which they had been told (perhaps even by THEY) they could use to apply online for a job with a local chain grocery store. The other two fambly members, a 10 year old younger brother and his adult mentally-handicapped cousin, were left to wander the building.

I observed them for a while, much as a primatologist might observe the behavior of a couple of orangutans in laboratory conditions. They seemed wildly out of place, yet still fascinated by the sheer volume of books we had on display. After exploring for a while, the little brother came up to the circ desk.

"Um... do you have books on dinosaurs?" he asked.

"Oh, do we have books on dinosaurs," I said, grinning. "Let me show you where they are." I lead him to the expansive 567s, which he seemed quite impressed by. He immediately set about pulling books out, giving them a gander and then woefully misshelving them. I left him to it. After about five minutes, during which I had to help grandma and older brother with their job application website, which was admittedly a little wonky itself, little brother came back to the desk.

"Um... How much do these books cost?" he asked.

I told him they were free to borrow, but he would need a library card.

"How much does a library card cost?" he asked.

It too, I noted, was free.

The kid's face lit up and he quickly dashed to his grandmother, card application in hand to see if she would let him have one. She filled it out and sent him back and, after confirming with our computer that he didn't already have one, I soon had a shiny new card to pass to him.

Off he went to find more books, but was soon back at the desk.

"Do you have books about pirates?"

Actually, pirate books were a bit thin on the ground, outside of fiction, so I showed him some age-appropriate storybooks featuring pirates. He'd barely touched them when he decided he'd rather have books on dragons. They too were kind of scarce outside of fiction, and most of the fictional books were aimed at either far smaller children or far older adults. I was trying to find a happy medium when the mentally-handicapped cousin interrupted to ask for books on outer space and telescopes. Easier to find, I took him to them, then had to turn back to the dragons cause the kid was getting insistent. I found him the Deltora Quest series, which I thought might not have as many pictures as he would like, but he didn't seem to care and took most what we had of the series. He checked them out, along with a dinosaur book or two, but soon returned to trade out books for other books he wanted more. Before I knew it, the kid and the cousin were running me ragged throughout the building in search of books on wildly different subjects. Their glee at each discovery was so strong, though, that I could hardly be offended by it.

"Do you have zombie books?" the kid eventually asked. He then gestured back toward the computers. "They're for my brother."

The brother looked to be at least 16, so I fetched World War Z and told the kid it was probably the best (and possibly the only, unless you count I Am Legend) zombie book we had on hand. Brother and grandmother eventually finished up their work application and then, at the kid's insistence, the older brother came to get a card to check out his zombie goodness. No sooner had I made the card, though, then the two siblings began a vicious argument as to which of them would get to actually check the book out. The little brother, perhaps out of some sense of gift-giving or courtesy, wanted to check it out on his card while the older brother rightfully wanted it on his own. I broke it up by saying that it was the older brother's book so it was going on the older brother's card, and they both seemed fine with that.

I was a little dubious as to whether we'd get any of our books back, as "liberry" neophytes are so often oblivious to such requirements. However, the cousin has since returned his books and as of today I spied World War Z back on the shelf.

Maybe I've turned them to the other team.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

And the cycle starts anew

Among the books that arrived with this week's B&T shipment was a brand new copy of Dave Pelzer's A Child Called It.

Now, I've not read the book and I've no intention of reading the book. However, looking upon our shiny new copy of it, I realized that this is probably the eighth or ninth copy of that particular book that we've purchased in the past six years.

"Wonder how long this one will last?" I asked Mrs. B, holding up the book for her to see. She took one look and shook her head, knowing well what I meant. Our rookie "liberry" ass., Ms. D, on the other hand, looked on confused.

I explained to Ms. D that of all the books in our library, A Child Called It truly deserves an award for being one of the most-circulated and certainly one of the most-stolen library books of the past twenty years. We cannot keep a copy of it on the shelf for more than a few months at at time before it's gone again.

I used to wonder why a nonfiction book about an abused child would be in such demand and so often criminally overdue. Is it such a good book that people become emotionally attached to it and cannot let it go? Eh, I've seen that happen before but it's not so likely. There are some possible explanations.

The first one that comes to mind is that people are just assholes.

A second, more charitable explanation stems from the fact that I'm pretty sure there's a teacher at the local community college who regularly assigns it as reading for class. My theory on this is as follows: students check it out, read it, maybe take too long reading it, try to renew it, find that they can't renew it because eight of their fellow classmates now have it on hold, discover that it's now overdue, decide they don't want to pay the fine and prefer to wait for some sort of amnesty day (nevermind the fact that we have one weekly), fail to return it and continue holding onto it until they forget they ever had it. Because they're students, their mailing addresses are apt to change, particularly if they transfer to a four year college, leaving their parents to receive all the overdue notices we send out. The parents don't want to deal with it and decide to teach their kid a real-world life lesson by letting them face the consequences, but since we rarely hunt people down with pointed sticks over library books (unlike Mr. Rob, the community college librarian, who has been known to go to people's houses to retrieve books) this amounts to little. And so we order a new copy and the cycle starts anew.

A third, more charitable explanation, is that there are certain people in this world who just don't fathom how libraries are supposed to work. I reason this from the number of people who request A Child Called It who then have to be issued library cards before they can check it out. (If they were all community college students, they would already have library cards, as cards are manditorily issued as part of student enrollment.) These library neophytes, as I think any library professional can atest, are rarely seen in libraries unless there's an outside reason that brings them in. Once there, they might try to play along with our quaint "rules" and "policies" but their hearts really aren't in it.

I think all three explanations are probably true, but the third theory does bring to mind a recent visit by a family of "liberry" neophytes that amused me greatly...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"Liberry" Glossary: Patron Squeezings

Patron Squeezings
-noun (plural)

  1. The prints and smears left atop our computer desks following the departure of the majority of our "innanet" crowd patrons. A greasier bunch of human beings would be difficult to imagine. We should have bought stock in surface cleaning/disinfectant spray. Either that or we should start enacting prison-style washdowns in the foyer.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Mother-In-Law's Love

Recently, the wife asked me to read an email her mother had sent. The email content itself is of no bearing to this story, except for a post script which read something to the effect that she, my wife, was to take my photograph when I opened a package that was soon to arrive for me.

"I have a package coming?" I asked.

"You weren't supposed to read that part," the wife said.

I started to argue the merits of asking me to read an email message without warning me in advance of the bits of it I wasn't supposed to read, but decided that as I still didn't know the contents of the package, no harm had been done.

And so it came to pass that in two days time a large box arrived addressed to us. Unfortunately, the wife was on call at the hospital that night, so I decided against opening it for fear of retribution for lost snapshot opportunities. When she returned the following day, however, I alerted her to its arrival and of my good behavior in not peeking at its contents. The wife told me that I was going to freak out with happiness when I saw what it was. And I knew she spoke the truth, for surprises from Ma designed to freak me out in a happy way always do. After all, my mother-in-law is the very lady who knitted me an eighteen foot long Tom Baker Doctor Who scarf a few Christmases ago, an act which caused me to leap about the room, giggling and clapping my Chex-mix stained hands together in glee, possessed firmly by my inner fourth-grader. Shortly thereafter, I was heard to to utter the phrase, "Hell yes, I'm gonna sleep with it!" when asked if I was planning to do so. And sleep with it I did.

The wife was practically giggling herself when she turned on the camera and prepared to record the moment of freakage she was sure was about to occur. Carefully I cut the tape holding the box flaps down, taking my time with it to prolong the moment. (I get so few positive freak-out moments in life, so it's best to savor them when they do come my way.) I then sliced the tape down the center of the box, slowly opened the cardboard flaps and peered into its depths.

My first glimpse of the contents was of an emergency roadside tool kit, the very kind I've been meaning to purchase for several years now. It was not, however, a freak-out worthy present. A bit to the left, I next spied a pair of lounge pants printed with the characters of South Park. Again, a fine present, but I was not freaking out.

Then I saw it.

Tardis Cookie JarPartially submerged in the sea of pink packing peanuts within was the object at right, a Doctor Who TARDIS cookie jar.

I completely and happilly freaked the hell out!

I cannot show you the images the wife took of my freak-out, for they are even more embarassing than my admission of sleeping in my scarf. Suffice it to say, I have yet to pass through my kitchen without reaching over and pressing the blue light atop the TARDIS's lid, which is the hidden switch that causes the beacon light to come to life while the sound effects of the craft dematerializing play for several seconds. It's truly one of the most satisfying kitchen-items I own.

Three Tardises and a Tin DogAt the moment, my TARDIS cookie jar is sadly filled with Kashi snack bars instead of unhealthy cookies, but I plan to rectify that as soon as the wife can be persuaded to bake up a batch of oatmeal rasin.

And, no, I haven't slept with it yet, but the week is young.

(At right, a TARDIS triad and a tin dog.)

Friday, November 09, 2007

Actual Telephone Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #101

*RING*

ME— Tri-Metro County Library.

PATRON— Do you have Barbara Delinsky's new book in… Faucets?

ME— (Looks up Facets) No, I'm sorry, it's not in.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Stankrony

A hiker/drifter came through, smelling strongly, though not overpoweringly, of sweat and unwashed funk. He was very polite, asked to use a computer and I logged him on.

After 20 minutes, or so, I discovered that while the hiker's odor wasn't terribly offensive, it did tend to lurk in unexpected places and was not limited to his proximity. Depending on the drafts of our air-conditioning system, I might stumble into a patch of it in the juvenile shelves, or even across the building in nonfiction, places where I knew he had not been.

After the hiker had stayed at his computer for nearly an hour, the Sweatiest Woman in all the Land arrived and signed up for a system herself. I had loads of other terminals I could have put her at, but I thought both ironic and karmicly satisfying to stick her directly next to the hiker.

Neither seemed to notice.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Policy Adjustments of the Needed Kind

At our staff meeting last week, one of the topics we covered was the use of cell phones in the "liberry." Until recently, cells were mostly just an occasional annoyance. However, our additional computer terminals brought additional opportunities for more cell phone usage and abusage. I don't think we've actually had any actual complaints from patrons about cell phones, but there have been several recent incidents of loud cell talking and loud ringtone blaring at the computers, so Mrs. A decided it was high time to put our collective foot down. Cell phones are now to be restricted to the enclosed foyer, the out of doors or, perhaps, the restrooms.

The other major matter we discussed was that of children using the internet without parental supervision or parental permission slips on file. At our branch, kids between the age of 13 and 18 cannot use the internet alone without a parental permission slip on file. If they have no slip or are younger than 13, they have to have a parent sitting with them as they use the internet. These policies have been on the books for a while, but a number of brats have been slipping through because certain staff members have an inability to estimate age visually. (And though I am hardly the only one, I have to include myself among the Certain Staff Member ranks, as I've been guilty of misjudging age myself. For instance, I recently let a 17 year old guy have a computer, having assumed he was in his mid 20s because he was at least 6'5", built like a linebacker and had a neck tattoo. On the flip side of the coin, I once tried to card a 24-year-old woman because she was about 4'5" tall and looked exactly like a 12-year-old, male cast member from Newsies.)

Mrs. A informed us that we were to start cracking down again. No longer would we allow kids on sans slip or sans parent.

Last night, we had both policies tested when a high school aged girl came in and signed up for a computer.

"How old are you?" I asked.

"Sixteen."

"Do you have a permission slip on file?"

"No, but my mom's on the way in," she said.

We waited for Mom to turn up, but four minutes crawled by with no sign of her. The girl huffed and rolled her eyes and stared through the front door in the direction of the parking lot. Finally, fed up, she went outside to fetch her mom. A minute later she returned, dragging in her mother, who was talking on a cell phone. The mother, still on the phone, gave me the international sign language for "I'm just going to sign her in and then I'll take my call outside while she uses the computer."

"Ma'am, I'm sorry, but without a permission slip on file, you'll need to sit with her while she uses the computer."

The mother looked agitated, then said, "Hold on," into the phone, before turning back to me. "I'm just going to be right outside. We do this every day," she said.

Uh, no, they don't do this every day. I'm there every day and I think I would know.

"Ma'am, I'm sorry, but we just had a staff meeting about this and we have to follow the policy. Kids either have to have permission slips on file or they have to have a parent with them when they use the internet."

The mom rolled her eyes, in much the same way her daughter had before. This annoyed me greatly, so I added, "Also, I have to tell you that we can't have the cell phone in here, either. You're welcome to use it in the foyer or outside, but you can't use it in here."

The mom looked at her daughter then looked back outside where she had been talking before, then back at daughter.

"Just! Hang! Up!" the daughter said.

"I can't," Mom said. "I have to take this call."

The daughter then emitted an impressively executed teenage-girl-grunt as mom continued to look indecisive.

Oh, the dilemma! Do you continue with your no doubt lengthy phone call, pissing off your already moody teenage daughter even further, insuring a spite-filled evening, or do you end your call to go be shackled to this surly creature as she does her MySpacing or "school research" or whatever she's supposed to be doing?

Since the mom was clearly not doing the math herself, I used my "liberry" ninja skills to deftly snatch a permission slip form from the front pocket of our permission slip binder, held it up and said, "You know, if you sign one of these we're all good."

Mom's eyes lit up at the ingeniousness of my offered solution. She held out her hand for the form even as the daughter dashed away to her computer.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Actual Conversations I SWEAR TO GOD Happened in Actual Libraries #100

SETTING: My "liberry" as our semi-illiterate patron Mr. Little Stupid approaches the circ desk, paper and pencil in hand.

MR. LITTLE STUPID— How do you spell Mickey Mouse?

ME— (Barely able to contain my mirth due to the singing voice of Annette Funicello ringing in my head) Um... that's M-I-C... K-E-Y... okay, and then below that, M-O-U-S-E.

MR. LITTLE STUPID— Thanks.

ME— No problem.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Self-Busting Avoidance Theatre

Salchaket graves We have three Memorex 2 gig jump drives in our household. (We can only ever find two of them, however, while the third is usually taking a ride in the washing machine's spin-cycle.) They're pretty much identical, except for one the wife has carved the letter "A" into. I managed to grab that one rather than my own before heading to work. Turned out the one I'd grabbed was the one we stored our Alaska pictures on for use with our digital picture frame. So I stuck them into an Alaska Pix directory on my computer at work and set the screensaver to scroll through them.

"What is THAT?" Newbie Ms. D asked upon spying the above picture.

"Oh, that's a Sa1chaket Indian grave," I said.

Ms. D said she'd never heard of the Sa1chaket Indians before, so I told her that they're pretty much gone these days but for one lady who still lives in the Sa1cha region of Alaska. Ms. D continued to express curiosity and wondered if there was anything online about them. I knew there was, because one of my readers here had steered me in the right direction when I'd had trouble finding info online back in May. Turns out I'd spelled Sa1chaket as "Sa1chacket" and that's why I couldn't find them.

With Ms. D at my heels, I decided to show off this knowledge and headed for the circ computer to Google it up. I brought up Google and typed "Sa1chacket" into the search blank. Just before I was about to hit enter, though, I noticed that my brain was screaming. It took a moment to understand it, but once it had calmed down enough to form sentences, it told me that if I did hit enter, one of the sites that was going to pop up in the list would be this one.

I hovered there for a moment, certain that I was about to bring a busting down on my own head. Instead of hitting enter, I backspaced over what I'd typed and instead searched for "Native Alaskan Tribes." That didn't help toward finding any Sa1chaket information, but it stalled long enough for Mrs. C to pop over and ask to borrow Ms. D for a project.

Once Ms. D was gone, I went ahead and did my search for "Sa1chacket." Sure enough, my entry was right there at number 2 in the list. Right above the search term, though, was the phrase "Did you mean Sa1chaket?" with a link to the correct spelling. Since I'd never managed to spell it right here, none of my pages stuff were in that search. I bookmarked that site and made sure to show Ms. D later, hoping this would satisfy her curiosity, preventing her from going off on her own searches and misspellings.

So far so good.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Actual Fantasy Telephone Conversations Not Actually Heard in My House #99

*RING*

ME— Hello?

(Silence)

ME— Hello?

(*SILENCE*)
(*CLICK*)

MICHAEL— Hello?

(*SILENCE*)

ME— Helloooo?

MICHAEL— Hello. Mr. Aaron?

ME— Yes?

MICHAEL— Hi, my name is Michael and I work for the State Troopers' Association. As you may know, our fall fund drive is approaching and it’s very important that we…

ME— (Rudely interrupting) Here’s where I have to stop you, Michael. See, I’ve already had this conversation with about four of you guys in the past four months and I can already tell you exactly how this is going to go down.

MICHAEL— Sir, I…

ME— No, no. Let me finish, Michael. Cause I’m pretty good at this. See, Michael, had I allowed this call to continue, uninterrupted, what would have happened is as follows: You would have continued speaking, going into a long-winded spiel about how the Troopers' Association needs money and is in the process of gearing up for their annual fund drive and were hoping to find people willing to donate funds to that drive. However, Michael, you would have delivered this appeal in such a rapid-fire burst of speech that I would not have been able to get a word in edgewise without rudely interrupting you. In order not to seem rude, I would then have allowed you blow on for nearly a minute until you came to the end of the massive paragraph printed on the card in front of you. At that point, you would have issued an inquiry such as, “Can we count on you for $50?” or “How much can we count on you for?” You might even use a bold statement such as “I can put you down for $50.” Whichever you used, the goal of your endgame, as we both know, would be to get me to part with as much money as possible, with continued negotiations downward should I not wish to give the full $50. At this point, Michael, you would have at last paused to allow me to speak, an opportunity I would then take in order to make the point I would have preferred to have made far earlier; which is this: beyond the repeated annoying phone calls, I have nothing against the Troopers' Association, nor many of the other organizations who call seeking my money; I do, however, have a hard and fast rule in my household, which is that I accept absolutely no telephone solicitation of any kind. The only exception to this rule is if that solicitation is coming directly from representatives of my telephone company, my long-distance service or a competing long-distance service, and these are only entertained if those companies are actively looking to save me money over my present services. Even then, it’s really really dicey and, to date, not one of them has succeeded.

MICHAEL— Sir, I can assure you that I'm not soli…

ME— At that point in our hypothetical conversation, Michael, you would have rudely interrupted me to assure me that you were not actually soliciting money over the telephone at all, and what you had only intended to do was to offer to send me material in the mail which I might look over and then make a donation of an amount of my choosing, say $50. You would then have further assured me, as your brethren have many times before, that this was in no way telephone solicitation. I would then have been forced to read to you the definition of solicitation out of my handy American Heritage Dictionary; which is, Michael: 1) To seek to obtain by persuasion, entreaty, or formal application; or 2) To petition persistently. Both of these would have fit our particular conversation like chipped beef gravy on a biscuit.

MICHAEL— But, sir, I...

ME— And it is at that point in our conversation, Michael, that you would either have attempted a second dash against the defensive barriers of the definition of solicitation, or—more likely—hung up the phone without another word, or—even more likely—hung up the phone while uttering the word “asshole” slightly over your breath.

(Pause)

ME— So, Michael... Why don't we save ourselves some time, here, and you can just go ahead and pick one of those options now.

MICHAEL— (*CLICK*)

ME— Click indeed, Michael. Click, indeed.