Wednesday, December 12, 2007

When Bad Patrons Go Good: Take 1 (Tales of the "Good" Patrons Week: Day 3)

I've complained before about our annoying patron called Ms. Green. I should stress, though, that Ms. Green is not a Rogue, per se. She's never seemed to be a bad human being by our estimation. She's never qualified as mean, nasty or antagonizing to any degree. However, she has certainly proven difficult to deal with due to her ability to drive the staff to the edge of madness as we attempt very simple, standard "liberry" transactions with her only to have her question us at every turn. It's not that she doesn't trust what we're telling her, it's that she just doesn't seem to understand it. She's not dumb at all, but just doesn't quite "get" a lot of things that we take for granted as being pretty obvious.

In recent months, however, Ms. Green and I have come to a bit of an understanding. I came to understand that the major sources of friction between us are that her personality type and mine aren't the most compatible (she being a brassy, outgoing, semi-oblivious and often prone to distraction Yankee; and me, not so much) and that her perspective as a patron and mine as a "liberry" ass. don't always intersect. I also came to understand that Ms. Green has never seemed to hold a grudge about the times I've become annoyed with her or, more importantly, the times I've allowed it to show. In fact, while I may have been oblivious to it for a long while, Ms. Green has always been very nice and friendly to me, regardless of my behavior. Once I was able to wrap my head around this, my problems with her just sort of melted away and I suddenly found myself being friendly and nice back.

The last several time Ms. Green has been in for a visit, we've actually chatted for goodly stretches of time. And not chatted in that "I'm making small talk with a patron because it's polite and they won't go away" sort of chatted, but more of a genuine, unforced, friendly exchange. I tell you, I'm as shocked as anyone.

Oh, sure, Ms. Green still has idiosyncrasies that can be annoying, but given my shift in perspective, I just don't take much offense at them and pretty much roll right along. And Ms. Green, for her part, has actively taken to being less annoying by doing things like taking her cell phone calls outside and not allowing her phone to blare on for ages. It's freaky.

A further example of how helpful she has become came last night. Ms. Green was in with her kids, they browsed, we chatted, they browsed some more and toward closing time Ms. Green asked if we could make a couple of photocopies for her. Sure thing. Only she wound up not having the 50 cents in her pocket to pay for them then and there and asked if she could pay us tomorrow. Annoying? Eh, sure, but she's made this request before and I knew she was good for it. We let folks slide on paying like this all the time and they almost always pay us back.

Closing time arrived, Ms. Green and her kids checked out and left. While I was waiting for a few last minute computer stragglers, I went ahead and unlocked the book return and locked the front doors. Soon the computer users had finally left, though not before one of them had gone into my perfectly cleaned restroom, pissed up the urinal and didn't flush. I had discovered this act of bad-patronage, remedied it and was just leaving the restroom when I spied Ms. Green standing again at the circ desk. That didn't make sense, though, because I'd just locked the front door.

"Oh, here's the 50 cents I owed you," she said, placing it on the counter.

"How did you just..." I started.

"How did I what?" she began. Then light dawned in her eyes. "Oh. You thought you'd locked the front door, didn't you?"

"Yeah," I said. "Wow. It's a good thing you came back."

Sure enough, I'd managed to lock one of the doors but must have turned the key the wrong way in the other. That could have ended very badly for us, because despite all the signs declaring our hours, and despite the absence of interior lights, nearly every patron who approaches that door when we are indeed closed has to try both handles and yank on them for a while before the message finally sinks in.

Whew! Several strikes in the positive column for Ms. Green. I may have to move her to the Sundry Others column, or maybe add a "Good" Patrons column, just to make it up to her.

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An employee of a small town "liberry" chronicles his quest to remain sane while dealing with patrons who could star in a short-lived David Lynch television series.