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.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Honest to a Fault

A girl of about 12 or 13 (I never have any idea how old these kids are) approached the desk and asked if she could use a computer. As she was clearly alone, I asked her if she had a parental permission slip on file to use a computer. She said she didn't, but that it was completely cool with her mom if she used one, because she used one at home all the time and there was no problem.

"I'm sorry, we have to have an actual parental permission slip on file for you before we can let you use the computers alone," I said. She looked bummed out, but not angry and went away.

Ten minutes later, she was back. What if she could call her mom's best friend, huh? Her mom's best friend was like a second mom to her and she was over at her house all the time and her mom's best friend would let her use the computer. Could we call her mom's best friend so her mom's best friend could tell us that?

"No," I said. "My boss is very serious about this and we have to have the actual form signed by your actual mom on file, or your actual mom has to be with you, before you can use the computer."

Again, she was bummed, but not bitter.

Ten minutes later, she came back. Could she at least use the kiddie computer?

"Sure thing," I said. "It doesn't have internet access, but you can use it."

She seemed very bummed about this, as I expect she was hoping this was some sort of a back door way to use the `net that we hadn't thought of. I logged her onto it and she puttered away at whatever kiddie games we had on there.

After an hour or so, girl's mom turned up. When it came time to check out the girl didn't have her library card, so I offered to make one for mom instead. While we were filling out the paperwork, I ninja-slid a permission slip across the desk and asked the mom if she wanted to fill one of those out, as her daughter seemed pretty keen to use the `net. Mom said her daughter had mentioned not being able to, so she went ahead and filled out the permission form too.

Now, here's where I screwed up. I let her fill the form out, but I didn't do the math on her age and see that she was still only 12. According to our rules, you have to be between 13 and 18 to use a computer on your own with a permission slip. Fortunately, other members of our staff aren't as lax in their duties as I am. When the girl came back a week later, she asked to use a computer and, like a good employee, former greenhorn Ms. M asked her point blank how old she was. Being an honest child, the girl said "twelve." I didn't hear any of that, though. From my desk in the staff workroom, all I heard was what came next, which was the empassioned pleading from the girl to Ms. M to PLEEEEASE let her use a computer anyway.

I looked out from the workroom and caught the girl's eye, recognized her and decided to go point out to this obviously stupid child that she had a permission slip on file already and was free to stop whining.

"She's not 13 yet," Ms. M explained.

"Ahhhhhhh," I said, realizing my error. "Sorry, can't have one. You're not 13, yet," I then told the girl.

"But I'll be 13 really really soon!" the girl whined.

"When?" I asked, figuring that if it was later in the month or something then, eh, whatever.

"July."

"Uh, no."

Super bummed once again, the girl asked if she could at least sign up for the kiddie computer.

Ten minutes later she was back, I thought for another volley at our defenses, but instead she came up holding a DVD.

"I saw that the kids computer says it can play DVDs. Would it be okay if I watched one?"

I'd never realized the kiddie computer was capable of this. And while I should have been more offended that we have thousands of books she could otherwise be reading, I told her to knock herself out. Happily she watched Joe Somebody until mom came to get her.

I am afraid, however, that we've taught her a lesson in honesty getting you nowhere that will surely come back to bite someone in the future. If not us, then her mom.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Actual Non-Fantasy Telephone Conversations Actually Heard at My House #109

(This, by the way, is a direct sequel to Actual Fantasy Telephone Conversations Not Actually Heard in My House #99 except this time it really was heard in my house.)

*RING*

ME— Hello?

(Silence)

ME— Hello?

(*SILENCE*)
(*CLICK*)

JOHN— Hello. Mr. Aaron?

ME— Yes?

JOHN— Hi, my name is John and I work for the State Troopers' Association. As you may know, our Winter fund drive…

ME— I'm sorry, but we don't accept telephone solicitation of...


(*CLICK!!!!!*)

ME— (I am momentarily stunned) Woooooow!

THE WIFE— What?

ME— Woooooooooooow!

THE WIFE— What?!

ME— That guy hung the f--k up on me.

THE WIFE— ???

ME— That was the state troopers again. He just hung up on me. Mid-sentence. He didn't even try to do the usual spiel. Just hung up.

THE WIFE— (Not getting it) Yeah?

ME— Well... (Pause) That's even more insulting than if he kept trying to do the spiel.

THE WIFE— (Shakes her head and walks away)

Actual Non-Fantasy Telephone Conversations Actually Heard at My House #109

(This, by the way, is a direct sequel to Actual Fantasy Telephone Conversations Not Actually Heard in My House #99 except this time it really was heard in my house.)

*RING*

ME— Hello?

(Silence)

ME— Hello?

(*SILENCE*)
(*CLICK*)

JOHN— Hello. Mr. Aaron?

ME— Yes?

JOHN— Hi, my name is John and I work for the State Troopers' Association. As you may know, our Winter fund drive…

ME— I'm sorry, but we don't accept telephone solicitation of...


(*CLICK!!!!!*)

ME— (I am momentarily stunned) Woooooow!

THE WIFE— What?

ME— Woooooooooooow!

THE WIFE— What?!

ME— That guy hung the f--k up on me.

THE WIFE— ???

ME— That was the state troopers again. He just hung up on me. Mid-sentence. He didn't even try to do the usual spiel. Just hung up.

THE WIFE— (Not getting it) Yeah?

ME— Well... (Pause) That's even more insulting than if he kept trying to do the spiel.

THE WIFE— (Shakes her head and walks away)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Cross Words

Being a normal Monday, we were deluged with patrons as soon as the doors opened, yesterday. In under two minutes, the innanet crowders, who had been lined up outside the doors impatiently waiting for us to open, had signed up for all of the innanet stations. As frustrating as it was for the four other innanet crowders who arrived at minute three, having all the stations full is kind of freeing for those of us on staff. We get to smile and say, "I'm sorry. It's going to be at least an hour before you can have a computer, unless someone gives up and leaves." At that point the later-comers usually look sad and depart. Sometimes, not.

Mr. B-Natural, for instance, elected to hang around and wait. He lurked on the fringes of the computer area, watching them like a bald vulture for any sign of someone departing. (And, yes, I realize vultures typically are bald already, but this would be an extra-bald vulture in Mr. B-Natural's case. Or, perhaps, an extra bald vulture who once spent several hundred dollars on a bright silver toupee which he wore for all of a week before sending back.) At one point, I was helping an innanet crowder with a computer issue that required me to reboot their computer. As soon as I started the reboot, Mr. B-Natural came rushing over to sit down at it.

"Can I help you?" I asked as he waited for me to get out of his way.

"Yeah. You were signing on that computer for me," he said.

"No. I wasn't," I said, icily. "Someone is still using this."

"Oh."

A little bit later, I spied Mr. B-Natural walking with the local newspaper in one hand, pen in the other.

Surely, oh surely, I thought, he wasn't carrying OUR copy of the local newspaper and surely, oh surely, he wasn't planning on doing the crossword in pen in the actual paper itself. No, surely not. Not after the hell he raised last week over someone taking the puzzle from the Wa11street Journal ahead of him. No, I must be mistaken, I thought. Mr. B-Natural MUST have brought in his own copy of the paper. It would be unthinkable otherwise.

Mr. B-Natural eventually did get a computer, used it for all of ten minutes and left. Shortly after this, I found our copy of the newspaper had been returned to the desk, crossword puzzle completely filled out. In pen.

Sonofa-B!

I wrote a note on the staff notepad to the effect that Mr. B-Hypocrite had done the puzzle in our paper. I figured Mrs. A would dish out some hell of her own.

Toward the end of the day, Mr. B-Natural returned to use the computer again. This time I was unable to keep my mouth shut.

"Hey, what's the deal with doing the crossword puzzle in our paper?" I said. "You were just complaining about other people doing that last week."

A look of joyous guilt passed over Mr. B-Natural's face. I saw in that expression the Rogueish Mr. B-Natural of old who used to take great pleasure in signing his name upside down on the sign in sheet and trying to sneak his coffee back to the computers for no other reason than to piss us off.

"No, last week I complained about somebody taking that whole section of the paper," he corrected. "Besides, who else you know around here even does the puzzle?"

As much as I hated to admit it, I had to give him that one. Mr. B-Natural is indeed the only person I've known in years who's even looked at a crossword puzzle.

This whole episode, however, reminds me of a famous quote originally spoken by Groucho Marx, but more famously reused by another character with the initial B.

"Of course, you realize this means war."
-- B. Bunny

Monday, January 28, 2008

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #108

SETTING: My "liberry" as Mr. Crab, third grumpiest old man in all the world and former $200 annual donor approaches the desk with a book.

MR. CRAB— Is the Wa11street Journa1 here? I was just over in the newspapers and didn't see it. Did it come in?

ME— Let me check. (I turn to Mrs. C and Mrs. A, who are just inside the staff workroom) Have you seen today's Wa11street Journa1?

MRS. C— It didn't come in.

ME— (To Mr. Crab, expecting him to be angry, as he usually is when the Journal does not arrive) Looks like it didn't come in today.

MR. CRAB— (Pauses for a moment, then smiles) I guess these things happen. (He slides his book to me then opens his wallet and begins digging through the various pockets in search of his library card. As per usual, it's not to be found.)

MR. CRAB— It’s in here somewhere…

(Mr. Crab continues to dig, while I very conspiciously start to read the local newspaper as I wait. Thirty seconds elapse and I've seen everything of interest in the paper, so I turn to the stack of area guides that have just been delivered. Mr. Crab continues to search. )

MR. CRAB— (After nearly a minute's worth of searching, he adopts his usual tone of pissy resignation.) I guess I’ll just have to do without.

(I give him no quarter and don't even glance up from my paper. My facial expression is pleasant, my posture aimed casually away from him, conveying, I hope, that I know how this is going to play out and am just along for the ride. I am not angry nor will I allow myself to appear angry, because that's exactly what he wants. And despite what he's just said, Mr. Crab continues searching through his wallet. After another thirty seconds or so, Mr. Crab closes his wallet, picks up his book and walks around to the very front of the desk so that he is facing in the direction in which I've turned myself and therefore cannot be ignored. He puts his book down on the desk again.)

MR. CRAB— No way to authenticate me?

(Here we go.)

ME— I’m sorry?

MR. CRAB—Is there no way to authenticate me without my card?

(How many times do we need to have this conversation?)

ME— No. We need the library card. (Pause) I can hold that for you here, if you like.

MR. CRAB— What?

ME— (I point to his book) I said, `I can hold that for you here. If you like. '

MR. CRAB— No. I can put it back on the shelf myself. (Starts to walk away, then turns back and mumbles something.)

ME— I'm sorry?

MR. CRAB— (Speaks up) I guess I’ll just deduct $10 off my contribution.

(This is hardly a surprising threat from him, but it does make me want to ask, "Wait... is this $10 off the $200 contribution you already told us you weren't going to give us ANY of, or have we rolled round to a new fiscal year for you and this is really $10 off of 2008's $200 contribution?")

(Instead I say...)

ME— Well, that’s your choice.

(Mr. Crab gives no reaction, but simply walks around the corner. I pick up a magazine from the shelving cart and go over to ther periodicals, where I shelve it. On my way back, I hear Mrs. A's voice from the staff workroom just as Mrs. C steps out of it.)

MRS. A— You can put it on mine.

(I shake my head at Mrs. C.)

MRS. C— (To Mrs. A) I don't think he wants to.

MRS. A— (Stepping out of the staff workroom) You can put his book on my card.

(I shake my head at her, too)

MRS. A— He’s just going to get mad if we don’t.

ME— Let him.

(Mr. Crab's book remained uncirculated)

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Cultural Divide (More Tales of the "Good" Patrons)

My recent sojourn to Austin reminds me of a recent visit by a family of "good" patrons.

A Hispanic family, including a mom, a 10-year-old boy and his younger sister, approached me for help finding books for a book report the boy had been assigned at school. I looked up some good material and led them into the stacks to the very shelf where they could find it.

After a while, the family approached the circ desk and the boy asked if his mother could get a library card for them. Only then did I realize that the boy had done all the talking earlier when asking for help with his school research. And from her answers to my questions during the library card application process, it was apparent that the mom didn't speak very good English. Her son, however, spoke great English and was clearly serving as the family's ambassador to the English-speaking world. For a 10-year-old, he seemed fairly practiced at the job.

After making the mother's card, I asked her if she wanted her children to have cards as well. I thought that with his elevated status, it would probably make things a bit easier for the boy to have his own card rather than having to rely on his mom's. She said he could have one too. Rather than filling out a whole new application, I took hers and explained that I would write his name in above hers since the contact information was all the same.

"And what's your name?" I asked him.

"Juan," he said.

"That's J-U-A-N?" I asked.

The boy's eyes widened and an amazed expression crossed his face.

"You're the first person to ever get that right, here," he said.

I smiled at him and shrugged. It touched me that he seemed so happy to finally have someone who knew how his name should be spelled, but I wasn't really surprised that it happens so infrequently around here. It is West Virginia after all.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Actual Conversations I SWEAR Were Heard in Actual Libraries #107

SETTING: My "liberry" as Ms. Green's son comes to the circ desk to pay for a print of a draft of a school paper. Ms. Green herself is standing nearby, having finished helping her son at the computer moments earlier.

MS. GREEN— (Seeing son with paper) You printed it? You finished it already?

SON— I changed a few things to make it sound like I wrote it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Actual Telephone Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #106

*RING*

ME— Tri-Metro County Library.

BIRTHDAY LADY— Yes, could you tell me the birthday of that young actor who just died?

(Looks around for where Ms. M might have written it. We had both been on shift when we heard about Heath Ledger's death and knew Birthday Lady was likely to call. Unfortunately, if Ms. M actually wrote it down like she said she was going to, she did so in a very unobvious place, so I had to Google it.)

ME— April 4, 1979.

BIRTHDAY LADY— (Slowly) April.... ninth.... nineteen...

ME— No, April 4, 1979.

BIRTHDAY LADY— Oh. (Slowly) April.... fourth.... nineteen... seventy... nine.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Never let the Devil know where your goat is tied.

We have a legal pad on the circ desk, near the schedule where the staff can leave notes to one another about pressing issues of which everyone should be aware. When I arrived for work, there was a note from Ms. B to the effect that Mr. B-Natural, grumpiest old man in all the world, had been in recently and complained about something. I know--shocking behavior.

According to the note, Mr. B-Natural had complained that some nefarious soul had stolen the crossword puzzle out of the Friday Wa11 Street Journa1. Furthermore, this may or may not have been happening over the course of multiple weeks, as the note was actually phrased "someone has been stealing the crossword puzzle from the Friday Wa11 Street Journa1." The note ended with the phrase, "He was MAD!!!"

Now I can certainly see how Mr. B-Natural would be mad at this. After all, he's the crossword puzzle addict who, perhaps a bit out of character for someone who has enjoyed pissing us off a great deal in the past, frequently and politely asks us to photocopy the crossword puzzle out of the Journal for his benefit, and pays a quarter for it no less. So the fact that someone callously came along and stole the puzzle before he could do this would be justifiable cause for outrage. Unfortunately, his complaint also shone light on avenues of passive agressive rogue patron torment that I'd not considered before.

After reading the note, I turned to my coworker, Mrs. B.

"Oh, MR. B-NATURAL shouldn't have told us that," I said. "Now we're just going to have to start cutting them out on purpose every time he pisses us off."

Mrs. B had evidently been considering the matter with more depth, for she then said, "No. We shouldn't cut them out—we should fill them out."

"In pen," I said, starting to snicker evilly.

"And we should fill them out wrong," she added.

This struck me as gloriously evil and immediately I was nearly crying with laughter.

"Oh, yeah... We should just cram any words we can think of into the squares. We won't even look at the clues." I could just see such a puzzle, filled up with misspelled words that didn't make any kind of contextual sense, let alone actually cross, with two letters in some squares just to fit a word in, some filled with numbers, and the expression on Mr. B-Natural's face when he saw it would be a priceless gem of victory to be treasured in my mental scrapbook of havoc wrought against the wicked. We laughed and laughed and laughed.

"No, really. We HAVE to do that," I said. "At least once."

"Oh, yeah..."

Monday, January 21, 2008

Pulling Teeth

We've had a string of royally bad Mondays over the past couple of months—Mondays in which a world's population of needy and innanet-seeking patrons have descended upon our heads, all signing up for computers at once and then demanding to know things such as "What do you mean they're all full and you don't know when I can have a computer?" and "No, really, when can I have a computer?" They've been the sort of Mondays that cause your teeth to grind and your match-striking fingers to itch.

Not so today. Sure, we've been open every single MLK day probably since the holiday began, but most of our patrons are blissfully unaware of this. In fact, in the past, I've had patrons who've walked into the building on MLK day, through a clearly unlocked and open door, approach the circ desk and ask me to my face if we're open. So our Monday was largely hassle free. Oh, we did plenty of computer and circulation business, but it felt more like an average afternoon, rather than the usual Monday Madness.

The only real annoyance during the day came from Ms. Green, who had some kind of brain fart that impaired her communication skills and caused her to make a run back toward her former status as a very annoying patron.

Ms. Green has been in a lot recently helping her son with his homework. And by "helping" I mean she's basically writing his book reports for him, taking dictation from her kid as to the actual events of the book. So, he's allegedly done the reading part, but is getting no chance to develop his writing skills to convey this. At one point in the afternoon, Ms. Green approached the circ desk and asked me if it would be okay for her to come behind the desk. Now, she'd just been behind the desk to venture into the staff workroom to talk to Mrs. B, so I wasn't sure why she was bothering to ask permission now. In fact, I'd barely heard her request at all because she was mousewhispering it to me, as though what she was conveying was the greatest secret in the world.

"Are those... those..." she whispered. Then she whispered several other things I genuinely couldn't understand at less than two feet from her face. Her gaze seemed to be staring back over my shoulder at something on the far end of the counter behind me.

"I'm sorry, what?" I asked.

She then whispered something to me EVEN MORE quietly.

"You're going to have to speak up. I cannot understand you," I whispered back.

"Letterhead," she whispered.

"I'm sorry?"

"Letterhead. Is that what it's...? Letterhead," she said, finally at full voice. Again, she was staring over my shoulder where I had by then guessed she'd spied some of our thank you letters to fund drive donating patrons, which were indeed printed on "liberry" letterhead and were stacked on the counter, waiting to be signed by a board member. I didn't know what she wanted with our letterhead but I wasn't going to give her any. In my experience, patrons wanting library letterhead are up to no good; and yes, we've had examples.

"Are those bills?" she then asked. Then several different thoughts seemed to come to her at once and she stuttered several unintelligible things at the same time followed by the phrase, "A letter."

"A letter?"

"A letter," she repeated, in a tone that suggested what she was saying somehow made perfect sense.

"I'm sorry, what?"

"A letter."

"A letter? I'm not sure I follow you."

"A LETTER," she said, emphasizing each word.

"I'm sorry, I don't understand what you're asking me. What about a letter?"

"A letter," she said, not frustrated, just seemingly without a clue as to how to put her request into an actual interrogative phrase.

I looked at Ms. Green's daughter, who was standing there looking at me as if she somehow understood what was going on. "A letter?" I asked her. She offered no explanation. I returned my gaze to Ms. Green. "You're going to have to help me, here," I said. "I don't understand what you are asking me."

She paused here, her brain clearly firing behind her eyes, but nothing seemed to be connecting anywhere.

"Nevermind," she said.

"What?"

"Never mind." And, again, she wasn't angry, offended or frustrated. She'd just given up. Either I was too dim to figure out the very obvious thing she was implying or she had realized she was not capable of communicating on a higher level at that moment in time.

"No, really," I said. "I'm perfectly willing to help you out with whatever it is you need. I just do not understand what it is that you are asking me."

"Never mind," she said with a smile.

"Never mind?"

"Never mind."

Ms. Green walked away, leaving her daughter standing at the counter. The girl looked as though she were somehow waiting for me to say something to her.

"Can I help you, then?" I asked.

"Nope. I'm just standing here," she said. I imagine she sees a lot of this sort of thing and it probably amuses her. The daughter broke off from the desk and returned to the computer where her brother was busy not writing anything on his own.

I helped a couple of other patrons, but still felt a little odd about the exchange. I was no longer sure if it was my failure to be intuitive or her failure to #$&*ing spell out what she wanted, but I was beginning to suspect a bit of both. Not wishing to further damage our recently established truce of conflicting personality types, I went over to pretend to reboot a computer near Ms. Green's, hoping a thought might have by then congealed in her brain. And, glory be, it had!

Upon seeing me, Ms. Green explained in actual sentences that her son was in need of an example of what a letter looked like because he'd been assigned to write a letter to his favorite author. Instantly I became all service-oriented, and stuff, and fired up the letter wizard template in W0rd, which spat out an example of the format. This seemed to do the trick and Ms. Green thanked me for my help.

I walked away very quickly, lest my urge to pat her on her head like she was a four-year-old and say, "There, there, was that so hard?" assert itself further.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Ladies and gentlemen, I present...

...our newest cast member Betta Delta.

Betta Delta

(You have no idea how long it took to snap this blurry-assed picture.)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Perfect Returns

We woke up to four inches of snow. My Alaska-raised wife was overjoyed. Me, not so much. And, not long after waking, Mrs. C phoned to ask if I could come in a couple hours early. We've apparently been inundated with computer patrons every afternoon this week and it's been difficult to wrangle them all with one less staff member. I didn't think there would be all that many computer users on such a snowy day, but if anyone's going to take their lives into their hands and brave icy roads to check email it's the innanet crowd.

The computers were less than half full when I arrived, but one of the fillers was Mr. Perfect. This was fine with me, though, because Mr. Perfect has been a pretty ideal patron as of late. He's proven himself a pleasant enough guy who is always friendly toward the staff and who has not complained about our continued lack of W0rd Perfect on the patron computers in months. (And, as he's not brought up that subject for months now, I've not felt the urge to set him on fire for months now either.)

Hours passed uneventfully and we weren't overwhelmed with `pooter people. The snow had done its job.

Mr. Perfect went away for a couple of hours, but returned mid-afternoon to continue whatever project it was he was working on. He'd only been back for an hour or so, though, when he approached the circ desk with a familiar frustrated gleam in his eye. I knew right away exactly which hoary old dog turd he was about to dig up and drop on the desk before me.

"Is there NO WAY the library can get W0rd Perfect for these computers?" he asked.

"I don't really see that happening," I told him. I've told him this a couple of times before, which is exactly what I've been told by my boss the times I've broached the subject on his behalf.

"This is driving me CRAZY!" he said.

Mr. Perfect explained that he was working away on his document in Micr0soft W0rd, but was very frustrated that W0rd kept helpfully trying to alter his formatting for him to put everything in lists. He claimed he had set the program to stop doing this in the formatting menus, yet it kept doing it anyway. He said he'd already cleared all formatting once before, forcing him to go in and redo all his formatting choices, only to have W0rd continue to cram it into new and unwanted shapes for him--something his blessed W0rd Perfect would never ever do. I had to agree that it sounded very frustrating.

After looking at his document and hearing his explanations, though, I saw his problem. Mr. Perfect doesn't understand how W0rd, or indeed word-processors in general, work. Sure, you can go into the guts of the program and tell it to stop offering formatting suggestions, but that in no way affects the formatting changes already present in a given document. Furthermore, any program alterations you make in the guts of W0rd are only in place for that particular program in that particular computer at that particular moment and do not save into the document itself. As soon as you move to another computer, which Mr. Perfect had already done at least once today, all those settings reset to default, which is to offer formatting suggestions.

I tried to explain all this to him, but he just became more and more angry that W0rd wouldn't just do what he wanted it to do and clearly wasn't listening. He kept repeating that he had changed the settings, then showing me how he'd changed the settings, and repeating how it still wasn't working. Again, I tried to reach him, to get the message through into his brain that any formatting alterations W0rd made for him, while admittedly annoying, could easily be removed with only a little effort. If he saw formatting on the screen that offended him, he did not, as he kept insisting, have to clear all formatting and start over. I then showed him how he could instead use the mouse to highlight the portion of text in question, pull down the Style dropdown in the toolbar and select Clear Formatting. That would wipe all suggestions from W0rd for that particular highlighted portion and he could make it do what he wanted from there, sans suggestions.

Mr. Perfect still wasn't listening. He began raising his voice in bellowing tones of irritation, saying things like, "Why won't it just let me do what I want to do?!! I just want to type this!!!"

A lady working at a laptop at a nearby table called Mr. Perfect by name and suggested he take a Valium. Then the only other computer patron, a woman in her 30s seated on the opposite side of the row from him, said, "I have an Ativan out in my truck."

Mr. Perfect declined both suggestions. And since I'd already fixed his onscreen problem of the moment, he dismissed me and I returned to the circ desk.

My down time was brief. Soon, he beckoned me over again and showed me how W0rd was insisting on putting things into list formatting for him and how it was driving him crazy and how he wished he could just type what he wanted and how he couldn't see what setting in the formatting menus he had set incorrectly. Again, I attempted to explain how the formatting menus would not help him for preexisting formatting problems. He might have fixed the previous offending paragraph, but as soon as he touched one lower down that W0rd had already decided was of a specialized format, he was back in the poop. And, again, I showed him exactly how to rid himself of the problem at hand with a two step process, but he still refused to listen.

"I just want to type this!!! Why won't it let me just type this?!!!" he shouted. Then he paused and looked around him. "I'm glad there aren't very many people here tonight, because I don't like to go off like this in public. It's just driving me SO CRAZY!"

The patron across from him reiterated her offer of an Ativan. My fingers began itching for a cigarette lighter, so I walked away. I'd told him everything he needed to know about fixing his problem and if he didn't want to listen that was his business.

I did sort of felt sorry for him. Sort of. I truly do know how infuriating it can be when you can't get a shitty word processor to do your bidding; after all, I've occasionally had to use W0rd Perfect. But for all his fury about it, it was essentially his own fault. The document in question had begun life as a W0rd Perfect document and had then been translated into W0rd format and with each new bed-partner it gathered unto itself invisible little formatting instructions that would forever be there. The only thing I could think of to remedy this was to cut all the text out, paste it into a Notepad .txt file, save it, reopen it and paste it into a brand new W0rd document, change all the settings in the guts that he liked, and then reformat the whole thing how he wanted. I did not offer this solution to him. I knew it was beyond him and he wouldn't listen anyway. He was too far gone.

By the end of his evening with us, Mr. Perfect had recruited the help of the Ativan-offering patron, who claimed she was Micr0soft certified and could easily show him what to do. From the circ-desk, I watched in amusement as she reexplained to him all the things I'd already explained to him. As this had exactly the same result as when I'd done it, though, she attempted to reexplain it all again. She worked and worked for nearly 20 minutes, but after his third throwing up of hands and reutterance of "I just want to type this!!! Why won't it let me just type this?!!!", she too gave up on him. In the end, she returned to her own computer and suggested he give it a rest for the night and go home for a hot bath.

Mr. Perfect seemed to like this suggestion, for he left a few minutes later.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Austin Day 6

Took the seester to work Tuesday morning and had to pay close attention to the roads so I could not only get back home but also so the wife and I could return to pick her up later. Back at her place, we set about cleaning up her apartment and replacing necessities, such as toilet paper. Lemme tell you, the amount of food we'd all been causes a person to really tear through the... well, you do the math.



GASTRONOMICAL JOURNAL: Ate the remaining jalapeno boudain I'd bought, plus eggs all wrapped up in tortillas. This breakfast feast was made by my wife in the seester's kitchen. After picking up the seester, we met our friend Georgina for lunch at the Hyde Park Bar & Grill. They have a giant fork speared with cheese fries outside. And there was spearing of cheese fries to be done inside too. Georgina recommended a burger called the Horseshoe and I was the only one to take up the challenge. The menu describes it as thus: "Originally served on a horseshoe shaped plate, this dish starts with Texas toast topped with 8 ounces of ground sirloin and cheddar cheese, then it is smothered with a velvety cheese sauce, piled high with Hyde Park Fries, more cheese sauce, diced tomatoes and fresh scallions. This dish is comfort food at its best!" And let me tell you, that description was not lying. You couldn't even see the entree for all the cheese fries that had been piled on top of it. But once you were able to get to it, ohhh, but it was tender and delicious. I declared that had the entire thing been sprinkled with bacon pieces first, I could have eaten it and died happy right there. As it was, I had to eat it sans bacon and it was still pretty damned close to a poetic tombstone quote in its deliciousness. Georgina was impressed I ate it all, but she does not know that I refuse to be defeated by mere food.

After that, we went shopping at Toy Joy, a toy store over on Guadalupe, followed by a record store. Then we walked over to the Spider House cafe/bar for some coffee and chatting and watching of all the people running around in their woolen hats, cause damn it was pushing 59 degrees. At 3:15 in the afternoon, we weren't the least hip people in the joint, which was refreshing. As our flight left at 5, we needed to be at the airport around 4, so we hit the road and clawed our way through afternoon Austin traffic. We said good byes to the seester, did the TSA screening thing and ate more of Delta's cheese & crackers on the way to Atlanta. Had a 2 hour layover there, so we ate at TGI Fridays, where the tables are so close together you can't even think. I ordered fish & chips and a local beer called Georgia on my Mind. It was all pretty good, though nothing really to write home about on the beer. It was smooth enough, but pretty standard beer. The fish & chips were okay too, though I've eaten fried Alaskan halibut with gourmet chips at the Glacier Brewhouse, so it had little hope of making a blip on my culinary radar. Plus, who really goes to TGI Fridays for good food?

We're now back in NC, where I'm hastily dashing this entry off before we hit the road. It's very cold here and I haven't packed anything particularly warm to wear. I could use a woolen hat. I'm supposed to be back at work later this afternoon. I told Mrs. A I might be late. I wonder if she'd mind if I phoned in dead for the day?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Austin Day 5

We took things a bit easier today, at least activity wise. After brunch we saw the parents off to the airport, then spent the afternoon driving around the Lake Travis area and seeing the spa where my sister works as a massage therapist. We all had a nice nap back at her place to sleep off the effects of lunch. We attempted to drive down to Hippie Hollow, the clothing-optional section around Lake Travis. We were going to invoke the option of keeping our clothes on, but the $10 entrance fee seemed a bit steep, particularly a day as "cold" as today. It actually feels pretty darn warm to us, but you get anywhere below 65 degrees and Austinians start breaking out the parkas and salting the roads.

GASTRONOMICAL JOURNAL: We met my friend Gordon at the Hula Hut for a 11a late brunch. Turned out to be more of a lunchy affair, as that's the sort of food Hula Hut serves. I ate a MASSIVE enchilada called a Pipeline. The damn thing was nearly as thick as my arm. That pretty much took care of me for the afternoon and I didn't eat another bite until dinner. In fact, my stomach spent a bit of time protesting all the good food I've been eating lately. I was not to be stopped by a little ache, though. Dinner was a Royale with Cheese burger eaten at the Alamo Drafthouse South, during a screening of Juno. Excellent movie, by the way. Afterward, we returned to Amy's Ice Cream where I again ate a Mexican Vanilla waffle cone with Reesey cups and Nutter Butters crushed up in it. In fact, we had extra cones on hand, donated to us by the staff who kept breaking them trying to flip our ice cream in the air as part of their Benihana-style ice-cream acrobatics. Once again, I had to slap a stranger.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Austin Day 4

After breakfast, the parents went off on their own to visit a friend of theirs in town while we went shopping. Our first stop was Dragon's Lair Comics on Burnett. While I really love Austin Comics & Books, Dragon's Lair was a very high quality surprise. I didn't expect another shop to come close to the coolness of AC&B but DL came pretty close. What they lacked in sheer volume, they made up for in a nice store layout and warm atmosphere. (AC&B has a warm and friendly staff, but the lighting is a bit more fluorescent in feel.) We headed north to an outlet mall for shopping. Later we stopped at a Giant Book Sale store, which was going out of business and offered books at around 75 percent off and better. It was like a "liberry" book sale, only with books in better condition. I only found a couple, but the wife found a huge supply of trashy romance novels, which she views as junk food for the brain, but consumes all the same. In her line of work, it's good to have something you can read and don't have to remember AT ALL.

GASTRONOMICAL JOURNAL: Started things off with part of an orange from the hippy market. Then we headed out to Austin Diner, on Burnett, where I devoured two breakfast tacos, one with crisp bacon and one with sausage (the bacon one was better), as well as a side of black beans and a biscuit. Ahh, bliss! During our shopping trip, we stopped at the outlet mall food court where I ate a gigantic Philly cheesesteak and shared fries with the wife. I'd only ordered a small Philly sandwich, but they gave me a biggun anyway. It was pretty good. The meat was cheap, but the bread was quite nice. Had to eat it. Unfortunately, that was around 3 in the afternoon and we'd planned to meet the `rents for dinner. So we gave ourselves three hours to digest and met them at the Clay Pit Indian restaurant, on Guadalupe. Other than the service being a bit slow, the food was fantastic. We each ordered a different dish and then shared around the table. I enjoyed Khuroos-E-Tursh, which the menu describes as: "Medallions of chicken breast stuffed with seasoned spinach, mushrooms, onions & cheese, simmered in a rich cashew-almond cream sauce with a hint of sweetness. Served with basmati rice." This was the first time I'd had this particular dish and it was delicious. My dad's choice of Kabuli Chicken ("boneless chicken cooked in our korma sauce from the curry house & infused with a paste made from pureed nuts, raisins & cherries") was slightly better, though. Probably the best dish on the table, in fact. After waiting half an eternity for our waiter to fetch our check (in his defense, I think the place was understaffed and he had probably two too many tables to mind) we headed to Spider House, a cafe/bar on 29th, where we sat under heat towers on the patio, drank tasty coffee and watched the gathering of UT hipsters all of whom were far cooler than we could hope to aspire to. And while there were waiters on the patio, you wouldn't really know it. They slunk along the sidelines, aggressively refusing to make eye-contact and only appearing on the patio itself to lurk over and snatch up empty coffee cups at moments calculated to be least likely to allow you the chance to ask them for anything. After a bit, a "dj" set up and began playing music which may as well have come from an iPod set to random. While some of it was good music, the "dj" seemed to take great joy in the juxtaposition of unlikely combos, such as segueing from Metalica to Kenny Rogers and attempting, with wild levels of both irony and unsuccessfulness, to blend them. We had great fun despite and because of his efforts. Spider House was a cool place to hang and wind up our evening.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Austin Day 3

Had fun hanging out with the `rents and seester. Shopped a bit through the day, including a visit to one of my all time favorite comic shops in the world, Austin Books & Comics. Holy shit, that place makes me SO happy! They have EVERYTHING and lots of it. If it's a graphic novel or a trade paperback you want, they have multiple copies of it. I purchased Powers: Secret Identity, the latest collection in the Powers series.

Later I saw one of my oldest friends, Gordon, and met his dog Lucy.

GASTRONOMICAL JOUIRNAL: Went to breakfast at Juan in a Million, on Cesar Chavez. They have a breakfast taco called the Don Juan. It's only about $3.75 but is food to feed the 5000, or at least me. You have to have extra tortillas to finish the sheer amount of eggs, potatoes, bacon and cheese that they haul out for you. We all ordered one and then went into food comas. It was a late breakfast, though, so we didn't eat again until 5p when we went to dinner at Iron Works barbeque. Pretty good stuff there, too. Had the beef plate. Afterward, we headed over to Waterloo Records and Amy's Ice Cream, which is a locally-owned version of Cold Stone Creamery. I had a massive waffle cone filled with Mexican vanilla ice cream mixed with crushed Reeses cups and Nutter Butters. Then I smacked a random stranger, it was that good. Late in the evening, my sister's friends Star & Liz threw a gathering in our honor to finally meet us. Beer was drunk and cats and small dogs were tormented.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Austin Day 2

We had fun seeing the sights today. The sister took us up to the top of "Mount" Bonnell to get a view of the area. Now after having been to Alaska, I no longer really count WV's mountains as real mountains, but this was pretty much just a large hill. We went to a nature conservatory and saw lots of peacocks and squirrells. My `rents arrived mid afternoon and, after eating, we hit Book People, one of my favorite independent bookstores, and later tried to see the bats fly from under the bridge, but the parking is kind of nonexistent there cause of some construction, so we wound up missing them.

GASTRONOMICAL JOURNAL: Ate homemade breakfast tacos, jalapeno boudain (that I found in an H.E.B. grocery store) and toast at the seester's place. Ate a late lunch at Casa Garcia consisting of the Casa Especial plate, which had a taco, enchilladas, queso dip, rice, beans guacamole, etc. and more chips than anyone has any business eating. It was fantastic. Ate a prailene. Ate some amazingly good trail mix that the wife made from igredients picked up in the bulk bins down at the hippy market (a.k.a. the Whole Market down by Book People and Waterloo, I can't remember the street). I also enjoyed a Sam Adams and a white russian, though only one each. So far I'm holding up admirably.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Austin Bound

The Wife and I have hit the road--or the air, as it were--to Austin, Texas, to visit my steenky leetle seester and my `rents.


I haven't taken any pictures yet, so no Postcards from Austin.

GASTRONOMICAL JOURNAL: So far today I've eaten a piece of pizza at 4 a.m. before driving to the airport, one and a half packs of cheese & crackers on our flight from Atlanta to Austin (which is Delta airlines version of a breakfast feast), a migas taco and a breakfast taco at Kerbey Lane Cafe in Austin, a Kevin Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato at the Alamo Drafthouse while watching No Country for Old Men. This sandwich had an irresponsible amount of bacon on it, which was impossible to contain within the confines of two mere pieces of bread. Throughout my meal, it kept falling out the sides of the sandwich and raining down into my food tray. It's the kind of problem I like to have, though, so I didn't mind. I also drank a $5 milkshake, (it's a pretty fudgin' good milkshake; I don't know if it's worth $5, but it's pretty fudgin' good) and ate chips and salsa. Later I ate a peanut butter & jelly sandwich and some chips with a Sam Adams Scotch Ale, as well as various snacky things around my sister's apartment.

Good times.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Universal Archetypes...

...they're everywhere!

The Perfect Storm of Extremely High-Maintainance, Needy, Old White Women (PART 2)

So I explained the whole deal with why we need the driver's license number to the Old White Woman. The OWW, of course, then reiterated having been told never to give hers to anyone at all. And rather than resorting to obstinate insistence as her weapon of choice, she instead played a different card and began blinking up at me pitifully, as though hoping I might reconsider doing my job out of sympathy.

While I understood her concern for identity protection, as far as I could see the choice was very very simple: she could either give us her number and get a card, or she could decline to give her number and we would then decline to issue her a card. I'm so completely sick of people—Old White Women especially—who insist we treat them differently than everyone else because they have a wild hair up their ass about something. Some of my fellow employees give in to such behavior, which has ALWAYS come back to bite them. I, however, would not be doing so.

I explained again to the OWW that we really did need the driver's license number before we could issue her a card. The OWW looked worried, then concerned. She then opened her wallet to its card section and started to write something in the license blank, presumably her number from her license within the wallet. Then she stopped, seemed to think better of it, scratched out what she'd started to write and withdrew the pen.

"I don't have my license with me, today," she said. Said it to my very face, she did. "Could I just call you with it from home?"

I was staggered at how dumb she thought I was. And while, on rare occasions in the past, we've allowed people to phone us with their license when they didn't have it on them, (and who the hell are all these people driving around without their %#$&ing licenses?) this lady would not be receiving that treatment. If she was allowed to leave the building without supplying it, we'd never hear of it again.

"No, ma'am," I told her.

"So I can't check anything out, then?" she said pitifully.

I began then to explain the rules of cause and effect to her, in only the politest of terms, when I was interrupted by the other Old White Woman, who stepped up to her friend's defense.

"Well, TOWN-C doesn't require a driver's license."

"Yes, ma'am, they do," I said.

Her eyes flashed, perhaps that I had dared deny the truthfulness of her claim.

"No, they don't," she said.

"Yes, ma'am. They do," I said, again remaining polite. "They're part of the same library consortium that we are and are required to take exactly the same information that we do."

The OWW thought on this and then admitted that maybe it was replacement cards they didn't require it for, as she'd recently had her card replaced there. And since she had her replaced card on her person at that very moment (Way to go, OWW!) she would simply allow her friend to check out materials on it. That was fine by me.

The above transaction took around five minutes and was actually still in progress when other patrons began to pile up behind the crew. Mrs. B took some of them at the auxiliary circ computer, but more kept coming. Some of them were giving me the stink eye, probably for not just giving in to the Old White Women's demands and speeding things along. They were even less thrilled when Tool T-Shirt finally got his application filled out and passed it over for his own card, not to mention ICP and the third kid, who were also standing there with books.

As I was processing Tool T-Shirt's card, there was a shout from the back of the line.

"Is this the line for the desk?!" a third Old White Woman said very loudly. She was standing next to a fourth, not-quite-so-Old White Woman, perhaps an apprentice. Ah, the third wave had hit and at last the storm of OWWs had reached perfection.

"Yes, ma'am," I said. I gestured to the four deep line of people directly in front of her. "I'm afraid we're a bit busy, so it may be a moment before we can help you. We have to go one person at a time." The OWW didn't huff, but looked like she really wanted to.

Soon, I had Tool T-Shirt's card finished and his book checked out. I was amazed the OWW hadn't given me crap for the fact that we didn't require a driver's license from him, but being as how he didn't have one maybe she did the math herself. I took care of the checkouts for the rest of her crew and they started to depart. And in her defense, before she left the desk the first Old White Woman thanked me for my courtesy.

The third Old White Woman was actually more of the typical loud, demanding and fairly unpleasant variety, but she held it in check for the most part. She too wanted a library card. And while she did have a license on her and was willing to supply it, she was also a recent transplant to the area and still had an out of state license with her former address. As we require proof of local address, I thought she was out of luck. She then supplied a small white name card, printed with her local contact information. Wow, she was truly an Old School OWW. I decided to let that serve and she soon left with a library card and, no doubt, some satisfaction at having won the day.

We learned later that the boys who came in with the first two OWWs were not their grandchildren at all but were actually residents of one of the local homes for troubled youth. Which means the local homes for troubled youth have now taken to employing Old White Women as minders for the troubled youth rather than the hulking linebacker types they've traditionally employed.

And that, my friends, is an astounding example of true genius at work.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Perfect Storm of Extremely High-Maintainance, Needy, Old White Women (PART 1)

This is a tale from a few weeks back—a tale in which my co-worker Mrs. B and I were assaulted by a perfect storm of extremely high-maintenance, needy, Old White Women.

The afternoon had been going well enough until that point. We'd wrestled with the heating system, weathered a brief downpour of innanet patrons and survived the sinful temptations of a king-sized Snickers bar left in our possession by Mr. Rob, the librarian at the community college. Then, the doors opened and the first assault of Old White Women marched in.

There were two OWWs in this first wave, accompanied by a small battalion of high school-aged boys, who I initially took to be grandchildren. The OWW's didn't make trouble right away. Instead, they fell back, allowing their footsoldiers to approach the circ desk.

One of the boys, a stout lad who was dressed as though he aspired to be "Metal" but was not quite pulling it off, asked me if we had the book ICP: Behind the Paint.

"Insane Clown Posse?" I asked, shocked that the ICP were even still alive, let alone making albums or warranting books written about them. Even more shocking was that I knew what the acronym stood for without having to ask.

"Yeah," the kid said.

"No, we don't have that," I said, without even moving a finger toward the OPAC. I knew there was no way in hell Mrs. A had ever ordered that book. I then glanced at one of the kid's two fellow foot soldiers, a boy of no more than 16 who was somehow clad in a t-shirt advertising Tool's album Undertow. I began to wonder if maybe this whole group had slipped through a hole in the space/time continuum from, say, 1997.

They lurked away and the Old White Women followed them.

We thought the attack was over, but that had only been the first wave.

After fifteen minutes or so, one of the two Old White Woman returned with books on tape. Now, I'm not sure what she actually said when she approached because it was noisy around the desk, but the phrases "I don't have my card" and "look me up" were clearly heard among the other words I couldn't make out. I explained politely that we did require an actual library card to check out items. She seemed a little confused at this, though, so I began to inwardly question what she had actually said before. It might have been something like "I don't have my card so you're going to have to look me up" or could have been more of a, "I'm not sure if I'm still in your system, I don’t have my card, could you look me up and see if I need to get a new one?”

“Um… Do you have a card with us?” I asked.

“I… I did have a card. I don’t know,” the woman said.

“Well, I can look you up to see if you’re in the system, but I can’t check anything out to you without a card. Or a replacement card,” I added. I looked her up. Oddly, she didn’t have a card at all, meaning if she did at one time she was now one of the remaining holdovers from the old pre-2004 system. I "liberry"-ninja-flipped her an application and a pen. Meanwhile the boys returned to the desk each with selections. Tool T-Shirt really really wanted some book he'd found and was trying to demonstrate his excitement about it to the OWW. He'd read the first page and everything and loved it! The first OWW told him he could get his own card after she'd received hers.

I started in making her card, that is until I reached the blank line where a driver's license number should go. She might be an Old White Woman, but she didn't look old enough to have never had one nor to have had hers taken away yet. I asked her about it.

"Oh, do you really need that?" she asked. "My credit-protection service warned me never to give it out."

I'd been waiting for this moment. I'd seen it coming. And here was where I would make my stand.

(TO BE CONTINUED...)

Monday, January 07, 2008

"Liberry" Glossary: Old White Women

Old White Women
-collective noun

A loose affiliation of elderly Caucasian females who continually demonstrate themselves to be the fussiest, least easy-to-please human beings on the planet. Members of the Old White Women collective come well-armored with a thick and chitinous shell of entitlement that cannot be cracked by mere mortals. They are either used to people jumping at their merest whim or are forever longing for the days of yore when people jumped at their merest whim. They are completely unaccustomed to not getting their way and being told they cannot do that which they wish to do and become quite put out when such situations inevitably occur. Their most favored attack posture in these circumstances is a deftly-wielded, razor-sharp, obstinate insistence that they be allowed to do whatever it is they want to do anyway and despite all logic and policy that might say otherwise. Very often, it is all the weaponry they need, for it can be a powerful force indeed. The most frequent obstacle they face at the "liberry," therefore, is their inability to check out library materials without their library card or the requirement of a drivers license number to get said card. Old White Women are rarely seen to be happy about anything at all.

While there is no obvious organizational structure to their ranks, (much as in the case with a similar loose affiliation of the elderly, The Grampy Patrol) there is definitely something of an exclusive membership present. Membership in the order of Old White Women is not compulsory by any means, for the vast majority of the world's population of both old women and white women are not members. However, membership in the ranks of the Old White Women does seem to be dependent upon being both old and white. Wealth and privilege is also a traditional characteristic of the membership majority, particularly at levels which elevate the individual old white woman above the reality experienced by most other human beings. Abbreviations: OWW (Old White Women); OWL (Old White Lady/Ladies)

(Famous Old White Women: Mrs. Owl, Mrs. Delva Poopoohead of the New England Poopooheads, Mrs. Manic, Mrs. Carol Satan, Hillary Clinton, Queen Elizabeth II)

(Honoray Old White Women: Ann Coulter, Mr. Crab)

Friday, January 04, 2008

Meet the Hackers

The "liberry" has been hacked. No, not this blog, but the "liberry" itself. And, no, not the "liberry's" computer systems, but, instead, our immune systems.

Let me back up.

One of our long-time regular and allegedly "good" patrons is a guy who I will call Johnny "Hacker" James, after the kid who hacked NASA. Johnny's a young adult who still lives at home when not attending the local community college. He and his family visit us several times a week to use the computers, read periodicals and occasionally check out books. They're all very nice people.

Johnny came in last evening and signed up for a computer. I logged him on and he sat down. During the sign up and login process, I heard Johnny cough a couple of times. They were little, hacking coughs of the sort you hear when people have a tickle in their throat. Usually, with such throat tickles, you can hack a couple of times and you're done, no? Not Johnny. He proceeded to emit one or two of those little hacking coughs every 10 to 20 seconds for the next three hours. And let me assure you, I am not exaggerating AT ALL.

Sometimes Johnny's hacks were quiet little coughs. Sometimes they were quite loud. Sometimes Johnny would add a bit of voice into it and really give it some power, but his throat evidently continued to tickle and he continued to hack away every 10 to 20 seconds. This very swiftly began to drive me crazy in a water-torture kind of way.

As my wife can tell you, one of my greatest pet peeves in life is the coughing of other people. I know, I know... coughing fits are beyond the control of most human beings, myself included when I get sick. Doesn't mean I have to like hearing them. Not only are they offensive to me because they usually mean a sick person is potentially spreading their illness into our shared atmosphere, but also because coughing is a full stop interruption to whatever else might be going on--say a conversation taking place or dialogue in a movie that can be difficult to undertand through a torrent of coughing. And if there's one thing I've learned in my years of working at the "liberry" it's this: no matter what illness a person might have, no matter how communicable it might be, no matter how many days they've been out of work because of it or how miserable they feel, that infected soul will not think twice about coming to the library and staying for hours on end, coughing and sneezing away, because damn if they're going to miss out on some innanet time.

As crazy as Johnny's hacking was driving me, I knew it had to be completely freaking out Germophobe Gary, who was seated at the opposite end of Johnny's particular row of computer terminals. Germophobe Gary is another recent addition to our "good" or Sundry Others patron ranks. He's only been visiting us regularly for the past couple of months and has proven himself notable for the frequency of both his visits and his requests that we supply him with Clorox wipes with which he can protect himself from the patron squeezings of previous users. As irritating as this is, I can't really blame him.

Meanwhile, Johnny continued to hack and hack and hack and hack and hack and hack and hack. I desperately wanted to go up to him and scream, "Listen, Cap'n Tripps, you're going to need to take that shit outside and HACK IT THE HELL UP! Cause, if you keep coughing like that, I'm going to have to haul our PDR over here and bust you in the head with it! Try coughing when you're unconscious!"

In Johnny's defense, he did politely cover his mouth with his hand with each and every hack I witnessed. And then he would lower that infected hand back to the computer keyboard and contaminate it further. He also at least had the decency to look ashamed whenever I caught his eye during a particularly loud burst of hacking.

At one point, Mr. B-Natural happened in for a computer. I tried to put him on the available computer farthest away from Johnny--after all, Mr. B-Natural is elderly and more susceptible to infection--but Mr. B-Natural doesn't like the other computer because one time it crashed on him mid-crossword puzzle, so he insisted I move him to the one directly beside Johnny. I complied. Mr. B-Natural didn't stay very long.

After two and a half hours of solid hacking on Johnny's part, his parents arrived. Johnny's father, as usual, grabbed a few magazines and had a seat in a comfy chair where he too proceeded to hack and hack and hack. Oh, great! A whole family of hackers! Granted, Mr. Hacker's hacking was not as incessant as his son's, occurring only once every few minutes, but clearly the virus had spread.

Johnny kept right on hacking away, but also upped the ante by demonstrating how his cold had progressed into his nose by pulling out an enormous hand-towel which he blew his nose into repeatedly and ferociously, returning his freshly snotty (or at the very least snotproximate) hands to the keyboard afterward. I shuddered with every honk.

Following several particularly loud and voice-intensive hacks in a row, Johnny's mother walked over and spoke to him in stern yet hushed tones. He looked a little embarrassed at first, but then seemed to offer some protest in a kind of "What do you expect me to do about it? Stop using the innanet and go home?" sort of way. I didn't actually hear her statement, nor his reply, nor her reply to his reply, but the answer to what I presume was said seemed to be "Yes." Soon the whole family departed, hacking away.

After enough time had passed that I was sure they had cleared the parking lot, I grabbed our Clorox wipes and used three of them to scour Johnny's keyboard, mouse, monitor, his chair and the surrounding area. I also cleaned all the front door handles, the handles of the restroom door, the water fountain where he'd sipped water and basically anything I even suspected Johnny might have touched.

I never caught Germophobe Gary's gaze during the detoxification process, but I'm sure he appreciated the gesture.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #105

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

PATRON— Yeah, I'm trying to get to whitepages.com, but it just stays on your website.

ME— Uh, okay. Lemme take a look.

(I go over to her computer where the screen does indeed bear our "liberry" website, though the address whitepages.com has been typed in the address field.)

PATRON— See, I try going to it, but every time it looks like it's working it just stays here.

ME— Okay. How `bout click in the address bar and hit enter.

PATRON— The what?

ME— The address bar. (I point to it for her. It didn't type in "whitepages.com" by itself, sweety.)

(She waves the mouse pointer uncertainly over the field but does not click within it.)

ME— Just click in it and then hit enter.

(She wavers some more, finally clicking within the field.)

ME— Now just hit enter.

(She does and our page vanishes and whitepages.com appears, albeit slowly.)

PATRON— (Agitated) Well, that's not what it did before. When I clicked the little green button there, it just stayed put.

ME— Um... (Pause to adopt proper diplomatic tone) I might be wrong about this, but to my understanding the little green button with the arrows there is the refresh button.

(Long pause)

PATRON— Oh.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

We've Got Letters (and Resolutions)!

Michelle the Academic Librarian writes:

Hi Juice,

I've been reading your blog for a couple of years now, but I think I need to take a break. I love the entries about the rogues, but we've been reading a *lot* lately about the inner workings of your bowels and what you find in the liberry's bathroom. I'm often reading as I have my breakfast, but even if I weren't, I think it would still be a bit much.

Just wanted to know I really enjoy what you do, but the entries about rogues and your life with your sweetie are much better fodder for reading than entries about doo and speculation about the goings-on in your liberry's bathroom.

Although I'm being honest here, I remain a fan. I hope that's okay. I'll check back in later and see if you have "moved" out of bowels of bathroom lit.

Yours,
Michelle, the academic liberrian.

P.S. Sorry to hear about your fish. We are pet lovers around my house.

Michelle,

Thanks very much for the letter.

I suspect you're right about there being a few too many bathroom-related entries as of late. It's not my intention to write a gross-out blog, it's just that the bathroom-related problems we're having are the ones driving me the most insane right now. Still, I have actually been thinking along similar lines myself, particularly after penning last week's And Now, We Now Return to Our Regularly Scheduled Program entry. It was chock full of disgusting bathroom-related material and got me to thinking that I might be dwelling on it a bit much.

A few years ago, I had a similar realization that much of my output had become devoted to the patron who was driving us most insane back then, the man known as Parka. Rather than continuing to devote the majority of my blog output to chronicling his annoying behavior, I decided to just let readers take it as a given that he was continuing to behave annoyingly and just not write about it anymore. Of course, there was still the occasional incident that deserved chronicling, but by and large I left him out. And not terribly long after I stopped writing about him, he went into a self-imposed exile from our branch after figuratively showing his ass one day. He eventually returned, like a big, annoying, Michelin Man-parka-clad, bad penny, but within a couple of months had actually left town, seemingly for good. This may yet be more evidence in my theory that the more energy and thoughts you beam toward the Rogues the more power they gain; which is why I never mentioned his ultimate departure here AT ALL, so as not to jinx it. (And let us hope this note doesn't accomplish that.) I guess the lesson to be learned about poop humor is: a little goes a long way, but a lot can stink up the place—kind of like Fred Schneider songs.

So, that said, barring any major newsworthy poo-festivals or stank ho-downs that occur, my official New Year's Resolution for the blog is to let my readership assume that the horrors in our restroom are continuing unabated, though unchronicled. Believe me, I have plenty of material to cover beyond it. (Plus, maybe if I stop obsessing over everyone else's mookystinks, they'll stop leaving them behind for me to find.)

Don't go anywhere just yet, Michelle. I enjoy having thoughtful, honest people such as yourself as readers.

--juice