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)