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.


libwitch said...

One has to wonder why he does not use a program such as notepad or word pad that just allows him to type - and forgo formatting altogether!

heavenlyevil said...

I've used both Word and WordPerfect for years before and there's only one aspect of WordPerfect I've found that makes it better than Word: the Reveal Codes feature.

Basically, it shows you exactly what formatting is being applied to the document and you can delete unwanted formatting codes in this view and they will be removed from the document.

It's great if you're trying to do something weird and complicated with tables or need multiple tab styles in a single paragraph or something.

It makes me wonder if Mr. Perfect never bothered learning how to use a word processing program because he's always relied on Reveal Codes to fix his messes.

Methinks he should take a course on MS Word.

MrAnonymous said...

Word really does suck balls.
Have you tried suggesting to him to use Notepad or poking around to use Wordpad? It's under Start -> Accessories and has fewer annoyances than whatever version of Word your employer has installed on their public computers.

Canadian Girl said...

We woke up to snow and poor road conditions today, too. It didn't keep more than 50 seniors from attending our library's Seniors' Conversation Club this afternoon. The attraction: a speaker presenting a slide show on his trip to Africa. The things those old folks will do for free coffee and cookies!

Community College Library said...

You inspired a couple employees from a community college library to start a blog about their own library experiences!

Anonymous said...

Juice, I have started reding your blog to my husband and sending links to my comrade coworkers. I's strange how similar liberry patrons are around the world. We have similar characters in our library and your posts make my day better. We are "building" soon and have hired new people and everything. just wanted to let you know other library employees appreciate what you do.

joejoejoe said...

You can download "abandonware" versions of old WordPerfect that fit on a floppy disk. I'm not sure of the legalities of the liberry doing it for Mr. Perfect but maybe a little birdy could give Mr. Perfect a copy saved to a floppy. He could run the program from the same disk where he saves his documents.

crsunlimited said...

I have seen several suggestions of the use of word pad,which would be nice except he is probably working on a project from home that he saves and works on in both locations.

I have had my share of Mr., and Mrs. Perfects. Has no one offered that he save his document in RTF format? Rich Text Format is available in both word and word perfect, and can easily be opened by both programs regardless of the versions of said programs.

This only works however if the document that they are wanting to work on has no formatting what-so-ever as saving it as a RTF eliminates all formating from the document.

Not that we want to be helpful to your Mr. Perfect, but try it and if it works for his situation thank me.

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.