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.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Hacker's Complaint

Johnny Hacker's dad, Mr. Hacker Sr., apparoached the circ desk, our copy of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 2 in his hand.

"You might want to take a look at what you have on your shelves," Mr. Hacker said. "I've marked some pages here that you should see." Indeed, the copy he held out had around three different post-it notes poking from betwixt its pages. His expression was one of someone who has triumphantly noticed an error in judgment on the part of the "liberry" that had gone unnoticed before. Being as how I'm the guy that ordered the book in the first place, though, and who was very familiar with it, since it's one of my favorites among the works of Alan Moore, I was already aware of what content he was likely complaining about.

"Yes, sir, we know about it," I told him. "That's why we have it shelved in our adult section."

"But I found it over there," he said, pointing to the New Adult Fiction shelf, where it has been housed, being a recent purchase.

"Yes, sir. That's the New Adult Fiction section," I said.

"But the kids... the kids might be interested."

Not wanting to get into the whole But Comic Books Are Only For the Children argument with him, I conceded, "They might be, but that's why we have this shelved in the Adult Fiction section and not the Juvenile or Young Adult sections." He gave me a blank look, so I continued, "We have graphic novel sections in Juvenile, Young Adult, Adult Fiction and Non-Fiction. This one is shelved with the books for adults." I should also have added that I've never actually witnessed a kid even give the New Adult Fiction a glance, let alone chosen anything from it, but figured I'd leave it.

Mr. Hacker looked annoyed and somewhat deflated, in a sort of realization that the inmates are indeed running the asylum kind of way. He set the book down and said, "Okay," in such a precisely chosen tone that it was clear that what he was really saying was, "Okay, NOW I see how this library is REALLY run."

I hate to think of the reactions we'll get once we add LOEG: The Black Dossier.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Perils of Patrons Posting Pictures

Mr. Little Stupid approached the circ desk. At first I thought he was going to ask how to spell a word, as usual, but instead he asked if I could show him how to upload pictures to the internet.

"Oh, uh... sure," I said. I followed him back to his computer where he was already logged into his MySpac3 account and had made it as far as the pictures upload section. Naturally, MySpac3 wanted to install ActiveX on our machine, which I knew our security would never allow, but it also offered a less intensive option as a backup, albeit very slowly. Eventually, our overtaxed servers coughed up the new page at which point I showed Mr. Little Stupid how to select pictures from the CD he had brought with him. It's not a difficult process, but I wouldn't have expected anyone to learn it completely on the first try, much less Mr. Little Stupid--a man famous for completely Mementoing on us in the past. It would take at least a couple of tries and that was fine.

What concerned me was what was going to happen when I showed him how to turn the browse listing of his CD contents directory into thumbnails so he could select the one he wanted to upload more easily. As unmodest as Mr. Little Stupid has been about printing out saucy pictures of potential mates found on MySpac3 in the past, I was a little worried what sort of pictures he'd be sending out. It was one of those bomb diffusal situations where you brace for the blast and then clip the red wire. So I braced myself, clicked thumbnail view and up popped lots of very innocently staged outdoor pose pictures of a fully and tastefully-clothed Mr. Little Stupid. Whew!

And, yes, it did take about four tries before he seemed to finally understand the process, a situation not aided by our slow-ass "T1 Line" innanet connection.

The slow internet connection is a major source of contention with both the usual innanet crowd and the staff. We all hate it, but we're kind of shackled with it at the moment. See, the "liberries" of the state have service through an outfit called DubyaVeeNet, which provides net access for a great deal of DubyaVee. The trouble is, they provide SO much access to SO many schools and libraries and sundry other clients that they've taxed their own ability to share the love and the whole thing has become infuriatingly slow to the point that our T1 line is about as fast as dialup. We regularly get complaints that our computers are too slow, at which point we can do nothing but agree with the complainant and suggest to them that they write the governor about it. We've been told by state "liberry" central that they are just as fed up with it as anyone, but that DubyaVeeNet has been given the state contract and only the governor can alter this when it comes time to renew. Until then, we're pretty much stuck on the 1500 baud, Information-Unpaved-Huntin'-trail.

Mostly the complaints come from Gene Gene the Geneal0gy Machine, who can't get his geneal0gy research done fast enough on a good day, let alone the normal very slow days. We've explained the situation to fifty times now, but getting him to listen and follow up on our suggestions has been the problem. For instance, we've repeatedly told him to contact the governor about it since that's what our techs have advised. And after continuing complaints from him and no action, I personally went to Gene and explained the situation YET AGAIN, advising him to write the governor. What did Gene do? Oh, he wrote to the "Liberry" Commissioner to complain, instead. The "L"C then rolled it back down hill to Mrs. A and suggested we tell Gene to write the governor as the "L"C's hands were tied.

"Why didn't you write the governor like we told you to?" I asked Gene to his face, days later. And his reply, at the time, was something along the lines of, "Oh, you wanted me to write the governor?"

YES, YES, YES, THE GOVERNOR!! WE'VE ONLY TOLD YOU FIFTY-ONE TIMES, THE MOTHER-$&#*ING GOVERNOR!!!!

So, some months back, Gene attempted and, I believe, failed to write the governor. Oh, he tried to send the gov an email about it at least once, but said that the governor's home page kept blanking out his email form-field after he'd spent a very long time composing his email into it, frustrating him further. He didn't so much blame the governor's faulty website as our computers for conspiring to stay slow.

In the meantime, Gene still seems to feel there's something we're either doing or not doing to cause his computer to be slow, no matter which one he's using. (Actually, while attractive on the surface, slowing Gene's computer down intentionally would not be a good idea at all because Gene tenaciously refuses to give up simply because it's taking him a far longer time to access the information he wants.) And despite being about the third worst computer neophyte I've met in this job, Gene naturally has magic remedies that he thinks we should try in order to fix the situation. Such as his recent suggestion that our connection speed would increase somehow if we rebooted all the computers that weren't currently in use. We pointed out to him that it's standard operating procedure to reboot each computer after use, so his theory was bunk.

Since Gene won't take our advice, our attitude toward him has become one of If he refuses to do the ONE THING we've been told might have some effect, then he can just stew in his slow internet. However, last week, Gene complained YET again and I could no longer hold my tongue. I looked at him, dead in his face, and asked, "Have. You. Written. The. Governor. About. It. Yet?"

Gene admitted that he had not and referred once again to his emails that had been eaten by our computers.

"Then don't send an email," I said. "Send the governor an actual letter on actual paper. People pay far more attention to actual letters they can hold in their hands than any email."

And, as though this brilliant idea had never occurred to him, Gene announced that he would.

We shall see.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Actual Telephone Conversations Heard At My House #123

(SETTING: My house. Dinner time.)

*RING*

ME— Hello?

(SILENCE)

ME— Hello?

(SILENCE)

*CLICK*

STAN— Hello?

(SILENCE)

ME— Helloooo?

STAN— Hello. Mr. AARON?

ME— Yes?

STAN— Hello, my name is Stan and I'm calling on behalf of (MARKET RESEARCH OPINION POLLING FIRM). We're conducting polling in your area and would like to ask your opinion on a few matters. First of all, do you own your own...

ME— Actually, we don't wish to participate at this time.

STAN— But sir, your opinion is very important.

ME— Oh, I agree. I just don't wish to give it at this time.

STAN— (Cracks up laughing.) Very well. You have a good evening sir.

ME— You too.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

D'oh, a deer!

I hit a deer yesterday. Frankly, I wasn't all that surprised by it, being as how it was a Town B deer that I hit.

At some point in the past, I've mentioned the symbiotic relationship of the Town A, Town B and Town C Tri-Metro area of small WV towns in which we reside.

I live in Town C and work in Town A. Traveling to Town A from Town C requires that I pass through Town B. Town B, as I've also mentioned at some point, is composed almost entirely of confusing one-way streets. In fact, to describe Town B as a double lane loop running along a series of trailer parks would, while not entirely accurate or charitable, not be that far off from reality.

In addition to trailer parks, Town B is also composed of a number of other neighborhoods, businesses and restaurants along the same loop. And since this particular double lane loop of road is on a fairly well-trafficked route of travel, people who stop at these restaurants, businesses, neighborhoods and trailer parks often find getting back onto the loop rather challenging due to the amount of traffic headed at them at upwards of 40 mph. Factor into that the fact that Town B's population seems to be comprised primarily of tard cakes and you begin to see the true horror of the situation.

I have to travel through Town B on my way to work around five days per week. On at least one of those five days, my journey becomes punctuated by at least one screaming, bitter fit of cursing on my part due to said tard cakes, who have no better sense than to pull out into my lane of traffic, directly in front of me, and then proceed to drive at 10 mph when I'm practically on top of them and driving the posted speed limit of 40 mph. This action on their part forces me to have to slam on my brakes and lay on my horn in a most vicious manner or, passing lane traffic permitting, whip into the other lane to avoid collision. And in the majority of these cases, the particular seemingly suicidal cake who has whipped out in front of me and gone slow has looked directly into my eyes mere seconds before doing so, meaning that they could clearly see me approaching, made eye contact with me, saw what speed I was doing and then decided to whip out and go slow anyway.

And believe me, I can feel their pain. I have, on occasion, had to stop in Town B myself and have also found getting back on the road frustrating. There you sit, staring at two lanes of cars moving toward you slow enough that you'd really like to go, but so evenly spaced as to be liken unto a communist plot because despite their slowness there's no way you can safely insert yourself into the traffic stream. And with no traffic lights on the loop to speak of, there is no guarantee of any sort of a break. After a few minutes of waiting, you find yourself tempted to just gun it and hope for the best. And that would be fine, except the `cakes who whip out in front of me NEVER EVER gun it.

Town B infuriates me, but it no longer surprises me. I have learned to always be on guard when driving through it, so much so that I've even been known to slow down to give myself that much more buffer when folks whip out. It doesn't help whatsoever. The `cakes just wait until you're closer to them before whipping out.

"Hey, guess what," I say upon arriving at work, at least once a week. "I was driving through TOWN B today and someone whipped out in front of me and went slow."

"Ooooooh ahhhhhhhh," my co-workers say in mock surprise.

And one day the `cake in question who whipped out in front of me and went slow was our very own Mrs. J. Yep, pulled right out from a local grocery store parking lot and didn't even look once to see if anyone was coming in her lane. (We all refuse to ride with her because of driving habits such as this and bless her out royally when we catch her driving like that. We're convinced the only reason she's still alive today is that she must have a battalion of guardian angels on her side.)

So there I was yesterday, just entering the boundaries of Town B, driving in the passing lane, when from the left shoulder I spy a deer leaping out of the bushes and directly into my path, probably 30 feet from my car. To its credit, the deer did seem to be in a pretty big hurry, for it was low to the ground, gunning it for all it was worth. However, this `cake of a creature was gunning it right in front of me and gave me little chance to avoid hitting it. I slammed on the brakes and did my usual fit of cursing, but still clipped it in the rump with my passenger side headlight. It continued its mad dash across the road and disappeared. Fortunately, no one was behind me to slam into the back of my car, so I just pulled off, parked and got out to inspect the damage.

Other than a few deer hairs, I saw no damage. Upon closer inspection, later, I saw that my passenger headlight was chipped and the metal of the side of the car just beyond it was ever-so-slightly bent from the impact.

So the car is a wee bit damaged but not likely beyond our $500 deductible, so we'll have to eventually take care of it ourselves. I would have gladly taken reimbursement in venison steaks, but the deer I struck did not have the decency to hang around and die. In fact, I rather doubt it's dead at all, but will probably walk with a limp for some time to come.

It's just as well. Tard cake deer tastes funny.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Actual Conversations, Telephone and Otherwise, Heard in Actual Libraries #122

*RING*

ME Tri-Metro County Library.

EVIL LIBERRY TELEMARKETER
Hello, my name is Michael and I'm calling from LIBERRY MATERIALS PUBLISHING COMPANY. May I speak to the head librarian?

ME
I'm sorry, but she's in a meeting right now. Can I take a message?

ELT
What about the head children's librarian?

ME (My "Evil-Liberry-Telemarketer Sense" begins to tingle.) I'm sorry, but she's involved with Story Hour at the moment. Can I take a message?

ELT
Are there any other children's librarians available?

ME
(Looks at Mrs. B) Yeah, sortof... (My "Evil-Liberry-Telemarketer Sense" begins to tingle strongly) Um... Actually, if this is a sales call, we don't take sales calls. We welcome anything you'd care to mail to us, but we don't take sales calls. At all.

ELT
(Lies through teeth) No, this isn't a sales call. Maybe you can help me. Is your library participating in the Summer Reading program this year?

ME
(Cautiously) Yeaahhh.

ELT
And what is the theme for this year?

ME
Um... let me let you speak to someone who knows the answer.

(Puts phone on hold and turns to Mrs. B)

ME
What's the Summer Reading theme for this year?

MRS. B
I don't know. We haven't picked it yet.

(Mrs. A wanders out of staff workroom where she had indeed been meeting with Ms. D)

MRS. A
(Indicating phone) Who is it?

ME Some guy who says he's not a telemarketer asking about Summer Reading.

MRS. A
Gimme. (I give Mrs. A the phone) Hello, this is MRS. A the library director.

(Listens)

MRS. A No, we've not chosen the theme yet.

(Listens)

MRS. A No, you're welcome to send us information in the mail, but we do not take sales calls over the phone.

ME
(Loudly whispers in direction of receiver) What did I just tell you?!

MRS. A No. No, we don't take sales calls over the phone.

(Listens)

MRS. A No, do not send any product packs. We do not want product packs. Please send information only.

(Listens)

MRS. A Thank you. Good bye. (Hangs up)

ME You should have totally let me have him back. I would have loved to say, "What did I JUST tell you, dude?! Not a sales call MY ASS!"

MRS. A
Yeah. He was a slick one.

Monday, March 24, 2008

"Liberry" Glossary: The Look of Doom

The Look of Doom
-noun phrase
  1. The expression adopted by our most-frequent innanet crowd patrons when they come to realize that their hour of time is up, that all other computers are full, that they themselves are next in line to be booted off, and that someone, ANYONE, has entered the building and come within proximity of the computer sign in sheet. It's a potent mixture of frustration, anger and fear--emotions which, when combined, evidently cause patrons to become extraordinarily slow in the process of disengaging from our computers, perhaps in the belief that the longer they take "wrapping up" the more likely another computer patron will abandon their own machine allowing them to keep theirs. This expression is most frequently seen on Monday afternoons when we have the greatest concentration of hungry innanet crowders in house, all competing for machines.

  2. The expression I adopt upon seeing the patron who must not be named, a.k.a. Chester the (Potential) Molester, in the belief that it will convey to him how much hatred I have for him in my heart and how much pleasure I would derive upon hypothetically learning that he was decapitated in a car accident or that someone had gone all Rorschach on his ass. This expression has yet to have any observable effect whatsoever.

  3. The expression I adopt upon emerging from our men's restroom, having witnessed what our dear patrons have left there for me to clean up. Often this look is beamed in the direction of our male computer patrons who, being the very souls who have spent the past seven hours in the building and have therefore had more opportunity than most to relieve themselves, no doubt doing a very sloppy job of it in their haste to return to their computer station before we can give it to someone else, and are therefore the most likely candidates to be the patrons after whom I've just had to clean up. Frankly, they deserve worse than anything Rorschach might do to them.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Today's Odd Bird

I haven't worked a Thursday morning during story hour for a couple of months now, but managed to trade into it for yesterday. Glad I did, or I would have missed out on witnessing both the world's noisiest nonfiction stacks Easter Egg hunt and a new odd bird patron.

The odd bird was a little old man who came in, turned in his books and marched off to the shelves to find more. He seemed completely normal, save for a wildly bushy gray moustache and a particular item of clothing. This gentleman was wearing a dark green quilted hunter's coat that covered a similarly green button up shirt, a trucker-style ball cap embroidered with the logo of an area volunteer fire-fighting unit, and he was wearing a blue denim knee-length skirt from beneath which jutted the skinniest, whitest chicken-legs I've ever seen.

No, it was not a kilt. Instead, it was as if a skinny little old man and a skinny little old woman had been cleaved in two by advanced alien intelligences and then grafted back together with the wrong bottom half. There was nothing whatsoever, in manner nor deed, feminine about the top half, but then you hit that skirt and those legs and there was no denying something wasn't quite adding up.

Old Man Womanlegs eventually checked out a few books. His first name, at least according to the patron record that he used, was Beatrice. He departed before any of my fellow employees could see him and I decided not to bring him up as a subject for fear they wouldn't believe me. After about 20 minutes, though, Old Man Womanlegs returned and asked if we could put him on hold for the new John Grisham. This time Mrs. B caught a glimpse of him as he left and said she had actually seen him in Wally World recently but had assumed he was just wearing really baggy shorts.

Nope. That man was wearin' a dress.

While we were on the subject of crossdressing patrons, Mrs. B noted that Cap'n Crossdresser had also paid us a visit earlier in the week. She said his springtime sundress was quite lovely, though it didn't match his workboots.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Actual Telephone Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #121

*RING*

ME— Tri-Metro County Library.

OLDER LADY PATRON— Yes, I called earlier and the girl I spoke to told me to call back about having someone there do my taxes?

ME— Um, well, ma'am, actually we don't offer any kind of tax preparation service here. The only free tax preparation we know of is a local church that will be doing them on the following dates... (reads dates from newspaper clipping we keep stationed by the phone for this very purpose).

OLP— I was told you had two ladies there who did the taxes.

ME— No, ma'am. That information is incorrect. We do not have ANYONE here who is doing taxes. However, the local church I mentioned does have two ladies who will do taxes, but only on the following dates (reads dates again).

OLP— All right. Well, do you have a number I could call for that?

ME— Yes, ma'am. There's a contact number right here. (Reads number.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Doorks

Today I watched as two patrons, a middle-aged man and wife, approached the front doors of our building. The woman reached out for one of the doors and began to yank on its handle. It didn't open. She yanked again and again it held. Finally, she really gave it some moxy and the top bolt of the door's latch popped out of its housing and the door opened.

"Your door's sticking," she said upon exiting the breezeway. Then, using a tone I very much didn't appreciate, she added, "Or do you care?"

I stared at her for a long moment.

"Ma'am," I said, "you have to turn the handle."

At this she gave me a blank look and then furrowed her eyebrows as though she didn't understand what I had just said.

"You have to actually turn the handle of the door in order to open it," I said. I then demonstrated the motion necessary to turn our door handles in the air in front of me.

There was a pause.

"Oh," she said, with a satisfactorily guilty tone. "I was just pulling on it," she added. "If I broke it, he can pay for it," she finished, pointing to her husband.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Good Monday 2008

Ahh, that was refreshing!

We had a nice, mostly unchaotic Monday, for once. Okay, sure, seven people assaulted the front door in an attempt to get before our 1p opening and most of them demanded computers after we actually opened, but we weren't packed full for the whole day as usual. The book return had only one armload of books in it and Ms. M and I were able to stave off and/or help the usual amount of needy Monday patrons, "assisted" occasionally by Lennie, (whose major conversation theme of the day was how well WVU is doing in sports).

The only real challenge of the day came when Ms. M became entangled in a telephone conversation with someone for the better part of ten minutes. I didn't know who she was speaking to on our main circ-desk phone, but from her answers of "No... yes... no... no... yes..." and occasional recital of vital "liberry" contact information I knew that it had to be some sort of telemarketing situation. From the sound of it, it was for some national directory listing. While it's always nice to have the library properly listed in such directories, I couldn't see why they needed to grill her for 10 minutes on other minor points better left answered by officially licensed librarians, I'm still not sure, but grill her they did and tenaciously so. Not wanting to do the wrong thing or be perceived as rude, Ms. M held still while they applied her to the coals, but her expression changed from nervous to frustrated to bewildered during it. I kept giving her the international sign-language for "hang the hell up" but she wouldn't do it. I even offered to tell the person off for her, but she again refused.

Then the other line began to ring and I whispered to her that this was her grand opportunity to get off by telling them she had another call she had to take. She attempted this, but their little Telemarketer-teeth hung on fiercely as the line continued to ring. After three rings, I gave up on Ms. M and went to answer it in the staff workroom. As soon as I picked it up, though, Lennie bellowed, "It's okay, JUICE got it!" This, as I later learned, was easily overheard by the telemarketer who tightened her grip on Ms. M's phone ear and said, "Oh, so you can keep talking, then."

Fortunately, the call I took was from a patron looking to renew a book and with the circ-desk phone being the only one near a circ-desk computer, I was able to convey to Ms. M that I would be needing that phone and that she had to wrap it up with the telemarketer. I tell you, it took a hot match-head to remove that particular phone parasite, but eventually they let go of Ms. M and scuttled back under their rock.

"Who the hell was that?" I asked.

"The Yellow Pages," Ms. M said.

"Wow," I said. "I got a call from Yellow Book last week and they weren't nearly as bad."

Monday, March 17, 2008

Everyone Up My Ass Day

Yep. Friday was officially Everyone Is Up Juice's Ass Day. From the time I arrived to the time I shut `er down, darn nigh every single patron was up my ass and turning me into the Grumpiest Young Man in All the World.

Let me just preface this by saying that my day of torment at the hands of the public was completely my fault. I arrived with a bad attitude, that attitude only grew worse shortly after I arrived and I then allowed it to inflate all the little daily grievances I have with our patron population into enormous proportions. Maybe my foul mood was due to my wife being out of town all last week at a conference in Denver where she had to take her medical board exams in preparation for us stepping out into the "real" world come August and that I missed her. Maybe that mood was then compounded by the steady diet of Hot Pockets, Mrs. Pauls Crappy Beer-Battered Fish Chunks and as many French fries as I could stuff down my gob that I've been enjoying since she left and all that garbage has finally settled into my brain (and colon). Whatever the case, the crap the patrons were doing wasn't really any worse than the crap they do on any other day; there just seemed to be more of it.

It also didn't help that shortly after my arrival I was mildly blessed out for not properly cleaning the men's restroom during closing the night before. I learned of this via a Post-it note stuck to my computer that read "JUICE: Failing Grade on Closing, see MRS. A." I wasn't in trouble, per se, but it pissed me off to be called out for something I frankly didn't believe I'd done. I'd cleaned that restroom Thursday night, mopped up the excess water that The Coot had splashed all around the sink, made sure the urinal and toilets were fresh and shiny and had done my job as far as I was concerned. What I apparently didn't take into account was that I'd done my major cleanup job around 7p and we still had two hours left during which our male patrons demonstrated their willingness to soil any clean surface they might find. So as not to further break my New Years resolution, I will not describe the mess Mrs. A found in the general vicinity of the urinal, but it was something pretty obvious that should have been noticed by me and rectified. Mrs. A wasn't even mad at me, but still had to call me out on it because she'd had to call out Ms. M two weeks ago for similar inattention.

So I was pissy about this and remained pissy, particularly when it came to dealing with these same traitorous patrons, any one of whom could have been responsible for leaving the mess (which was also pissy).

I tried to throw myself into less public-service-oriented sections of my job, such as shelving, processing new books, and processing periodicals, but every "liberry" task I attempted to accomplish was constantly being interrupted by the %#&*ing patrons. (There's nothing better for attracting the neediest of patrons than a huge stack of new books that you have to process before you leave.)

For instance, there was Old Man Printer. I've not written about Old Man Printer before because he's not really a Rogue and it's so supremely ridiculous that he annoys me so much. In fact, my annoyance with him shines far more light on my own character flaws than any that might be distantly perceived on his part. Still, he does annoy me and has done so for several months now. Here's why it's so ridiculous... Old Man Printer is a very nice older gentleman who comes to the library to read our periodicals and use our computers. What makes him annoying is his habit of printing out two items each time he comes in: one weather forecast page for the coming week and one page containing a Sudoku puzzle. He prints each of these separately and pays for each separately, doing so only at times inconvenient to me--say when I'm busy doing anything else, or not doing anything at all. Basically, I'm complaining about a kindly older gentleman, perhaps the least grumpiest old man in all the world, who makes only two prints, actually pays for them and never ever gives me any shit. See? I'm completely and indefensibly ridiculous for being annoyed at him.

Tag-teaming with OMP on Friday, though, was Young Man Printer. YMP is a guy in his 20s who usually sticks to using his own WiFi equipped laptop and is therefore inoffensive cause we don't have to do anything for him beyond printing him an access slip. On Friday, however, he had to print some stuff and signed up for one of our machines to do so. Over the course of several hours he continued to print pages of some kind of form, one page at a time, and came up to pay for them one page at a time roughly every ten minutes on the mark. And despite the fact that I kept giving him change in dimes, he insisted on paying for each 10 cent print with a quarter, meaning I not only had to fetch his form from the printer, often lodged between the prints of numerous other patrons, but had make change for him each time as well. Our money tally sheet was pretty much a solid line of ".10" thanks to him. I wanted to scream, "DAMMIT, JUST MAKE ALL OF YOUR PRINTS AND THEN COME PAY FOR THEM AT ONCE AND QUIT INTERRUPTING ME!!!!"

So this was how my afternoon went. My fellow employees, no doubt as fed up with the public as I was, stayed away from the circ desk, busying themselves with projects elsewhere in the building. I wanted a project elsewhere in the building, but every time Mrs. B reappeared at the desk and I tried to tag out and grab an armload of books from the brimming book cart to go shelve, Young Man Printer would come up again to get another $%&*ing page and by the time I got him his change Mrs. B had slipped away, stranding me.

Now, again, please understand that I fully realize that any average day spent in my job is filled with interruptions and interruptions to the interruptions, and that I am completely at fault for my perception of them on Friday. In other words, those among you who were about to leave a comment to the effect that I should really look into getting another job if I don't like mine so much can kindly go eat a bag of duck vaginas. It's my blog and I can rant on it if I want to.

Break time rolled around but because it was raining I couldn't go for a stress-relieving walk. Instead, I announced I was headed downstairs to lurk in our big empty multi-purpose room. It was peaceful down there, away from the patrons and the phone. I listened to podcasts for a bit, raided the fridge in the breakroom a bit and generally enjoyed the quiet. Then I noticed some light bulbs that had blown in our big fancy light-fixture. Bulbs are my job to replace, so I figured I may as well get to doing it, even if I was on break.

I went to the north mechanical room to get the step-ladder, but it was locked. I then retrieved the mechanical-room key from it's hiding place, but that key turned out to be for the south mechanical room so it didn't work on the north door. I growled and went upstairs to fetch a copy of the right key and a key ring to identify it which I would then hide with the south key so this wouldn't happen in the future. Before I could escape the circ desk, though, Young Man Printer came up to pay for another %$&*ing print and I had to make change for him again. Key in hand, I returned downstairs, unlocked the North Mechanical room door and discovered that some genius had removed the ladder. I then found the ladder stored in the south mechanical room, which was unlocked to begin with. This was so infuriating to me that I actually punched right through anger and into hilarity. The situation was instantly defused and I felt a bit better.

The rest of my day, while still annoying to the end, was tolerably annoying after that. The Printer Men Old and Young departed, the phone eventually stopped ringing so much, and the other patrons even gave me a little space for about 15 minutes, allowing me to process all the new paperback books without interruption. I even got to take a little bit of empathetic joy at watching Mr. B-Natural finally find the Wa11 Street Journal crossword puzzle intact within the Friday edition. He had me photocopy it for him, then stood at the desk and did the whole thing in the space of about 10 minutes.

At closing time, I kicked everyone out and was glad to have the place to myself for a few minutes. I was even more glad that the patrons had refrained from soiling the bathrooms.

My wife is back safe and sound now and I'm feeling much better. Which is good, cause it's Monday and Mondays are almost always hellish down at the "liberry."

Friday, March 14, 2008

(Potential) Problem

At 7p, just as Ms. D was about to depart, leaving me alone for the long slog to 9p, who should walk in the door but "Liberry" Rogue #1, Chester the (Potential) Molester, a.k.a. the Patron Who Must Not Be Named.

We've spent the past few months not mentioning Chester's name and, until last night, Chester has held up his end of the contract by not magically appearing at the sound of it. But there he stood, ratty knit cap afixed atop his head, vaguely greasy and unwashed of appearance, with layers of vests and shirts.

Chester said, "mumblemumblemumble," which is what he usually says. I took from his glance at the computer sign in sheet that a computer was what he wanted. As we had no children in the building and since we had one open, I would grant his request. At least if he was at the computers he would be in sight of the desk. As I walked around to go log him on, he made a slightly less mumbled comment about "the computers down there" being full. By this he had to have meant the community college library, where he has been known to lurk, particularly back when he had a job as a janitor in the building. I'm pretty sure that job is no more.

Before Ms. D could leave, I told her to go out and get a good gander at the guy on computer #3 because he was a (potential) child molester and must be watched at all times when he's about. "I once had to kick him out for it," I added.

Ms. D peered around the corner of the staff workroom, took a good gander and said, "Ah, yes." Even someone who's never seen the man before can instantly recognize the inaudible claxon wail of DANGER-DANGER-DANGER that radiates from his person at all times.

Chester computed only a few minutes more, then left the building.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #120

SETTING: My "Liberry" where, upon my arrival, I find Mr. Dent, fourth grumpiest old man in all the world and fanatical researcher of the alleged 14 surnames found in the Devonshire area of England, once again stationed at the circ-desk. This time he only appears to be checking out a book, so I'm not expecting trouble from him. He steps away from the desk briefly, during which time my fellow "liberry" ass.es vanish, stranding me at the desk where Mr. Dent finds me upon his near instantaneous return. He now has a second book and, after some fishing in his wallet, produces his library card.

ME— (After checking book out to him and sliding it across the desk to him) Here you go, sir.

MR. DENT— Find out anything more about Devon?

(Before I can stop my lips from speaking...)

ME— Only that there were 4,000 surnames there in 1853. I'm pretty sure that book you read was wrong.

I immediately feel bad for putting this so bluntly, but I am annoyed that this issue has still not been put to rest in his mind. From the way he shakes his dented noggin at me before walking away, though, I get the impression he thinks I just pulled that number out of my ass to get him to leave me alone.

Actually, if that's his assumption, he's at least half-right. Upon second consultation, I find that the actual historical figure was really 400 surnames published in 1890.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mr. Happy (No, not THAT Mr. Happy)

Mr. Hinky was in this morning before I arrived for work. Mrs. C reported this to me, later, noting that he seemed especially chipper and cooperative considering his usual lizardy, nervous, photocopy-charge-false-claiming manner. They had no trouble from him at all and he didn't try to sneak in either coffee or an empty coffee cup. In fact, they said he was downright pleasant to the entire staff.

"He must just hate you," Mrs. C said.

"Yeah, well, that's fine. I'm not a big fan of his either," I said.

Mr. Hinky

A new rogue seems to be in the making. I call him Mr. Hinky.

I first noticed Mr. Hinky's presence a few weeks back. He has a look about him of someone who is kind of high-strung, nervous, suspicious, somewhat malicious and overly alert. He's like a human version of a skittish lizard suffering from paranoia. You could probably startle him with a medium volume "Boo." However, Mr. Hinky's major claim to infame does not lie in his lizardesqueness, but instead with his attempts to drink coffee at our public computers.

The first time I caught him at it, he'd already been seated at one of the computers for over an hour before I noticed his coffee cup on the desk beside him. I walked over and explained to him that we couldn't have drinks at the computers, to which Mr. Hinky explained that his cup was actually empty. (Duh.) He then demonstrated this by shaking it at me so that I could hear the lack of sloshing within it. He then set his empty cup down on the floor beside him and shrugged at me as if to say, It's empty, what harm can it do?

I let him live.

Last week Mr. Hinky was back, again with coffee. I saw him coming with it in advance, though, and decided to let him hang himself. I watched as he signed up for a computer, then carried his coffee cup (clearly full from the weight of it) over to the computer that Ms. D had kindly logged on for him. I tried to give Ms. D the international sign language for "He's got coffee--get him!" but still being relatively new she didn't understand. I then watched as Mr. Hinky set his coffee on the computer desk directly next to the very keyboard the policy is in place to protect.

I walked closer and said, "Sir, we can't have drinks at the computers."

"I know," Mr. Hinky said. "I'm putting it over there." And at this he pointed to the nearby coffee table in front of the fireplace. As I watched, he then moved his coat and other possessions to a chair by the coffee table, set them down and only then retrieved his coffee from the computer desk to relocate it to the coffee table itself. He turned to me and shrugged, as if to say, How can you argue with that: it's a COFFEE table?

Again, I allowed him to keep his life, but only because we don't disallow drinks in the building; just near the computers. I was certain, however, that had I not said anything to him, Mr. Hinky would have enjoyed his beverage at the computer all the same.

Later during that same visit, Mr. Hinky asked Ms. D to make some photocopies for him. I wasn't there for the beginning of that conversation. I only came in after hearing him arguing with her after the copies had been made. I still didn't understand exactly what was going on when I came out to see what the commotion was about. All I heard was Mr. Hinky stating repeatedly that we had only charged him five cents per page when he was last in on Sunday.

"I'm sorry, but that's not the price," Ms. D was saying as I walked up. I looked to her for explanation and Ms. D told me that Mr. Hinky claimed a woman matching the description of our fellow "liberry" ass. Ms. M had been the one who charged him five cents per copy.

"We charge 10 cents a page for prints," I told him, still wondering why on earth we would have charged him half price for even those.

"No, these were photocopies," Ms. D added.

"Oh, no," I said. "We charge 25 cents for those."

Mr. Hinky was getting angry and his eyes were flashing. He again insisted that he had been charged five cents.

"Sir, the employee you're talking about has worked here for over four years. She knows how much we charge for prints and how much we charge for photocopies, and we charge 25 cents per page for photocopies."

Mr. Hinky started to protest again, but I cut him off. "If you'd like to take this up with our librarian, MRS. A, she will be in tomorrow."

He declined to bring the issue up with Mrs. A. Instead, Mr. Hinky paid full price for his photocopies and soon left, coffee cup in hand.

The next time I saw Ms. M, I asked her about the guy. She had no memory of charging anyone 5 cents for photocopies. She tried to give the guy the benefit of the doubt, almost as though she was open to the possibility that maybe she'd suffered an aneurysm and charged him only five cents a copy before forgetting the whole thing ever happened.

"No, you didn't," I said. "That guy's delusional."

Yesterday Mr. Hinky was back. Again, when I logged him on he brought his coffee cup to the computers, this time setting it down on the floor by the CPU itself.

"Sir, we cannot have coffee by the computers," I said.

Mr. Hinky said, "I. KNOW." Then he added, "It's empty. It's completely empty." And, again, he shook it for my benefit. I wanted to stomp the cup, or at least kick it across the room, but refrained. I also wanted to ask him why the hell he's carrying around an empty coffee cup all the damned time, but I also refrained. To my knowledge, none of the local coffee houses have free refills on to-go cups, but maybe I'm wrong. I once again allowed Mr. Hinky to go on breathing up my air. So instead of physically assaulting him, I went to the staff workroom where I brewed up a nice big cup of hot tea and spent the better part of the next ten minutes making a big production of drinking it by the circ-desk computer, sipping loudly all the while. Unfortunately, I saw no evidence that Mr. Hinky noticed my performance. Instead, he stayed his hour and departed.

Later, as I went on a leisurely break-time stroll through town, I noticed Mr. Hinky standing on a street corner, drinking coffee out of, presumably, the same cup. Evidently there IS a coffee shop that allows refills; so that at least explains his cup hoarding.

Only now, I need to find out where he got that refill, cause I could use some of that action myself.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #119

SETTING: My "liberry" as a female patron is looking through the Nora Roberts paperbacks houseded on our paperback wall as I shelve other books nearby.

PATRON— Oh, no! You have the first book and the third book, but not the second book.

ME— Did you try in the hardbacks?

PATRON— Yeah. I just came from there.

(Patron continues to look)

(Time passes)

PATRON— Oh, wait. You did have the second book. It was just in the wrong place.

ME— A book misshelved in our library? I'll not hear such accusations!

(The patron smirks and walks away, found book in hand.)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Ice Books not found in the 551s

Newbie Ms. D found a frozen book within our after-hours book return. I don't mean the book was merely very cold. No, this stout paperback book had first been soaked through to its very core in what I can only pray is water, and then placed in the book return where the overnight temperatures froze it solid, creating a bookcicle.

By the time I saw the book, it had thawed somewhat but was still quite icy inside. I wondered who would dare to do such a thing as allow one of our books to become soaked and then return it in that form. No doubt they would claim that it had become wet after being placed in our book return, despite the fact that no other books in there were the least bit damp. (Perhaps it had been frozen solid before being placed in the book return?)

I scanned the book's barcode and looked up the last patron to have checked it out. It was one of the children of the Twohy family (not their real names) who are longtime patrons of the "liberry." I was somehow not surprised. This is not to say that the Twohy's are "bad" or even troublesome patrons. They're actually very nice people, but have, all the same, proven to be problematic patrons on occasion. They're an enormous family, each of whom has their own library card but none of whom can actually keep up with it. For a while we were selling them new cards every week, before threatening to charge them five times the going rate if they didn't cut it out. So instead of buying new cards, they just grab any library card they can find and bring it in regardless of whether it's actually their own card. Often they get all the way to the library and find they have a dead card that has already been replaced. We throw it away and they start over. But if they do manage to get a working card in, we can go ahead and check items to them for all the cards are linked.

I hated to pile yet another charge on them, but book destruction of this magnitude could not go unfined. I made a note on the book itself, explaining who had had it last, and left it for my superiors to decide what to do about it.

A week went by during which the book remained untouched in the pile of books the librarians are supposed to make rulings on. It barely dried out at all.

One afternoon, Ma Twohy paid us a visit. Before I could bring up the subject of the frozen book, Ma Twohy said she had a few books and some DVDs she'd like to donate. In fact, she had them in the car. I said, sure, we'd have a look at them. I expected a small box of crappy DVDs and ratty books, but Ma Twohy actually brought in two laundry baskets full of DVDs, all in pristine condition, all of medium to high quality as far as content goes. It was a huge windfall for our fairly small DVD collection and I readily accepted them on the "liberry's" behalf.

I decided not to bring up the frozen book. In fact, after Ma Twohy left, I removed the notes from their card, forgave the fine on the frozen book and deleted it from the computer entirely. We normally don't accept trades in book replacement, but we were clearly on the better end of this deal. And I wasn't convinced Ma Twohy hadn't brought us all these things to make up for one of her kids turning in a soaked book.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Conspiracy Guy Returns

Conspiracy Guy popped in for his semi-annual visit. He looked deeply nervous, as usual.

He asked me where to find a non-conspiracy-related book, I looked it up, wrote down the call number and he went off to look for it. I imagined his intent was to take the book from the shelf and read it within the library, as there was simply no way I could see him ever getting a library card of his own again, what with our Illuminati-spawned policy of requiring a driver's license, and all.

Shockingly, he did indeed return to the circ desk, after a bit, book in hand. I thought I was in for another fight, but he took out his wallet and fished out a library card. At some point, at some library, he managed to get himself a card.

Hah, I thought, now we have him!

Only after he left did it occur to me to look at his card to make sure we actually had a driver's license number for him.

Nope.

Not there. He managed to get a card through Town-C's branch and somehow managed to skirt by the requirement despite the fact that he does indeed have a license. I've now loaded his patron record up with manual blocks requesting he supply one, which will give him all the amunition he'd ever need to say that we're indeed out to get him and in league with the forces of evil. I should go back and add a manual block requesting he give us a good scan of his barcode tatoo as well.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #118

SETTING: My "liberry" as Mr. B-Natural, cr0ssw0rd puzzle addict and grumpiest old man in all the world, walks up to me at the circ desk.

MR. B-NATURAL-- Hey, I found the Wa11street Journa1 from Friday. Except the last section in it is missing again. That's the section that has the crossword puzzle in it and somebody keeps coming in here and taking it every week. You ought to find out who keeps taking it. And string `em up from the nearest tree.

ME-- Okay.

MR. B-NATURAL-- (Looks at me a bit suspiciously)

ME-- No, that sounds reasonable.

MR. B-NATURAL-- (Smiles and walks away)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Yeah, I got yer summons right here!

Speaking of the town in which I grew up...

...my dad phoned me last night to inform me that I've been summoned for jury duty in Starkville, MS. That's right, I've not lived there in over a decade and have been registered to vote in at least five different places in three different states since then, but they still have me on the voter rolls in Oktibbeha County. My parents say they've been trying to get me off the voter rolls there for years, as my name keeps turning up every time they go to vote. Evidently the county has been in no hurry to do so. In fact, I might be suprised to learn what I've been voting for in the years since my departure.

So I called the circuit clerk this morning and a very nice lady asked me to FAX her a request to be removed from the voter rolls and to include my Tri-Metro address to help prove my point.

This will be the second jury duty I've had valid reason to get out of in the last four months. The other was a local summons which I would have gladly served had the dates not fallen during a week I was otherwise contractually obligated to provide narration for a local dramatic production, a role for which I was actually being well-paid (a rarity in my acting career) and which no one else could have easilly stood in for me due to the timing involved syncing up with the other performers and musicians. Fortunately, a kindly-worded request letter explaining that I am a firm believer in doing my civic duty, but was contractually obligated otherwise and would be happy to turn up with a smile on any other week out of the year, but please not this one, found good favor with the judge. He let me go and they've not yet summoned me again.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Fun Time with Uncle Bunky

One of our formerly semi-regular "innanet" crowders has recently stepped up to full-on regular status. He's a guy I call Cleveland, who now comes in at least once a week to spend several hours with us at a stretch. Cleveland is a mentally handicapped man, at least to some degree. He's pretty functional but is clearly in some way just not quite right. I call him Cleveland because he strongly resembles the character of the same name from Family Guy in both look and voice. What makes Cleveland stand out beyond appearances, though, is his penchant for using our patron computers to do nothing but watch old video clips of the 1980s cartoon, She-Ra: Princess of Power.

You remember She-Ra, right? It was a spin-off of the original He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, with She-Ra being He-Man's sister from another dimension. (And for you trivia buffs, He-Man was the cartoon on which writer J. Michael Straczynski got his start writing for television, before moving on to the Real Ghostbusters, Captain Planet, Murder She Wrote and a little show that he created and for which he wrote most of the episodes called Babylon 5. But I digress...)

From the time Cleveland arrives to the time he leaves—which, if recent visits are any indication, can be upwards of five hours—he sits at our computers and watches clip after clip of She-Ra. Often he watches these clips sans headphones, which means he's only getting the visuals. One might assume he was getting some kind of sexual thrill from this, and perhaps that's the case, but I somehow don't think so. He simply sits and stares and, presumably, is entertained. At the end of his broadcast day, he always thanks us, wishes us a good day and heads out, on foot.

I haven't had any real reason to even think of the character She-Ra in years. In fact, the only other reason she has popped up on my radar at all was a recent appearance on Robot Chicken in which She-Ra decimates most of her arch-villains and several of her friends because they dared to disturb her while she was on the rag. But, as a child of the 80s myself, I was a big fan of He-Man's show and I remember She-Ra from that time period.

Where I grew up, in North Mississippi, She-Ra: Princess of Power was not broadcast on its own, like He Man's show. Rather, it was broadcast as a sub-section of a locally-produced afternoon kid's show called Fun Time with Uncle Bunky. Uncle Bunky was Robert "Uncle Bunky" Williams, a big, friendly, rolly-polly sort-of-guy, who I believe was actually a local policeman in Columbus, MS. He came out, wearing a Fun Time with Uncle Bunky T-shirt and entertained a small peanut-gallery of local kids. After about 15 minutes of that, he'd cut to a half hour episode of She-Ra and then back for another 15 minutes of entertaining at the end. Cutting out the commercial time and She-Ra, Uncle Bunky probably only recorded about 20 full minutes of show per day. And, usually, he would pass that 20 minutes by drawing bizzare animals for the kids on a big paper pad mounted on an easel. I say "bizzare" animals, but even as a kid I used to refer to them as "abominations," for they were like something out of a Hugh Lofting fever-dream.

Uncle Bunky would start by asking the kids what sort of head the creature should have. They'd shout "Elephant!" or "Mouse!" or some such and Uncle Bunky would draw it on the board. Then he'd follow with the kids' choice of animal body, legs, tail, wings (where applicable) and any other odd-assed body parts necessary, (though rarely actual odd asses). Soon there would be some kind of a crazy mythological beastie on the board, at which point Uncle Bunky would rip the page off and give it to a kid and then they'd start all over. He wasn't the greatest artist in the world, but it was entertaining enough for the peanut gallery.

I hated Uncle Bunky's act. It was way too babyish for me and my ever-so-mature middle-school mindset, so I quickly learned to find something else to do for the first 15 minutes of the show and would tune in only for She-Ra, (which was the far more mature thing).

Cleveland seems to like She-Ra pretty well, though I have seen him branch out to other cartoons on occasion. Whatever he's watching, he seems so mesmerized by it that we often can't get any sort of communication through to him. This becomes a problem when he's been on for more than an hour and we need his computer for a new patron. Mrs. B tried on and off for twenty minutes one afternoon to get him to relinquish his computer. I don't know if he simply wanted to finish his episode or genuinely didn't understand the situation, but no matter how she explained it he would just smile and nod and continue watching. When I went over to give it a try, he did get up, but it still took me nearly a minute of spelling it out in triplicate, with him nodding understanding the whole time, before he actually rose from his seat.

Maybe if I'd promised to draw him an animal abomination he'd have left sooner?