Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Actual Semi-Paraphrased, Second-Hand Information Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #128

SETTING: My "liberry" some hours before my arrival, though reported in detail later on. A male patron approaches the circ-desk, turns in five Dick Francis novels and marches off to the mystery section, presumably for more. Mrs. A checks them in and notices that the man has a sixth Dick Francis book still out. She steps out toward the mystery shelves where the patron is browsing through the Dick Francis section.

MRS. A Excuse me, sir, but I just wanted to let you know that you still have 0dds Against by Dick Francis checked out and overdue.

MAN 0dds Against? No, I don't have that book.

MRS. AYou brought it back?

MAN I never had it. I never checked it out.

MRS. A Are you sure?

MAN Yes. I don't read Dick Francis.

MRS. A (Glancing at the other books in our Dick Francis collection on the shelf in front of which the man is directly standing) Uh... Didn't you just bring back five Dick Francis books?


MAN Yes... But I never had 0dds Against.

MRS. A You're sure?

MAN Yes. I brought that back last week.

MRS. A You never had it... but you brought it back last week?

MAN I saw it on the shelf here today.

MRS. A (Glancing again at the Dick Francis shelf where 0dds Against is clearly NOT located) It's not here now, sir.

MAN (Stares blankly at her)

MRS. A Do you think you could have a look at home?

MAN All right.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Spring is here, spring is here. Life is skittles, life is beer. I think the loveliest time of the year is the spring? Don't you? Course you do.

Spring has once again come to Tri-Metro. You can tell by the usual signs...

...the birds are singing...

...the trees are starting to bud...

... and Fatty Manchild has donned his traditional, inadvisedly chosen, sleeveless cutoff t-shirt and jam shorts and has begun parading this ensemble and others remarkably similar to it at our "liberry" on a daily basis as a returning member of the innanet crowd.

And while Mr. F. Manchild has not demonstrated the courtesy of turning off or even turning down the volume of his cell phone, he has at least switched its ringtone from Kid Rock's "Bawitdaba" to something else. Unfortunately, his new choice of ringtone is almost as inadvisable as his choice of attire, for now his phone blares very loud Calliope music.

After spending the better part of two hours with us one day last week, during which his phone went off on more than one occasion, Mr. F. Manchild departed the building and I went over to reboot his computer. There on the desk beside his computer was his wallet. I grabbed it and ran out to the parking lot, where he was only just starting his car. I held up his wallet and waggled it in the air, as if to say, "Forget something important?" When he noticed it, Fatty Manchild looked as though he might pass out from the sudden relief that he had been saved from the potentially nasty and complicated financial decimation that might have ensued had a less ethical person been the first to notice his property.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Back to the Paper Age

We had a scheduled power outage recently that threw our usual day into chaos, at least as far as the innanet crowd was concerned; for us, it may still have been chaos, but at least it was entertaining chaos.

Word came down, on the day in question, that at 11:30a all power for the whole area would be cut off for a couple of hours due to some sort of maintenance issues upstream. Dutifully, Mrs. C went around to all the morning's innanet crowders and warned them that the power would be going off at 11:30 and that they needed to be sure to save whatever they were working on before then. A few of them left the building at the first warning. Others, such as Gene Gene the Geneal0gy Machine, hung on anyway. Soon, other innanet crowders arrived to fill the empty stations. Mrs. C warned all the newcomers, but at 11:30 all ten computers were still very much in use.

When the power finally went off, around 12:30, Mrs. C was at the desk and reported the behavior she witnessed. The lights went out, the computers turned off and all the innanet crowders sat there for several seconds staring at their blank screens. Mrs. C said that they then turned their heads in unison and glared at her as though they had not been duly warned and as though their sudden loss of net-teat-sustenance were somehow her fault.

"I told you it was going to go off," she said to them.

They all then looked at one another for a moment, seemed very sad and then left the building in a mass exodus. Well, all except for Gene Gene the Geneal0gy Machine, who still had to gather up all of his geneal0gy crap. Despite having been warned numerous times, he was very annoyed at this turn of events and said so. Before leaving the building, he gave Mrs. B his cell phone number and instructed her to phone him immediately when the power returned. In the meantime, he said was going to go get some lunch.

I turned up around 1p to find the building's interior in peaceful shadow. It was SO quiet with the absence of the constant hum of machinery. And our phones, all of which require an exterior power source, were blissfully silent as well. Occasionally, patrons arrived to turn in their books, which we piled on the back counter to check in later. We continued to circulate by writing down barcode numbers of library cards and the books themselves. It took a bit longer and we knew it would be a pain to type them all in later, but there was also something comforting about the process. We kind of adopted a "This is how they did things back in the dark times before the age of computas" attitude, despite the fact that no one EVER wrote down barcode numbers before the age of computas.

After a bit, we realized that without power we were also without heat. It wasn't even uncomfortably cold in the building, but we could definitely feel it.

"Watch this," I said, marching over to one of our gas-powered fireplaces, visions of firing them up and sitting toasty and warm in the comfy chairs in front of them, dancing in my head. Only when I arrived there, I realized that the controls of the gas-powered fireplaces were electric, so we were SOL on toasty heat.

What warmed me instead, though, was the sight of several regular innanet crowders, (who'd had to drive through streets deviod of traffic-signals in order to get to the "liberry" in the first place, enter our building, notice all the lights were off, notice the computers were similarly off and then turn to us to ask, "So, there's no innanet?"

"No. There's no innanet," we said.

Around 2p, the power came back on and the phones began to ring with call after call from people saying, "Uhhhh, hey, is yer pa'er back ownnn?" and others complaining that they'd been calling for the past hour to ask us if our power was on and that we would not answer the phone. Another of the earliest callers was Gene Gene the Geneal0gy Machine, who'd phoned to report that the power was back on in Town B, so if any of us wanted to get some lunch there would be restaurants with ovens there. He returned to the "liberry" soon enough and reported that he had been unable to find any lunch himself because all the restaurants had closed anticipating the impending power outage.

Gene has still received no response from the governor regarding his complaint about our innanet being so slow. He has informed me that he has now drafted a new letter explaining to the governor that if the man doesn't have time to respond to the complaints of his citizens, then he, Gene, has no time to vote for him any more.

That'll show him.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


I started to write a detailed account of Winston’s passing here, but it just turned into the saddest thing I've ever written. When I come back and read this stuff in the future, I’d prefer it that I didn’t have to see the details of the last hours of Winston's life. I don't think I will ever forget them, but I sure don't want to relive them. Plus, it won't do any of you any good for me to ruin your day, too.

The short version is that Winston had congestive heart-failure. She's been slowly declining in health over the past year, but seemed spry enough that I felt certain she would at least make it with us to the new house. My wife, who as a physician has a finer-tuned sense of health-decline than my rose-colored glasses will allow, wasn't as optimistic. Her stated belief that the decline was more rapid than I was willing to admit stuck with me, though. In fact, one of the last times I bought cat food, I had been about to choose a whole case of Friskies canned when something clicked in my head that perhaps a case was more catfood than we would be needing.

The wife's concern was not without merit. We've known that Winston has had a heart murmur for over a year now. She'd had a handful of seizures that we know about, which can be caused by a sudden burst of cardiac activity, among many other things. Around a year ago, she passed out in front of us while lying on the bed and seemed to stop breathing for a while. We took her in for tests, which were largely inconclusive, but that's when we learned of the murmur. We hoped it wouldn’t lead to heart failure, but that if it did we hoped she would go quickly. I guess in the grand scheme of things, she did. But, Lord, it sure didn’t feel like it.

When we came back from Borderland, Sunday night, we found Winston struggling for breath, with crackling and wheezing in her lungs. She'd barely touched her food. A puff from an Albuterol inhaler, wedged into the mouth of a spacer made out of half a plastic water bottle, helped her out in the short term and soon she was breathing more or less normally.

I thought it best to get a medical opinion, so Monday morning I dug out the cat crate to head to the vet.

"Get your Crayons, kitty, we have to go to the vet," I told her.

"Get her Crayons?" the wife asked.

"Yeah," I said. "So she'll have something to do while she waits."

The vet checked her out and said that her symptoms likely stemmed from either pneumonia or congestive heart failure. We put our chips on pneumonia and loaded her up on antibiotics, hoping to fight it off.

At 2:30 Tuesday morning we found out we were wrong.

The night before, she'd turned up her nose at both tuna and water. The vet had said she would need to stay hydrated and fed, but our attempts to force feed her seemed needlessly cruel. Plus, the vet had already given her fluids by injection to help hydrate her. In retrospect, it was likely those very fluids that provided the liquid that settled in her lungs due to the heart failure. She began gasping for air at 2:30 Tuesday morning and Albuterol was of no more help.

After a very long and horrible night, during which we tried to keep her as comfortable as we could and petted her and sang her kitty songs, we took her to the vet and asked them to put her to sleep. She went with both Ashley and I there to pet her, tell her we loved her and see her out. And she went very quickly. At that point, we would have paid any amount of money to have her pain ended. The vet didn't charge us a thing. Afterward we just stood in the parking lot, hugging one another, shaking with tears.

Winston died just 7 days shy of her 16th birthday.

I could go on about how much I'll miss her and how broken hearted I am over what happened to her at the end, but really I'm just glad she's no longer suffering. I'm also extremely thankful to have had nearly two extra years with her that I might not have had were it not for a miracle that occurred in the face of my own stupidity. If you don't know what I'm talking about, go check out Winston’s Story. It's a tale with a far happier ending than today's. (Having read over it again myself, now, I'm pleased to inform you that the even happier ending, and possibly larger miracle, is that my stepmother, Myra--who I mention in the account--is in complete remission from her cancer. That's an epilogue, a praise and an answer to prayer I've neglected to add to the tale until now.)

When I got back home and took Winston's body out of the car, still wrapped in its towel, she looked so incredibly peaceful. The wife had told me I could pet her if I wanted to, but I'd said I wasn't going to do that. Seeing her body, though, she looked exactly as if she was asleep, and I reached out, stroked her warm fur and told her goodbye again. She looked so sweet.

We're donating her remaining food, litterbox, shampoo, brushes, treats, cat-crate, feeders and Crayons to the local humane society. And this weekend, we'll carry Winston with us to the new house and bury her in a spot with a nice sun-beam.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Winston Churchill, rests in peace
Winston Churchill: the Infinitely Bad Kitty

1992 - 2008

Monday, April 21, 2008

Actual Telephone Conversations Dashed Down Immediately After They Happened Cause Damn if I was Gonna Remember it All Otherwise #127"

SETTING: My “liberry,” 6:37p on a Friday night during which I’m going to have to stay until 9p even though we close at 7p because there’s a rented function in our multi-purpose room and we have to have staff on hand to close up the building, but that’s okay cause I’ll actually get paid a lot better to do nothing in particular for two hours than I do to do my actual job.


ME— Tri-Metro County Library.

CALLER WHOSE BREATHY SING-SONG VOICE I SOMEHOW FAIL TO RECOGNIZE— Yes, I was hoping you could look up a book for me. Could you tell me the latest Sue Grafton? I think she was on Q.

ME— Actually, it's T is for Trespass.

CWBSSVISFTR— Maybe it was R. I know I already read P.

ME— Uh, no, it's--

CWBSSVISFTR— I think I maybe read R, though.

ME— (Interrupting) T is for Trespass... T is for Tresspass is Grafton's latest.

CWBSSVISFTR— Oh. Oh, she's on T already?

ME— Yes.

CWBSSVISFTR— Well, what was S?

ME— S is for Silence.


ME— R is for Ricochet.

CWBSSVISFTR— Could you hold S for me?

ME— Sure.

CALLER— What time do you close?

ME— Seven.

CWBSSVISFTR— (Disappointed) Oh... Seven. (Pause) Well, what about if there's dangerous winds? Are you still going to be there if there are dangerous winds?

ME— ("Liberry"-Ninja Crazy-Sense begins to tingle strongly) Er... What?

CWBSSVISFTR— They're calling for dangerous high winds.

ME— (Looks out window where trees are barely moving in slight breeze.) Dangerous... winds?

Yes. It's already a warning. The whole map is red. It’s everywhere. It's all red. We're under a warning right now and this time I really think it's going to happen.

ME— Okaaaay.

CWBSSVISFTR— I was actually hoping to ride out the storm there in your building. I'm very frightened. But… (adopts pitiful and disappointed tone) you close at seven.

ME— (Crazy-Sense tingles unbearably.) Uh, yep. We close up at 7.

CWBSSVISFTR— Well, what about you? Are you going to try and risk going home in this weather?

ME— (Thinking about the function scheduled downstairs and how while we were technically going to be closed, the building itself would still be open and I’d still be here `til 9, but still not wanting to let her know this, cause my Crazy-Sense is almost never wrong and it's definitely blaring now.) Uh, yeah. I'm not worried about the weather. I have a vehicle.

CWBSSVISFTR— Oh, I have a vehicle too, but I don’t like to drive in bad weather. I don’t like bad weather. I’m very frightened. Maybe I could get in my bathtub.

(Long awkward pause)

ME— Um… Well… stay safe, then.

CWBSSVISFTR— I suppose I could try and come pick up my book tonight. I don't live very far away. You do have it there?

ME— Er, which one again?


ME— Yes, but which one? R? S? T?


ME— Sure.

CWBSSVISFTR— I would try to come and pick it up tonight, but… (pitiful, pitiful, pitiful) you’re closing. (Adopts very hopeful tone...) Unless you were going to stay open for a while? Because of the storm?

ME— No, we pretty much close at 7 on Fridays.

CWBSSVISFTR— (Disapointment bordering on dispair) Oh.

(Long pause)

CWBSSVISFTR— But you’ll hold my book?

ME— Yes.

CWBSSVISFTR— I suppose you already know who this is, then?

ME— No, I don’t. What’s your name?

CWBSSVISFTR— Barbara Turdmurkle.


ME— (Choosing words with extreme care so as not to make her think I want her to try and come in) Oh. Okayyy. Sure. We’ll have it here for you if you could come in in the next few days.

BARBARA TURDMURKLE— Maybe I’ll come by tomorrow.

ME— Yeah. Tomorrow. That would be good. You could do that.

BARBARA TURDMURKLE— Okay, then. Thank you so much for your help.

ME— You’re welcome.



(I write Barbara Turdmurkle’s name on a piece of paper and walk over to Ms. D. I hold up the name for her to see.)

ME— You should remember this name and remember it well.

MS. D— Why?

ME— Ask Mrs. B.

Friday, April 18, 2008

House on the Borderland (Part Three)

One of the terms the Relocation Dicks set in our contract on the house was that all home inspections had to be concluded by March 20, two weeks from our contract date. Unfortunately, while some of the inspections were easy enough to get done, others, such as the septic and well inspections that had to be done by the Borderland Health Department, took a bit more time.

For days the Borderland Health Dept. told our real estate agent that they were coming "tomorrow" then would fail to show up. Why were they stalling like this? Well, I don't know for sure, but it might have something to do with the fact that all of this stuff had been inspected almost exactly one year beforehand and was therefore still "under warranty" except by the time the Health Dept. finally showed up, mere three days before the deadline set by the Dicks, the previous inspections had expired by six days. And once they did arrive, they announced that they weren't going to even attempt to inspect the well or the septic system because the owners had moved out of the house five days previously and health dept. regulations stated that someone had to have been in residence for 30 days prior to the inspections. So in essence, the inspections that we had to have in order to buy the house could not occur by the Dicks' deadline, or conceivably AT ALL, because the previous owners had moved out.

Adding insult to injury, the Health Dept. announced that they also weren't going to pass the well-system until a concrete well-cap was constructed around the existing well pipe. (For those of you in cities who've never heard of such, this is basically a big metal or plastic pipe, sealed, that sticks up out of the ground and leads to the well reservoir below. The concrete well-cap must be in place and built conically to cause rain water to flow away from the pipe and not collect around it, possibly contaminating the water supply.)

Now keep in mind this is a 20 year old house that has been sold more than once during its existence--most likely a year and six days previous to that point--so why were we getting busted on it now?

To us, this matter smacked of the sort of thing that the owners should really have to take care of. After all, it was their house that had to pass inspection before it could be sold and their fault we couldn't get it inspected cause they'd thoughtlessly moved out of it. Our agent warned us, though, that he'd already spoken to the Relocation Dicks and they'd outright refused to have anything to do with any of it, as per their status as dicks. He suggested we drive over to Borderland and construct the new well-cap ourselves.

Leaving aside my entire lack of skill at this sort of thing, we thought it was a bit out of line for people who don't own a piece of property to be asked to construct ANYTHING on it, let alone something that is going to have to pass some sort of rigid governmental standard. We asked a number of people what they thought, including one of Mrs. A's local government contacts and our own local health-dept. Everyone advised us that we had no business building ANYTHING on property we didn't own. So we phoned our agent back and explained to him that because we could not legally fix this issue ourselves it had to fall to the people who legally could, i.e. the relocation dicks or the original owners. If they wanted the house sold at all, they were going to have to make a move. We'd set our foot and spoke our mind.

We never heard what the dicks' response was to this, because I'm pretty sure our agent didn't approach them about it knowing they were going to be dicks and lose him his commission on the sale. Instead, he had a plumber come out and test both the septic system and well (they passed) then worked out a deal with the health department in which they would go ahead and issue official passes on the well and septic system provided we signed no-fault documents stating that they'd not been officially inspected yet and let them come back and test them for real after we'd been in the house for 30 days. Seemed a fair enough trade to us, so we went for it. The only other outstanding question was whether our bank's lawyer would do the closing or whether the dicks' lawyer would do it. We preferred ours, as we couldn't imagine the dicks' lawyer being any less of one. We told them to fight it out amongst themselves.

We were approved for our mortgage, told we needed to come up with $2500 to cover the closing costs and had to have all of it documented as to its place or origin. The bank was quite insistent about this part. We couldn't, for instance, take credit card advances to pay for it, but had to have documented legitimate sources. So we scrambled to pull all of that together, with help from family, and managed to get it done fairly quickly. Once everything was in place and all the inspections approved or otherwise noted, our banker called to tell us that our closing had been approved and would take place the following week. We just needed to wait for the bank's lawyer (yay!) to phone and let us know the full closing cost amount to have a check for. Only the days went by and no call came. Finally, the day before closing, we phoned the lawyer's office to ask.

Oh, no, they said. You don't have to bring any money. We're giving you a check.

See, part of our offer on the house included $2000 of earnest money to let the owners know we were serious. However, because we don't have any real liquid cash on hand, we financed 100 percent of the house instead of 100 percent minus the $2000. So the earnest money was extra that went toward covering the closing costs. The costs weren't as bad as all that, so we got the difference back.

And since I won't have a job in a couple of months and since potentially neither of us will have one in July, that will be money we'll probably have to either live on or pay house payments with until the wife's job kicks in come August.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

House on the Borderland (Part Two)

After doing the math and seeing how expensive it would be to both buy the A-Frame and fix it up, I began to panic.

We'd looked at a great many houses in Borderland, but the A-Frame was definitely the coolest we'd seen of them all so far. (Actually, there was another house that was arguably cooler and in much better shape, but which was quite a bit more expensive. Furthermore, it did not have cool land, had more neighbors closer about and had interior decoration that looked as though Pier One Imports had taken a shit in it. I'm so serious. It was exactly like the worst, most cramped Pier One you've ever been in, magnified. You could NOT take a step without bumping into big honking statuary and delicate vases on rickity wicker-wrapped tables. There was, in fact, barely any room to walk with all the crap in there. And, properly divested of metal statues of ballerinas and goats, the place would have been quite roomy. It was a minimalist's screaming nightmare, but was one we were still considering, minus the crap.)

With the A-Frame's future in jeopardy, I was determined to find something equally cool to trade for, should that become necessary. So I went online and looked some more and immediately found the place. The exterior shot alone with its wood and rock siding told me it was our kind of house, but the added description of it that mentioned how it offered distance from its neighbors and quiet seemed like a place we definitely would want to see more of.

Meanwhile, we were still very actively considering the A-Frame, despite its problems. We'd even decided to have the place inspected, almost hoping there would be some massive deal-breaker that would block our path to purchase. Since we wanted to be on hand for the inspection, we scheduled a Saturday showing of what we had come to call the Wood House, followed immediately afterward by the inspection of the A-Frame.

The day before we were to head over to Borderland to visit the Cedar House and have the A-Frame inspected, our real estate agent called to ask if we could flip the order of business. Instead of meeting him at 9 to see the Cedar House, we'd just meet at the A-Frame, have it inspected, and then roll over to see the Cedar House afterward. As it turns out, we would have probably saved $250 by doing it in the original order.

The A-Frame inspection went well. Our inspector gave the place a three hour thorough once-over, pointed out some things he thought needed to be changed, made some suggestions, but overall gave the property a passing grade. In fact, we were a little afraid he wanted to buy it himself by the end of things. Feeling very good about our decision to pay for the inspection, we headed over to the Cedar House where we realized the error of our ways.

While while not quite as eclectic as the A-Frame, the Wood House was very nice indeed. It was a 20 year old ranch-style seated atop a hill overlooking trees and countryside. It was indeed very private, comfortably distant from neighbors, and, best yet, could be moved into with a minimum of work. Sure, some of the rooms had paint and wallpaper choices that we would not have made ourselves, but that's cheap enough to fix.

In short, we liked it quite a bit. To me, it didn't have the same atmospheric vibe as the A-Frame, particularly in the land-department, but it certainly made up for it in a lack of back-breaking work to make it our own. And when your major bread-winner is also the major skilled-laborer of the family, as my wife most certainly is, that counts for a lot.

We made an offer on the place that night. Within a couple of days, we learned that our offer had been accepted--though just barely. Despite some pretty fierce competition, our offer won out . The competition evidently came back with larger counter offers, but the owners fortunately decided to honor their verbal agreement with us and keep us on as the buyers. Unfortunately, the owners were actually only owners in name because they were working through a relocation company that had technically purchased the house from them, giving them a say in who gets it, but otherwise taking care of all other decisions about the house. As we soon were to learn, the particular relocation company in question is seemingly staffed by canker-encrusted dicks.

You would think in a housing market as crappy as ours is right now that the buyer would have a good deal of leverage. And perhaps that might have been the case if we'd had no competition at all. But the Relocation Dicks knew there was competition, so they pretty much bent us over a coffee table at every opportunity. Sellers fees that all sellers in every home purchase agreement from time immemorial have traditionally had to pay, with the actual words "SELLER'S" and "FEE" in their very title, the Dicks refused to pay. We had to pay them. In fact, we paid all fees for all the inspections of the property, all the closing costs and even a few more fees that cropped up during the process. But let me say, in what little defense the Dicks have, we knew about most of this going into the process (except for that whole "SELLER'S FEE" thing) and we went in willingly. In fact, we were prepared to be pretty accommodating in all of this because we really wanted the place.

Even with the hassles put upon us by the Relocation Dicks, things really went smoothly for the most part. Not to say there weren't bumps...


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

An Interlude 2: Electric Overusedjoke

Shortly after I arrived for work, yesterday, one of our irregular innanet patrons phoned to alert me that he wouldn't be coming in at all because he had to drive to, oddly enough, my future home town of Borderland. It seems that the Borderland Post Office was going to remain open until midnight for the convenience of late tax-filers, whereas Tri-Metro's PO was planning to give everyone the finger and shut down at the crack of 4:30. The patron noted that he was going to need every last second he could squeeze out of the day, so he was heading out. He then offered to give me the Borderland PO's phone number as well, in case any other patrons needed it. I took it and thanked him for his news update and hung up.

"Big Hairy Guy just called," I said to Mrs. B. (This is not a blog nick-name but is actually how we have referred to him in-house for pretty much the whole time we've known him, for the man is indeed large and hairy, much liken unto a lumberjack.) I then told her of Big Hairy's report that Borderland's PO was open late.

"Oh, good," she said. "He was in earlier and said he was trying to find one that would stay open late. The closest he'd found was Charleston." Then, after a bit of thought, Mrs. B added, "You know, if he'd spend as much time on his taxes as he has on finding a post office, he could have them done and turn them in here."

My moms-in-law did our Federal taxes for us, (Thanks muchly, Ma!), which are pretty brutal this year but it's our own fault. We were paying estimated taxes every quarter for the past year on the assumption that we wouldn't have to pay any come April. WRONG. It seems that even though we paid our estimated taxes, the wife didn't take out enough witholdings in her job and most of my freelance writing and editing work is done sans witholdings of any sort. So we had a chunk to pay and another chunk of estimated tax for the first quarter.

Then there were the state taxes to deal with, which we hadn't even looked at until Monday night. The wife was mentally fatigued from being on call over the weekend and I'm just naturally mentally fatigued, so the whole process took us a couple of hours. In fact, we spent 45 minutes trying to determine what sort of penalty we would have to pay because we had so woefully underestimated the amount of taxes we would owe the state in the first place. To discern this penalty amount, we had to fill out two separate forms, do some quadratic equations, look up a bunch of crap in a table or two, eat some greasy peanut butter cookies and subtract line 7 from line 3. In the end, we owed the state an extra $3.03. THREE $%&#ING DOLLARS AND THREE CENTS!!!

"I would have given them $5 outright not to have to go through all that shit," I said.

And, really, that's how the IRS should do things. They'd probably make far more money off the average Joe who can't afford an accountant to simply have a check box that says, PAY $X FLAT FEE TO NOT TO HAVE TO GO THROUGH ALL THIS SHIT. And they could put nearly any amount in X that they wanted and it would still get paid!!

That HAS to be why taxes are so complicated. The IRS knows that by the time you've finished doing everything you have to do to get all the details right, you'd pretty much pay any amount of money just to be done with it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

An Interlude (a.k.a. "Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #126")

SETTING: My "liberry" on a particularly hectic Monday, during Tax Week, shortly after we open for business. I'm still trying to empty the book return when chaos suddenly descends upon the circ-desk and we are nearly overwhelmed with people seeking tax forms, tax books, advice on how to fill out their tax forms, second requests for tax forms and tax books from idiots who can't seem to find them where we've just directed them to look, not to mention other idiots who've just printed out an entire 40 page 1040 tax instruction book when we had them available for free in the first place. Stepping into this chaos comes Mr. Dent, fourth grumpiest old man in all the world. He stands there like a big, dented, myopic eagle clutching three books in his talons.

ME-- (Thinking he's just returning books, I point to the numerous other stacks of returns on the desk) Hello. You can put returns there.

MR. DENT-- What?

ME-- You can put your returns there. (Points again.)

MR. DENT-- What?

ME-- Are you returning those books?

MR. DENT-- Yes. But I want to take one out again.

ME-- (Trying very hard not to sigh. It's way too early in the day for such a surly attitude on my part.) Okay. (I go behind the circ desk and switch the computer to renew, take his book, renew it, stamp it with the renewed due date and pass it back to him.) There you go.

MR. DENT-- Also, I need help finding a book. Do you have any books by...


MR. DENT-- Robert...


MR. DENT-- Do you have him?

ME-- Uh, Robert who?

MR. DENT-- (In a tone that suggests he's already said the name clearly four times) Ludlum. L-U-D-L-A-M.

ME-- Oh, sure. (Pointing to Adult Fiction Stacks) His books will be over there in those tall shelves, under Ludlum.

MR. DENT-- No, I looked last week and he wasn't there. Would you show me?

ME-- (Glancing at the very apparent chaos around me, which has continued unabated during our exchange, with Ms. M barely able to handle it.) Certainly.

(At a near trot, I rush around the desk and toward the Adult Fiction Stacks. I arrive at the I-O aisle a good 30 seconds before Mr. Dent. When he arrives, I point up to an entire shelf level that is filled to capacity with hardback Robert Ludlum novels, not to mention a couple of Fake Shemp Ludlum novels by Eric Van Lustbader.)

ME-- There you go. This entire shelf is Ludlum.

MR. DENT-- (Peering up at it with a foul expression that suggests he fully believes this section indeed wasn't there last week and this is all somehow a joke at his expense.) Why on earth would you have him classified here and not -- (gestures back across the main floor presumably toward the Nonfiction stacks)

ME-- (Trying desperately not to sound snotty when I explain...) Because this is our Adult Fiction section. Ludlum was a fiction writer.

MR. DENT-- (In a most chastising tone) Sir Robert Ludlum.

(I give this a seething pause, then turn and walk away.)

Monday, April 14, 2008

House on the Borderland (Part One)

Not long after we became fairly certain that a move to Borderland was in our future, we began looking for a house there. Neither of us have ever been home owners. (Well, technically, we own a hippie cabin in Alaska, but that's not precisely what we think of as a "home" home, being as how it's held together with baling wire and frozen spit and it sits on a property warrened out with hidden tunnels constructed out of a series of hollowed out oil drums, buried there by the previous tenant, who was a survivalist nut. Occasionally one of these tunnels rusts through and people and their lawnmowers fall into it. You only think I'm kidding.) So, really, we wanted somewhere to call our own, where we could at last have a dog and maybe a rugrat or two.

When we first interviewed in Borderland, the hospital rep took us out on a tour of the area, showing us the houses and neighborhoods where a lot of the docs live. Most of them were either cramped subdivisions of cookie-cutter two-levels built practically on top of one another, winding around the hills and valleys of the area or were sprawling multi-million dollar homes owned by surgeons and other specialists, the kind that take a staff to keep up and which we could never afford in a billion years, even if we wanted such a McMansion, which we don't. I think our hospital rep thought we might be impressed by them, but to us it just looked like a lot of work. We have no desire to have "a staff" and houses that big would just be more for us to have to clean ourselves. No, our taste tends toward the simple and unadorned, yet still unique, with a little more space from our neighbors, even if it's just a matter of a couple dozen feet. What we wanted was a nice, reasonably-sized house that wasn't a cookie cutter copy of every other house in the neighborhood. In fact, if we could avoid neighborhoods altogether, that would be pretty sweet.

"Maybe we should buy a farm," I said. We know quite a few doctors who own farms because of the tax benefits of owning a working farm. The farm didn't even have to make any money for the benefits to kick in. So I suggested that I could start a less-than-profitable hens & chicks farm in which I would grow crops and crops of hens & chicks spawned from my own strawberry pot full of them, and then fail to sell a one. The wife thought we might need farm animals, too, so I suggested we buy a goat who we would name Douglas Goat and he could keep the grass trimmed so I wouldn't have to mow. Every morning we'd go out and stake him in a grassy part of the yard, pet him on his goat head and he could much away contentedly the whole day long. Idyllic, no?

So we began searching the real-estate websites in search of something cool and possibly farm-like. Before long we found it. Not far outside of Borderland exists a very picturesque A-frame house, with three bedrooms, and three full baths situated on a beautiful section of land and which had formerly served as a bed & breakfast. We loved the pictures, so we contacted the real estate agency that had the listing and went over for a look.

The place was even more gorgeous in person, with a vine-covered stone chimney, coy pond out front, jutting natural boulders around the edges of the property, a walking path through the trees, room for a garden, a heated out-buiding that might be used as an office or home studio. It even had a small barn in the back for Douglas Goat. And while there were neighbors nearby, they weren't on top of you. The place was just fantastic and quite easy to fall in utter love with--which I did.

The inside of the house, however, while completely livable, was still something of a fixer-upper. Probably the most obvious flaws were the floors, which sloped just a teensy bit on both the ground and second levels, though in opposite directions. Cosmetically, there was also plenty to consider. The place had been built in the 1970s and had cheap, plastic cabinets in its kitchen that would have to be torn out and replaced with something better. (I don't know if you've looked at cabinet prices these days, but doing a new kitchen from the ground up is very expensive.) At the same time, both bathrooms in the place, while completely usable, were lacking in the design department and we didn't much like them. (I don't know if you've looked at bathroom prices these days, but doing a new one from the ground up--let alone TWO--is very expensive.) And the bedrooms, all three of them, were pretty small and got smaller as you went up in levels. Their closet space was severely lacking and they just struck us as rooms that really needed a couple of walls torn out and completely redesigned. Adding to this the fact that many of the walls in the house were not made of drywall, but rather of thin wood paneling that gave when you pressed it. Some re-walling would have to be done, though not necessarily right away.

Now, it would be one thing if I had the kind of skills necessary to do some of this myself. The problem is, no matter how many flip this house shows I've watched, at the end of the day I'm just not that handy and am so far from being capable of doing ANY of it that it was pretty clear that this would be the sort of job for which you'd have to hire a contractor or three, possibly over the course of several years. (I don't know if you've looked at how expensive contractors are, these days, but getting them to pretty much gut a great deal of your house is very expensive.) The more we looked at the place, the more our hearts began to sink at all the work it would take to get it where we wanted it. It was a home of fantastic potential, but when you're just starting out in life as a new doc in a new clinic with all the stresses that come with it, do you really want to have to come home to torn out walls, drywall dust and broken plastic cabinetry?

Add to this the fact that it's difficult for new home buyers to get the sort of mortgage that allows for such improvements without a 25 percent down payment that we don't have and you see our dilemma.


Friday, April 11, 2008

So, yeah...

...the wife and I will be moving to the new digs sometime during the next coupleathree months.

This is something that's been in the works for a while now but in varying stages of certainty until fairly recently.

For instance, I've known for several years now that the wife would finish up her medical training in June of 2008 and would be in need of a job at that point. We'd both somehow always assumed that an ideal job opportunity would open up in the Tri-Metro area for her. And while there were actually quite a number of possibilities in the general region of the state, including some very tempting offers, the major one we had thought would materialize failed to do so and there wound up being very little close to home that seemed a good fit.

In the end, the choice came down to two different hospitals both located an inconvenient distance from Tri-Metro. So we decided that if we were going to have to move anyway, it may as well be for the better of the two offers, one which created the least amount of hassle for us and the most amount of opportunity to start paying off the VOLCANIC MOUNTAIN of student loans we're now buried under, the deepest magma tunnels of which we are only just beginning to tickle.

So, we're moving.

The actual move is still a little ways off, but it'll probably happen a bit sooner than my original possible forecast from November. After all, while the wife is still here through the end of June, mortgage payments will be coming in a bit sooner and it would get pretty tight if we had to pay both the mortgage and rent on our house here at the same time. Besides that, there is still some work to do on the new house before it's ready for all our crap to get moved in (not to mention crap to get rid of so we don't have to move it) and we'll be using all of our intervening weekends to get that taken care of.

As to where we'll be moving, I'm calling it Borderland for the time being, just cause it sounds cool and because the only other name I've thought up for it is way too obvious.

"What does that mean for the blog?" you ask. Well, I don't know for sure at this point, but I suspect it means it will come to something of a point of closure within the next coupleathree months. At around an hour and a half away, Borderland is not a commutable distance from Tri-Metro. Not with the kind of weather we get in the winters here and not with gas prices at their current levels. It's possible I might find employment with one of the "liberries" in Borderland County, at which point I'd have to start "Liberry" 3.0 and continue on. I suspect, however, I'll probably do something else.

I do still have more time with my current gig as a "liberry" ninja and several as yet untold tales to tell from there. (After all, no one has yet solved the grand mystery of "Liberry" 2.0--or, if they have, they've kept it to themselves. The hints are all there, one inadvertently posted quite recently, in fact.)

I'm also certain that the move itself will generate some fun stories. And there's the tale of the new house itself, not to mention some roads not traveled which I've been itching to write about for a while.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Ominious Rumblings

Kind of big news for us...

We closed on a house today.

It looks like this:

The House


Did I mention it's not in Tri-Metro?


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Gene FINALLY Poops

Shortly after I arrived at work, Gene Gene the Geneal0gy Machine came to the desk and told me that he'd finally penned his letter to the governor complaining about the slowness of our innanet connection. In fact, he'd already printed two copies and wanted me to have the first look at his missive--you know, being as how I'm the guy who's been repeatedly telling him he needed to write this letter for the better part of six months. I was more than willing to give it a look, too, because I didn't trust Gene to get the details right. Sure enough, within less than two seconds I could see things were amiss.

Gene's first sentence was an apparent fragment caused by his use of an unnecessary period after the abbreviation of our state, a period which Microsoft Word had interpreted as a full stop and helpfully capitalized the first letter of the next word creating the appearance of a brand new sentence. I pointed this out to him. Further on, we had some misspellings, one the word "seems" spelled "seams." Gene was unhappy about this and blamed our spell checker. I informed him that Word's spell checker was working just fine and that "seams" was indeed the proper spelling of a word, just not the one he was intending to use. There were more such errors and misspellings throughout, including--and I swear I am not making this up--the word "liberrian."

He printed out two copies of his second draft, which I took from the printer to check before he could even come ask. I could see immediately he'd not fixed all the things I'd circled earlier, so I went out to his computer and offered to copy edit it for him on screen. He gladly let me have a seat and I went through and made sure his complaint letter about us was grammatically correct. I then suggested a few things he might add to it, such as placing the blame for our slow connection speed squarely on the shoulders of DubyaVeeNet, as I'd been explaining to him for months, and an added suggestion to the governor that he consider a different and more reliable internet service provider, being as how there are quite a number of them in the state to choose from.

Gene thanked me for my efforts, printed out another two copies--one for the governor and one for Gene's own records, cause he saves EVERYTHING. In fact, he had a copy of his letter from the "liberry" commissioner about the issue to include with his letter to the governor. Way to go.

Will it do any good? Eh, who knows. I sure hope so because I'm sick of the slow-ass innanet connection too. Back when I had dialup at home, it used to be that going to work was my great escape from the slow speed at home. Now that I have amazingly reliable Verizon DSL at home, however, going to work is like sliding into a nice pool of tepid tar. My boss, Mrs. A, thinks it's far more likely the governor's office will roll this particular crap ball down to the "liberry" commission who will then roll it on to her head despite the fact that we can't do anything about it.

We shall see.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Evidence of Behavioral Adaptation in Homo Hinkiens

While speaking with Mrs. A in the staff workroom, I glanced out the back door and spied Mr. Hinky coming up the sidewalk. As usual, he was carrying a paper coffee cup from Ornathological Coffee, complete with lid.

"Aw man," I said.

"What?" Mrs. A said.

I pointed out the back door and explained to her who was coming up the walk and what was likely about to happen once he came inside. If history had been any teacher, Mr. Hinky would be here to sign up for a computer. Because we don't allow drinks at our computers, I would have to ask him about his cup. Chances were good that it would be empty and also that Mr. Hinky would shake it at me to demonstrate this and give me a triumphant stink eye for my trouble. However, because of the times he's actually snuck full cups of coffee to the computers, I would still have to ask him about it all the same and go through what was becoming a ritual between us yet again.

I sighed, and was about to step out to the circulation desk to do my part of the ritual when through the window I saw Mr. Hinky stop, remove his backpack from his shoulders, place it upon the sidewalk, open the front pocket of the pack and insert his empty coffee cup into the bag.

"Oh, good move," I said. "Very good move."

Apparently, history has indeed been a teacher.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #125

SETTING: My "liberry" as sexagenarian "liberry" ass. Mrs. J is taking care of checking in some books at the circ desk. I see a young man approach the desk and hear him ask her a question.

PATRON-- Yeah, I saved a file on...

MRS. J-- (Who cannot hear) Whaaaaat?

PATRON-- I saved a file... to one of these... (sees he still isn't getting through to her and looks at me).

ME-- Can I help you?

PATRON-- Yeah, I saved a file on one of the computers over there, but someone else is using it right now. Is there any way to get my file?

ME-- (Recognizing this kid as one I signed onto his current computer, not ten minutes previous, before which he had entered the building and had not been in earlier to have saved his file on the other computer on this particular day) Um. I'm afraid your file is gone. Every time we reboot a computer, any files saved to it are wiped.

PATRON-- Awww maaaaaaan.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Great Computer Exodus (a.k.a. "Resolutions Bent")

The computers were lousy with patrons upon my arrival today. Not packed completely full, but with only a couple stations to spare. Soon, I knew, these two would fill and then I'd have to figure out who was first in line to be kicked off. I consulted our sign in sheet in advance to see. We'd already filled one sheet and moved to a new one, but there were a few as yet unhighlighted lines at the bottom of the first indicating patrons still in-house. I noted the top most one, then saw that waaaay at the top of the sheet was the signature of Mr. W. Perfect, who had been on since shortly after we opened this morning. Dadgummit.

Soon after this, I decided to do my usual mid-afternoon inspection of the men's room. Everything seemed okay on first glance, but while inspecting the stall for toilet paper, I happened to spy something within the toilet that brought my blood pressure up and alerted me to yet another visit by the Copycat Shitter. So as not to entirely break my New Year's resolution, I will not describe what I saw. However, the conversation I had with Mrs. B as I went to retrieve our cleaning kit (which is complete with Clorox Cleanup, rubber gloves and a stout bristled toilet brush) went as follows:

ME-- Y'know, we have a regular male patron here who really needs to look into eating more cheese, cause his current diet of fiber and cement is pissing me off.

MRS. B-- Eww.

ME-- It's been every day this week with this guy!

And now that I think about it, most of the recent Copycat Shitter incidents have occurred on days when Mr. Perfect has spent a great deal of time with us. Hmmmmmm.

Of course, after that crisis had been scoured away and I was about to exit the restroom, I spotted another potentially disturbing sight within the restroom which caused me to return to the staff workroom for a point of inquiry.

ME-- Please tell me that one of us has already been in the men's bathroom and poured a bunch of water in front of the urinal in preparation for cleaning the floor.

MRS. B-- Uh... not that I'm aware of.

Yes, indeedy, it was a standing urine situation, no doubt caused by one of the many clients from the local Unobstructed Doors group who had been in during the morning. And let me add that this is not the first time I've had to have that particular conversation over that exact subject.

Naturally, before I could return to the restroom, armed with a mop bucket and some Comet, some other guy had come in to have a wee and was standing in the very substance I was hoping to clean up. I had to return to the circ desk to consult with Mrs. B and Ms. D.

ME-- Do we still have our "Restroom Closed" sign?

MS. D-- I think so.

ME-- What about our "Stop pissing on the goddam floor" sign?

MS. D-- Uh, I could make you one.

When I next exited the restroom, I was astounded by an even more astounding sight than those I had just witnessed within. We had only two patrons on computers, all on one side of the computer station. Glory be, at nigh onto 2 o'clock on a weekday during Spring Break, even! Such an event is unheard of.

Mrs. C asked me to stick around the circ desk while she and Mrs. B and Ms. D went to set up our multi-purpose room. They'd barely been gone for five minutes when both computer users gave up the ghost and departed, leaving nary a single computer patron in house, but for the wifi crowd. This I saw as my golden opportunity to clean the hell out of the computer stations on a real indepth basis and not just a cursory wipe down. The phone then began to ring and some book-reading patrons arrived shortly thereafter, so nearly five minutes passed before I could even seek out the Pledge multi-surface and the Clorox Wipes. Just as I was about to head that way, a college-aged female walked in, glanced at the computer sign in sheet then glanced at the desolate row of computers, then up at me.

CAF-- Is there something wrong with the computers?

ME-- Nope.

CAF-- (Pause) But... but they're never empty.

ME-- I know. Astounding, isn't it?

A minute or so passed and my fellow employees returned.

ME-- You guys missed out. A minute ago, the computers were completely empty.

(We all stare at the College Aged Female, who looks back at us guiltily)

CAF-- I'm sorry.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #124

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

FEMALE PATRON-- Hi, could you come help us at the computer?

ME-- Sure thing.

(I follow her over to the computer where she is helping her kid with some sort of research.)

FEMALE PATRON-- We only wanted to print that one paragraph, but not the whole page. How can we do that?

(Tears of disbelief and joy nearly springing to my eyes, I show them how to highlight that one paragraph and choose SELECTION ONLY from the print menu, rather than printing page after page after page of the entire website like most of our other patrons do.)

(No, this is not an April Fools Day fake entry. This shit actually occurred.)

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.