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.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Barbie T: Future Resident Loon?

On Friday, I received a telephone call from Barbara Turdmurkle asking if her Sue Grafton book was on hold. I took this to mean she was asking if it was still on hold from the last time I spoke to her so I began to explain that we likely shelved S is for Silence.

"Oh, no, I picked that up, but I'd already read it," she said. She wanted the next one, which I had to inform her her again was T is for Trespass. Curiously, we had a copy of this very book in the hold shelf. Even more curiously, it was for Barbie T.

"We have that holding for you here," I said.

"But no one ever called me," she said.

Gee, wonder why, I thought. I again consulted her hold slip, though, and noted that it said her phone had been disconnected and that we'd sent her a post card. I explained this.

"But my phone isn't disconnected its..." and she gave me her number. Turns out we had it wrong in our system somehow, off by one digit in the prefix. Imagine that.

Then Barbie T said the words that sent chills down my spine. "I'll come right up to get it."

I immediately went around and warned the staff as to her impending arrival.

True to her threat, she turned up about a half hour later, though I didn't notice her at first. Mrs. B told me that Barbie T had come in for her book, rooted around in her wallet for her card for a while, had trouble finding it, paused her search momentarily to show Mrs. B pictures of herself from back in the days when she was young, pretty and not so crazy (photos Mrs. B has seen many times before), then eventually found her card. Soon after, she disappeared and we both assumed she'd left the building. Instead, she had actually browsed a bit before settling into one of the comfy chairs by our front window. I even glanced at her on a couple of occasions over the course of a half hour, but didn't recognize her at all. I don't know what it is about Barbara Turdmurkle that my memory cannot hold her in place either by sight or sound. Perhaps it's that our encounters with her are so infrequent, but this time I think there was something else at play. Though I didn't actually get a good look at her, my causal glances at her registered her appearance in my brain as that of a "young" woman, despite the presence of her walker cane. I even wondered to myself what tragedy this "young" woman could have experienced that caused her to have to use such a cane. Never once did I realize who she was, even though I knew she'd been in the area.

Later, after I got a better look at her, I could see that Barbie T was actually camouflaged in an outfit that belied her actual age. She was dressed in a clean t-shirt and jeans and her hair was cut short and stylishly, taking years off her appearance. I dare say she even looked nice--though I would never tell her that for fear of giving her the kind of attention she craves, endangering more frequent visits.

Eventually, Barbie T came up to the circ desk to check out a second book. Mrs. B had seen her coming and fled, stranding me there. Barbie T found her card quickly enough and I checked out her book.

"It's really nice here," she said. "It's very relaxing," she added. "It' s a nice place to just sit and read," she suggested. "I should come here more often just to sit and read," she threatened.

I had absolutely nothing to offer on this topic. Nothing I could say out loud, anyway. The thought of Barbara Turdmurkle spending hours and hours of her time and ours hanging out at the "liberry" is a chilling one indeed. And she wouldn't use the time to just sit and read quietly, either--though I'm sure she'd do some of that, too. No, she'd find every excuse to come to the desk and talk to the staff and get some sort of human interaction that her life is no doubt lacking. Unfortunately, we have way too much that sort of thing in our lives, being as how we deal with the insane all the time already, and having Barbie T's particular brand of it on a regular basis is just not something we want any part of. There didn't seem to be anything I could say that would not accidentally encourage her in this, so I kept my trap shut.

Granted, I won't be around for much longer in case she truly decides to attach herself, remora-like to our hide, but for the sake of my friends on the staff, I hope she doesn't.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cootastic!

A patron came up to the circ-desk bearing what looked like a leather checkbook cover.

"Somebody left this in a chair over by the window," he said.

"Oh, thanks," I told him and took it to drop in the lost and found box. Before doing so, I opened it to find it was not only a checkbook cover but also a wallet, with a driver's license bearing a picture of The Coot staring out. I laughed at this. The Coot had been parked in one of the chairs by the window for most of the day, all slunk down in it as usual. He'd probably slunk his ass so far down in the seat that that he'd wiggled his wallet out of his back pocket.

I phoned the Coot's home and left a message explaining that we had his wallet at the desk.

The next morning, the Coot stopped by, grinned broadly and asked if I'd been the one to call him. I'd seen him coming up the walk and already had his wallet ready to hand to him. I should have demanded some behavior modification on his part before handing it over, but I didn't. Though I'm loathe to admit it, the Coot hasn't been especially annoying as of recent. Oh, sure, he still splashes water on the counter in the men's room in a most unnecessary manner, but he's taken to putting away his books and periodicals on most days instead of always leaving them in piles in his wake. And, gratefully, he no longer smells of cat piss. Or at least he's stopped wearing his leather jacket that smells like cat piss.

Good one.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Dammit, this is a library, you're supposed to be yelling!

There are some foolish people in the world who still believe that libraries are supposed to be places of quiet study, where you must never talk above a whisper or you go to hell, or something. One of those people visited us today along with her six-year-old daughter.

I noticed them in the children's section as the mother was reading to the daughter. Though there were other kids and parents in the area making the usual kid and parent noises, Mom-Low-Talker, however, was reading to her daughter in a mouse-whisper. I wanted to stop and tell her it was okay to actually engage her vocal cords, but decided to let her handle her parenting her own way. Maybe she was teaching by example.

Soon enough, they came to the circ desk to check out, but Mom-Low-Talker didn't get any louder. She whispered that she wanted to check out and then whispered that she didn't have her daughter's card because her husband had possession of it. I explained that we did require a card to check out and asked if she herself had a card. She whispered that she did not. Keep in mind, after 7 years of wearing headphones as a radio DJ, my hearing isn't what it once was when I was young and spry and I often have difficulty hearing people if there's other ambient noise around--which, with the innanet crowd banging away at their keyboards twenty feet away, there was plenty. I was pretty much reading her lips and intuiting her answers. So I passed her a form to fill out and she set to it.

Despite the fact that our form requires a driver's license number, she had not listed one. She had also not listed a full first or middle name, putting initials in both places.

"I'm sorry, ma'am, but we need a driver's license, here," I said, pointing to the blank on the form. Before I could mention the initials, she began whispering something to me that I couldn't understand.

"Excuse me?" I said, cupping my hand to my ear.

She whispered something again, not raising her volume at all. Now I was getting annoyed.

"Ma'am, you can actually speak out out in here. I can't hear what you're saying."

She pointed to the form and in a slightly audible voice said, "Do I have to put it on there? Do you keep these secure?"

Well, if you call a tall pile hidden out of reach of the public secure, then, yes.

"I guess I can just take it from your license if you don't want to include it," I said. "But I will
need your full first and middle names. We can't use initials."

She whispered something at me.

"I'm sorry?"

Returning to almost audible, she said, "I didn't want to spell out my name, because it's so long and complicated." She took the form and began writing out her name. I waited for her to finish, breathlessly anticipating the spelling of so complicated and long a first name that one would be hesitant to include it on forms that require it. I imagined it had to be something in the neighborhood of Romanadvoratrelundar.

She passed the form back to me. In the blank for the first name she'd written "Cathleen." Well, no wonder.

Once I began entering her information in the computer, Cathleen Low-Talker turned out to already have a card from 2005. She didn't believe me when I told her this, of course, but there it was with her contact information already plugged in, plus a note saying that she needed to supply us with her drivers license number. In the end, Cathleen Low-Talker realized that if she'd gone this long without supplying a driver's license number (hell, without even knowing she had a card at all), she could probably continue to do so with no real affect on her life. So she announced that she didn't want to pay for a replacement card for herself but instead would pay for one for the daughter. Whatever.

Just after I passed the new card over and explained that they could throw away the old card cause it would no longer work, Cathleen Low Talker leaned over and whispered to her daughter that now she would have two cards they could use.

"Uh, no," I said. "The old card will no longer work. At all. You can throw it away."

I tell you, I'm not going to miss people like her when I soon shuffle on out of here.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #132

SETTING: My "liberry" as recently re-poop-listed patron Ms. Green is using one of our computers, "assisting" her son with another school report. As in accordance with tradition, Ms. Green's cell phone has gone off three previous times during the evening. However, because she is now well aware of our anti-cell policy, she has hauled butt and phone to the breezeway to take each call as soon as the ring has started. The breezeway, being a small, glassed in, boxy room, only amplifies conversations held within it, which sort of defeats the purpose of people taking their calls there in the first place.

*FOURTH LOUD MUSICAL CELL PHONE RING OF THE EVENING*

MS. GREEN-- (Books it to the foyer, answers her phone and screams...) Stop calling me!!! I'm at the library!!!!

(Listens to someone, perhaps her other kid, presumably asking when she's coming home)

MS. GREEN-- I don't know! When I'm finished! It's like pulling teeth here and he's only making it worse!

(Listens)

MS. GREEN-- Stop calling me!!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #131

SETTING: My "liberry," last month, as a man carrying a plastic grocery store bag full of videos and DVDs enters and approaches the circ desk.

MAN— Is this the day that you don't charge fines?

ME— No, actually, that's Friday.

MAN— Oh. (Looks distraught) Well, these are overdue. They were due on the 11th. (Looks worried and holds bag handles guardedly) Could I take them back?

ME— Sure. You're welcome to keep them and bring them back on Friday, if you like.

(Pause)

MAN— But I was hoping to get some more.

(I stand there in silence because if I were to try and speak I would likely come up with "Dude, it's pretty %&#*ing simple. Either you turn in your videos and take your fines or you bring them back on Friday and you don't get fined. It's your choice. The safety's off. How you wanna play this?")

MAN— Well... maybe I can send someone back with them on Friday.

ME— (Seeing now that the man's problem might be one of transportation on Friday) Or, the other option is to put them in our after hours drop box outside. It's fine free all during the week, but we only unlock it when we're closed.

MAN— Well... could I put them in it now?

(Pause)

ME— No. It's locked right now. We only unlock it when we're closed.

MAN— But I wanted some more movies today.

ME— (Shrugs) You're welcome to turn them in, then, but we will have to charge you a fine.

MAN— How much?

(I ask the man how many he has and reconfirm that all ten videos were due on the 11th. I then fetch the calculator.)

ME— Looks like the fine would be $4.50. Actually, it would only be $4, because we have a $4 fine ceiling.

MAN— Oh.

(He again looks distraught as he weighs his options. Does he take the fine now and get some new videos or does he have someone else bring them back on Friday to avoid the fine and go home empty-handed? From his expression, you can pretty much see the argument as it plays out in his head. Eventually, he decides against taking the fine and leaves with his bag of videos.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Growing Family (PART 2)

So the wife and I have been discussing the dog situation on and off over the last few weeks. Again, I thought the discussions would only come to fruition AFTER we'd moved to Borderland. It seemed insane to do otherwise, not only because getting a dog would complicate the move but also because we're not supposed to have dogs at all in our current place in Tri-Metro.

Then I came home from work last week to find my wife in a very good mood. She grinned and said, "I've been doing searches on the internet. You should go see what's on your screen."

Immediately, I knew it would be a dog. And I knew that dog would be a Saint. I hung my head and trudged to my office and sat down. When my screen saver vanished I saw the face at right staring back at me. It was a 6 to 8 week old St. Bernard mixed puppy that was at a humane society a couplea-three counties away. Her name was Sadie.

Sadie at the poundMy heart both sunk and rose at the same time because: A) I knew there would be no argument that could sway my wife away from getting this dog; and B) I didn't care.

I walked back to the kitchen where the wife was waiting, eagerly looking to see the expression on my face. She practically clapped when she did.

"You know, if you wanted to get that dog," I said, "I wouldn't put up much of a fight."

We phoned the humane society the following day and put Sadie on reserve. She was supposed to wait until May 19 before she could be adopted, but because that humane society is closed on May 19, they said we could come on May 17. We lit out first thing Saturday morning.

The lady at the administration office of the couplea-three-counties-away-humane society asked us if we'd been down to the kennel section to see Sadie. We had not, as we'd been told to go to administration first. She told us we'd better go look at her to make sure we wanted her. To see if we wanted her? That sounded so insane to us. We already loved this dog and we'd only seen her picture. But we decided to humor the lady. We drove down to the kennel, averting our eyes so as not to see all the other dogs in their cages and endanger ourselves of going home with more than one. (This was a really nice humane society, by the way, situated in a very scenic county park.) Sadie was kept in the puppy/small dog section, within a concrete block building. We told the lady we were there to see Sadie. She led us into a little hall lined with cages. We kept our eyes locked only on the cage she was pointing to and within seconds we were staring at our new dog. There she was, standing up on all fours, some newspaper spread in the bottom of her cage, a bit of puppy poo smeared on her butt where she'd sat in it.

Ashley stuck her fingers through the bars and Sadie playfully licked and nipped at them. Ashley then asked if it was okay to open the cage and the attendant said it was. She reached in and petted Sadie and then I put my hand up to be sniffed and it was instead licked. That was it. As I would learn later, Ash made up her mind in that moment that there was no way we were leaving without that puppy.

"We'll be right back in just a minute and then you're coming home with us," Ashley told Sadie in a low voice.

It took only a little bit of paperwork, a check for $100 and a promise to return in a month to have her spayed, and Sadie was ours. As we went back to the kennel to pick her up, we asked the attendant if there was any idea what sort of mix Sadie was beyond St. Bernard. Her coloration is strictly black and white and saints usually have brown or reddish mixed in. I was hoping it would be a decidedly non-drooly dog, because that's one of my main memories of the wife's former pooch, Honey Bee. The wife pointed out that she could hardly be mixed with a MORE-drooly dog, so anything might be an improvement. The attendant theorized a couple of things, but we've since decided it might be border collie. Sadie has a certain look about her eyes in common with the border collie owned by some friends of ours. If she is, she'll likely grow up to be large and smart.

SadieAs you can see from this picture taken at our new place in Borderland, Sadie is cuteness incarnate. She can just take your breath away with how adorable she is. Not unexpectedly, her current nicknames are Piddles McGillicuddy and Poopsy Collins, for her repeated excretory missteps. Whatayagonnado? She's a puppy.

Sadie is very sweet, when she's not busy trying to teethe on our fingers, hands and arms. She follows us everywhere and doesn't like it when even one of us leaves the room, let alone the house. She likes her new pack all together.

Though we have friends that swear by it, neither of us are big fans of crating animals. However, on our first night with Sadie, after her long exciting day, we noticed her trying to climb into our lower kitchen cabinets to find a place to go to sleep. At that point, the wife dashed over to Wally World and picked up one of those collapsible, nylon doggie tents. She went right in and fell asleep. Much like with Baby Ian, we've been getting up twice in the night to let her go potty outside. And after three days with us, she no longer pees by the door while waiting to get out.

Being a puppy, she's often a bundle of energy and prone to biting and wrestling fits. When she starts getting too bitey with us (we have the wounds to show for it) we put her on the floor and set to ignoring her. Quite amusingly, she often takes out her frustration on her food dishes, hauling them around the room in her mouth, growling and flinging them and barking wildly, making as much noise as she can. When she's finished (and when we've caught our breaths from laughing at her) she trots back over and falls asleep at our feet.

On Sunday morning, we hauled Sadie back to Tri-Metro, where there's less carpet to endanger. She travels well, which is good, cause there's going to be a good deal of traveling for her in the next few weeks.

We're cherishing these moments when she's still relatively tiny. And to keep her as tiny as we can for as long as we can (I'd really prefer a Bonsai St. Bernard) we're following the current research in large breed dogs and feeding her Iams Extry Huge Dog Puppy Formula. The old theory used to be that you had to load large breed puppies up with calcium and calories to help them grow. Due to problems such as Honey Bee suffered from, though, it's now thought that limiting caloric intake is a good idea, to help give them time to fully develop internally. So she's got two years of this puppy food in front of her.

We love our new baby.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Growing Family (PART 1)

Since we're soon to move to our new place in Borderland, the wife has been making noise about getting a dog. We've had this discussion many times in the past, but have never lived in an apartment or house that would allow such creatures. So it's been a dream we hoped to realize "some day" when we had a "place of our own" and could "do whatever we want." And while I've campaigned for something smallish, like a beagle, a puggle or, perhaps, a Spuds Mackenzie dog, the wife has had a larger vision. Much larger. She wants a St. Bernard.

Back when the wife lived in Alaska and was just starting out living on her own, she wanted a St. Bernard in a bad way. The unfortunate part, though, is that she didn't have much money to live on herself, let alone being able to afford to buy dog food for an enormous dog or, for that matter, afford to purchase said enormous dog in the first place. But she dearly wanted one all the same. As the story goes, her mother (hi, Ma!) spotted an ad for a St. Bernard that was a year and a half old and going fairly cheap, all things considered. The owners had hoped to use her as a show dog, but she had something of an under bite that would have prevented her from qualifying as best of breed, so they'd decided to let her go. Ma called the wife and told her about the ad. The wife, of course, began freaking out. This was her big chance to finally have a St. Bernard at a very reasonable price--only she didn't know if she was about to make a colossally bad move by buying it. Would she be able to afford it? Would she be able to care for it the way it would need? Would buying it cause the both of them to starve?

On her journey out to the farm where the dog resided, my wife prayed to God that he would give her a sign that this was the right move. It couldn't be a namby-pamby, open to interpretation sign, either, but had to be a clear cut spotlight shining brightly on the answer of whether or not to buy this dog.

When the wife arrived at the farm and got out of the car, a St. Bernard came bounding up to her, jumped through the open driver's side door, crawled across and sat down in the passenger seat.

"Looks like you have a dog," the owner said.

Looks like she did.

The dog, whose given name was Bellis Fair, because she was purchased in the Bellis Fair Mall in Bellingham, WA, was soon nicknamed Honey Bee and the name stuck. Honey Bee was instantly a beloved part of my wife's life. And, yes, there were times when the wife had to decide between buying people food or dog food, because she couldn't afford both, but in those cases she simply made extra people food and shared with the dog.

Honey Bee stayed in Alaska when my wife came to Mississippi to study at Blue Mountain College. After she'd finished her class work, though, and had moved into the Festering Hellhole apartment near Tupelo to continue her medical technologist training at the North Mississippi Medical Center, her dad flew down from Alaska with Honey Bee and the dog stayed to keep her company. (That poor dog had probably never seen temperatures above 85 degrees in her life, only to be thrust into the land of 110 degree heat indexes, with the humidity turned up to 11.) Eventually, I met the two of them when I too moved into the Festering Hellhole. In fact, it was my rescue of Honey Bee after she'd gotten free of her collar and run chain that helped cement me in my future wife's affections. Without that incident, I might not be married to her today.

The future wife and Honey Bee eventually moved to North Carolina, we eventually began dating long-distance and had been doing so for just over a year when Ashley called to tell me that Honey Bee had died. It seems that big dogs grow so fast that often their internal organs don't have time to grow the kind of support structures to hold them in place. After Ashley went out to feed her one evening, her stomach had simply turned on itself and the vet said that there was nothing that could have been done to save her, even if they'd known what was happening at the time. It was a devastating loss for Ashley. They'd been through so much together.

Since then, as I mentioned, the wife has wanted another saint and I knew she would eventually get one. And by "eventually" I meant, y'know, a few weeks/months after we'd moved into our new place in Borderland and got everything unpacked and settled out. Fate had other plans.

(TO BE CONTINUED...)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Yes, I'm afraid I will be requiring BOTH numbers

A patron phoned and asked if we could renew her books. Now, after years of doing this incorrectly, and taking a few pointers from both my readers and my wife, I have finally, after nearly seven years on the job, started doing telephone renewals correctly...

When a patron asks to renew their books over the telephone I tell them that I can do this one of two ways: A) I can look them up with their library card number; or B) I can take the barcode number out of the front of the book itself to renew it. And I must admit that I've been surprised at how many people have the books in front of them when they call.

Not this lady.

I gave her the options and she seemed at a loss for what to do. She said that she didn't have her library card with her and the books weren't right there either.

"Well, if you like, you can call us back when you have either the card or the books," I said cheerfully.

"Um... well... uh... Hold on." The lady put the phone down and walked away. After half a minute or so, she returned and read me the barcode number from one of her books, which I typed into the computer.

"ITEM NOT CHECKED OUT," the popup window reported.

I tried again.

"ITEM NOT CHECKED OUT."

So I went to the OPAC and looked up the book by its title. It said AVAILABLE.

"Um, ma'am, it would seem that we didn't manage to get the book checked out to you."

"But I have it right here," she said. She also indicated it had a due date stamped in it for the following day's date.

"Well, that may be the case, but it seems as though we didn't actually check it out to you on our end. It's our fault, but not a big deal."

"I have another book I need to renew, too," she said.

"Okay. What's the barcode number?"

"Oh. Um... well... uh... Hold on." Once again, the lady put the phone down and walked away. After half a minute or so, she returned with her other book and read me the barcode number from it.

"ITEM NOT CHECKED OUT."

"Ma'am, it looks like we didn't get either book checked out to you."

"But... I have them right here. And I'm not finished with them. I need to renew them."

"Well, technically, ma'am, we can't exactly charge you overdue fines since they're not actually checked out to you. Just finish them up and bring them back when you can."

This seemed to satisfy her.

"Oh, okay," she said, brightly, and hung up.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Jus sans des ceintures

My Indian name, as granted me by my decidedly non-Native American fellow employees, is Juice Two Belts. I was given the name after I came to work wearing two belts, one atop the other, back around Christmas and then, like a dumbass, told people about it. Today, however, I was Juice No Belts and was suffering from droopy pants throughout the day.

"I wish I had even one of my belts," I told Ms. D. "I think I might make one out of book tape."

"Some of that strapping tape would cinch you right up," she said. I eyed the roll of strapping tape, which we use to secure book-wrap-wrapped book-jackets to books. It would indeed make for a decent and sturdy Jethro belt. I considered it more and even checked our supply to make sure I wouldn't ruin us by using some of it. We had extra rolls, but it's some of the more expensive tape we have, so I didn't really want to waste it on a belt. Instead, I grabbed the roll of cheap-ass packing tape, pulled of a belt-sized strip of it, wrapped it over on itself, ran it through the belt loops of my pants and tied it up tight in the front. My shirt hung down over it, so no one but me and Ms. D was the wiser. It worked pretty good, too, though it did occasionally make little plasticy squeaks.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

No one told me it was "Pay Your Massive Fines Day"

Yesterday was very odd.

On three separate occasions, each within half an hour of the previous one, unrelated patrons arrived, turned in books and alerted us that their books were extremely overdue and that they wished to pay fines for them. Now, during most weeks, extremely overdue books are only returned on Fridays, our weekly and fairly well-publicized amnesty day. But this was a Tuesday.

One lady's books were 93 days overdue and her fines amounted to nearly $30. She was pleasantly surprised when I alerted her to the fact that we have a $4 fine ceiling, so her total only came to $4. She gave me a five and told me she didn't want change. The next lady had books that were 88 days overdue. She too hit the fine ceiling. All in all, three patrons hit the ceiling.

Another patron left two Ralph Ellison books in our after hours bookreturn that were so wildly overdue that we'd already deleted them from the system. In fact, I can remember searching the shelves for those same books on at least three separate occasions before sending out the overdues on them, well over two years ago, and being very resentful about having to do it because clearly this patron was never going to return them. That patron's fines were completely absolved, as we don't charge fines on anything in our after hours box (being as how it's only unlocked after hours).

Another patron (perhaps the one from above) arrived in person to pay the fines on some massively overdue books he'd turned in in the book drop. I had to explain that those fines had been eaten and the reasons behind it. I didn't even have any idea what his fines would have been, nor which books he'd turned in, cause they didn't show on his record.

"Do you guys collect any fines at all?" he asked.

"Actually, yeah," I had to say.

I wonder if it's spring cleaning that's unearthing these lost tomes? If this was the case, I did note that one lady's books certainly hadn't fallen into the spring-cleaning themselves, for they were quite filthy, though otherwise undamaged.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Poop List Regains a Lost Member

Yes indeedy, annoying patron Ms. Green is back on the poop list. I don't understand how a human being who is so reliant on computers to do just about everything she comes to the library to do can be so inept at operating them.

I should have known it was going to be a bad day of it with her when her kid asked to borrow the phone, called home and told his mother that he'd found a book he wanted and would be needing "the library card," and could she bring it with her when she came to pick him up? Understand, Ms. Green and her two kids have had MULTIPLE LIBRARY CARDS each throughout the years we've had our current circulation system, but now they've apparently lost all but one of them. Nice.

At around a half hour to our Monday five o'clock closing time, Ms. Green herself arrived, signed up for a computer and began typing something in Word. The other computers were packed solid with patrons, so much so that at twenty minutes from closing I had to boot Gene Gene the Geneal0gy Machine off for yet another new arrival patron. I then announced to the entire innanet crowd that we were indeed closing at five and so they would have only ten more minutes of innanet time before I needed to shut down their computers. And I noted at that moment that each of these people instantly became very concentrated on not wrapping up their shit.

At pretty much ten `til close, Ms. Green waved me over to help her. She wanted to print the document she'd composed once, then make some changes to it and print it again. However, despite all the school reports she's written and printed for her kid over the past few months, she claimed she didn't know how to print the current one. So I showed her again how to do so and then showed her how to click on the OK button in the print dialog box.

Nothing happened.

I stepped over to the printer, expecting it to be out of paper, but it was full and seemed to be at the ready. I asked Ms. Green if she'd truly hit OK and she said she had. She then tried to print a couple more times just to show me.

"Listen. Don't hit print any more. I don't know what's wrong with the printer, but it will just print multiple copies of your page when it finally starts printing if you keep doing that and we will have to charge you for them." To prevent this, I opened up the print queue on her machine and canceled out the jobs. I then personally hit print again and waited.

Nothing happened.

Then Ms. Green tried to hit print again and I had to stop her, though not by the method that immediately came to my mind. Meanwhile, it was now five minutes until closing time, which was five minutes after I had told everyone they needed to be off. Not a soul had moved. After all, I was helping another patron with a computer problem and if she got to stay on the computer, so could they. I reiterated to them that we were nearly closed. Only then did one of them begin to wrap up their shit.

"I don't know why this isn't printing," I told Ms. Green.

"So, can I save it?"

Knowing full well the answer to what I was about to say: "Only if you have a disc or a jump drive. If you save it to the machine, it will be erased when we shut it down."

"Well, can I email it to you?"

Also knowing where this was headed. "You should probably just email it to yourself."

"I know, but I tried to access my Verizon account here and I can't get into it unless I'm at home."

"Then I don't know what to tell you," I said. "If you can't access your email from our computers, then it's hard to email it to anyone."

Granted, I could have logged onto my own email and emailed it to myself, or to her, or to Al Gore, but I really wasn't feeling like being very helpful to helpless people who've been through this very situation multiple times in the past and have clearly not learned anything from the journey. I've suggested she get a Gmail account several times before, but she's not heeded, so this was the consequence.

After noting for Ms. Green that she should not try printing any more, I marched back to the printer and hit the GO button, just for shits and grins. Instantly it said it had a job in the hopper, but indicated it required legal-size paper in order to proceed. Now, I knew that Ms. Green had not chosen legal-size paper on purpose because that was far, far, FAR beyond her capabilities. What I suspected was that our printer had lost a good bit of its mind and was in need of a reboot, for it had insisted on trying to print on legal paper for another patron earlier in the day. I overrode the insistence and it spat out Ms. Green's document on regular paper. The printer then indicated it had another job that it wanted to print on legal paper. I overrode that too and out came another copy of Ms. Green's document.

I went and gave them to Ms. Green. And while I was at the computers, I began shutting down the few empty terminals we had and pointed out to the remaining innanet crowders that we were, in fact, officially closed now. Mr. W. Perfect looked up from his conversation with another `crowder and then went right back to talking. That `crowder's wife, also on a machine, then called me over and asked me how to center the phone numbers she'd lined up on a flyer she was working on. My match-strikin' hand began to itch.

"Okay, I'm printing again," Ms. Green said. I returned to the printer, hit GO again and another copy of Ms. Green's first document came out. Another followed before her second document finally printed. Soon there were five copies of it in total. (Lady, what part of "STOP. HITTING. EFFING. PRINT." don't you understand????!!!!) I passed the pile of them over to her. She looked them over, perhaps noted the wild look in my eyes and decided not to complain about paying for multiple copies of the same document.

"I'll just need to step out to the car to get the money," she said.

Again, if you've come to the library at the crack of closing time and intend on printing ANYTHING, you must have known in advance that you would have to pay for what you were going to print. On what planet, therefore, does it make any sense to leave all your money in the car?

Meanwhile, it was now five minutes past closing time, a fact I then indicated to Mr. W. Perfect and the two remaining innanet crowders when I went to shut the rest of the computers down. They looked up at me as though this was the first they'd heard of it, but they at least began paying lip service to wrapping up their shit.

The printer light was flashing again when I returned to the circ desk. I overrode the legal size again and it was another of Ms. Green's pages. The document that followed was as well, so I canceled the next one after that and the printer gave up. Now, I don't know which of the two documents I canceled actually belonged to the OTHER innanet crowder who was printing flyers, but no more documents came out so evidently I'd canceled it, too. When they came to pick up their prints, I had to then explain to them that they were basically SOL, as nothing was printing.

"Do you still have them up on your screen?" I asked.

Nope, she's shut the machine down and logged off, cause I'd told them we were closing. Ah, so now it's doubly my fault. Fortunately, they weren't mad that all the work they'd just done had vanished and said they'd come back another day.

I never saw Ms. Green return to pay us. She'd taken her initial set of prints with her, as well. My theory is that she'd gone to the car for money, discovered there wasn't any there to begin with and had done a runner, resolving to "get us next time. " Yep, back on the poop list she goes.

After we finally got rid of Mr. Perfect, who'd hung around to watch all the chaos, and then stood around making small talk with Ms. D, it was nearly fifteen minutes after closing.

On my way to check the men's room, I passed by our local history room and noted that there was still a patron sitting at the desk within it. He wore a hearing aid, which evidently wasn't in good working order, cause he'd not heard any of my many announcements about being closed. So I tapped him on the shoulder and informed him we'd closed quite some time back and apologized that this was the first time I'd noticed him. He graciously wrapped up his research, but then wanted us to look up a few more books for him before he left. I was all for being very rude to the man and kicking him out, but Ms. D stepped in and agreed to do his searches. After five minutes of this research, though, I began to wonder if I was going to have to finally give my long-chambered AFTER-CLOSING, GET-THE-EFF-OUT speech and scream, "Excuse me, but we have been closed for TWENTY MINUTES, now! You are abusing our good will!!!! I now have no alternative but to return this abuse in full!!!! Instead, I kept my back to him and busied myself counting the cash box. Mid- way through his next search request, he paused and then said he wouldn't take any more of our time and left. Wise man.

After I'd counted the cash box, we discovered a lone dollar tucked beneath one of the barcode scanners. I don't know for sure if Ms. Green left it there when I wasn't paying attention, but I'll assume she did. It was more than enough to pay for her prints, including the ones that printed after she went to get money.

The following day, I told Mrs. A we need an emergency power cutoff switch at the circ desk for not only each individual computer but the whole lot of them as well. As it stands, we'd either have to crawl under the computer desks to turn off the power strips, or go down to the basement to unplug the data cables. I want remote control Kill Switch access and I want it now.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Borderland Report 2

Part of the joy of buying a new home is the chance to go in and make "corrections" upon the poor choices in decor made by the previous owner. Whole television series are based around this concept.

For instance, when we gazed upon the deep sea blue that the previous owners (or perhaps even the owners previous to them) had painted the walls of one of the bedrooms, and when we noted how it really sucked the life out of the room, we knew right away that we'd be changing it. And we did, switching it to a tone that I picked out called Camel Back, (which my wife is very annoyed that I insist on referring to as Camel Toe) and it was perfect.

And when we noted the gangrenous shade of green that the previous owners had seen fit to paint the walls of our new master bedroom, we knew that too must change. We actually liked the idea of a green bedroom, just not that one. So we got paint chips and found what we thought was the perfect grayish green that was soothing and non life-sucking. It turned out to be pretty much full on dark gray when we bought a test pint of it. So the wife went back to try again and bought three gallons of what we thought was a cucumbery sort of grayish green, but which we realized, after we'd painted nearly the entire room, was more of an institutional light gray with no green in it at all. We took the two remaining gallons we had back to Lowes and, with the help of their magic computer, transformed it from what it was into a darker, grayer green of my choosing which was PERFECT! Won major brownie points on that one, yes I did.

Then there were poor choices in items, such as with the appliances. Now, I can't blame the immediate previous owners for the appliance mistakes, no matter how much their discarded gift of used cat litter that we had to clean up might make me want to. I know it wasn't their choice as the elderly nature of the appliances themselves have indicated that the choice to include them probably came shortly after the house was built, say round about `1989.

First off, the microwave/oven hood, while a good idea in concept, was a poor one in execution due to the fact that this particular model of microwave sticks out so far above the oven that it prevents the cabinets to its immediate left from being opened. At some point, an owner had simply removed that particular door so they could use the cabinet beyond. The same can be said for the oven, the door of which blocks access to the lower level cabinets to the left. It struck us as the kind of thing that could have been prevented with a little forethought. It also made us determined to use said forethought in all future appliance choices.

The wife began applying it immediately, researching oven hoods, sans microwave, in an effort to find a good brand that would have enough clearance to allow us the use of our cabinet and which would be stainless steel, to match the rest of the appliances that came with the house. After many hours of searching ebay, she finally found one, a Windster brand that was as sleek and sexy as an oven hood could possibly be. The twin jet turbines it is equipped with remind me an awful lot of the Goblin Glider in Spider-Man and, had we not gone through the harrowing ordeal it took to install this thing in our new kitchen this weekend, I might have taken it out for a test ride.

The Windster is designed for duct venting, but can be modified to circulate filtered air into a cabinet as well. Ours came pre-modified from the manufacturer. Installing it, however, is still fairly complicated because while the hood itself is designed to appear as a thin, stainless steel minimalist wafer, there is actually another section that is hidden within the cabinet beneath which it is to be installed, containing the actual engines and power system. This, we knew, would require the cutting of the floor of the cabinet to accommodate. Fortunately, we recently purchased a house-warming gift for ourselves of the kind of power tools that can get the job done. Unfortunately, even after the hole was cut--which was no picnic--our problems were only just beginning.

I thought it would be easy enough to hold the hood in place and then screw it in from the bottom, rather than mucking about with all this tedious measuring. Unfortunately this was countered by the fact that only one side of the oven hood offered access to the support holes, while the other was plated over to protect the wiring. I'll spare you most of the gory details of our many failed attempts at getting the hood installed, cause they're very complicated, hence why it took us so many attempts. No matter what we did, we just could not get the screws that would hold the oven hood placed properly to fit the hood onto them and slide it forward into place. We kept getting the measurements wrong, then ruined our 1x2's screwing new ones in, then had to drill more holes in new wood, then discovered that the lip of wood we'd left in the front floor of the cabinet actually prevented the hood from fitting in there anyway.

In the end, once we got the hole big enough, we decided we would remove all the plating on the blocked side of the oven hood, which pretty much meant we had to take a good chunk of the machine apart, and finally expose the screw holes. Once that was done, I held the oven hood in place while the wife screwed it into place, hell for stout. Then, upside down on our backs lying on the oven itself, we had to put it all back together.

I would also like to point out that even though we turned off the breaker for the oven hood in advance (also the breaker for the fridge) our entire power went out early Sunday morning due to a line of storms coming through. It stayed off for the rest of the day. In fact, it stayed off even though our surrounding neighbors all got their power back. We wondered if perhaps this was God's way of sparing us electrocution from some sort of wiring mistake on our part. The less than ideal part of this (as though something could be less ideal than not getting electrocuted) is that because our power remained out up until the time we were to return to Tri-Metro, we didn't feel we could turn the breaker for the fridge and oven hood back on, lest we risk burning down the house from some faulty wiring mistake we'd made. So we had to pack up all our refrigerated food items and haul them back with us.

By the way, momma bunny moved all her babies. That was the first thing we checked when we arrived Friday night. We crept out into the yard, flashlight in hand and pulled back the opening of her burrow to find no dead baby bunnies. We saw momma bunny lurking in the area, chasing off birds, so evidently they're still nearby. I'll just be careful when mowing from now on.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #130

SETTING: My "liberry" as hard of hearing and fourth grumpiest old man in all the world, Mr. Dent, enters and approaches the desk, book in hand. He drops the book on the counter. It's Robert Ludlum's The Janson Directive.

MR. DENT May I ask you a personal question?

ME Okay.

MR. DENT (With great emphasis on the word "sir") How many of Sir Robert Ludlum's books have you read?

ME
Zero.

MR. DENT What?

ME (Louder) I haven't read any of them. My wife has, though.

MR. DENT Which ones did she like?

ME She liked the Bourne Identity series.

MR. DENT What?

ME (Louder) The Bourne Identity series.

MR. DENT Are they in?

ME Let me check. (Starts title search in OPAC)

MR. DENT Because if I had to base an opinion on this book, I wouldn't give him a good review. Too verbose. Too many characters. Too complicated. Not good.

ME
(Looking down at the book for a moment to check if Janson's a Fake Shemp Erik Van Lustbader Mini-Ludlum or the full-size Ludlum. It's the full size Ludlum.) Looks like Bourne Identity is out.

MR. DENT Are there others?

ME Yeah, but Bourne Identity is the first one you should read.

MR. DENTWhat else did your wife like?

METhe Bourne Supremacy.

MR. DENTAh. Another Bourne. I'll wait.

(I consider informing him that "Sir" Robert Ludlum, as pointed out to me by my readers, was actually an American and therefore had not been knighted. However, Mr. Dent seems to take such joy in lording his mistaken knowledge over people that it's just as entertaining to let him keep at it. After he leaves, I put him on hold for The Bourne Identity.)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Uncle Juice & Auntie Ash's Perilous Wednesday Adventure

A couple years back, the wife and I got a small taste of parenthood when we baby sat for the infant daughter of a friend of ours for a weekend, Baby Ashley. Well, we got another taste of it this week when one of the wife's fellow medical residents had to fill in for another resident's on call shift and didn't have anyone to watch her 4-month-old son for a night on such short notice. Being a good soul, not to mention Chief Resident, the wife volunteered to do it.

Those of you with kids can go ahead and start laughing at us Childless Wonders, now.

Baby Ian was delivered into our care Wednesday night. I had a late shift at the "liberry" so I didn't get in until after 9p, by which time he was already asleep. For a 4 month old, he seemed pretty big, but was sleeping well enough which I hoped was a good sign. Just as we were about to go to bed at 11, Baby Ian woke up and crankily demanded a bottle. Since I'm supposed to be in training, in case God decides to ever bless us with such a bundle, I got to do the bottling. Unfortunately, Baby Ian wolfed down his bottle, as though it might be taken from him at any moment, and despite our attentiveness to making sure there was no air in the bottle itself, he swallowed a lot of air in the wolfing process. This lead to much burping and an impressive session of projectile vomiting.

Once he was fed, it was time to get him back asleep. The wife showed me how to cradle him in my arms, so that his head had a nice place to rest, and how to rock him in a smooth motherly way, instead of my jerky and baby-irritating fatherly way. This seemed to work in the short term and we were able to put him into his makeshift bed. After a couple of minutes, though, he was back awake, so the wife had to take a turn and eventually got him to sleep.

At around 2 a.m., he was back awake and demanded a bottle. The wife thought this was a bit of a stretch, request wise, so she rocked him back to sleep.

At around 3 a.m., Baby Ian awoke again and this time wasn't having any of this No Bottle crap. The wife arose, warmed him up a bottle, fed him and checked his diaper, all the while with me laying there "helping" by offering to hold the bottle while she changed him. She tried to get him back to sleep, but Baby Ian didn't want to sleep. He was up. He wanted to play. So he lay there and smiled and made cute baby noises until it became apparent to him that no one was going to pay him any attention, a situation he decided to then rectify by making sure everyone was wide awake. Again, the wife arose, rocked him a bit, checked his diaper again, rocked him some more, walked him around the house, etc. Occasionally, he would drift off, and allow her to put him back to bed. Two minutes after she crawled back in with me, though, and he was awake and crying again. This all lasted until around 4a, with multiple feignings of sleep followed by inevitable wakings and cryings.

Around 4:30, with no chance of sleep for either of us due to the crying, I decided it was probably my turn.

"Do you want me to take him in the living room so you can at least get some sleep?" I offered.

"If you want to," the wife replied. Her tone of voice, however, said "Yes, please."

I took Baby Ian to the living room. I decided to try the same tactic for child sleep-inducement that worked for Baby Ashley last time, which was to sit and rock the baby until it nodded off. Nope. Baby Ian didn't like sitting and rocking. He liked motion and rocking. So I walked him around, his head on my shoulder, rocking him gently and patting him on the back. After a few minutes of silence from him, I looked over at his face to see if he was asleep. Nope. That little cheater's eyes were wide awake, enjoying the scenery of the darkened living room. So I tried another position, the wife's suggested cradle-hold, but he didn't like that at all and began to cry and struggle and flail his arms. His little nails were quite sharp and kept slicing at my throat and darting close to my eyes. And for a four month old, this was a huge chunk of baby to have to lug around when he was still, let alone trying to do the Curly Shuffle in my arms.

Very quickly I began to consider taking him back to the bedroom, putting him in his bed and saying, "I'm done." That wasn't fair, though. Ash needed her sleep more so than me--after all, I didn't have to be anywhere until 1p the next day and she had a full day at the clinic where having clear decision-making skills would be necessary.

So me and Baby Ian walked around some more, and he struggled some more and cried some more and I became more and more frustrated. I tried putting him in his bouncy feeding chair, but that made him even madder. I tried speaking softly to him and doing playful things, but this was just patronizing him and he screamed all the louder. I picked him back up and walked and paced and wracked my brain for something to do that would work. With nothing to lose, I tried the wife's suggested cradle hold yet again.

If my life were a role-playing game, this is where I would have rolled twelves on DEX and probably INT, cause though I may never be able to repeat it in a million years, I somehow achieved perfect cradle-hold technique and the kid literally fell asleep within thirty seconds. (And, NO, cradle-hold is NOT the same thing as the sleeper hold, though apparently it's just as effective.) I was so astounded, I didn't know what to do. The wife had achieved sleeping child multiple times in the past hour, but it never lasted once physical contact was broken. I therefore couldn't risk taking him back to his bed. So I slowly and gently made my way over to the couch and ever-so-carefully lowered myself to the seat cushions. Still he slept. I carefully eased back on the couch until my back was against the rear cushions. Still he slept. I then sat there, in my underwear and t-shirt, freezing my ass off because I'd sat directly on top of the afghan and it was wedged irretrievably beneath me.

After another five minutes of freezing and not sleeping, I decided Baby Ian had been asleep long enough for me to lift a butt cheek and pull the afghan out of my ass. This I did with nary a stir from the kid. Feeling emboldened, I, with Telltale Heart-like slowness, swivelled my legs up onto the sofa so that I was now in a more comfortable position, my back and neck against the arm-rest, and I maneuvered the afghan over me and then over the kid. Still he slept.

After around twenty minutes in this less than comfortable position, I finally drifted off to sleep myself. I woke up on and off for the next couple of hours. The kid wiggled a bit and shifted at one point, so that most of his body was tucked between me and the couch with his head lying on my chest. He seemed comfy enough.

I heard the wife walking down the hall around 7a. She came in and peeked at us and grinned. She said we were about the cutest thing she'd ever seen. She brought us more blankets and there we lay until it was time for Baby Ian's breakfast.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

"Liberry" Glossary: Repeat Offender

Repeat Offender
-noun phrase
  1. A member of the innanet crowd who signs in for computer time, stays for while, leaves, returns to sign up for more, leaves again, returns to sign up for more again, etc., repeat cycle until closing time. Repeat Offenders are not always rogue patrons, but often are. The offense inherent in their title stems from the fact that, due to our usual bad attitudes, the staff becomes completely sick of dealing with these people since we have to go out and log them onto a computer with each successive visit and we wish they would just get what they're doing done the first time and go away. We're particularly annoyed with patrons such as Germophobe Gary, who not only leave and return repeatedly throughout the day, but demand a new Clorox Disinfecting Wipe with each visit so that our keyboards might be rendered safe for him to touch. (We can't really blame him, but it is still a very annoying extra step for us.) Very often, Repeat Offenders are also the patrons who do the most amount of printing from the computers and are constantly pestering us to look at their prints, compounding our bad attitude toward them. Usual suspects among the current Repeat Offenders crowd include: Germaphobe Gary, Gene Gene the Geneal0gy Machine, Mr. B-Natural, Mr. W. Perfect, The New Devil Twins Auxiliary League of Neighborhood Kids, Johnny Hacker, Mr. Little Stupid. Former Repeat Offenders include: Parka, Crusty the Patron, Stoner Lad.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Actual Telephone Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #129

SETTING: My "liberry" on a very busy Monday, shortly after we open when we're at our busiest.

*RING*

ME— Tri-Metro County Library.

MS. GREEN— Hey, this is MS. GREEN. Are you busy? Is it busy there right now?

ME— Yeah. Actually, we're quite busy right now.

MS. GREEN— Oh, okay. Well, I had a couple of questions. Do you have a public fax machine?

ME— Yes.

MS. GREEN— And I'd just pay you for it?

ME— Yes.

MS. GREEN— Okay. I'll have to come up and do that. The other question was... well, someone told me that YOU do computer classes.

(And by the intonation of her voice when she said "YOU" I took it to mean that she had heard that I personally conducted computer classes, not the library in general, not that the library does either.)

ME— No, that is incorrect.

MS. GREEN— That is incorrect?

ME—
Yes.

MS. GREEN— So, it's correct that it's incorrect?

(WTF?)

ME— Its... I do not do computer classes and we do not do computer classes here at this time.

MS. GREEN— Oh, okay. Well, do you have any recommendations for somewhere I could take them?

ME— I don't know of anything in the area. I know that LIBRARY IN NEXT COUNTY OVER THAT HAS THEIR OWN COMPUTER LAB DEDICATED TO THE TASK AND DOESN'T HAVE TO FIGHT WITH INNANET CROWDERS OVER THE USE OF THEM LIKE WE WOULD does them, but I don't know about anywhere around TRI-METRO.

MS. GREEN— But the community college does them?

ME— I don't know.

MS. GREEN— You don't know?

ME— I don't know. I am unaware of them doing them.

MS. GREEN— You're unaware of them doing them? (Pause) So what you're saying is that you don't know if the community college does them?

ME— (How many &%*#ing ways must I spell this out?) What I am saying is that I, JUICE AARON, am not personally aware of anyone conducting computer classes in the area. That said, I am also not personally aware that anyone is not conducting them, either. So the community college may well be teaching computer classes, I am just not aware of it and could not tell you authoritatively one way or the other. You might give them a call.

(Pause)

MS. GREEN— So you're saying that you don't know of any?

ME— That is what I'm saying.

MS. GREEN— But that you don't know that they're not?

ME—
That is what I'm saying.

(You know, if Verizon were to develop a feature whereby I could set fire to other people over the telephone, I'd pay extra to have that as part of my monthly service.)

Monday, May 05, 2008

Borderland Report

Since we closed on the house, the wife and I have been traveling to our house in Borderland every weekend to do work on the place to get ready for the big move. As much work as it's been, and it's been a lot, I've enjoyed it all because it's work on a place that's ours. It's certainly not always been stress free, though.

For instance, the exterior of the house and the surrounding land have been almost completely ignored by the previous owners, seemingly for months. This makes a bit of sense, as they likely wouldn't have done as much work on it during the winter months, but while they at least raked the leaves out of the front and back yards, they did nothing whatsoever about the leaves that pretty much took over the flower beds that surround almost the entire house. We're itching to get in there and clean them out, but have been concentrating on getting the interior of the house in good repair first before tackling things that can be taken care of after the move itself.

The previous owners also seemed less concerned about picking up the large, lawn-mower killing sticks and limbs that had fallen from the trees during the winter. These were of great concern to me, though, as finally mowing the lawn was my major project for the weekend. It was looking quite a bit shaggy last weekend, but because our next door neighbors' lawn was in an equal state, we didn't think it would matter so much. This week, the neighbors mowed, including the tip of our triangular shaped property as well, which was mighty nice. It was time for me to do the rest and for that I would need a lawn mower.

We didn't own a lawn mower and haven't for our entire marriage. We've always lived in places where mowing was provided. I didn't really know, therefore, what sort of mower we might like. Oh, sure, I'd love one of those new super fast and maneuverable riding models, with the two levers, but they're so expensive that if we bought one I'd have to start driving it to work.

With gas prices what they are, I've been on something of a green kick so I began looking into rechargable cordless mowers. Unfortunately, the battery life on such engines is pretty short for mowing 2 acres in under four days, so my wife suggested I go with something more traditional. She also suggested something self-propelled, which would help out for mowing the kind of hill our house sits atop. And there at the Borderland giant hardware box store, we found a reconditioned Troy Bilt self-propelled mower/mulcher that cried out to be purchased. So we did.

Saturday, after painting the kitchen, I headed outside to try out the new mower. I wanted to see what this mulching business was all about, so I used that as an excuse to rake the leaves out of the largest flower bed in the back yard. I fired up the mower and mowed over the leaves. It worked pretty well at mulching and bagging all the leaves. However the limited capacity of the bag meant I had to keep emptying it onto my makeshift compost heap every few minutes. Once I was just mowing grass, the emptying was less often. The trouble was, I couldn't just mow the yard without first collecting all the sticks. Now, I know stick duty is a vital part of any mowing operation, but these were really huge limbs in some cases. By the end of stick time, I had a pile of sticks and limbs that was taller than our wood pile.

After finishing up I the back yard, I started on the front, which involved more stick spotting in a much larger area. There were also some pretty large rocks that would need to be avoided, many of which were in the tallest grass in the lower part of the yard. I ran out of gas around sunset, having made truly pitiful progress. I decided I'd woefully underestimated the amount of time it would take to mow the lawn.

Sunday afternoon, I started anew. I made it down to the tallest grass, ever annoyed at the number of trips I was making to empty the mulch bag, particularly since the wet tall grass kept clogging it up. I decided to use the giant garbage can that the previous owners had left us as a place to empty the clippings. Unfortunately, in addition to the garbage the previous owners had left in it, there was also a very large paper back with an equally large hole in the bottom of it, filled with used cat litter from their two devil Persian cats. (And here I thought that with my own cat in the past tense, I'd not have to deal with litter for the foreseeable future.)

I then decided to ditch the mulch bag altogether in favor of just shooting grass clippings across the yard. Trouble was, our reconditioned lawn mower didn't come with the handy side attachment that clips on beneath the spring-loaded side guard, so I had to remove the entire side guard. Mowing went much smoother after that. It didn't look neat, but was a lot less work.

Mid way down the yard, I rounded the corner of the square section I was cutting and was on my way back across when I noticed some grayish fluff flying out of the side of the mower. It looked like loose fur of some sort. I thought that perhaps some animal had died in the yard, months back, and this was all that was left. I looked down at the ground to see if there were bones to avoid and instead saw a hole in the ground in the freshly mowed patch of grass at my feet. And within this hole squirmed tiny furry bodies.

"AHHHH!" I screamed, as I realized I'd just run over a nest of infant... somethings. I released the mower handle and it came to a halt. Terrified, I quickly eyed the most recent clippings to see if there were any infant something parts. Nope. Not a one. I then stooped down and moved aside some of the downy fluff covering the hole and saw that within it were what looked like tiny baby rabbits. At least, I think they were rabbits. Their legs and tail looked rabbity and their ears, while not very long, were much longer than those of a squirrel. I don't know how they didn't get sucked up into the mower, but being below ground I guess they were low enough that they were out of range of the blades and suction. I dashed up the hill and into the house to fetch the wife.

"Come out and look at what I almost killed," I said. Out we went, peering into the hole as the little creatures, whose eyes are not yet open, scrambled away from the light, each trying to be the rabbit on the very bottom of the pile. As I looked at them, I was continually struck at how fortunate it had been that they hadn't been mowed. With all that's happened recently with the cat, killing a bunch of cute little bunny babies would have just done me in. Had to say a little prayer of thanks.

Having mowed away their cover, we piled all the rabbit down we could find back at the top of the hole and covered the whole thing with grass clippings. My guess is their mother will move them to a safer location.

By the end of the mowing process, I was again having visions of the riding mower we will one day have to purchase. Either that, or we'll have to til up the lower half of the yard and plant lots of decorative tall grasses that we won't have to mess with. I was also very thankful that my wife had not only talked me down from the ledge of the electric mower (which wouldn't have been able to handle even a fifth of the yard at a stretch) but had also suggested the self-propelled push mower. That yard would have killed me otherwise.

Friday, May 02, 2008

"...and the librarian never saw those books again. The end."

I arrived at work to find Mrs. A on the phone, talking semi-heatedly with someone about overdue books. From the sound of it, the books were quite overdue. There also seemed to be some issue of whether or not the person on the other end of the line had checked them out in the first place, or whether her husband had. More disagreements seemed to ensue, until Mrs. A at last told the woman that none of the overdues would be removed from her card, nor would our note concerning the overdues she had from us and those she had from Town-C's library unless all library books were returned to their proper libraries or otherwise paid for. This was starting to sound familiar, and with good reason, for the person on the other end of the line was none other than our old one time rogue, Mrs. Lying D. Sackashit.

I soon received the skinny from Mrs. C and Mrs. A, for they knew of my previous involvement in the case due to the fact that I was the author of the very patron record note Mrs. Sackashit had called to complain about. It's a note which reads: "7/15/05 Patron has 9 items out from TRI-METRO COUNTY from 1998 and 2000. May not check out anything further until these have been paid for. Patron claims never to have had a card with TOWN-C nor to have checked out any of the items overdue there since May, nor to have actually been in TOWN-C's library since MRS. V was there. Husband, BLOATED SACKASHIT, has a card and has checked out the items she wished to get today. -TMCL"

It seems that after Mrs. Lying D. Sackashit's previous visit--during which it was determined that not only DID she already have a library card complete with driver's license despite her many claims otherwise, and already HAD several items from Town-C's library checked out on it which were then overdue from three months previous, not to mention Seefiles with our library for both her and her daughter left over from our previous computer circulation software--she had also failed to return any of the books she had forced her husband to check out for her in order to get around our rules. I know, shocking. It also seems that she'd been to another library branch recently and had attempted to check out more books. That branch, in Town-H, had quickly noted that Mrs. Sackashit already had a card and explained this to her.

According to Mrs. A, who had by then spoken with Town-H's branch, Mrs. Sackashit had then calmly claimed to them that she did not have a card in the library system at all, had never even set foot in Town-C's branch and furthermore did not have any books checked out from either Town-C or Town-A. Town-H's branch, seeing the exact same claims spelled out in my note in her patron record, pointed this fact out to her, including the note itself. Didn't matter to Mrs. Sackashit. She's perfectly capable of continuing to calmly lie in the face of all claims to the contrary. She told them she'd never set foot in either Town-A or Town-C's libraries and didn't have a card at all. Nevermind that the contact information and driver's license number on her application with Town-H were exactly the same as in her pre-existing patron record, she still would not admit to having a card at any library. Wisely, Town-H declined to check anything out to her. And, having no more family members on hand to press into service, Mrs. Lying D. Sackashit had then left empty-handed.

We figure, not long after that, she'd decided to call our branch to find out what this note business was all about. So Mrs. A read it to her, then listened to Mrs. Sackashit's claims that she was not even the same person that this note concerned, again despite the fact that she lived at the exact same address and had the exact same driver's license number as the person that note concerned. Furthermore, her husband, Bloated, was also not the same Bloated Sackashit mentioned in the note, nor had he checked out any of the materials we claimed he had on her behalf. In other words, as much as it is possible to display one's shiny, polished pair of "brass-ones" over a telephone, Mrs. Lying D. Sackashit certainly had them out on two silk-covered orthopedic pillows with a WWII anti-aircraft spot trained on `em.

There was also some question raised about wildly overdue books that had been checked out by a Jessica Sackashit who appeared to live at the same address as Lying and Bloated Sackashit. Mrs. Sackashit said she didn't even know anyone named Jessica Sackashit and was of no relation to her and, therefore, didn't have any of her books. Mrs. A countered that according to Town-C's librarian, who she'd been in contact with, Jessica Sackashit was Lying and Bloated's daughter (the very daughter, in point of fact, for whom Mrs. Lying D. Sackashit had originally come to our library back in 2005 to find books) and it seemed quite curious that they wouldn't know her.

Mrs. Lying D. Sackashit then gave the equivalent of: "Ohhhhhh, you mean JESSICA Sackashit. Come to think of it, she IS our daughter." I'm paraphrasing, of course, but that was the gist according to Mrs. A.

Lie after lie after lie after lie, spat out as calmly as could be.

Mrs. A told Mrs. Sackashit that we would not be removing the note from her record until such a time as she paid for her books, because clearly this patron record WAS hers, as were those of Bloated and Jessica theirs. Mrs. Sackashit would also need to take up the matter of the books and/or money she owed to Town-C's library with them before any sort of service would resume. Mrs. Sackashit very calmly accepted this and politely hung up.

Afterward, Mrs. A said noted that she'd not had so many lies spat in her face at once since the patron with the Dick Francis problem the other day.