Thursday, July 03, 2008

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #140

A female patron, late 30's early 40's, enters the “liberry” around 6p, clearly holding three library books. She browses for a while then approaches the desk with her three books and a stack of several other books.

OLD WHITE WOMAN PATRON IN TRAINING— I’m returning these (places three books she brought in on counter) and I want to check these out. But I don’t have my card, so I was hoping you could just check those in and bring up my account.

ME— I’m sorry, but we do need the actual card to access your record.

OWWPIT— What? But they’ve let me do this here before.

(No, we haven't, unless by "before" she actually meant, "three years ago when we used to.")

ME— I’m sorry, but our policy is that we have to have the card.

OWWPIT— (Looks around for a person of authority) Well, is anyone else here?

(Ah, I see. She can't get through me so she's going to try and go over my head. Too bad you showed up after 5p, lady, not that it would have worked.)

ME— No, it’s just us. (I indicate newbie Ms. D in staff workroom behind me.)

OWWPIT— (Most irritated) Well, what if I’d lost my card? What would you do then?

ME— (Polite as can be) We can issue a replacement card, but we do charge a dollar.

OWWPIT— (With dripping irritation) I’ll do that, then.

ME— (Sensing that she believes buying a replacement card will allow her to have TWO library cards, I add…) And if you find your old card, you should throw it away because it will no longer work.


OWWPIT— (Icily defeated tone) Fine.

ME— (Still bitingly polite) Very well. I just need to see a driver’s license.

OWWPIT— (Huffs in irritation) It’s in the car…

(Marches out the door to go fetch pocketbook. She returns a minute later and slaps her license on the counter and then hurls down a dollar. I look her up by name, confirm her license number in the account and pull out our two types of library card.)

ME— Would you like a wallet card or a key card?

OWWPIT— (Angry) It doesn’t matter.

(I grab a blank wallet card. I start to scan its code into her account when she stops me.)

OWWPIT— No. On second thought, I want a key card. Cause that’s what I have here.

(I look up to find the patron holding up her keychain on which is one of our key cards.)

ME— That’s your library card?

OWWPIT— I guess.

ME— Well, I’ll can just go ahead and use that.

OWWPIT— No. Just go ahead with that.

ME— But if you have your card already, I can use it.

OWWPIT— No, just go ahead. Just go.

(Long seething pause)

ME— Ma’am. If you have your library card here now, there is no reason for me to replace it. I can check your books out on it.

OWWPIT— Fine! (Practically flings her keys at me.)

(I use her key card to bring up an account, which turns out to be her son’s.)

ME— Oh, this is your son’s card.

OWWPIT— (Huffs and rolls her eyes as though this had been obvious.)

(I start to check the books out on the card, then decide that, no, I’m going to check them out on her account after all. I reopen her account, replace her library card number with the new key card, as I had been about to, then check all the books out. As I'm doing this, I realize that this was perhaps unwise, because the lady has now retrieved her dollar, creating the awkward situation in which I will have to ask for it again since I was doing a replacement card after all. I can't undo my card replacement because the new number has already been saved in place and I don't have her old one to rereplace it with. I consider just letting the matter drop and checking them out on her new card while letting her think I was checking them out on her son's card, but then there's the whole matter of the new card already having been created, plus the fact that she's been an unmitigated bitch to me. It is NOT our fault that she can't remember to bring her card with her when she wants to check out library books.)

ME— (Sliding books across desk to her) And here are your books, checked out on your new card.

(She is instantly furious and rips open her pocketbook, snatching up the dollar and flinging it onto the circ-desk. She gathers up her books and heads for the door.)

ME— (As sweet as pie) Have a good evening.

OWWPIT— (In a tone that suggests she would sooner eat dog vomit than mean it) Yeah! You have a Good! Evening! Too!

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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.