Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Crazy Tuesdays

How do you deal with a patron who needs lots of help, but her breath smells like rotted ass?

You talk really loudly and squint at the tiny text on their monitor 8 feet away as you stand behind her and instruct her.

Or, well, that’s what I did today. Fortuitous that my sinuses are now seared and I have no nose hairs. Who knew an odor could do that to your nose? Wasn’t worth the agony at the time, though.

* * *

Woman: Hi, I need to use a computer.

Me: Sure. Do you have your library card?

Woman: No, I don’t have one.

Me: Okay, then you have a couple options. You can talk to the folks at Circ about getting a card or you can use an Express computer. But, oh, they’re both in use, so let me see how long the wait will be. [click, click, click] Well, it’s a 15 minute wait, but it really opens up in 10 minutes. We just give people a few minutes to gather their stuff and leave.

She seemed a reasonable woman up until that point, and I was fairly sure she’d wait the 10 minutes and be grateful for the free computer use. Wow, how wrong I was!

Woman: 10 MINUTES? I have to wait 10 MINUTES? I won’t even need to use the computer that long, and you want me to wait 10 MINUTES? What’s wrong with you people? You think I have all the time in the world to stand around and wait for a damn computer?

My mouth was agape. Never did I expect her to react this way.

Woman: How long do they get to use the computer?

Me: Um, 20 minutes.

Woman: 20 MINUTES? Other libraries limit people to 10 minutes! 20 minutes is ridiculous! You might as well let them use it all afternoon! No one is going to wait for that! It would take me less time to get a library card, for Christ’s sake! What the hell is wrong with you people?

She was with her daughter who piped up then.

Why don’t we just go get a library card then?

Woman: They want ID! I didn’t bring my license. Did you bring yours?

Daughter: No. I didn’t bring anything.

Woman: Neither did I. I thought I’d just drive over to the library and use the computer really quick and then drive home. Why would I need ID?

No comment.

I could’ve said at any point that I’d give her a reservation for a regular computer because I understood her plight and felt like doing her a favor. I could have. But her tirade…

Instead I kept my trap shut.

She yelled some more insults about our library and the absurd expectation that she would deign to wait 10 minutes to use a computer. She then stormed out.

I never tried to stop her. That felt kind of good.

* * *

A young man walked up to my desk and asked me for a book on how to beat a ticket, which I was amazed to find that we had. I walked him over to the section and he said this would not suffice (not verbatim) because he needed to beat a DUI arrest, not a ticket. My suggestion was that he get an attorney, which he said he could not afford and he needed to find a way to beat the DUI. I showed him the legal section, offered to order something from another library or get him on a computer so he could do some online research on his own, but he wanted a book specifically on how to beat a DUI when you don’t have an attorney.

It’s always amusing to me that people think that there is a book out there for every individual need they have, even if it’s unreasonable, and they expect us not only to own it, but to have it on the shelf for them whenever they need it. Amusing. I laugh.

Later he approached me and scared the living shit out of me, partly because I’d already dubbed him an irresponsible alcoholic who drives while drunk, and also one who thinks he’s entitled to get out of it by some magic in a book that he need only find.

Man: Can you come over here with me? I have a question.

Me: Okaaaaay, what’s your question?

Man: No, I need you to go over there with me. It’s about a book.

He motioned with his head down the car repair aisle, which is an aisle he hadn’t been in. Why was he trying to get me away from my desk to ask me a question about a book in an area he hadn’t been in?

Sirens went off in my head. Should I ring the doorbell and summon a coworker, just in case? Should I seek out a familiar patron and try to give them some kind of concerned communication with only my eyes? Should I leave a trail of breadcrumbs so people will find my body? If only I had some glowsticks!

I followed him down half of the aisle and he looked quite lost, so I stopped in the middle of the break in the aisle, so people could see us in either direction.

Me: What book did you have a question about?

I needed more information before I would go farther away from the public, deeper into the dark and deserted corner of the library with him.

Man: Um…

Me: There is no book, is there?

Fuck it, I was going to be courageous and challenging, and if he still wanted to kill me, at least I wouldn’t go down na├»ve.

Man: Well, that man back there, he’s using that machine to look at newspapers, right?

Me: Yes. Old ones. On microfilm.

Man: I want to do that.

Me: Okay, but we need to know what newspaper issue it is.

The Local News. From 2000.

I need a closer date than a year. We don’t have that newspaper on microfilm, so I’d have to see if I could order it from another library, and they can’t send a year of microfilm, so we really need to know the day.

Man: July 27th.

Me: Oh, right, okay. Well, let me go back to my computer so I can look that up.

I turned my back to him with trepidation and walked quickly, listening closely for his footsteps behind me. He was walking much slower, which meant he was either pulling out his weapon or he was just walking at his own pace. Would he stab me in front of everyone? For some reason, I figured this was less likely and I hustled to the main area where all our computer users were. No stabs.

Turns out the newspaper he sought wasn’t on microfilm anywhere. I recommended other libraries that had subscriptions to databases that might hold the archives, but he was again shocked and disappointed that I couldn’t just hand him the thing he coveted.

How many failures would he allot before he came back, drunk, with a broadsword, and chased me around the car repair section?

Fortunately, I left soon afterward, so perhaps the pleasure of being dismembered in the 629s is a treat to be savored later.


Travelin' Tracy said...

As for bad breath, I have decided it is far worse when it is a student that has bad breath. Because I'm their teacher and I have to help them and usually it is the kid who is struggling, so I need to be right by their side. In my last job there was one kid who had the worst breath. Plus he was missing too many teeth for a 12 year old. I have a feeling he never brushed his teeth in his life. Poverty certainly did not equal cleanliness!

BeckEye said...

Could you leave a jar of mints on your desk? If someone has bad breath, just be like, "Would you like a mint?" If they refuse, well....then...uh, they're impolite and evil and don't deserve your help.

Megan said...

I had a classmate with a breath that was so bad, even thinking about it now, TEN YEARS LATER, I just want to throw up on my desk. Oh, it was awful. I feel terrible for you!

Mary Ellen said...

I'm still shuddering from the patron this morning, who had rancid breath -- kind of a combination of rarely-brushed teeth and a garlic-heavy diet. Urgh...

Anonymous said...

Patron had rotted ass breath and was an asshole to boot--too many asses in too short a time.
I am noticing an uptick in the number of grievously demented patrons lately, some of whom scare the lungs out of me. We're so 'nice' in libraries that a few patrons have the belief that we can be treated like serfs since those patrons have no manners, little civility, and are looking for a reason to give the world, namely nice us, a beat down. It's a matter of time until some librarian snaps and beats a snotty patron to death with an unabridged dictionary and I'm all for contributing to his or her defense fund since I understand the feeling.

Kate P said...

"It’s always amusing to me that people think that there is a book out there for every individual need they have. . . and they expect us not only to own it, but to have it on the shelf for them whenever they need it."

So true--and even TRUER at the BOOKSTORE! Come to think of it, that guy probably went to the bookstore next. Dammit.

I am very glad you didn't meet your fate in the 629s. Biography is the section in my library where nobody would find you if you were left for dead.