Saturday, November 7, 2009

That Which Turns Us Gray

The other day, I was sitting nicely at the reference desk, smiling and saying hello to the patrons as they came in, and a patron walked up to me and said the following:

“Hi, I was wondering if you have the book – holy cow! You’ve got a lot of gray hair! You should do something about that! Dye that hair, girl!”

I smiled politely, imagining the many ways I could use handy supplies within reach to bludgeon her. The Stapler is always my weapon of choice – compact, hard, capable of delivering both a wounding blow and a painful staple punctured into flesh. Tetanus is always a bonus. Some folks like to picture picking up their keyboards and whacking a deserving patron with it, but I feel plastic is far too weak a material to convey the hostility behind it. If they start making steel keyboards with protruding spikes, I will reconsider. Then there’s something to be said about the brutality of tackling someone, confining them to a chair with book tape, and giving them paper cuts followed by a drowning in hand sanitizer, but the time involved in such an assault pushes the manslaughter/temporary insanity defense. In my head, patrons like this woman get the stapler.

I asked what book she was looking for, not particularly interested in brawling at the moment.

She continued, “Well, I was looking for The Secret.”

Of course she was. It all makes sense now.

On she went, “You know, you’re far too young to have that many grays. And actually, they’re not gray; they’re dead white. Wow. If you covered your grays, you’d look so much better.”

The stapler was at the far end of the desk. She had to have known it was out of my reach, which was why she was tempting fate in such a daring way.


I turned to her, explained the book was checked out, and if she wanted it I could put it on hold for her.

She laughed one of those condescending laughs and said, “Oh, okay, you don’t want to talk about it, huh?”

My smile faded and I leaned in closer, whispering, “Thanks for your hair. It much to me. I’ll be sure to take it...under...advisement.”

No smile. No blinks. Deadpan.

Her smile disappeared, she thanked me for looking up her book, said she’d just check back some other time, and then she walked away.

Perhaps she’ll be pleased to know that I took her advice and re-dyed my hair purple tonight. Probably not what she was thinking, but then again, if she thought a little bit more, she might have kept her big, fat, fucking mouth shut to begin with.

Some of these patrons treat us like we’re on display, inhuman servants, open to any idiot thing they feel like saying to us, and they never owe us an apology. It makes me wonder who else they treat like this.

* * *

Friday we had our quarterly all-day meeting. We dread these meetings much like most might dread a colonoscopy. The few who look forward to them you really have to wonder about.

While discussing the dread on Thursday afternoon, I completely grossed out my entire office by suggesting I might go out to the public computers and lick a mouse, with the hopes of contracting a horrific illness in order to get out of the meeting.

Much gagging ensued.

Sheesh, it’s a good thing I didn’t say I would lick the toilet seat. Wimps.

* * *

There is a key to surviving a 7-hour meeting, which was broken up into a series of boring seminars on topics like bloodborne pathogens, exploring emotional intelligence, and, for the 14th time this year, the benefits of enrolling in a flex-spending plan.


To make it to the end alive, you really must sit next to someone who is amusing, so when Christi walked in and sat right next to me, I knew I was saved. In fact, I think I heard angels singing when she sat down.

By far, the most painful aspect of the entire day was the hour-plus devoted to teaching us about emotional intelligence. Our first order of business was to fill out a survey of 10 questions where we would assign an number between 1 and 10 to describe ourselves in various situations, with a total at the bottom. Christi’s total was 45, which was fairly low for our group, but certainly not the lowest. My score was 69, which I felt was a triumph of sorts. Emotional intelligence and a 69 seemed a natural match. I proudly showed Christi my score and we chuckled.

It turns out, a score of 69 out of 100 was not so good, but I did fall somewhere in the average of our group. Poor Christi wasn’t even halfway to being emotionally intelligent, with her little 45. We felt a little better when we considered who scored high and who scored low. We were in the company of folks we really liked, and that was comforting.

The speaker asked us for examples of ways in which we communicate.

Christi said, “Sex.”

I giggled, but then stopped and said, “Hey, wait. You only scored a 45.” We both frowned in pity for her unfortunate boyfriend.

Instantly I perked up and proudly reminded her I scored a 69, and what better score was there when talking about sex? We nodded smartly. Perhaps there was something to this test after all.

No. No there wasn’t.

The longer we listened, the more bored we got, and eventually I looked over to see that Christi had doodled a picture that looked unmistakably like our director, sitting to her left.

I asked, “Is that our director?”

She was instantly excited that I recognized him in her doodle, saying that no one ever has a clue what she’s drawing.

For some reason, she began drawing a cape on him and turned his outfit into a superhero uniform.

I said, “Oh, wait, no, I guess it isn’t him. I don’t recognize him anymore.”

We giggled again and she explained that whenever she draws men, she always draws a zipper on their pants, which she pointed out below the big superhero belt he had on.

My reaction was mixed and I said, “Well, I guess it’s good to know that if he has to pee, no one’s going to walk in on him in the men’s washroom having to take his whole outfit of tights off, leaving him naked and urinating in public. *cringe* It’s nice you gave him a fly, I suppose.”

She insisted everyone gets a fly. It’s her gift to them.

Not long after she’d finished her Super Director doodle, he wandered to the back of the room to get a cup of orange juice, returned to his chair, and set his cup on the floor. As he got comfortable in his chair, his pen rolled off the clipboard in his lap. It fell to the floor, bounced up and landed business-end-up in his cup of orange juice.

Christi and I instantly erupted with “WHOA!” in sync, and the thrill on his face that people had witnessed this strange occurrence made us all laugh.

Super Director. He can bounce pens into small cups.

After the meeting I made her show him the doodle, and I reminded him that she doodled that, and then he bounced a pen into a cup. We all suggested she doodle more fortuitous things to see if they might come true on any scale.

I didn’t embarrass her by pointing out to him that she was kind enough to give him a fly. If he noticed, he didn’t say anything. I’d say that was very emotionally intelligent of us all.

And thus, another quarterly meeting is over. We have until February to develop the emotional intelligence to survive the next one, which will no doubt include another segment on flex-spending.


Christi better be there or my time on this earth is limited.


Anonymous said...

Where do they get speakers for those damn meeting? If I have to go through ONE more dopey speaker prattling on about emotional maturity, the homeless, location of fire extinguishers, dealing with psycho patrons, not taking personal stuff personal, and so on, I shall scream, scream, scream!
There's always a walk-around the real problems like crazy co-workers, patrons with multiple incident reports that are still welcome in the bosom of the library, and power-crazed managers that order multiple Jesus books that nobody wants. If we talked about that stuff, maybe we'd get somewhere.

Happy Villain said...

Amen! No truer words have ever been spoken. However, these seminars are better than the ones under our former director. She had us sit through a half-day of a clutter control lecture, a Monty Python movie (required attendance, I should add), and an asinine game where everyone was divided into small groups to make commercials for new library products, which she videotaped. Marina still has flashbacks of that and wants those tapes back. I suggested it's too late and they're already on YouTube, so she asked what search terms she should look up. My boss said, "Start typing L-A-M-E and it will pop up." At least we haven't yet been forced to play stupid team-building games that make us hate each other more. But you're right, they are never addressing the real issues. *sigh*

Anonymous said...

We must have had the same former director since we did this team-building exercise where we had to--euhh--give each other shoulder massages. That was bad enough but the real drama came in when the speaker made a slightly risque and lame sex allusion and our mentally challenged page went apeshit. Our page had been told by her ma about "bad touch" and she started shrieking like siren that sex was BAD, BAD, BAD, and I mean screaming at the top of her lungs. It took us an hour to calm her down and that was the high point of that happy day.

Rachel said...

I'd like to know why it is that when a patron insults us, we have to take it with a smile or get in trouble :( We should be able to retort properly without fear!
For meetings, I agree you definitely need a partner in crime :) When I was in art school, each class kinda felt like a meeting and so my partner and I would always write eachother, filling up many pages (which I think would probably get us both thrown in the loony bin if anyone saw them XD)