Sunday, January 17, 2010

Holy Trinity of Stupid

It's been one of THOSE weekends.

It began on Saturday morning with a man who reeked so badly that I thought I'd pass out from oxygen deprivation before I finished helping him. He was looking for a repair manual for his old snowmobile, which he'd asked someone at the reference desk to interlibrary-loan about two months ago, and he thought we would still have it waiting for him.

Me: Um, no, we can't keep another library's book indefinitely. We have to return it to them if you don't pick it up in a week.

Dork: Oh. Well they told me it would be waiting for me.

Me: It was. For a week. And then we had to send it back when you didn't pick it up. I can try to order it again for you, if you'd like.

Dork: But I need it right now.

Me: Well, we don't have it here, but I can look it up and see what library nearby has it in.

Dork: Okay.

Me: Ah, it looks like [Neighboring] Library has it on the shelf, if you want to drive over there and get it.

Dork: All the way to [Neighboring] Library?

Me: Yeah. It's about 10 miles away.

Dork: Can someone meet me halfway?

Me: *blink* [pause] You want someone from that library to meet you somewhere and deliver it?

Dork: Yeah.

Me: *blink* [pause] No, they don't do that.

Dork: So I have to drive all the way over there for this book?

Me: If you want it right now, yes, that's your only option.

Dork: Damn, I don't want to drive over there.

Me: Then I could order it for you again, but it will be a bit before we would get it.

Dork: How long?

Me: Maybe by the end of the week, given that it's the weekend and it has to come from outside of our system.

Dork: But they're only 10 miles away!

Me: I know, but there's a process, and we're lucky that they're close enough to be on the pickup route, otherwise we'd have to wait for it to arrive in the mail, so aside from GOING THERE YOURSELF, this is the way it has to go.

Dork: Okay, never mind then.

Me: Soooooo, you don't want me to order it for you?

Dork: No, that's okay. I'll try to get over there sometime.

Uh-huh. In the next month or so. Even though you said you need it today.

Though we were sitting next to one another, I opted to be discreet and IM'd Marina to ask if it was just me, or was it totally nuts to ask someone to meet him halfway with a book he wanted? She agreed he was delusional and was glad he was gone.

Almost immediately afterward, a very scary looking man-woman, who also smelled like old sewage on an searing summer day, asked me for something weird.

Woman: I need books on subliminal stuff. And self help. On tape or CD or video. No books.

Me: Uh, what kind of self help? And information on subliminal messages, like how they do it, or like self help tapes that deliver subliminal messages?

Woman: Yeah.

Me: But, what kind of self help? Inspirational? Motivational? Kick a habit? What kind of self help?

Woman: Yeah.

Sometimes you get a patron and just know that you've pried as much intelligence out of them as you're going to get. There is no more. You've hit the bottom of the well and must make do with what they've given you.

I gave her Tony Robbins. She seemed happy.

When I got back to the desk, I informed Marina that she had to take the remaining freaks for the rest of the day, to which she nodded and said she deserved them, given what I'd already dealt with.

As if the Forces of the Universe heard this, two women, probably in their late 20s, approached the desk. One came to me, one went to Marina. The one who came to me wanted to start reading again after not reading anything at all since high school, and she wanted me to recommend something she could read. When I asked what she was interested in, she said anything. When I asked what she'd read in the past that she liked, she said nothing. I asked for some kind of hint as to what she might like to read, she said she didn't know. So, I started throwing genres out to her and she eventually said she was interested in mysteries and crime novels. My immediate reaction was to say, "Oh, the Kay Scarpetta books are good," but then I realized I was looking at someone who probably was reading at a 5th grade level, and even if she made it through high school, her aversion to reading made me think she probably cheated and bullshitted her way to a diploma and hadn't read a book since The Outsiders, if not something by Judy Blume. So, I made the obvious recommendation.

"You might like James Patterson. I'll show you where those books are."

The woman who went to Marina was a little more informed, but she was talking as loud as her voice would go, and I cringed at the abuse my eardrums were taking. Marina blinked, as if the volume came out in wind and was drying out her eyes. The non-reader friend I had been helping yelled at her to shut the hell up, demanded to know what was wrong with her, and didn't she feel stupid for talking so loudly in a library. She swore they weren't together and smiled. Momentarily, she was redeemed. Momentarily.

And so it went for the remainder of the day. We'd hit a lull and get to talk about how health insurance rapes its clients, or recipes that get us excited, or ideas for future displays, and then the next freak would come to us.

There was always a next freak.

Toward the end of the afternoon, when we both had sprained our eyeballs from rolling them all day, a middle-aged woman came in and required me to show her no fewer than eight times how to copy and paste an email address from an online ad to the email she was composing. By the third time it became a script. By the seventh time, the woman across from her had memorized the script and mouthed the words I spoke: "Highlight the email address. Now click Edit, then Copy...."

The only thing worse than someone asking the same question over and over, is asking the question over and over, and belittling yourself in the process.

She'd say repeatedly, "I know I just asked you this, but I'm REALLY STUPID -- I'm sorry. Like, even my own family has given up on me! Can you show me again?" Twice she used the heel of her hand and slammed it into her head, telling everyone she was dumb.

When they do this, the self denigration, it says to me that they are looking for coddling and fishing for me to tell them they are in fact NOT stupid, and EVERYONE asks this question 100 times before they get it, so they are right on track with the rest of the human race and they should not feel badly for not getting it.

It's easy enough to say this. They're just words. It doesn't cause me any pain to utter them.

Yet, I cannot. I feel I'm in the business of providing people as much information as I can, as accurately as I can, and lying about this would be against some imagined code of ethics I hold myself to.

Or I'm just a bitch.

Usually, my answer is something about how we thrive on questions because it gives us job security. This is also what I say when people can't navigate the printing software, or when they wonder why Dewey is so complicated. I say that we do it intentionally to secure our positions, or to confuse everyone just so they'll talk to us to keep us from being lonely. That's the best I can do. I'm not going to pat them on the head and tell them they're not the mutants they fear they might be. They're being introspective and feel self aware of their shortcomings, and I'm certainly not going to tell them they're wonderful, dandy people when the self awareness might actually cause them to improve the situation. Nope. I'm-a-gonna smile and tell them they give me job security.

Today was no different except that I didn't have Marina to split the freaks with.

Our job applicant from the other day was in and wanted books on guns -- on collecting, identifying and studying guns.


Sometimes I would like to be able to decline to answer questions. His creepy obsession that I mentioned was with serial killers and mass murderers, and on a previous visit he had requested books on designing costumes to look like official uniforms. With a big and hopeful smile, I asked him if he was making a costume for a costume party, and he said no. My only relief is that I know his face and if I saw him dressed as a policeman, I would not let him in my house, and I might let my dog eat his crotch off.

Thankfully Arms was in and he chased many of the freaks away from my desk today. Though he's not normal by my standards, he is a freak repellent on steroids, and that makes my job much easier.

When I got home from work, I was greeted with my energetic dog and my hungry brother, both milling about the kitchen aimlessly.

Bro: The dog locked himself in the bathroom again today. He was probably only in there a few minutes, but he was totally panicked.

Me: I don't get how he does this. He pushes the door open, but he closes it behind himself? How is that happening? And why?

Bro: Who knows with him! It's like that Fail Blog thing with the woman who thought she was locked in her car. Did you catch that one?

Me: No. Do tell.

Bro: It was a recording from OnStar or one of those types of services, and this woman called in a panic and said she'd gotten in her car without her keys, and the doors were locked. She couldn't get out of her car now to get the keys. The OnStar person asked if she had tried to open the door and the woman yelled that she had and couldn't get out. Then they were like, uh, why don't you try pushing the button thing and unlocking the door manually, so she did and she got the door open, and was screaming how thankful she was that they saved her. Oh my god, it was scary how stupid this woman was.

Me: Wow, that's a lot of stupid.

Bro: There's a whole lot of it going on there. First there's the panic--

Me: Which makes us all stupid.

Bro: Yeah, and she obviously had to have been born pretty stupid, too. Then you add that she's probably young and has always had the remote button unlock on the keys and has no idea that the car doors have the buttons to lock and unlock, and it's like all this stupid came together to create a Perfect Storm of stupidity.

Me: HAHAHAHA! YES! Like genetic stupid, plus environmental stupid, plus panic stupid, equals the Triumvirate of Stupid!

Bro: HAHA, the Holy Trinity of Stupid!

Me: And thank god for OnStar who had to save this woman from this Holy Trinity of Stupidity! Imagine if they hadn't. She'd have died slowly of starvation, trapped in her locked car.

Bro: OH SHIT, that might have been a favor to mankind.

Me: Yeah, you're right. Damn OnStar could've increased the collective IQ of the human race right there, but no, they couldn't do the right thing.

Bro: More stupid.

Me: Sheesh.

So, despite having one of THOSE weekends, at least I don't work at OnStar and have the fate of humanity's IQ on my shoulders.

Then again, I found Job-Applicant-Guy a book on guns. Maybe he'll just mass-murder the stupid people he hates so much. Dude, I hope the thinks I'm bright. I'm going to have to start wearing my glasses again.


Kate P said...

Freaks on parade--yikes! What, is it a full moon?

That is so mysterious how your dog locks himself in the bathroom. Maybe there's something on the other side of the door that makes him have to close the door to get to it? My cat does that but fortunately doesn't close the door all the way.

Megan said...

My wiener dog closes the door behind himself, too. It's hilarious, because we'll suddenly realize we haven't seen him in like an hour, and then we'll hear him barking his head off in the bathroom. Heh. If you want, you could put a towel or shirt around the inside door handle - that way, it prevents the door from catching, and your dog can nose his way out again.

About the freaks: Maybe this is because I'm a life-long bookworm, but how can someone go TEN YEARS without reading a thing? Granted, I'm someone who will read the shampoo bottle while I'm showering, but dang.

Leelu said...

With the "haven't read since high school" types, I'm always a little curious as to what has suddenly pushed them into wanting to read.

With the "oh god se's going to kill me" crazies, I just smile, nod, and stare at hir earlobe until se goes away.