Tuesday, June 22, 2010


At the reference desk, we have about seven of these toys for the public (and us) as a form of self-entertainment.

The director walked over to the desk and as he started asking us how things were going, he flipped one of the seven toys over, but left the other six as they were.

This bothered the OCD part of my brain, and with no regard for his position, I snapped, “You can’t just DO that! You have to flip them ALL now!”

And so he did. With a smile. And without batting an eyelash or challenging my tone of voice. It was great.


Me: Now stand on one foot and “bock” like a chicken.

Director: I’ll do that… later. That’s an after-hours game.

Me: Oh my! What other tricks do you do after hours?

He laughed evilly.

My partner at the desk, who’d only last week sung along with the “My Ding-A-Ling” song, begged out of the conversation because it was getting too racy, but typical of her, she never actually left and then rejoined and upped the ante.

Partner: Do you play the chicken with feathers or without?

Director: Well… [more evil laughter]

Me: He starts out with feathers, but then…

He began making sexy plucking motions that had me in hysterics.

Ahh, the benefits at my job are not monetary, but they do exist.

* * *

One of my favorite regulars was in using the computer, as always.

On his way out, he asked about our Summer Reading Club display (which I will share with you when I get a chance – it’s so twisted), and we joked about it for a few minutes, then he left.

I turned away and heard a crash, looked up to see him, and he was looking at the big glass door, dazed, and his son was laughing at him.

I shouted, incredulously, “Did you just run into the DOOR?”

He scrunched his head down between his shoulders, giggled a little, and left.

My partner at the desk looked at me and we both busted up. It reminded me of the glass conversation I’d had with my brother a while ago, and I couldn’t stop chuckling.

Partner: You’re so mean! You shouted that! ‘Did you just run into the DOOR?’ Everyone looked up and saw him!

Me: I… I… was concerned about him.

We collapsed into giggles.

Partner: You were not! You embarrassed him!

Me: No! He embarrassed himself! I was worried about his health! His mental health, but still!

Partner: And people say I’m mean!

Me: You are mean! But that’s why we like working together.

And we do. More benefits you just can’t put a price on.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


His hands were a deep bronze hue from years of sun exposure, a shade of brown that no longer faded in the winter. If you flipped them over, palm up, you’d see the softer, tender pink shade that likely was the same color since his birth. They were strong hands, but not hard, not callused. He’d broken many fingers, many times, and his knuckles, which sometimes locked up on him, were large and appeared knobby with his slim, dark fingers. His fingernails were odd, unlike any I’d ever seen before. Instead of being curved over the tops, they were flat, then angled down sharply toward the cuticles, and if they grew out beyond his finger, they curved sharply inward, creating something like the lid of a box closing over the ends of his fingers. My nails have this tendency as well, but not nearly as pronounced as his. His skin was smooth, no coarse hairs anywhere on his hands or arms, and his veins were pipes making rolling hills on his flesh. He worked with his hands a lot, had scars, blackened nails sometimes, and he wasn’t afraid that they’d ever get ugly from use, though they never did.

His hands always mesmerized me. I’d sit near him and turn them over, study them, open his fingers, close them tightly, hold mine up against his, compare them, try to get mine to look like his, wonder if they would be identical when I got to be his age, and finally rest with my hand in his. Long ago he could fit my entire balled-up fist inside his own, and later we simply folded our fingers together, almost matched in size.

I miss his hands.

Those were the hands that tucked me in the best, mummifying me in my blankets, rendering me immobile in my own bed. They were also the hands that brushed my hair the gentlest, for he was terrified of discovering a snarl and yanking too hard. When I was really little, after a bath he’d wrap me up in a trove of towels, naming each towel a piece of my royal garb, declaring me a princess, and they were wrapped so securely that I could prance around the house in my terrycloth regalia until it was bedtime and I had to put on pedestrian pajamas. They were the hands, too, that would take my cares away when I’d lay in his lap and he’d stroke my back softly. To this very day the technique still works, if only I could find someone who could master the touch that he had. These hands pushed me so high on the swings that I always soared over everyone else at the park, until the day when my own hands betrayed me and I fell, head-first, from high in the air, and then his hands carried me home and never pushed me on a swing again.

I didn’t hold it against his hands when he spanked me, which I mostly deserved, though not always. Nor did I hate them after he smacked me in the face so hard it catapulted me across the room and I bounced off my bed and landed on the floor, bruises created during the landing and mortification alone brought on by the hit itself. It wasn’t the fault of his hands. How could they know my mother had lied and told him something I did wrong that never happened? When I innocently denied it, it came down to a decision over who was lying, and in this case those hands didn’t know his head had been fooled and I took the hit while the liar watched with satisfaction. His hands stood for justice, even when the delivery was wrong.

I watched his hands when he wrote his detailed notes on the yellow legal pads he used for everything; I watched them bending wire clothes hangers in just the right shape for us to dip hard-boiled eggs in dyes; I watched him fumble and gain confidence as he learned to use a keyboard and mouse with his hands, so adept at everything else and so clumsy with a computer; I watched him build things; I watched him dismantle things; I watched him rebuild things; and I watched those hands twitching subtly when he fell asleep in the recliner in the middle of a lazy afternoon.

Sometimes, when my hands darken up with a summer tan, I hold them up and they resemble his hands -- this makes me feel good. I don’t always wield them like he did. Mine are not hands that hit, or hands that do hard work. My hands may never sport popsicle sticks fastened with duct tape over a broken finger, or do intricate wiring to fix a broken electrical device, or build furniture, or be remotely as interesting to my adoring eyes as his hands were. However, the reminder is there, the vague resemblance, and it’s a part of the legacy he left me. They are closely related in that I use my hands to show love: a gentle touch, the sweeping of my fingers across sensitive skin, a tender embrace, a firm squeeze to show support, a soft pat to bring comfort, or just curling my fingers around someone else’s for closeness. They are things his hands did, things they taught me about people, about love, about myself, about what’s important, and though I miss his hands tremendously, I treasure the memories, good and bad, because so much of him was revealed in his hands. And so much of him remains in my own.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sing It Again, Sam

Given the title of my last post, about doorbells and why we have to ring them for help from our coworkers, the subject of this one is going to look fake, but I swear people, I cannot make this stuff up.

Allow me to introduce the guest of my post tonight: skinny guy with scraggly facial hair, a mullet, a red wife-beater, bad posture, shorts made from cut-off sweatpants and a farmer’s tan that turned parts of him so red, it looked like his tank top was actually a full-length shirt with white holes in certain areas.

The conversation that ensued probably won’t translate as well to written word, as many of my encounters do not, but I feel compelled to try.

Guy: Hey, I was just at [Neighboring] Library and asked them a question, but they just looked at me like I was NUTS.

Any conversation that opens with a line like that is about to become blog fodder. This I know from experience. Fortunately, my coworker had finished helping the odd, affable guy with the big Jesus belt buckle, and as she was walking toward the desk, our redneck friend (who was looked at like he was nuts at another library) decided to approach my partner.

Maybe I was already reaching for scrap paper to take notes and appeared busy. Could be.

Guy: There’s this song, and I wanted some information about it. Maybe you’ve heard it. It’s called “My Ding-A-Ling.”

I bit my lip to hide the emerging grin and sniffled to cover my brief giggle. Not only was this guy dead serious, he was talking so loudly that the entire library went quiet. And mine is a library that is seldom quiet unless the computers are down or the police are walking through. The soft pitter-pat of 20 computer users tapping away at their keyboards, a wonderful white noise that keeps me from hearing all their personal bodily turbulence, abruptly slammed to stop, giving my ears whiplash, plunging us all headfirst into a dead silence. There was not a mouse click in the whole building save for my partner, looking up the "Ding-A-Ling" song.

Guy: Do you know how it goes? It’s like, “My ding-a-ling, won’t you play with my ding-a-ling…”

I was suddenly very interested in inspecting the ceiling tiles, tongue attempting to poke a hole in my own cheek, grimacing at the pain of trying not to laugh. Oh, look! There are more dead bugs in the fluorescent lights! Surely I should ponder this instead of listening to the conversation going on only three feet from me!

Professional in a pinch, but seldom so elsewise, she started rattling off facts about the song to this guy, something about Chuck Berry, something about 1972, blah-blah-blah, and she asked what else he wanted to know about the song.

Guy: Well, I kinda know how it goes, but I want the lyrics. It’s something like “it’s the prettiest little song you ever had…”

And then something spec-fucking-tacular occurred!

Partner: Right, then it goes, “And those of you who will not sing, must be playing with your own ding-a-ling”

The patrons situated on the perimeter of our reference desk erupted in gut-busting, capillary-popping, wailing laughter. Patrons all around me were red-faced and gasping for air, no longer interested in politely eavesdropping on the patron’s request, but full-on, no-holds-barred, doubled-over hilarity hearing the librarian talk about playing with a ding-a-ling.

Seeing the reaction of so many people positively roar with uncontrollable laughs made me lose it, and I came very close to having to excuse myself to find somewhere with more oxygen and possibly a diaper for my own safety.

The conversation went on, him quoting parts of the song, her nodding stoically as she read along with the lyrics online, telling him that he had the words right, correcting him here and there when it wasn’t “ding-a-ling”, but the longer “ding-a-ling-a-ling”.

Two teens in particular, a young man and a young woman, were holding each other up listening to these two people recite the words, looking at me for some confirmation that this was for real and not staged. I just shook my head in disbelief and continued laughing, trying my hardest not to look at this guy.

He went on and on about the song.

Guy: You know, they used to sing it in bars, too. And it’s not about what you think it’s about, which is why it’s so fun to sing, right? I mean, it’s great to sing about your ding-a-ling!

Partner: Uh-huh, I remember this song. So, do you want me to print the lyrics out for you?

Guy: Oh yeah! That would be great! I gotta take this back over to [Neighboring] Library and show them, since they thought I was nuts. I’ll sing it to ‘em, now that I got the lyrics, and I bet they’ll remember it then.

Partner: Um, yeah.

Guy: This is great! I gotta show Randy!

Partner: Okay.

Guy: And we can sing “My Ding-A-Ling” all the time!

Partner: Uh-huh.

She never laughed. She was perfectly calm, perfectly unamused, and only started laughing when the patron walked away and she saw how hard everyone else was laughing.

Indignantly, she scoffed at us.

Partner: What?! It’s just as song!

I bounced up and down in my chair, childish grin on my face and said, “Sing it again! Please! PUH-LEEEEZE!”

She brushed me off and walked away, leaving me cracking up with the nearby patrons, and we were content with the memory of hearing her recite the “My Ding-A-Ling” lyrics to a patron.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Marina: Sorry

I had a rather demanding patron

Me: Did you ding-dong for help? Is that why [coworker] was out there?

Marina: yes

Me: Oh my, whatever did she want?

Marina: I needed him to help the other woman while I scrolled through page after page of abuse memoirs.

Only like 3 were of any interest to her and then we didn't have them.

Me: Figures.


Marina: yeah

I think she's coming back when she’s done on the express computers.

Me: Of course. Why would she bug only one staff member?!

Marina: What I don't get is why I'm going through this when she doesn't even have a card to check the books out on

This is when I realized the patron Marina was talking about was the one Circ had told me about, who came in with no money, no wallet, no ID, and had a story about how she just left her boyfriend with only the clothes she was wearing. She wanted a library card, but without any proof of who she was, saying that her boyfriend was possessive of her ID and wouldn’t let her have it. Odd story. But the woman was odder still.

Me: Ugh.

Yesterday I had a lady get really pissed because she wanted Chicago museum passes, and I said we didn't have any for the Shedd Aquarium or other museums she wanted, that the Chicago Public Libraries had some kind of program, but it could be exclusive to their patrons, and she threw a tantrum.

Insisted Brookfield Zoo was in Chicago and I was lying about the Chicago museums.

And WHEN would they be available and WHO could she talk to about getting them.

Because having Brookfield Zoo passes meant they all should be in there.

Marina: wow

I hate our patrons somedays

Me: Uh huh

Marina: it drives me CRAZY when people stalk me in the stacks while I'm helping someone else to ask me questions

Me: Oh yes

That creeps me out totally

Marina: I have to refrain from spinning around and screaming "back the f%&* off" at people

Me: Patron paparazzi.

Marina: I would recommend going home sick

You don't want to be out here tonight

Me: Hmm, I'm eating cheese.

That could parlay into digestive problems.

Marina: close down the whole desk and go to a bar with [coworker]

Me: Oh, you are sounding wiser and wiser with every sentence.

Marina: :)

Me: [Coworker] will love you for it too

AND it's payday

So that means I can afford a drink and not a water at a bar.

but sadly, only one drink.

Marina: aww :(

Me: baby needs an oil change

Marina: but you have heirloom tomatoes instead

is that expensive?

Me: I do have tomatoes, and oil changes are not expensive, but drinks are. The ones I like, anyway.

Marina: me too :(

Me: Fruit, frozen, gigantic glasses, umbrellas... pricey.

Marina: damn my girlie taste buds


Damn them!

Marina: :)

Me: A friend of mine started calling me Malibu Barbie. Fucker.

Marina: stab him

with an umbrella :)

Me: I shall. With my high heel.

Marina: ooh even better

Me: So, shall we compose our stabbing list?

Patrons who stalk and paparazzi us.

Marina: patrons who can't use Google Maps.

Me: Grrrr.

Marina: Patrons who don't know how to turn off mute.

Me: Being made fun of for being girlie girls.

Not enough cheese in your pasta.

Not enough money for all the drinks your job makes you need.

Marina: Patrons who don't realize that minimize just minimizes their screen.


Me: OOOR, patrons who you tell to minimize their screen and instead they hit the restore size button and it just makes the window smaller.

Marina: Oh god! I HATE that!


Marina: I had to explain links to that woman at least 3 or 4 times today

Me: She is so dense.

Marina: yeah :(

Me: HOH, and yesterday, here's a new one. Woman wanted us to show her how to put her picture up on YouTube (which she called YouToo) so she could be rich and famous too. What? It's for videos? You have to have a video camera? You have to upload? Oh, I can't do that. I'll have to find another way to get rich and famous.

Marina: OMG

I think the shorter list might be the non-stabbing list

Me: Sigh...


This could go on all night.

Marina: it really could

And it did. The woman whose boyfriend is possessive of her ID was very nearly as irritatingly needy as Needy Betty. She went outside to smoke and stood right at the front door, so a non-smoking patron yelled at her that he couldn’t even walk to his car without having to breathe in her smoke, and she was so upset by his statement that she came in and told everyone how hurtful he was. I thought about telling her about the Illinois law that requires people to be at least a certain distance from the front door of businesses if they’re smoking, but she stunk so badly that I didn’t want to talk to her for any longer.

Somehow, she had enough money to be carrying around a big cup of gas station coffee and she purchased headphones from Circ, so she did have cash on her, despite her claims. And she struck another of my pet peeves by carrying around this coffee cup that was actually three coffee cups stacked inside one another. Look, folks, I understand that two cups together help insulate, but I still see it as a waste, and the “green” girl inside me wants to smack you silly. Bring your own damn travel mug and gas stations will let you “refill” it for a fraction of the cost. Anyway, this woman had THREE cups sleeved together, and that irritated me even more! On top of that, she kept leaving her garbage wherever she went. I found that stupid three-tiered coffee cup sitting on the counter in the washroom, right by the garbage can. The patron (who was as odd, or odder) who used her computer after her stood by it, mouth agape, horrified, saying that there was garbage all over the computer and he didn’t want to use it. It was the packaging from this woman’s headphones, that’s all. I heard him whisper to his girlfriend, “There could be DRUGS in there or something. Did you SEE that lady? Ick.” Sometimes I feel like it might be best to let the patrons kill each other and solve many of my problems for me.

Later on, when she couldn’t use one of the computers because they were all taken, she asked to use my phone and proceeded to start calling people to come and pick her up, but no one could. That’s when the neediness got REALLY irritating.

Lady: No one can come and get me.

Me: Oh really?

Lady: And I have to walk all the way by the Walgreens. Can you tell me how far that is? Because I think it’s really far.

I looked it up. It was 2.5 miles.

Lady: *gasp* That’s a LONG way. And it’s COLD outside! Can you tell me what the temperature is?

Me: It’s 67ยบ.

Lady: That’s way too cold to walk almost three miles.

Seriously? To me, that’s just the right temperature to go on a walk, but then again, I haven’t been raising my body temperature all afternoon by whining and drinking a well-insulated coffee either.

Me: Is there anyone else you can call?

Lady: Nooooooo, I don’t have my address book, and I don’t know anyone’s phone number.

Me: You can look it up online, or look it up in the phone book.

Lady: Noooo, I don’t think I could find anyone.

Me: Okay, well, you can call a cab.

Lady: I don’t have any money.

I should mention that all of these sentences she uttered were in the most annoying whine I think I’ve ever heard. The last word of ever sentence dragged out painfully until I cut her off and began speaking over it. I was waiting for her to employ some vibrato for added punch.

Me: Hmmm, I’m sorry, I don’t know what else to suggest.

Lady: It’s so COLD outside. I don’t think I can walk that far.

Me: Well, it’s 6:00. The sun is going down and it’s only going to get colder.

Lady: *gasp* Noooooooo. Can I use the computer again?

Then she plopped her butt down in front of the computer for another hour, blasting music into her headphones, watching videos online. At 7 she simply slipped out, no more whining, no words to anyone.

I thought the weirdness had left with her when another young woman walked up to me and asked why her money wasn’t coming out of the change machine.

I said, “Um, we don’t have a change machine. I think you put your money in the copier.”

Copier? What copier? She was so clueless, she didn’t realize the big machine she leaned over to put the money in the “change machine” was in fact the copier that the machine was accepting money for. I suggested she either hit the print button and get a piece of white paper and 90¢ change, or she talk to Circ about possibly getting a refund. She nodded and kept walking past me.

Incredulously, I shouted to her, “Ma’am, your dollar is in the machine still, right? You’re going to want to go over and take care of that now, otherwise someone might think that’s $1 in free copies for them, and then there’s nothing we’re going to be able to do to get your money back.”

She looked at me blankly, said, “Reeeaaly?” and I nodded and told her to go get her money.

Marina was right. We should’ve closed down the reference desk and gone for drinks. We should’ve continued making our list of people to stab. Which would’ve gotten too big and then we would’ve switched and made lists of people not to stab.

That would’ve been a short list.

It might have only had our own names on it.