Sunday, June 27, 2010

A day of crazy patrons

AKA, just an ordinary day at the library.

My day was off to a poor start since I only managed to get 2 1/2 hours of sleep since I was in DC the night before, hanging out at Apex for the ALA dance party (tip the bartender well there, dude hooked me up with serious drinks), eating pancakes at 2am, and trying to convince my friend to drive me to this carnival we saw near her place in Alexandria. So I was not my usual chipper self at 10 am Saturday morning as we opened the doors for the madness that is SUMMER READING PROGRAM!!!

Luckily, I am in adult services and our children's staff and volunteers were able to handle most of that business, though I did have a lost child or teen wondering by my desk at least once an hour looking for a reading log. One such boy was wearing some tattered looking blue footie pajamas, followed by his mother who was running after him, looking a bit like a hunched up crab as she picked up everything he was knocking on the floor pinballing from one shelf to another. The mother stopped at my desk to ask if I had some book on parenting that she saw "on some show on tv the other day, not last week, it was written by someone, no one famous, but someone you know, and the word parenting may have been in the title" but not sure. If you're guessing that we didn't find the book, you're correct, but what was more annoying than her vague description was that her little boy kept shouting things at me (and in general) the whole time we were talking and it made the transaction difficult. As I was searching in the catalog and a few websites he did a jig on the chair and frothed from the mouth as he pointed at my keyboard proclaiming it was a spaceship, that the whole library was his house, and he and his mother arrived at the library via pterodactyl. This was interspliced with him repeatedly shouting "bang" and making gun fingers at me whenever I made eye contact with him. Oh yes, call the orphanage - I'll take ten just like him!
Later, I had to deal with a woman who seemed to be this boy's distant relative as she had no patience for me to answer a single question she asked. For an elderly woman who confessed that she didn't like computers when I tried showing her NoveList to look up recommended authors, she certainly wanted her information at lightening speed. This was our conversation as best as I can recall it:
Impatient elderly woman: Yes, find me books and authors like David Baldacci -- I like him, he's great, do you read him? He's my favorite. What was the last book he wrote? Am I on hold for anything? What about James Patterson, what has he done lately? Did I read his latest? I'll have to call my husband and ask him. Who is like Robert Parker? He died recently, didn't he? What was the last book he wrote before he died? I just picked up this book by Harlen Coban as I walked in because I like the cover, what authors is he like? This cover reminded me of another book by another author, it was green like this with a woman on the front, do you know which one I'm talking about? I started reading Mary Jane Clark recently, but I don't think I like her, so can you recommend someone like her but better? I also don't want to read anyone who writes too much sex or violence. I don't like bad language either, but I don't mind it as much. You know who else I like? Stuart Woods - did he also die? Are you able to look up and see if he's still alive?
Me: My computer is slow, I'm still trying to look up David Baldacci.

A few minutes later she asked me to look up Sidney Sheldon because he was also one of her favorite authors but she forgot why she stopped reading his books. Then she wanted to know when he died.
Me: His author record lists his death as 2007.
Impatient elderly woman: What? Oh honey, you're wrong. No, he died in like the 1980's. I think you meant to say 1987, not 2007.
Me: Well, let me check on that. (looks up his bio on our author database). Author of The Other Side of Midnight?
Impatient elderly woman: Yes! That's him, that was a great one, did you read it?
Me: No...but this is the same Sidney Sheldon and it says he died in January of 2007. He was 89, it says he died of pneumonia.
Impatient elderly woman: No, you're wrong. He died a long time ago, I remember, I was really sad. I think you're probably thinking of someone else, honey. You're confused. (and she walks away!)

My favorite part is that she clearly saw me typing all this into the computer and reading the screen, but I'm the one who's wrong, I'm confused.

*End Scene!*


  1. I saw a post for the Apex event, I would have gone if it was at any other venue.

    And this "carnival" wouldn't happen to be the traveling group of carnies would it? I think the biggest thrill they offer is surviving a ride on their dilapidated rides or avoiding asbestos exposure from their stuffed animals. Every summer they always come in to use the internet and for the most part are quite rude, hitting on patrons or *gasp* my coworkers; I should be clearer, "attempting to hit on."

  2. I had a similarly irritating "I don't know anything about computers you need to help me but I'm going to criticize everything you do" patron the other day. She wanted to check her son's email because she was expecting a coupon for her birthday. I typed in what she had scribbled on a scrap of paper, and it didn't work
    "Miss, why didn't you do this?" "Miss, shouldn't you do this?" "Miss, why isn't it working?" "Miss why are you doing it wrong?"

    and over and over and over

    Turns out she had the username or password wrong (possibly both!) and the account had been inactive for so long it would take 24 hours to come back online. I live in fear of her coming back.

    She also answered the library's phone while I was trying to help another patron because she thought it might be her son.

  3. What would really blow her mind would be if you pointed out a book he wrote in the last few years, long after he died.

  4. Harold Robbins died in 1997, maybe she meant him. but I love this, "Me: My computer is slow, I'm still trying to look up David Baldacci." and you write, "tip the bartender well there, dude hooked me up with serious drinks," so now I need to find picture of you... "dude hooked me up" -- yeah, now I'm looking for a picture of you because you're probably me...

  5. @Bibliotecher - Yes, traveling carnies, are there any other kind? And what's wrong with Apex? You should've come boogie with me! I was going to see if any of my blogging/library internet friends wanted to come meet during ALA, but didn't want to be "weird" about it...

    @closedstacks - "She also answered the library's phone while I was trying to help another patron because she thought it might be her son" - LOL, classic!

    @Ryan - That would have been a good idea, though so many popular writers have ghost writers after they're dead, that way Nancy Drew can live forever!

    @effing - Maybe you have a split personality and I am you! Look in the mirror right now, do you have some mustard from your lunchtime sandwich on your chin that none of your coworkers dare tell you about?!

  6. When patrons lurch from question to question in that bizarre stream of consciousness manner like your elderly patron, I have considered just lurching right along with them. A crazy little joyride through the catalog to match their craziness.

    And that kid! A former coworker who would occasionally consider the possiblility of having a baby referred to the behavior of mutants like him as "contraceptive behavior."