Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sir, what you need is a time machine

A man in his late 40's to early 50's and smelling like he had rolled around in Bengay cream all morning sat down at the reference desk and asked for some assistance and of course, I was the lucky one to help him.

The man, who from here on shall be referred to as "Mr. Novelist," is in the process of writing a novel, that takes place during the depression based in "Hicktown," located in state but oh about four or five hours drive south. His problem -- he needs to do some research for his novel and by that he means he needs me to do some research for his novel for him.

Mr. Novelist confides in me that he has already used Google and Wikipedia to learn about Hicktown, but would like more information like what type of gum people in Hicktown would've chewed back then, or local slang, or the gun that would be issued to a Great Depression era cop in Hicktown (yes, it was a detective story!). I do a couple searches and reveal that we don't have any books focusing only on Hicktown, but in some of the state history books there are small sections dedicated to Hicktown. He waves this away, it is not what he wants. Next I bring back some books on fashion history and open it to the portions on 1930's fashion, but he is disappointed that it is only about ten pages of pictures and that the entire book is not on 1930's style clothing.

He points to an illustration of a 1930's era woman with a hat, "How do I know that women in Hicktown wore that type of hat?"

I respond that I, obviously, did not know but assumed that fashion trends of the 1930's were probably nationwide with some variation and the possibility that a small town like Hicktown might have possibly been a little behind but probably not by much.

Mr. Novelist lets out a sigh, "Doesn't the library have an old film strip or DVD I could watch about the 1930's in Hicktown? I'm a more visual person, I don't have time to read a lot, but I think if I could watch something then I could absorb it that way. It could be fiction or like a documentary, I don't care."

I internalize a mental sigh then try to explain that the way our cataloging system works, I could not simply search for movies that take place at that time and in that town unless they were cataloged that way and I'd already done several searches on Hicktown in our system with no results.

He shakes his head, "Do you know that movie, A Christmas Story? The one that takes place in the past and is all about that family and the boy who dresses like a giant bunny -- I want something like that, but for it to take place in Hicktown in the 1930's."

"You know," I say, "A Christmas Story is set during the Great Depression and could be a visual resource--"

Here Mr. Novelist interrupts me with the most expected response, "But it doesn't take place in Hicktown!" How stupid of me to suggest such a thing! Mr. Novelist is clearly suffering from the mental disorder of thinking that if you want it, it exists!

I decide to spend a few more minutes helping him before sending him on his way, but it is time wasted as my ideas like using writing website forums for assistance or trying Hicktown's own library(!) for information are dismissed.

"I'm really disappointed," Mr. Novelist says as he gets up to leave, "I expected the library to have what I was looking for, a simple movie -- that's all!"


  1. If you hadn't said otherwise, I would've assumed "Hicktown" existed only in this guy's mind.

  2. Oh man, I laughed so hard at this. Some people.