On Retiring Outdated Protocols

11.12.2005
Ore : 10:54 PM

She is a tiny bulldog of a woman, topped with sere, brittle wisps of overprocessed orange hair. But her eyes are what captivate: though they began by exuding a conspiratorial warmth, they have since grown and changed to enormous, watery orbs that tremble between fear and rage. They have been holding me at the desk for far longer than I'd like; I have to occasionally pop in the back to make sure none of the tots are swallowing crayons, and drop by the computer to scare the teens from trying to log on to porn.

But here I am. And her attitude is at once exasperated and triumphant, daring her audience to assert itself.

You wouldn't know it from her faded, painfully stuffed Wal-Mart jeans and decades-old cashmere sweater, but she's one of the wealthiest among the town's residents. And she doesn't like the answers she's getting so far.

"D had a file," she repeats, daring a toe into the waters of terse condescension. "I know she did."

"She may have, but it's not here now." I don't mention that such a file is probably one of the reasons D is no longer working with us. Or that D didn't leave me much besides a gargantuan mess.

"Well I donated those materials and I ought to be able to see who's checking them out."

"No," I say slowly, "you oughtn't to."

"Well, you know, I donated those books, so maybe I should just get them back."

"Gosh, I would be delighted to try and help you out with that, but as your good friend D did not leave any sort of donor files, nor did she appropriately label acquisitions -- needless to say making essentially no acknowledgement of your generosity -- I have no way of knowing just what among the library's collection you did indeed donate."

"Look, I should either get my books back or you should get on your little computer there and tell me who currently has them checked out. I know you can do it, so do it."

I smile a smile I know she'll hate. "Oh, that's so not going to happen." I lower my voice to remind her she's been tipping her hand to me since before she walked in the door -- at least since I was in high school: "This is a public library, not some little kid's clubhouse where you get to decide who goes and who stays."

"Just who do you think you are?"

"The guy in whose name the paychecks come -- the guy with his name on the door."

"Well, we'll just see how long that lasts."

"By all means," I say sweetly, and hand her a slip, a homemade bookmark, "here's the number for S, my direct supervisor. And next time you're down at the county offices, I suggest you stop by [Judge] P's office, maybe just to mention how you're trying to get the son of one of his best friends fired because you were refused access to other patrons' records. I wish you the best of luck with that."

She bustles out the door with the appearance of purpose, into the acrid red sunset of a day spent burning rice stalks.

posted by teh l4m3 at 10:54 PM | Permalink |

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Comments for On Retiring Outdated Protocols
I picture that lady as some crazy little town's abstract version of Jane Wyman from Falcon Crest. Awesome. Maybe she'll send her poor man's Lance (do I have to tell you the actor? I think not) to do the "dirty work." THAT WOULD BE AWESOME. Why the hell did she want to see who was checkign out what? Is she running her own little anti-terror squad? You know, I bet the FBI donated a bunch of books on Islam, etc. to libraries just to see who would check them out. Assholes.

Oh, please, we're a one-horse-town library -- we've got one copy of the Quran, and a book of Sufi mysticisms. Period.

Nope, just a local look-down-her-nose-at-you, small-town busybody.

A cnut, if you will.

i would SO be taking that conversation to a higher-up and the city or county attorney and tell them exactly what this lady harrassed you for, and that the previous lady would do it for her any time she requested. and let their sad asses explain it to the judge.

It's a delicate brinkmanship. See, she has standing in the community, so I'd be shooting myself in the foot if I made too big of a deal about it. OTOH, she knows damn well that what she had been getting/was asking me to give her was illegal as all hell. I scared her off enough, but I won't burn her so bad that the rest of the town shies away from the library. It's these small towns: they're all related, they're all in cohoots, etc...I could go to an authority, but considering her name/wealth/standing, I doubt there's any point.

That said, my boss is fully cognizant of the situation, and the gist of the conversation. From this point forward, I believe I can consider my hands washed clean of it...

What do you think she was trying to find out?

Hi Gavin! Welcome to my stinky end of the bog.

Most likely, she was trying to find out if someone *she* doesn't approve of is getting their filthy mitts all over *her* book. Some random small-town drama I could live the rest of my life not knowing more about...

Hey man, I come here almost every day.

What if there was a scandalous poem hand-written in pencil in one of the books, or an old love-letter tucked into the flap?

Hey, I once found a five-dollar bill in a copy of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poetry that hadn't been checked out since 1986...

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