Jan 19, 2006

Adventures of a librarian

It was a Sunday, usually a slow day at this, my part-time job. Andrea was at the circulation desk, which is right at the entrance to the library. I was at the reference desk about 15 feet and off to the side. A woman entered and began talking to Andrea. I really wasn't paying much attention, but out of the corner of my eye, I saw Andrea go into the office were we kept out AV materials.

A couple minutes later, Andrea came out of the office and walked to the reference desk.

"Can you help me? She's looking for a language tape and I can't seem to find it."

Andrea handed me some papers stapled together. It was a syllabus from a Hebrew course at a local synagogue. Attached were bad photocopies of a booklet that went with a language tape that the teacher assured this woman was available here. They were not photocopies of the title page, mind you. And the woman didn't know the name of the tape. I squinted at the paper, trying to figure out how I could search the catalog for this item given the extreme lack of information. I punched a couple of terms into the catalog when I heard a voice. It was the woman, who was still standing at the circulation desk.

Me: "Excuse me?"

Woman: "You don't look very happy about it."

Me: "Im trying to see if I can find this in the catalog."

Woman: "You're not very professional."

Me: "We're having problems finding the tape on the shelves."

Woman: "Everyone's so rude in Baltimore."

Feeling that discretion was the better part of valor--and feeling my blood pressure rising--I got up, mumbled something about checking the office and started walking away.

Woman, shouting now: "Are you from New York? You must be from New York. Everyone there is really nasty."

Andrea and I began scouring the shelves. The woman continued her rant. "I just moved here from California and everyone is so nasty here. What's wrong with you people?"

Now, on any given day, I can take your basic psychotic patron. I worked at Loehmann's, fer chrissakes. You spend eight hours manning the cash register at the semi-annual half-off clearance sale and you either develop a tough skin or you become a blithering idiot. But, for whatever reason, this woman was getting to me. I was actually shaking. So, knowing that a) I set her off; and b) she was--as they say-pushing my buttons, I chose the coward's way out: I sent Andrea out to tell her that we couldn't find the tape.

She wouldn't leave. She told Andrea that I had to come out. Andrea, poor thing, came back into the office to tell me I was summoned.

Then the woman, whose constant complaining about the relative rudeness of Baltimoreans and New Yorkers had died down into an indecipherable drone, began shouting again.

"I don't have to be treated this way. I'm a single mother!"

Well, speaking as a single mother, this absolutely made me see red. I ran out into the library.

"I don't give a goddamn about your single motherhood," I shouted. "You think you have a tough life, lady? Stand in line."

Bad, I know, probably grounds for firing. But it served to shut up the woman, who turned around and left. I went into the office and literally began throwing things while Andrea stood there wringing her hands. Enter the dean. The woman had walked over to the administration offices and found her in her office. The upshot was, I had to apologize. I did. Predictably, the woman wouldn't shut up. Again I apologized. She continued ranting. The dean tried to interrupt. The woman took a breath. I apologized again. Again with the rants. Finally, the dean convinced her to go. At the exit, she turned around and started ranting again. I returned to the office.

The next day, I got a prescription for Xanax.

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