Unfiltered Story #218537

, | Unfiltered | December 16, 2020

Background: I’ve worked at this library two years. It’s a fairly small town and usually my job is awesome. We get the usual snippy patron, but there’s almost always a reason, like they thought they returned a book but it’s still on their account so now they owe us $20, etc.

But this was cruelty on a scale I’ve never experienced before. Patrons delighting in cruelty, for the sheer sake of it.

I’m at the desk and a woman wants to check out CDs. She hasn’t been here in years so her card isn’t in the system anymore. No problem. I’ll get her a new one. She starts filling out the short form (I’ll add here these are two middle age women, I assume they’re friends) and I ask for her license, which we do for all new applicants, because you need that info in case fines get really high. (And yes, they can; we have people in our system who owe us thousands, though they’ve skipped town by now. In the past libraries used to ask for your Social Security number)

Anyway, she doesn’t respond to me asking for her license.

I wait another moment, then say, “Sorry, I’ll just need to see your license.”

“I heard you. The first time.”

Her tone was so cold it actually took me aback. I think it showed on my face because her friend gave this inane, high-pitched giggle that conveyed a tense nervousness.

“Oh, she’s just kidding. Aren’t you, dear?” the friend says. But her friend’s face is stony. She hands me her license and then immediately asks for it back.

“The form needs my license number. So I’ll be needing that back.” Smug grin, holding out her hand. I give her the license back. She writes her number and continues on with the rest of the form. At this point I’m feeling a little nervous but I really do need to see her license to add her to our system.

“I’m really very sorry,” I say, pointing to her license but not touching it, “but I’ll just really quickly need to–”

“You sure do like looking at that, don’t you?”

At this point my face twitches. I can feel it, that quick slip of the customer-service facade. Her friend notices, and laughs high and nervous again.

“Oh, sweetie! She’s just giving you a hard time, aren’t you? Just a hard time. A little joke!”

Again, friend is stone-faced. My coworker by this point has come up, maintaining a slight distance, her face on the other computer, but I can tell she’s fuming.

“Sorry.” I enter her information as quickly as humanly possible and hand her back her license. I work on completing her account so she can check out her CDs.

“Would you like a bag?” I ask her. “Once I get these CDs checked out to you?”

“Are you sure you don’t want my license again?”

Her friend, laughing. “Oh you do like looking at it, don’t you?”

“Nope.” Gritting my teeth. “All done with that license. About that bag…?

“Fine.”

“They’re just plain grocery bags, is that okay?”

“Fine.”

Silence as I finish up on the computer and begin bagging her CDs. I try to end on a positive note and be conversational. “One day maybe we’ll have nice bags. You know, with the library logo on it, and everything.”

A twisting smile. “I doubt that. You’re a library.”

Deep breath. “Ah, well a girl can dream.”

“Those are your dreams?”

The friend, laughing again. “Oh, honey you need better dreams than that!”

“Right. Well, here you go.” Hands them CDs. I tried to explain to them the library policies but she brushed me off. “Have a good day.”

“You sure you don’t want to see my license again?”

The friend, laughing again, and both of them leave.

This happened a few days ago and my heart still pounds when I think about it. I feel so stupid, like it shouldn’t affect me so much. But it does. I’d never seen such deliberate cruelty from people over the age of thirteen. It was the first (and hopefully) last time that I saw Umbridge and her sidekick across the desk from me. They might as well have been dressed in soft pinks, with bows in their hair.