This Season Brings Out All The Schmucks

, , , , , | Right | December 26, 2017

(I’m working at a small public library around the holidays, and while shelving books one day, I notice a man, his wife, and their two small children enter the library. The dad and mom are both wearing shirts with Hebrew script on them, and as a Jewish person who also studied Hebrew in college, I am able to mentally translate the words on their shirts from Hebrew into English: “Daddy” and “Mommy,” respectively. As they near the shelf where I’m working, I smile at the father.)

Me: “Excuse me, sir. I like your shirt!”

Dad: “Oh! Thanks! It means ‘dad’ in Hebrew!”

Me: “I thought so. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone in the U.S. wearing clothing with Hebrew text on it before. That’s really cool.”

Dad: “I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who could READ Hebrew text before!”

(He smiles and returns to his family as I resume shelving books. A few minutes later, I see that the family is preparing to leave the library, and cheerfully wish them a happy Hanukkah as they pass. The parents abruptly stop and the father turns to look at me.)

Dad: “What did you say?”

Me: “Happy Hanukkah, sir.”

Dad: “Happy HANUKKAH?”

Me: *realizing that I’ve made an admittedly unfair assumption and that, based on his reaction, it was the wrong one to make* “Oh, I’m sorry. I just assumed-”

Dad: “What? You thought we were Jews or something?”

Me: “I thought, because of the Hebrew…”

Dad: *visibly irate* “Yeah, you thought I was a Jew. Do I LOOK like a Jew to you?”

Me: “Well, I—”

Dad: “We are a good CHRISTIAN family, thanks. We aren’t sinners. What, you think CHRISTIANS can’t speak Hebrew?”

Me: *with genuine remorse, kicking myself internally* “Of course, sir, I’m sorry. That was a dumb thing to assume. You’re right. Anybody can speak Hebrew.”

Dad: “You’re god-d*** right anybody can speak Hebrew, ESPECIALLY Christians! It was OUR language first!”

Me: “…”

Dad: “I think I’ll need to speak to your supervisor.”

(I go to fetch the branch manager, still kicking myself all the way.)

Manager: “Is there something I can help you with, sir?”

Dad: “Yes! This employee insinuated that I was a Jew!”

Manager: *taken aback* “She did what?”

Dad: “She called me a Jew!”

Me: *as my manager turns to question me* “I wished them Happy Hanukkah because I noticed the Hebrew lettering on their shirts. I apologized. It was a genuine mistake.”

Dad: “Oh, that’s not good enough! We’re GOOD CHRISTIANS. We don’t deserve to be treated like…”

Me: “…Jews?”

Dad: “Yes!” *to my manager* “What are you going to do about this?”

Manager: “Well, sir, I think—”

Dad: “Erase our library fines.”

Manager: “Excuse me?”

Dad: “Our library fines. Erase them. It’s the least you can do.”

Manager: “I can’t do that, sir. I’m sorry. My employee has apologized and I guarantee that she and I will have a conversation about this later. I’m deeply sorry that she offended you, but there’s nothing more I can do for you.”

(After some huffing and puffing, he goes back down about the fines, but lingers near the front doors for a while, finally turning to glare at me.)

Dad: “Well?”

Me: “I’m sorry…?”

Dad: “Aren’t you going to wish us a MERRY CHRISTMAS? That’s what the season is actually for, you know. It’s CHRIST-mas, none of this Hanukkah bull-s***, and not ‘Happy Holidays,’ either, but CHRIST-mas!”

Me: “…Merry Christmas, sir.”

(He grinned smugly and stormed out of the library with his family in tow.)

YouTube Was The Greatest Creation Of The Renaissance

, , , | Right | December 19, 2017

(I am working the information desk at our library when a woman in her mid-20s comes up to me.)

Patron: “Hi. I found a song on YouTube called The Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven, and I wanted to know if you had it on CD?”

Me: “Well, certainly, just—”

Patron: “But it has to be the original. All the CDs I’ve found only have cover numbers. You see, I’m a piano teacher, and I want to show it to the kids.”

Me: “There is no ‘original’ Moonlight Sonata.”

Patron: “Why not?”

Me: “Well, he was from the 1700s.”

Patron: “But why isn’t there an original?”

Me: “Because… you couldn’t record back then?”

Patron: “I know, but I thought maybe you had it on CD?”

Me: “I can assure you, there does not exist an ‘original’ Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven, anywhere.”

Patron: “But I found it on YouTube!”

(I ended up having her show me the song on YouTube and showing her the name of the artist playing it. She still didn’t look convinced.)

Libraries Usually Come To The Rescue

, , | Hopeless | December 16, 2017

(After going through a very rough time, I feel like treating myself, so I book a holiday apartment in a small town. There’s a well-known history museum in this town that I’ve been planning to visit for a while, so I check their website thoroughly to make sure it will be open. I also specifically book a place that offers Wi-Fi so I can distract myself on rainy days. It’s worth noting that I have a “water allergy”: aquagenic urticaria. It’s extremely annoying; trust me… Sadly, things don’t go as planned. After one night, the Wi-Fi cuts off and can’t be restored. I can’t even use my phone as a hotspot, since I don’t get a signal inside the house. The weather turns really bad for early summer, with mostly heavy rain and even some hail. Due to my water allergy [umbrellas don’t protect against rain coming from the side], I’m mostly stuck in the apartment, since the next bus stop is also quite far away, and I quickly run out of books. As the sun comes out again, I immediately decide to visit the museum I came here for. It’s half an hour’s walk; I could take a bus for part of the way, but I decide against it, happy to just be outside. When I arrive at the museum, I see some construction going on at the entrance. Moving closer, I notice a sign stating that the whole place is currently closed due to renovations. Frustrated, I trudge back to the city centre and get a flyer from the local information. Among some places that I can’t easily reach without a car, there’s something about an exhibition on the history of book printing in the local library. Awesome! I look up the library on the map and walk over. It’s still 15 minutes until it opens for the afternoon, but I wait patiently. When the doors open, I walk up to the librarian.)

Me: “Good afternoon. I heard that there’s an exhibition on book printing in the library, and I’d love to see it!”

Librarian: “Oh, I’m sorry… The exhibition is currently closed. We recently got a new manager, and she hasn’t decided on whether she wants to keep the exhibits at all.”

Me: *dejected* “Oh… okay…”

Librarian: *apparently noticing my mood* “Are you a tourist?”

Me: “Yes, I’m from [City]. I mostly came here to see the history museum, but I just walked there and it’s closed. Then I heard about your place and came here, but I guess it’s not my lucky day.” *I smile, trying to sound light-hearted.*

Librarian: “You know what? The exhibition might be closed, but it’s all still there in the cellar. I can ask my colleague if she’d like to accompany you there.”

Me: “Oh, you don’t have to do that! I really don’t want to be a bother.”

Librarian: “Don’t worry! Wait here; I’ll be back soon.”

(She walks away and soon returns with another woman.)

Librarian: “That’s my colleague, Miss [Name]. She can show you around.”

Me: *beaming* “Thank you so much, that’s incredibly nice!”

Other Librarian: “Oh, I don’t mind! I actually just started working here a few weeks ago, and haven’t had time for more than a casual glance at the exhibits.”

(She walked me to the stairs, lifting some security rope so I could pass through. We walked through an empty room and reached another one filled with printing presses, showcases with old books, and examples of prints and handwritten texts in several writing systems, from Hebrew to Hindi. As a language geek, I was ecstatic. The librarian and I started talking about the exhibition, quickly drifting off to related topics – such as the foreign languages her daughter was learning, volunteering as a language teacher for refugees (which I do), and my plans to study linguistics. After spending at least half an hour looking around and chatting, she found some bookmarks, from an earlier event, which showed examples of old German handwriting, and gave one to me. I still think fondly of my visit there. Huge thanks to the two friendly librarians who took pity on a sad tourist. I still own that bookmark, and looking at it brings a smile to my face every time!)


, , , , | Working | December 9, 2017

I volunteer at my town library, helping with the summer reading club. When kids read for a certain amount of time in a week, they get a prize. Many of the prizes are cheap little toys that, predictably, aren’t the best quality. There is one, however, that is really something special. The prize is a little tub of bouncing clay. The packaging says [sic]:

“Air Dryinging”

“Soft&Light Weight”

“Make little beautiful world with my hands on”

Yeah, you pay for what you get, but I was still the only one concerned that a library program to promote literacy among kids was handing out a prize with this many errors.

They Need To Go On Gardening Leave

, , , , | Working | December 4, 2017

(It’s a sad fact that libraries often have to remove and delete old books from the shelves to make way for new ones, as we don’t have the space to keep all our books. We tend to call this process “weeding.” I’m on pretty friendly terms with my supervisor, and we occasionally talk about gardening and other things. Since I’ve been assigned a large weeding project just at the beginning of gardening season, I suppose it was inevitable that the following would happen:)

Supervisor: “How’s the weeding going?”

Me: “Oh, we haven’t started yet.”

Supervisor: “…”

Me: “Oh, you meant weeding the shelves! That’s going pretty well. I’m sorry; I thought you meant our garden.”

(We had a good laugh, at least.)

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