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The Contrarian Librarian Runs Out Of Time

, , | Right | August 10, 2020

I work in a library. We have a regular who has no concept of how time or anything else works. He plays nice for a while, but ultimately, he becomes tense and angry if things do not go his way. A colleague of mine actually used to shake when he heard the guy’s name mentioned because of so many bad experiences.

They all begin the same way. The regular calls us.

Regular: “Hi! I have a couple of things to copy that will just take a minute. Will someone assist me when I get there?”

Me: “Sure, [Regular]. Come and find me. If I am not in my office, have the staff call me.”

Maybe I am an idiot, but I figure I get paid more to deal with his nonsense than my support staff does. Also, according to the staff, I have an endless well of patience. The truth is, I need to keep the job.

The regular shows up twenty minutes before closing and one of my staff calls me in my office.

I go out to the desk and the staff member is behind [Regular]. The staff member is rolling her eyes trying to let me know I am in for big fun. The regular throws his arms around me and gives me big hug.

Regular: “I have missed you! How are you?”

Me: “We missed you, too. Now, what can we do for you?”

Regular: “Well, as I said, I just have a couple of things that need to be photocopied, but your machine is so hard to use.”

Me: “What is it you need photocopied?”

He hands me his cell phone.  

Regular: “Just two pages of products on my cell phone. I am looking for [a certain style of chair, make of guitar, brand of bicycle, breed of dog, fifth star to the right, image from a movie]…”

Me: “Well, before we can make photocopies, you know we have to print them out so we have the item to photocopy.”

Regular: “Oh. I didn’t realize that.”

We go through this every time.

Regular: “Can’t you just print this from my phone?”

Me: “Sadly, no. The people in charge decided, based on our statistics, that they don’t want to spend the money on the program that allows for printing directly from phones.”

This is the truth and it’s another reason that I wish I could kick each and every one of the library board’s behinds because we used that program a lot and it was very popular, but we are the smallest branch and so the 25 people out of 250 that ask for that service a month just don’t count as much as the 50 out of 800 people who request the same service at the larger branch.

Regular: “But I must have these so I can show people at the [Store, Movie Theater, Kennel, Hospital, Pharmacy, Grocery Store…] what I need.”

I guide him to a computer and grab a guest pass for him to use; this ain’t my first rodeo.

Me: “Well, [Regular], I will be happy to print them and help you photocopy them, but wouldn’t it be easier and less to carry if you just keep the pictures in your email on your phone?”

Regular: “Oh, but they will get buried and I won’t be able to find them.”

Naturally, he cannot remember how to get into his email since he has forgotten his password and email name on his phone, so of course, we have to look up the websites, search for the correct images, and print those, instead.

Once it is printed, he still wants to make black and white copies — color is too expensive — and then tosses the color copy he just made off the printer. Then, he decides there is something wrong with the copier pics; they are too dark, too light, blurry, etc.

This is a good copier, but it was intended to make quick copies, not masterpieces by da Vinci, so we have to print it again from the website and I try to make him just keep the print outs. It’s always a fight to the finish.

We finally end the project twenty to thirty minutes after the library closes, and the staff member who drew the short straw and has to wait for me is almost putting her boot in his backside as he leaves.

Staff Member:Why does everyone put up with that?”

Me: “Unfortunately, everyone recognizes that he is mentally ill and no one wants to deal with the BS he comes up with to complain to the administration, even though they know it’s not our fault. They don’t want to put up with him, either, sooooo…”

Staff Member: “…we’re all stuck with him until he dies.”

A few days later, [Regular] calls at noon to say he will be there shortly.  

Me: “You’d better hurry. We’re closing at noon because of the snowstorm.”

Regular: “But I can’t get there until five; can’t you wait?”

Me: “It’s now or nothing.”

Regular: “But it will only take a minute.”

That’s when I break just a little.

Me: “[Regular], I have known you for twenty years and I know darned well that you cannot tell the difference between a minute and an hour.”

Regular: “Oh. I do tend to carry on, don’t I?”

Me: “You have half an hour to get here so that we can spend another half an hour to fix whatever it is you think will take a minute.”

Regular: “You know, the snow is coming down really fast. Maybe I will wait until tomorrow.”

Me: “That’s an excellent plan… but make sure you check our website in case the storm shuts us down.”

Regular: “Oh… Okay. I’ll do that.”

We wished each other well and hung up. Since the lockdown started, it has been rather peaceful at home where he is unable to call me.

The Contrarian Librarian: The Childhood Years
Softening Of The Contrarian Librarian
The Contrarian Librarian: Looking For Work
Re-emergence Of The Contrarian Librarian
Transformation Of The Contrarian Librarian

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