Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Have you Checked the Catalog? 

I apologize for my erratic and desultory blogging, but I’ve been in Connecticut for a week. Each year I visit my aunt and cousins there for a traditional New England Thanksgiving, although my protracted celebration of gluttony and sloth would certainly be condemned by the Puritans we're supposed to be honoring. The town elders would probably sew a great big G for gluttony on my clothes. What a stern, joyless, niggardly lot they were. I’m glad that I’m descended from a later, less fanatical wave of immigrants.

The night before I left I had yet another obscene phone call, diabolically clever and drawn out. The only other librarian on duty was the children's librarian, and she was occupied upstairs trying to coax a filmstrip through an ancient projector for children’s movie night. She dreads these movie nights because the equipment is so temperamental and ancient and the events are always so poorly attended. When she tried to modernize and show tapes from the VCR a bunch of parents wailed that the movie night just wouldn’t be the same without the filmstrips. They are inexplicably, stubbornly nostalgic for these terrifyingly groovy short animated films from their childhood that only exist on filmstrip. The films are all practically dissolving and have a flickering, migraine triggering visual quality. Of course these parents never bother to attend these events, but I've found those types are always the ones who are the most vocal and who like to express their written opinions in letters to the City Librarian. My coworker thought she was off the hook when no one showed up, and while she was wheeling the projector away a man in his 40s reading the paper said without looking up from the paper, “Excuse me. I believe there is a movie night here tonight.” Since there were no children or anyone else my colleague said that she was going to cancel the program due to lack of interest. He then whipped out a library events schedule and said, “Right here it says there is a movie night scheduled; therefore, I am here for the movie.” He was the doppelganger of Toby, Harvey Pekar’s autistic coworker, with the same precise, stilted speech and single minded determination. My colleague knew reasoning with him would be futile and so she resignedly continued with movie night.

While my colleague struggled with the film, I took a reference call from a man with a vaguely European accent. He started off with questions about the availability of films by French director Eric Rohmart. He then wanted to know about ordering books of psychological case studies. After I named a few he specified that he was was particularly interested in those having to do with the psychology of relationships. His tone became warmly conversational and he complemented me on my searching skills. After disarming me with flattery (an obscene phone call red flag, I've found) he then wanted to know how strong our collection was on the field of abnormal psychology. After listening for a moment to some of our titles he returned to the subject of the psychology of interpersonal relationships, especially romantic relationships. I listed several books the library owned. He then wanted to know if we had any books about abnormal sexual psychology, and if would I read the list and describe them in as much detail as possible. There was a strange, desperate yearning tone that had crept into his voice and I finally wised up to the true purpose of this call. I lied and said that I had a line of people at the reference desk, although the library was practically deserted. He then abruptly hung up on me, which confirmed my suspicions that he was not a legitimate caller.

My ear was heated and sore, as if the caller had been tonguing me in my ear the entire ten minute conversation. Although I cursed myself for my continuing naivete and unwitting participation in these perverted phone calls, I still get fooled by the elaborate and bizarre setup. Human sexuality is confounding and I'm still learning about the strange lengths people will go to to get their freak on. The most pathetic ones I heard about were the Foxy Cancer Information Specialist's. She had people call her and ask overly detailed questions about how to conduct a testicular exam, obviously getting off.

Although most callers seem harmless, my ultimate fear is that an obscene phone caller will one day call me from a cell phone within the library, and it will be just like that old horror film When a Stranger Calls when the babysitter keeps getting these calls asking, "Have you checked the children?" She has the calls traced and then the police break in the line and say, “We’ve traced the call! The phone call is coming from within the house! Get out!” This is actually how a moron phoning a phony bomb threat was apprehended at The Main. He was using a pay phone within the library.

The "we've traced the call" line is one of my most favorite phone call jokes. I guess you could call it an inside joke. Ha ha.
Oh my gosh, that's so creepy!! I'm so sorry you have to deal with that. I'm glad that's never happened to me. Icky.

The filmstrip guy sounds like the type of person we'd get here, with the insistence on rules and precise delivery. I hate that guy. :)

Tiny Librarian
Might want to get that ear looked at.
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