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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Cruisy Dog Park 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comDan used his cell phone to capture Sid, the white Jack Russell who is Billy's brother, sandwiched in this nest of neutered males. Dan was visiting the city as a tourist, and wasn't aware how infamously cruisy this dog park is.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Library 911 

A frantic German tourist rushed the desk. "The man in the chairs for the internet! He is most sick!" I looked over and there was one of our regulars, an enrollee of the nearby methadone clinic, nodding off in the chairs in the internet waiting area. He was snoring and his head would flop around until it rested comfortably on the person's shoulder next to him in line, which happened to be that of the German tourist's girlfriend. I thanked him and called security. What a relief it is to let security handle these situations!

At the branches, which have no security, I would often have to make the call whether a situation was a medical emergency or not, a heavy responsibility that I dreaded immensely. Once a sweet elderly woman slumped over clutching her arm waved me away saying, "It's just a bit of indigestion, dear!" Her symptoms sounded more like those of a heart attack than indigestion, but she refused help and, despite my protestations, got up and wandered out of the library and out of my realm of control. I've had unattended children have lightning fast near fatal asthma attacks and patrons who have suffered drug overdoses and seizures. I have stumbled over people passed out on the floor for indeterminate reasons. Once a dazed skateboarder bleeding profusely from his skull staggered into the library demanding an icepack.

When security poked the man asleep at the internet he huffily denied being impaired and claimed that it was a symptom of his diabetes. The security guard said, "If you're slipping off into a diabetic coma then I'm going to need to call the ambulance." His recovery was miraculous and instantaneous and he got up and walked out of the library.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Stepmom of the Year 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comThe other day on the phones: "Um, yeah? Do you, like, handle the obituaries of the state?"

“Do you need an obituary? What is the date or time period?”

“Yeah, I need a couple of them. They’re within the last couple of months or so. They’re of my stepkids. They drowned in some kind of boating accident. I don't know the date, though.”

“I’m terribly sorry to hear that.”

“See, my husband? He’s in the penitentiary, so he can’t look for no obituaries. But I can’t get them from the kids’ mother, so someone said to check with y’all.”

“Well, let me check some news databases.”

While I searched, I could hear over the phone the reaction of the Maury Povich studio audience to a guest’s positive paternity test, until that was drowned out by the barking of at least 6 lapdogs.

When the dogs quieted, I asked, “Do you mind turning your television down a bit? Thanks! Well, I looked up the name in our local newspaper, a national newspaper database and even SSI death records. There was no mention of anyone of that last name dying or even involved in a boating accident. Are you sure it happened in this city?”

“Well, 6 people drowned, supposedly! I don’t know what city it was in! I just know that it happened somewhere in your big ass state! I tried to put it in Google but it was just ridiculous what I got back. Jesus Christ, the innernet was the biggest waste of time. I tell you...” Sound of smoke exhalation.

“I’m sorry. I can give you the number of the Vital Records Office. Perhaps they can help you locate the Death Certificates. Call back if you get the exact date and we’ll go from there.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Fox(y) News Alert 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comI consulted Security and they told me that they escorted the spider bite victim to the free clinic a few blocks away.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Seek Medical Attention @ Your Library 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comA man approached the desk and asked if we had any videos on spiders.

"What kind of videos about spiders? Are you interested in nature videos? Do you want to learn more about them?"

He groaned and shook his head back and forth. "I JUST NEED A VIDEO ON SPIDERS. Look here, I got bitten by one." He placed his hand on the desk. My colleague and I both gasped, because his hand was the size of a puffer fish, with two oozing puncture marks on the back about 1/2 an inch apart. I couldn't even imagine a spider with fangs that size.

"You should see a doctor right away! That could be a brown recluse or black widow bite! Do you want me to find the nearest clinic or hospital?"

"Just get me a video on spiders."

"Sir, we don't have any except a children's video about spiders, lizards and snakes. You won't learn anything in there to help you with that bite. Can I get you some first aid information about spider bites?"

"I don't want a book. Don't you understand, I can't read! I don't know how." His lower lip began trembling violently. He looked like he was going into shock.

"O.K., then, just tell me what floor your books on spiders are."

"Second floor, but please let me call security. They have have some first aid and can help get you some medical help."

"I just need a video on spiders!" He staggered off to the second floor. My colleague and I were at a loss as to what to do with someone who refused help. I wasn't sure if his reason was affected by shock. We were just about to call security when we saw a guard leading him out of the library.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Why we never vacuum 

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Although you probably can't tell from the picture, the vacuum cleaner is covered in bite marks.

It's 9:00 on a Saturday, and the regular crowd shuffles stampedes in 

Every two weeks the library hosts a free legal clinic. It is extremely popular and people line up for it well before the library opens for business. When the doors fling open, the elderly and the infirm had just better get out of the way. From the vantage point of my desk, it is like watching newly hatched turtles race desperately toward the sea, both horrific and mesmerizing.

I had a lawyer friend who volunteered for the clinic and she said that about half of the people were there for reasons that would break your heart and make you cry out at the injustice of it all: the elderly poor being evicted by unscrupulous landlords, mothers desperate for child support, immigrants being cheated in the cruelest and lowest sort of way. A fair number, about 25%, wanted to file cases against the FBI or CIA for stealing their identity or transmitting radio signals through their brain, and she would refer them to the social worker who had set up a desk next to the clinic. The rest were patrons who wanted to file cases against the library for security guard brutality, or because their records have been suspended for large fines, or because we wouldn't give them extra internet computer time, even though they have a disability, a medically diagnosed disability, goddamnit!. Whether their cases have merit or not, I think it's a little ungrateful and impertinent to use a library's free legal clinic to file suit against that library.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The difference between retrievers and terriers 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comI had some butter on my fingers and decided to let the dogs each lick one. When I offered my finger to Dixie, the blind black lab from Alabama, it was if it were being cleaned by the softest of butterfly wings, but when I gave my fingers to Billy and Spoon, it was as if I had plunged them into waters infested by piranhas in a deskeletonizing feeding frenzy. I expected nothing but white bone when I pulled my hand back.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

What street drug is that patron on? A guessing game. 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comThe other day I was having a conversation at the reference desk with a drifter type, a veteran hippy who was wearing a leather floppy hat just like Dennis Hopper's character Billy in Easy Rider. He told me that the last time he was in the city was for New Year's Eve many years ago. He attended some party in an industrial junk yard and a woman, burnt out but still attractive, approached him and complained that she didn't have anyone to kiss at midnight, which was fast approaching. He told her that if she didn't find anyone else to come back and they could kiss each other to ring in the New Year properly. She found him at midnight and they kissed at midnight, but they parted ways soon afterward. He later found out that she was Cathy Smith, the woman who had administered the fatal speedball to John Belushi.

I had just said, "Good thing it didn't work out with her - it sounds like she was unlucky to party with," when I heard the sound of screaming and fighting. I looked over to see about 6 security guards tackle and try to restrain a patron. He was putting up quite a fight with what seemed like superhuman strength, but the security guards finally managed to get him out the door. I found out that a little earlier he had taken over a table by spreading out stacks of papers, all full of scribblings and John Nash formulas and calculations. He began cackling and pulling his hair out and becoming increasingly, terrifyingly agitated. When he started screaming at other patrons, both actual and imagined, the security guard asked him to leave. He lunged at the guard and that's when the melee began. I suspect he was in the tweaking stage of methamphetamine use, though it was my understanding that in that stage you had more of bunker mentality and preferred holing up in your dwelling so you could take apart your electronics unmolested. So maybe he was on angel dust, which would explain the superhuman strength. A few hours later I was working the phones he called to file a complaint about the brutality of our security. He held it together for a little while but his case soon disintegrated into nonsense word salad. Supposedly paranoid schizophrenics and tweakers are indistinguishable in psychological tests. In any case, I spent the rest of the afternoon pondering whether he was on angel dust or meth. Kind of a waste of time, but it did make the afternoon pass quickly.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Sofa-Cum Bed Plus Loveseat 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comOur guests will no longer have to sleep on a blowup bed. Isn't it pretty? Billy Jack and Spoon love it, too. See them glaring territorially down upon high at Dixie, my cousin's black lab. E found the sofa sleeper bed on Craigslist. While going through the ads she came across one entitled:

Sealy Sofa-Cum Bed Plus Loveseat

Eeewww. Is cum  really the wisest word choice in an ad about a sofa bed? I know that it's just a fancy word for 'with,' but it is also a less fancy word for something else, something that everyone fears is spattered all over a used piece of furniture, causing hideous, unspeakable stains. I almost feel like writing the seller, probably some senior citizen innocent, to alert them to the connotations of the word cum, especially when used with loveseat.

"The World is not a Fragrant Place." Raymond Chandler 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comI got to see one of my cousins this weekend while she was out here for a wedding. Her grandmother, my grandmother’s sister, was famous in medical school for being able to diagnose various illnesses solely by her sense of smell. While a resident on her diagnostic rounds she would pronounce a patient sick with yellow fever or tuberculosis to the amazement and often outright disbelief of some of her hostile male peers. She was never wrong. Now that dogs are being used to detect cancer, it is obvious that there is some odor component to disease. From my exposure to the mentally ill at the library, I am convinced that schizophrenics carry a distinctive odor, a sort of oniony, metallic smell. Another cousin who is doing a psychiatry rotation out here is dubious.

"Yes. They do have a distinctive odor, and that odor is urine and sweat, and it's caused by not bathing."

Odor is a gauge of well-being - when an animal stops grooming itself and begins to stink as result that is one of the first indicators that it is sick. But I still believe that it’s not simply unwashed body odor that I smell on my patrons. I suspect that some of my patrons exhale their biochemical disorders on their breath and excrete them through their sweat and it is possible to detect and recognize this odor. Some of these patrons make me feel unbalanced and uneasy at a core level, even before I realize that they are mentally ill, so I wonder if this odor is one's frontline sentinel, your natural defense to warn you something is seriously wrong with this person. Or perhaps their unbalanced, haywire pheromones are sending out conflicting, confusing signals that alarm me. Pheromones can have a powerful, often subliminal effect on a person I was discussing my odor theory with one of my colleagues who told me about a homeless man sitting near her desk. She confessed that, to her horror, she had had the sudden urge to walk over behind him, move his greasy pony tail aside and start nibbling on his neck. She said that this was the first and only time anything so strange like that had happened to her and surely that was the work of some powerful pheromone malfunction. In any case, a powerful sense of smell is a handicap in this profession.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Haunting 

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After the staff performed a Buddhist cleansing ceremony last year, the spooky branch's paranormal activity abated. Staff members remain reluctant to work alone there during closed hours, but the staff all seem much more relaxed and carefree. We might need to conduct a similiar rite here at the Main, because there have been reports of hauntings in one of the basements and it's beginning to affect morale and job performance in one of the departments.

Certain old and seldom requested books are stored in the stacks of the basement, quiet and dank as a morgue. When a patron wants one of these books he fills out a request slip and gives it to a page and the page then journeys down an elevator to the basement stacks to retrieve the book. A few weeks ago a manager asked one of the pages to go get a book and the page his face contorted in fear. When the manager asked him what was taking so long the page confessed that he felt a ghostly presence down in the basement and was terrified to go down there. The manager decided to accomodate the page for a while and assigned him other tasks. Soon other pages began to balk and refuse to go down to the basement. She received reports of feelings of nameless dread, inexplicable cold spots, arm and neck hair raising and mysterious sounds - your standard haunting phenomena. The manager began to suspect that this was a clever way to shirk one of the pages' most unpopular duties so she went down to the basement herself to retrieve a book to show her staff that there was nothing to fear and silly superstitions did not belong in the workplace. She didn't see anything unusual, but as she reached for the book another fell off the shelf above her onto her head.

The book that fell on her head was, fittingly enough, about cats. I have to wonder if the fates were cruelly mocking her and her profession, or if the ghost was is that of a recently deceased librarian retiree of this system whose obituary I read last week. She was in her nineties, and bequeathed her surprisingly large estate to the care of her cats, 'whom she considered part of her family.' Upon their death, the remainder of the estate was to go to a local veterinary school for geriatric feline research. I have to thank her for that boost to the image of our profession.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Foxy, Full of Grace 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comThere are some good things to know about one's self and something I've discovered is that I would make a terrible drug mule. I learned this one time smuggling back some Cuban cigars from Mexico into the United States. I don't even smoke cigars but had purchased them because I was desperate for some last minute souvenirs. I had a long list of people expecting gifts, but had spent the entire trip in a tequila blackout devouring molé and shopping for myself at the farmacia with a PDR instead of thinking of others. Going through customs I had the cigar box shoved down the front of my pants with my shirt rather obviously hanging loose over my pants, like I was trying to disguise a pregnancy from my parents. If discovered, the worst that could happen would be the confiscation of my contraband and a lecture from a U.S. customs agent about supporting communist regimes, but I was still sweating, pale, shifty eyed and on the edge of vomiting.

I was waved through without incident, but was sickened rather than thrilled by all the adrenaline searing through my body. Although the embargo makes us the joke of the rest of the world, I did feel a twinge of guilt about propping up an evil, garrulous communist dictatorship. And isn’t that the fantasy of many an old man to have your very own nation where you can hold your airwaves hostage for hours on a nightly basis  and force your people to listen to your rambling, grandiose stories about how you invented the smallpox vaccination and were the most outstanding beisbol player in the history of your country. Say what you will about the evils of the HUAC, look at the alternative.

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