Thursday, January 12, 2006

Trapped in the (water) Closet 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comLast night a woman called in hysterics to complain about an incident at the library. A colleague had the pleasure.

"Library, how may I help you?"

"You listen to me. I was in the bathroom, in a stall, and I noticed the janitor sweeping near me. I have an environmental illness with severe asthma, and I can’t breathe in any dust or I might die. So, I asked her if she would stop sweeping, and she ignored me! I asked her again, telling her that I have an illness and she needed to stop, and she just kept sweeping and sweeping, even harder. When I started yelling, she said (mimicking the janitor in the most amazingly offensive sing-songy "me so horneeey" Asian voice) 'Me need to sweepie now! It’s my job! I no care!'"

“All right, now –“

“And then she kept on! And I was in a very vulnerable position so I couldn’t leave. I was trapped because I had my pants around my ankles and was trying to insert a tampon.”

My colleague, wincing, “Oh, now, ma’am – “

“I have environmental sensitivity! I have medical papers to prove this! You have to respect this! I’ll have you know that I’m going to call the mayor’s office, the EPA, the Human Rights Commission and my lawyer.” She then mercifully slammed down the phone. For someone with a respiratory ailment, she was able to deliver a 10 minute, relentless tirade with the ease and wind of a classically trained opera singer.

Earlier that day I had a call from a man who felt like he had been mistreated by another colleague. He called earlier to verify the spelling of a number of simple words like 'always' and 'expect' and felt like the librarian who answered the call had been condescending. I apologized profusely, and asked if there were anything I could do.

“This has really ruined my day. Those words that I asked for may have been easy, but I suffered a head injury and now I have trouble with these things. Oh, GREAT!”

I could hear the sound of jagged breathing. “Sir, are you all right?”

“Now I am having an anxiety attack. That’s just great. I want to speak to that librarian’s supervisor.”

A colleague describes these people as tyrannical victims. We encounter enough of this type at the library that I think the condition is worthy of its own entry in the DSM IV. These people are obviously suffering and in pain, whether mentally or physically, but they use their pain and victimhood as a powerful weapon to rage at or injure others, especially hapless public servants, in some way.

I don't know a librarian who hasn't had to deal with people like this. In NY, they get rather arrogant. My favorite is always "I pay your salary." I wish I could ask them for a raise. And yeah, there's always, "I know my rights." Sheesh.
I adore the "I pay your salary," line, too. How verrry original. Hey, I pay taxes, too, does that mean I pay my salary as well?
Actually, I suspect many of the people hurling that threat haven't paid taxes once in their life.

I'm all for people standing up for their rights, but in a civil manner. I don't need a complete medical history before they make their case. Being defined like that by one's disease is no way to go through life.
'Tyrannical victims' is a great name for that sort of thing (and one which I'll immediately be stealing for my own personal use). We deal with it at US Embassies ALL THE TIME, and it's awful. There's nothing you can say or do to make it better, and (particularly in a visa-issuing/interviewing setting), since you're The Man (capital T, capital M), people assume that if they whine long enough, or scream loudly enough, or threaten to call Congress a few more times, that you'll overturn whatever decision it is you've made.

In related news, Madame, I am obsessed with your blog, and always appreciate whatever you've got to say. Your writing style is phenomenal, and whatever urging you're getting from friends and family to write a book should be acted on immediately.

(And while we're at it: thanks for linking to my blog).

Take care,
--Dakota (US Embassy Islamabad, Pakistan; the views and opinions in this comment are solely those of the author, and are not meant in any way to represent the views, opinions or policies of the US Government).
"I pay your salary!"
"Fine, here's your $1.87 back. Now you can fuck yourself. Oh, wait. Here's $3.74. Do it twice."

Environmental illnesses, alergies to "bad energy" that requiring naturopathic rememdies that the fascist pig insurance companies won't pay for because the corporate oligarchy doesn't want people to be healthy ...

some bullshit or total bullshit?
oh my g-d. i realized we worked in different libraries...but did not know WE HAVE THE SAME PATRONS.

Oh great. Now i'm having an anxiety attack.


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