God bless my local library system. For the most part, it works. We have a great system — parish-wide (that’s county-wide for the rest of you) — beautiful facilities with enormous computer labs, excellent research capabilities, you name it. An incredibly top-notch system. Funded by special taxes that keep them building bigger and better. But the people. Oh my god the people that work there. I don’t get it — I’ve seen the civil service examination that people have to take to even get an interview to work in the system. It’s mind-boggling. So obviously these people are pretty intelligent. And their jobs aren’t even that difficult any more, what with computers taking all the Dewey out of looking for a book. But anyway — the reason I’m so appreciative of the library system today is that they gave me something to write about. You’ll remember, I’ve had a cold, and given the lethal combo of drugs I took last night to be able to sleep, coupled with Brenda Love’s e-soup (what did you put in that stuff, Brenda?), I’m a zombie. So a post for this morning was iffy. Until the library.
Here goes. I’ve had a lousy couple of days. Work has been really, really busy. And I’m trying, like everyone else right now, to work, prepare for Christmas, and handle the nine hundred other things that require my attention, all at one time. For the past couple of days, I’ve tried to (1) pay bills online, (2) shop online, (3) take care of some library business online, and (4) take a break, online of course. Ok. Scratch #4. Not gonna happen. Can’t surf and read for pleasure right now. Erase and rewind and start back at #1. Pay bills. Did that. Even though everyone in the 48 contiguous states obviously uses my bank. Site busy. Please try again later. Later, I try. Except that I have forgotten one of the 1,514 login names I use. So after three attempts, block. You have exceeded the number of allowed login attempts. Please contact us between the hours of. . . . I only use a couple of login names, but some of them require a numeral as well, and combined with the passwords that either require a numeral or don’t, I have mathematical probabilities that could keep ya busy for years.

Then there’s the gift ordering. Backorders. We’ll notify you when this item is in stock. Blah, blah, blah. When I can remember my password. Weird messages. One was particularly confusing — “expect to ship between December 10 & 15. Except for the item that is backordered. It won’t ship until December 6. ” The hell????

But I was going to let all this go because, frankly, you’re all there. If you’re not, you’re at the mall, so you have much bigger problems than I have. But the library took the cake. Last night, in between sniffling and sneezing, baking cookies, and quizzing Mr. Cool about igneous rocks and the rock cycle, I tried to renew some books that I knew were about to come due. So I logged onto the library website, checked the status of my account for any overdues that I might not have paid, and proceeded to the renewal page. I plugged in the sixteen-digit-no-dashes-or-spaces-please and determined that I have seven books to renew or return over the next two days. Aha. Got ’em before they went overdue. Yes! I pushed the renew button. “We’re sorry, but the patron’s library card has expired. Please contact us during normal business hours.” What? Why didn’t they tell me the card was about to expire when I was checking out the books three weeks ago? Whatever. I piled the books into my car.

Fast forward to this morning (and believe me, it went fast). I got to work. Grabbed the pile of books and walked over to the library branch next door. Be right back, guys. This’ll only take a couple minutes. I had two choices at the circulation desk. A large, sweaty man, or a guy that I swear sleeps in the stacks. He is oh, so pale. Stack Boy pretends to be really busy on the phone, although I am sure he’s just got the phone up to his ear, listening to nothing, as he stares at a blank computer screen and wishing “Stacked” came on every night. Sweaty Man sighs, looks at me, and asks if he can help. His plaintive, pathetic expression makes me want to apologize outright for bothering him. I explained that I need to first renew my card, second, return four of the seven books, and third, renew the remaining three. Sigh. A big sweaty one. Click click click on the keyboard. “Hmmm. There appears to be a problem. You have some unpaid overdue fees.” Silence. Umm, no, actually, I checked. As of last night there were none. “I’m sorry, but it’s policy to not renew a patron’s card when they owe us.” Ok. What’s the damage? Thirty cents. I have no change. I brought no money. This was supposed to be an in-and-out thing. You’re kidding me. Can you just take care of this for me and I’ll run the thirty cents to you later on? Glare. “But I’ll go ahead and take the books you are returning.” Thank you. I’ll be back in a minute. Back to the office, grab some change. Back to the library. The coffeepot is sure to be empty by the time I get back to work. Give Sweaty Man my thirty cents. Get my receipt. “Be sure to hold onto that so this doesn’t happen to you again.” Yeah. Whatever. He starts to check out my books when some sort of alarm goes off in his sweaty little brain. “Oops. Ma’am? Looks like we have a bigger problem. It appears you have three items that are still out.” Uh-huh. What are they, anyway, and what’s the problem? He proceeds to name the three books in front of me, the ones I’ve been trying to renew for going-on eight hours now. I give him my patented Wordnerd blank stare. The one usually reserved for folks that say “I have a great ideal” or something like that. “Oh. My bad.” God help me. “My bad” is one of those expressions that first, went away a couple years ago, and second, should only have been used by a very small demographic to begin with. The suddenly hip Sweaty Man is not, has not been, and will never be, in that group. Wordnerd has not stopped staring yet. Sorry, but Sweaty Man wasn’t going to get a little smile or nod, or a “that’s okay.” Stack Boy was watching, excited that something big might go down in a minute, right here, man. I took my leave, carrying my three outstanding items.

The coffeepot is empty. See you tomorrow.

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