Archive for the ‘library jobs’ Category

Language is a Virus of Postal Stickers

Not much happens, then suddenly something does.

A woman appeared at the desk, a real in-person patron.  She was a tallish white woman wearing so many toy necklaces so that she looked bundled in a plastic, multicolored scarf.  She had on a brown leather flight jacket and a large floppy cowboy hat, the cloth kind.

I guess she is a regular, who lives in an explicitly more interesting and dangerous reality than the rest of us. All her questions and concerns are animal focused.

I was told, later, that, in the past, she has researched racoons.  Why? because a friend of hers had purchased a bed which was awfully infested by racoons. From her report, they lived on the underside of the mattress and clawed at her friend all during the night. She thought they might be trying to get out that way.

She started talking very loudly to the librarian at the desk, “Do you keep books on animals here?  Well, really animals and insects.  Well, really, insects.  I know.  I have used them here before.  Maybe (pointing down the stacks) somewhere down there.  I just need to know where they are kept.  Then I can use them.”

Librarian: Well, we do have some, but not as….

Woman: My roommate was bitten by a scorpion.  And I know I have used the animal books here before.  I just need to know like what a

scorpion bite looks like and how to treat it.  Because my roommate was bitten or is it stung?  Anyway, I need the books on the insects.  Scorpions are insects, right. (SIGHS LOUDLY) I dunno.

Librarian: The books on animal bites and that sort…

Woman: Scorpions.  I guess they are animals.  Maybe, more insects.  My social worker told me to get the information.  He had been bitten too.  They are everywhere this time of year.  How long does it take for the eggs to hatch after it bites you?

Librarian: Eggs?

Woman: Even my social worker had been bitten.  I watched him pull two eggs right out of his chest.  (starts to walk down toward the books) So maybe I can just look at some books and figure it out, since no one here… (stops dead, spins around and returns to the desk)  You did say the insect books where down there?  I do not want to get lost, no one knows I am here.  I did not tell anyone I was coming straight here.  Plus they were busy with the eggs. (SIGHS)

She did read some books.  Or at least left some scattered around the table she sat at for a few hours.  None of them were about scorpions.


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lafayette park grass maze as metaphor

The other day Noelle had a meeting at Bay area public library. Like many of the public libraries outside of the city, this one was in a building connected to the City Hall. Her meeting did not start until after 5 pm, all the City Hall employees had left for the day, emptying out much of the shared parking lot as well.

While Noelle waited for her appointment to arrive, she went looking for a bathroom. Since she has an old lady bladder, she needs to pee more than a curious potty training toddler.
I bet everyone can remember that stage, where you do not really have to go potty, but you really want to be taken to the potty. You know to get the lay of the land. Just in case.

So as Noelle roamed the second floor, cruising along the periphery, looking for the restroom sign or recessed water fountain alcove, she encountered a library employee. “A real library lady,” Noelle called her. Which is our shorthand for a certain type of person – male or female, actually – who embodies an over-exaggerated set of quirky traits.

You know them if you think about them. Usually in slightly out dated clothes, frayed at the edges and laundry hamper wrinkled. Sensible shoes bordering on the therapeutic. And a high strung stink of paralyzation clinging to them like the smell of a burned microwave burrito. It helps if they have a white Styrofoam cup full of soda pop near them as well. There are many more and we are constantly updating the list.

Just to be clear, most of these “library lady” traits are based on my own annoying habits and inexplicable traits. Such as, why don’t I change my pants? I have more than one pair. So why not wear them?


Noelle stopped this library employee and asked if there were a restroom on the second floor.

The Library Lady looked at her with an open mouth expression of shock and annoyance, “The NICE bathroom is in City Hall, but that is closed now!!”

“Okay,” Noelle replied slowly, careful not to further upset the Library Lady, “that’s too bad. Is there one somewhere that I can use?”

The Library Lady stared a good second. With a deeply pained sigh she directed Noelle to the “basement” of the library, which Noelle is convinced was actually the first floor.

Of course, Noelle when retelling me this story blames me. “WHY ARE YOU PEOPLE SO UNHELPFUL!! Seriously, why would she answer the question that way?”

I thought for a few minutes. I knew the answer to that immediately, but it was not something easily articulated. The reason is a condition of the profession. It is a pattern of abuse that stretches across the hours, the unending monologue of days, which morph into weeks and months and years. All encompassed in a fluid notion of time. One long story, a sense of memorized and repeated boredom.

Plus librarians work with librarians all day long. You think for a second that librarians are hard to deal with as a patron? Imagine what it is like to have them as co-workers.

For instance, here is an actual conversation I had with some pages during the renovation of my last job’s library:

John : Okay, I have sent about 150 Books-on-CD to the branches. So there should now be some room to shelve.
Page 1 : Huh?
Page 2 : Okay. But where we really need space is in the Books on CD shelving.
John : (blank stare) Right. There is now some room in the Books on CD shelves. I pulled a bunch and sent them to the branches.
Page 1 : So we can load that cart under the stairs on the wooden cart of overflow?
John : No. There is now room on the actual shelving.
Page 2 : So you did not empty the wooden cart?
Page 1 : What about the audios in the boxes?
John : No. What boxes? No. I made room on the CD shelves!
Page 1 : Maybe we should put the audios on the cart on the wooden cart.
Page 2 : He just said he did not empty that wooden cart. Right? You did not take any from there?
John : No. I did. I did. But you shouldn’t need to put anything on that wooden cart until the actual cd shelving is filled up!
Page 2 : So there IS room on the wooden cart?
Page 1 : Mary Beth said there were still boxes in the hall, maybe we should put those on the wooden cart.
Page 2 : Or you could send some of those to the branches.
John : No. I already pulled what I am sending to the branches.
Page 2 : Oh well, you should have taken some of the stuff in those boxes.
Page 1 : Or from the wooden cart. You know the one we mean.
John : Yes. Okay. Alright, there is room if you want to shelve.
Page 2 : well, we can’t get to that now.
Page 1 : And what about all the stuff we still have up here, should we shelve that?
John : I dunno. Do what you can!

And that was just a few minutes of one day. Now stretch that across eight hours.

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Old Timey Fire Alarm

Press for Bell

I know everyone is simply dying to hear more about my daily morning commute. Not a lot has happened, since it was the end of the month and it was raining.

The rain keeps the drug addicts, can collectors, and other assorted homeless nogoodniks turtled up in door jams and other pockets of low hanging shelter. And the end of the month means everyone is out of gobermint money and holed up waiting on their checks.

Though, I did sit next to a guy in acid washed jeans and big scuffed up biker boots, carrying a wooden walking stick/cane. He was on an Obama Phone talking to his doc’s answering machine.

He was announcing that he really needed to be seen today and if he could not get an appointment, he was just going to sit in the waiting room until he could be seen. “Thanks Doctor. And God Bless you,” he said and snapped the Obama Phone closed with a grunted, “sheeeeet.”

As this guy was getting off the bus he struck up a conversation with another guy. This other guy was younger and scruffier and carrying what looked like a stand up bass case strapped to his back. I am sure there was no instrument in there based on the lumpiness of the proportions.

These two started talking about how bad these damn Muni drivers are anymore. Jerking back and forth. “The other day, this little ole lady almost took a knee cuz the way the bus driver was drivin’.”

These guys were walking a few yards behind me as we crossed the streets. I overheard the conversation without even having to try.

“I never take the bus. Well, I did but then I got off methadone.”
“You mean you got back on Hearon.”
(chuckles) “Naw man.”
“I am trying to see the doc to get a refill on the oxys. You can’t just take that bottle in and get them to call. You need to see the doc each time.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“So I gotta see the doc today. Get that refilled.”
“Uh huh. I am headed down to the methadone clinic.”
“Back on, huh?”
“Sure. Unless you get them oxys!’
The sound of their wheezy chuckles followed me as I turned heel at the corner.

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Don't Fuck the Locals

We Burn Water

“Show ’em how it is done, Rustbelt,” Noelle said as we watched last night’s Restaurant Impossible.

Robert Irvine, fearless chef (whatever that might entail), goes up against a Pittsburgh painter. The exchange goes something like this:

RI: How is the painting coming?

P: It’s coming.

RI: I need this done by 6 o’clock.

P: (blank look) 6 o’clock?

RI: Yes, 6 o’clock.

P: (long silence) Uh. That is not going to happen.

RI: What do you mean that is not going to happen.

P: (blank long stare) I mean, its not going to be done.

RI: Well when can it be done, realistically?

P: (slowly) Depends on what you want done.

RI: I want it all done.

P: All of it? (long pause) Probably midnight, then.

At this point, both Noelle and I were cracking up. When I asked Noelle what she meant by “rustbelt,” since I had my own very clear impressions from that descriptor, she said, “I realized that when I tell people in California where I am from, I have to say – rustbelt. Since Midwest implies small towns and nice people. While rustbelt better describes the fact that everyone is obese and incompetent.”

This got me thinking.

I have yet to figure out how to fully and correctly describe Cleveland and the Heights area. This has become something of a sticking point when I try to explain my librarian experience. How do I fully articulate the weird population that lingers around the old creaky inner ring suburb.

You know that odd mixture of wankster thug, Orthodox Jew, cabbage sliced Russian immigrant, and all those middling broken family liberals? How can I fully explain getting cussed out by a first grader or threatened by a middle school kid that smells like tater tots and pot smoke? Where subsidized housing sits next to Clinic doctor mansion. Or where the police force make so much money on parking tickets that they actually turn a profit.

It sounds like I am making it up. And that is not even to mention the sheer hopelessness of the place. That haunted weight that hangs over everything like the overcast clouds, discouraging and mocking every best effort, crushing the spirit of any native initiative.

Cleveland Heights is not Midwestern. There is no small town community with traditional values. There are only forced Rehab dolls, community service ordered sex offenders, and a rusty belt wound tightly around the whole suburb that weighs the place down making everyone slow moving and most projects terribly unfinished.

Cleveland, man. Mean and ugly and home.

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As annoyingly routine as the workaday can be, I miss the expected misery of such annoyances. In other words, I have been missing working at the Library this week.

Well, working might be too strong a word for it.

I miss the regularity of the familiar voices helplessly demanding phone numbers or directions to the cheapest gas in town.

I miss the loony toon descriptions of irate customers offered up in the back workroom.

I miss the satisfaction of a customer service transaction completed beyond expectations.

I even miss the willy nilly banter and conflicts between individuals rutting out their own personal fiefdoms in a slop of meaninglessness. The power struggles of powerlessness.

How could I not have pangs of nostalgia? I mean I worked there for 17 odd years. And I have not even been gone a year yet. That is not to say that I am not glad to be gone. I am. It really helps the constitution not to be entwined in some of those sticky wickets and brambly bush skirmishes.


And it is a strange procedure to be on the hunt for the skittishly elusive new job. That timid creature, wide eyes and prickled up ears, alert to each sighing breath or snapping turn of resume phrase. Even a hair out of place, might send the new job bolting off into the opposite direction, clip clopping on the cracked asphalt of an empty parking lot toward a row of single trees instead of the safety of a dank woods.

Each application process is a meditation. A repetition of blank forms. A madala crafted out of colored sand on the floor of a ceiling fan showroom. Whatever progress is made is quickly dispelled by the demonstrations of the following shopping day. The task is not a Sisyphean exercise, since the each boulder pushed to the top accumulates. The mountain grows taller and steeper with each push.

Its difficult to remain positive or hopeful. It difficult to summon the energy and focus. Especially, when I have been slightly enjoying this time away from the bosses. And I get so easily distracted by shiny objects. Like a crow building a nest, only I never ever get around to the building part.

Or something.

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Hippie Puncher – totally. I would love to stand on the corner of Haight and Ashbury and just sock any filthy dirty trustafarian hippy in the ear when they walked past. I could wear a uniform and maybe a lanyard that read “Putting the HATE back into the Haight.” You would not even have to pay me that much to do this, really.

2. DJ at the Assisted Living Facilities – look the drugs are already being piled in and the fashions are super retro and the lights are already low, so why not bring the party to the olds? The generation that disco danced their way though mountains of cocaine deserve some fun as the dementia settles in. So hire me to spin the jams that will break your grandma’s hip. I’m DJ Analgesic Heat Rub! And I will get the party started. Before the early bird specials and wrapped up before Wheel comes on.

3. Homeless Chaser – the last time I went to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo I noticed that there was a guy who’s job it was to just chase around the various peacocks and other hoppy animals that traveled between exhibits. I think his official job title was like “Animal Chaser” or maybe “Peacock Wrangler,” either way it was a full time job of running after squawking and jumping and lumbering creatures in order to get them to leave the other animals alone. Obviously, this idea could be easily adapted to the City. Only instead of peacocks, I would chase around homeless people.

4. Free Range Librarian – just wandering around the City, answering your information and recreational questions. I would have a sliding scale of payment. If I help you find the item your coupon is for in the grocery store, pay me the face value on the coupon. If I help you identify the bug bites on your back, buy me breakfast. You know, in the economy, every little bit of help, helps.

5. Bank Door Man – I have seen a lot of the panhandlers do this, so there might be a Union I have to join. You know like The Door Holder Local 652. Basically, this job is just opening the door to the bank when some one goes in and out. Provided they do not have one of those handicapable door sensors that automatically slides the door open. And I am not sure how this would work with a revolving door.

I am sure more will occur to me, but if you can think of any, please list them in the comments!

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<— The day I mailed away my own CELTIC FROST back patch, this ripped up hooded sweatshirt was draped over the trash can at the corner of Laguna and Geary.

I have been told that San Francisco has a week of summer, when the temperatures peak in the high 90s. I guess this is that week. Today, the weather people predict a high in the mid-90s. Still, no humidity and a nice breeze. And the evenings cool off beautifully. The condo gets a bit stuffy, though.

I heard from the library where I interviewed for the Young Adult/Teen job. I did not get the job, plus they told me that I ranked 16th out of 20. Which seems a bit sadistically unnecessary. Or maybe they are just trying to let me know to abandon immediate hope. This system uses what they call the “rule of 7.” Meaning that the candidates are all ranked into groups of 7. So there are two groups ahead of me, before I get a second interview for any up coming job. I don’t know. This state is very strange and library jobs are proving nearly impossible to get.

I knew the economic situation’s effect on the library market before I left Cleveland, but I really had no idea just how overall brutal it is out here. I have not even been able to get an interview at a lower skilled, retail customer service type place either. Still, mustn’t grumble.

I am loving the night bus experience. Monday’s I have headed to the Mission for zinefest meetings. Then I take the bus home around 8 or 9ish. The night bus is a great place to observe the deterioration of human lives as it exists in the wild. Sure, one can, occasionally, stumble upon the meth’d up homeless panhandler with his curled fingers, counting all the invisible steps in front of him, during a bright morning dog walk.

But the real stillness of the wreckage only exists, slumped and quivering with drool, in the front of the night bus. That is when the full swing of the drunk is cocked, ready to land a soft punch on the chin of some unwary tourist. That is when the grandmother, with her lens-less oversized sunglasses and white gloves, clutches a brand new video game system to her grocery bag chest, humming some lullaby to absent grandchildren. That is when second shift dishwashers, still abuzz from their shift drink, pick at other people’s left over food jammed under their finger nails, coughing and sneezing and flicking to the disgust and discomfort of all around them. That is a careening ride that zips by your stop, before you can lift your weary chin from your chest, to take notice.

Or something.

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