A Hard Day's Blight
The Walking Dead now talk - and have library cards!
It's been a hard day's night, and I've been been working like a dog dealing with a bizarro alternate universe of humans known as library patrons. Though I was trained as a journalist, lately my missives about my job sound more like science-fiction prose describing the far reaches of the cosmos. I swear, I can't make this stuff up...
The Scorpion Lady
A woman came in tonight asking about the status of her movie "hold".
"Remember that one I was talking about?" she said, assuming that I could remember an alleged transaction from months ago and that I hadn't helped anyone else with "holds" in the interim. I replied that, sorry, I didn't recall it. (I love it when people you helped a long time ago come in and say stuff like "That book I wanted come in yet?" like it was yesterday; Janice, a woman I last saw two years ago, when I had security escort her out of the building for pulling plugs out of a public computer ("It's OK, I took an online course and am an expert in computers" she assured me, to which I replied "Great, practice on your own personal computer!"), actually asked me that recently.)
Of course, she didn't have a library card but, exhibiting a modus operandus I've noticed in many idiot savants, had memorized her library card number. And, of course, she had no holds. (Maybe she placed a hold in the astral plane. Who knows?) She was looking for Woody Allen's Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001) because she claimed her sister's house in Ellicott City appears in it - but she didn't have a VCR, a DVD player, a computer, or a TV set to watch it on.
I told Scorpion Lady that a) we don't own a copy b) no library in the state has a copy available for loan (though I placed an interlibrary loan request out-of-state for her) and c) we don't have viewing stations and, no, if she does score a copy she can't come down to the library to watch it at the PC on my desk. She then whined that she wasted a trip riding the bus down to the library "around all those smelly people." I suggested perhaps she should call first next time. But, natch, she doesn't have a phone.
She then asked if I would sign her up for Netflix though she doesn't have any platform to watch anything she would get from them. Is it just me, or was she kinda needy?
(Upon reflection, I feel kinda guilty that I didn't use my credit card to sign her up for a Netflix account or invite her over to my house to watch this movie, as I know how important it must be to see a 10-second shot of her sister's house in it.)
I thought it was rather odd that the New York City-based Woody Allen would have shot a film in Maryland - that is, the old pre-World Tour (Barcelona, London, Paris, Rome, San Francisco) Woody of the Noughties - so I subsequently looked up the film on the Internet Movie database and learned that The Curse of the Scorpion Lady was filmed in New York (natch), Long Island and Los Angeles. Maybe her sister moved. Maybe her sister moved to My Sister's Place. Who knows?
The Snake Man
Then some rough-looking guy with wild hair and a cigarette stub tucked behind his ear (who reminded me of Taxi's Reverend Jim Ignatowski, minus the charm) and wearing a mud-encrusted camouflage jacket and baggy, decomposing pants, came in 5 minutes before closing.
"Ya got any DVDs about Snakeskinplesskin?" he mumbled as he leaned over my desk.
"I'm sorry," I replied, trying to deconstruct the phrase "Snakeskin something-or-other," "Snakeskin, what was that word?"
"Snakeskin Plesskin," he re-mumbled, slower this time, with a look that seemed to add "You Ee-di-ot!"
"I'm unfamiliar with that term," I said, adding, "We have one VHS tape on snakes and reptiles, but that's about it." (Yikes! I didn't even mention Snakes on a Plane.) Wait, maybe he said Rumpletstiltskin?
"No man! You mean you haven't ever seen Escape from New York City (sic)?!?" he shouted. "I can't believe you're a librarian, man, and you haven't seen Escape from New York City? What, the library doesn't carry it because, what, it's too violent or something?"
"Oh, you want Escape from New York? Sorry, I'm afraid we don't have it," I replied, now comprehending that he was referring to Kurt Russell's eye-patch-wearing character "Snake" from John Carpenter's 1981 cult film, which also spawned the sequel Escape from L.A. (1996).
"I cannot believe you've never seen it man, and you call yourself a librarian, man!" Rev. Jim snarled. (I made a mental note to give him bonus points for pronouncing my profession correctly, instead of the "lie-barian" pronunciation 99% of my patrons employ to describe "lie-berry" staff.)
"Sorry about that, I'll get right on it," I said. "I'll add it to my Netflix bucket list."
"So what do you watch, like pornos, I guess?" he snapped dismissively.
"Sure, but I also watch a variety of things," I countered.
"Like what? Like Mary Poppins or Doctor Doolittle?" (I sensed this was also said in a dismissive tone. I got the distinct vibe that Rev. Jim didn't care for family entertainment.)
"No, all kinds of things."
"Like what, like name me one thing you've seen, man!"
"OK, Blade Runner."
"Oh that," Snake Man snorted. "Isn't that that freaky movie where all these freaks are running around with machetes cutting shit up and - "
"No," I cut him off, "Not at all. It's a futuristic sci-fi movie starring Harrison Ford. No machetes." (Was he possibly think of the Danny Trejo-starring action spoof Machete?)
Stumped momentarily, Rev. Jim now reverted back to Conspiracy Theory Mode (public libraries are "the government," after all, man!).
"So you're saying the library doesn't have Escape from New York City (sic) because it's too violent or something?"
"No, I'm not saying anything other than we don't appear to own a copy of that film, but we probably should. I'll see if our distributor has it."
I looked it up and found that, indeed, it was carried by our distributor and placed it in a suggested purchase cart. I told Rev. Jim that I had placed a suggested purchase of Escape from New York for him.
"It's Escape from New York City, man, not Escape from New York!" he spat out contemptuously.
"Well, you can call it anything you want," I countered, "But the named listed on the poster, DVD and the Internet Movie Database is Escape from New York. See?" With this I turned my PC monitor around so he could see the cover of the DVD.
I sensed this encounter was turning into Monty Python's "Argument Clinic" skit. This guy was obviously looking for a fight, verbal or physical, and, of course, what better place to take out one's aggressions and frustrations than at the library, where one can tangle with those power brokers, The Mild-Mannered Librarians? (Forget the Bilderberg Group, librarians rule the world! Didn't everyone see those Noah Wyle Librarian movies?)
"Yeah well..." His voice trailed off before he came back with his stinging zinger. "Nice sweater, man...That's a [snorting] nice sweater."
He was pointing at my Argyle sweater vest. I guess he thought it was laughable compared to his Sunny Surplus-style commando gear. I was waiting for the inevitable "faggot ass preppy" or other dis as a followup (yes, I've heard every imaginable dis regarding my sexual orientation from patrons, over the years - I'm so glad they take an interest with my social life!)
"Thanks!" I replied. "Nice camo jacket on you." (It was tres Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver; all it was missing was the blood and splattered brain remnants.)
Flustered, Rev. Jim now took his case to the security guard who was announcing, as the lights went out, that the library was now closed. I heard him rant about the outrage of the library not carrying Escape from New York.
Officer Greg came over to me and smiled. "We see everything here, don't we Tom?"
Unfortunately, we do, we do.
Watch Escape from New York trailer.
Oh, almost forgot Prophet Man, who came in earlier in the day. Like many of our road scholars, he was a would-be Religious Studies scholar (they're always the best and the brightest! No, really.). Just as Cornel West has to preface everybody's name with a "Brother" or "Sister" (which I find most annoying), this gentleman, newly converted to Islam but seeking out all sides of The Greatest Story Ever Told, had to preface everything with "Prophet."
"Do you have anything on the prophet Muhammad? Do you have anything on the prophet Jesus? Do you have anything on the prophet Abraham? Do you have anything on the prophet Moses?"
The only prophet he didn't want was the Prophet Chuck, aka Chuck Prophet, the American singer-songwriter guitarist formerly of Green on Red, even though he has an album called Temple Beautiful.
Another day, more brain cells lost on the front lines.
I live to serve.