Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Me and Mrs. Jones

My exhaustive research has revealed that among America's most hazardous jobs in 2006 are Timber Cutter, Structural Metal Worker, Assistant Crack Ho, and Library Circulation Clerk. Allow me to speak from personal experience regarding at least the last of these perilous gigs.

Let's put aside for a moment the obvious. I endure a daily lashing of paper cuts that would make St. Sebastian wince. The constant use of rubber bands renders my hands drier than Waco, Texas, and when they break and snap across my hands I feel like a naughty Catholic schoolboy disciplined by sadistic ruler-wielding nuns. Also, thanks to our tragically un-ergonomic front counter, I may never be able to perpetuate the species.

Perhaps the most hazardous job function of all, however, involves dealing with the patron who will be the Babe Ruth of our Library All Star Hall of Fame (once I gather all the proper materials for my spectacular Customer Appreciation Month front window display later this fall). Due to various health ailments, the legendary Mrs. Jones only shows up in person on rare occasions. Otherwise a diverse and mysterious parade of her minions is dispatched in her stead to pick up and deliver the dozens of romance novels and books-on-tape that are her constant sustenance.

I believe Mrs. Jones was the first patron to gain entrance to the elite "Box Club" behind our Circulation Desk. This highly exclusive designation is awarded to those few ambitious patrons whose incoming reserve materials from other libraries overflow our humble set of holding shelves. Since Mrs. Jones typically has from 20 to 30 items waiting at any time to be picked up, we pack them all away in stacks of boxes while we await her or her couriers' next visit.

Just the simple act of checking in her massive stack of old materials and checking out her new ones is enough to render a less physically fit Circ. Clerk a workman's comp casualty. Beyond the sheer amount of her materials, though, lies the most dire hazard of all. As each sealed plastic bag must be opened and inspected to make sure every last book-on-tape has made it back to the library safely, this usually involves digging through 25 to 30 bags, each of which might have a dozen or more tapes inside.

When one of these bags of Mrs' Jones's is opened, the most noxious cloud of evil fumes since the last time Bill O'Reilly opened his mouth is released. Thanks to Mrs. Jones's 18-pack-a-day cigs habit, her library materials are inundated with a cloud of toxicity more foul than the Chernobyl disaster, a stench that lasts for weeks in and around the bags and their contents and usually my clothes.

For this and other reasons, I sincerely look forward to the day when our increasingly helpfully totalitarian government bans smoking not just in restaurants and public areas, but also inside people's dwellings or anywhere else they may come into contact with library materials. To paraphrase Derek Zoolander, "I think I'm getting the black lung, Papa . . ."

3 Comments:

Blogger Adjective Queen said...

How well I know the sting of those papercuts. And when those rubber bands break when you are wrapping books, watch out. They'll shoot your eye out!

4:42 PM  
Blogger jaime said...

Poor guy sounds like a tough job I will trade you anyday....I will deal with the smoke smell and you can deal with such things as no i want the mayo on the other side of the bun or my favorite I am sending my sandwich back because it has onions on it but please make my order of onion rings a large...

3:41 PM  
Blogger gouldie said...

SLACKER! Where are the new posts?

12:15 PM  

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