Monday, May 15, 2006

Someday this entry may be referred to as "State's Evidence, Exhibit A"

Often in a dreaded, loathsome, job interview-type situation, one is asked something along the lines of, "Where do you see yourself in five or ten years? What are your long term goals?" Finally, I have devised a sincere, heartfelt, clear-eyed response:

"My long term goal? Well, my long term goal is to be the last man in Western Civilization not to own a cell phone."

My disdain for these awful, soul-killing devices has deep roots, at least to their late-1980s/early 90s prehistoric forebears that were the size of shoeboxes with lightning rod-like antennae. Not until I started working in a public library, however, did my disgust curdle into outright genocidal hatred.

The cell phone situation is really just part of a larger, more mysterious phenomenon of which I've been trying to get to the bottom for a few years now. Due to excellent parenting, I spent a great deal of my 1970s/80s childhood within libraries where the slightest verbal outburst would earn a decisive "shussshhh!!!" Due to dramatically less-impressive study skills, I rarely stepped into a library during my 1990s high school and college years. Somewhere in that long-forgotten decade, a time when flannel shirts ruled the fashion runways and the federal budget surplus grew as steadily and inexorably as the Smashing Pumpkins' career, the rules changed. Sadly, I did not receive notification of said rules.

Apparently, memory-altering radio waves were transmitted througout North America via CIA spy satellites during the first President Bush's last few days in office in order to negate the citizenry's antiquated notion that the library is a place where one quietly whispers, if one has to open one's fool mouth at all. That's the best explanation I can come up with. Now it's often noisier in the damn library than it is in our shuddering, steaming, screaming basement boiler room. The worst offenders, predictably, are the impudent cell phone users.

I mean, it's awful enough when a cell phone goes off in a movie theater, or a classroom, or a church, or a funeral. And it's a thousand times more horrible when the person actually answers and launches into a conversation, trying to negotiate a grocery list with a hard-of-hearing husband or relaying instructions as to how to tape the season finale of "Desperate Housewives." More teeth-grindingly vile still are the friendly folks who are just chatting, just yammering a play-by-play of their day or their random thoughts and hopes and dreams. When they're wandering around a library while shooting the cellular breeze on any of the above topics, they most likely don't realize I'm behind the front counter fashioning a shank out of the small metal bookend I smuggled out of the Juvenile Fiction section.

One jaunty little fellow in a bright yellow Hawaiian shirt strolled into the library a few weeks ago in the middle of a roaring cell phone conversation which I was rude enough to interrupt. Using my finely honed non-verbal communications skills, I gestured toward the four or five signs he had somehow overlooked instructing visitors to "Please take cell phone calls out to the lobby." These subtle signs are even emblazoned with a Ghostbusters-style circle and slash through a caricatured cell phone for those of our patrons who aren't really big readers. This gentleman, however, turned to me with mouth and eyes agape and an expression that couldn't have been more scandalized had I pooped in his cereal.

"Hold on," he yelled into his tiny telephone, "I'm getting thrown out of the library!"

When he returned a few minutes later, he marched straight up to me and demanded, "I really want to know what I was doing that offended you so much!" By this time I was already seething with a simmering rage, just the regular kind I carry around on a day-to-day basis on principle. Trying to be as cheerful as possible (and remembering that the "customer" is always right), I insisted, "You didn't offend me at all. It's just our policy for all cell phone calls to be taken to the lobby." Helpfully, I gestured toward the three signs within my immediate vicinity that explained this in friendly cartoon form.

After arguing with me for a few minutes and maintaining the incredulous look of a coach quarelling with a referee, the yellow-shirt man finally exclaimed, "Well I think that rule is ridiculous, and I think you're ridiculous!!!" My brain immediately fired six or seven provisional responses out of its language center and toward my voice box. Most were deleted due to my cerebral cortex's "Mortgate Payment Reminder" filter which convinced me of several reasons not to get fired that particular day. I do sincerely wish, however, that our library system had an automated 1-800 complaint line number I could have given to this customer. Then I could have politely asked him to take that call out to the lobby too. Instead, I just returned to my desk, pulled back the disguised false door inside my bottom drawer, and removed my primitive prison-style shank.

Sharpening, sharpening . . . always sharpening . . .


Blogger Adjective Queen said...

You're going to sharpen that thing so much it will look like the puncture stick used in the X-Files to take out alien/human hybrids. I must tread lightly around you so I can stay out of reach of that shank.

12:19 PM  
Blogger pastgrace said...

I so agree with you. Yesterday I had a freak student asking me for a book all the while on the cell phone. Not only did she speak to me rudely; she spoke rudely to the other person on the cell phone. I also within minutes of that episode got to witness a student answer her phone and yell, "You're standing me up for a rock concert" then she violently threw down her phone. Which remarkably rang again within seconds. Guess they didn't get enough abuse. I'll be a character witness for you at the trial. Oh no, I'll probably be a co-defendent.

8:28 AM  

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