Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tragödie gegen Wirklichkeit

Working in a library brings a lot of odd/bizarre/touching experiences. One never knows, from day to day, what one will encounter. F'instance: 1) the isolated patron who comes in and delivers an excuse for her overdue items: "I RENEWED THESE ONLINE . . . . . WHY DO I HAVE LATE CHARGES? " Well, of course, they were renewed AFTER the grace period and so they have late/overdue charges. 2)" I HAD NO IDEA WHEN THEY WERE DUE: HOW ON EARTH COULD I KNOW WHEN THEY WERE DUE? . . . . . . " Well, we gave you a receipt that indicated when each item would be due. Did you look at it? ? ? ? ? ? 3) "I NEVER, EVER, CHECKED THAT ITEM OUT . . . . WHY WOULD A WOMAN/MAN SUCH AS ME CHECK OUT HARRY POTTER AND THE GARDEN OF LOST BOOKS? . . . . ." Never mind the mindless patrons out there in LibraryLand . . . . . I have another story . . . a bit more sensitive . . . .

A woman two days ago came up to the desk. She indicated that she hadn't her library card with her but needed to use the computer. I asked her if she had lost her card [SOP] and she said, with little emotion or emphasis, " my son was killed in Afghanistan yesterday and I need to use the computer. Can you find my card number? " I said: "I'm so very, very sorry. Just give me a moment." The woman was as cool as cucumber and soooooooooo focused. I found her number and gave it to her. She went to the computer and proceeded to do her business.

This event has haunted me from the start. I've related it to fellow workers, some of which have been ex-military, and all of them, to a man, have explained that this abrupt, matter-of-fact demeanor is de riguer. I wouldn't have thought it.

I wanted to come round the counter and hug the mother and help her but, apparently, this is not done. Casualties of war are treated differently than your garden-variety Chicago clubbing-to-death.
Guy goes to Afghanistan, gets killed = to be expected. 14 year old in Chicago gets clubbed to death: No Prob.