We’ve all had our problem patrons.  One of our regulars several years ago used to send my blood pressure soaring every time he walked into my library.  That’s because he used to ask a lot of questions, act like he knew more than we did, come around behind us while we were working so he could look over our shoulders and critique every step we took while trying to answer his questions, and make lots of sarcastic comments along the way.  For the purposes of this blog I will be referring to this patron as The Terrible Old Man because a) it’s a fitting description and b) it’s the name of a very creepy H.P. Lovecraft story.  One encounter with this patron that I particularly remember (probably because I repeated it to so many people afterwards) went something like this:

The Terrible Old Man: I need information about this company.

Me: Okay, I’ll see what I can find for you.

The Terrible Old Man: Maybe you could find an annual report for me.

Me: *nods* *typing*

The Terrible Old Man: You know what an annual report is, don’t you?


The Terrible Old Man: You see, an annual report is a report that a company puts out once a year.

Me: *typing* [interior dialogue:  Wow.  He thinks I’m THAT stupid.]

The Terrible Old Man: So did you find anything yet?  What about that?  Can you click on that?  What’s that?  Click on that one!  So you can’t find the annual report?  So you can’t find anything else?  Is that all?  You can’t find anything else?

Me:  *grinds teeth*

So anyway, when the patrons who drive us crazy don’t come to the library for a while, we don’t usually overanalyze things.  Maybe they flit through our consciousness sometimes and we idly wonder whatever happened to them, but for the most part we just count our blessings.  Until they return and all the bad feelings and agita come flooding back.  Which is what happened yesterday when the Terrible Old Man approached me at the information desk.

He came in with what should have been a simple question (“Can you tell me the cross street for this midtown address?”)  I went to Google maps, put in the address, told him the cross street and even printed out a copy of the map because I’m a kind and generous person.  He thanked me and left, and I (foolishly) began to relax.  But about ten minutes later he returned, and then things started going downhill.  He told me that he didn’t LIKE that map.  He wanted another map that was clearer.  He told me that he wanted to see the number of the building on the map.  He told me that he needed to know if the building numbers on that avenue got higher or lower as they went along, and he wanted to see ALL the building numbers on the map.  He kept repeating “use another search engine” over and over again until I felt like a blood vessel was going to burst in my eye.   I explained that most of the mapping websites worked the same way, that I could zoom in and zoom out and use the satellite view but that these maps still did not include the building numbers.  And then he said, “Just use another search engine” again and I stopped talking.  I went to Mapquest, searched for the same address, and printed out the results for him.  Which were almost identical to the Google results, except Mapquest marks your address with a star instead of a letter A.  I don’t know what kind of a response I was expecting from him; “You’re right” or “I see what you mean” would have been nice.  But instead I got this closing line, which was a much more typical response, “Well … I guess you tried the best you could!”