Okay, wait.  Let’s deal with your questions, first. You probably have some, based on the reactions of my colleagues when I first started telling them this story.  Their first question was along the lines of, “Wait, you mean this person was worse than _______?  And even worse than ______?  Well, whoever it was COULDN’T have been more annoying than ______?”  Oh, yes, my friends.  I’m afraid this patron exceeded them all in the annoying department.  And naturally the second question is: Do you really want to be handing out a “Most Annoying Patron of the Year” award in July?  Isn’t it possible that a more annoying patron might show up at the library over the next four months?

You know what?  I really don’t think that’s going to happen.

Now on with the story.

So I’m at the information desk, working on little questions and big questions, making triage decisions along the way (Printer trouble?  Check.   Reserve a book for you?  Check.  Help with the copy machine?  Check.  Find the books on your summer reading list?  Check.  Find information about the entire history of the film ratings system and get lists of every movie that was released with specific ratings over a five-year period?  Um … that’s gonna take a little while.)   So while I’m working with the lady asking the film ratings question, I see a man in my peripheral vision come up to the desk, stand there for a few moments, and then wander off.  A minute later he comes back, and says, “ARE YOU THE ONLY ONE HERE?  IS THERE ANYONE ELSE AT THIS DESK WHO CAN HELP ME?” I’m instantly on edge, because a) He’s yelling at me — which would upset me under any circumstance, but it’s even worse because it’s happening in the library in front of all of our patrons and b) He’s drawing attention to the fact that yes, I am alone at this desk with a line of people in front of me.  In fact, on days like this when there are only two librarians in the building, for a large part of the day I am not only the only librarian working on THIS floor, but I’m also the only librarian in charge of covering EVERY floor.  So it’s kind of a touchy subject, you see.  I start to answer his question, but after I get the first words out, he yells, “WHAT?” and then leans over to the woman who asked me the film ratings question and yells, “WHAT DID SHE SAY?”  While the woman acts as my virtual translator, my heart begins to sink.  I realize that this might take a while.

The man wants me to look up song lyrics for him on the internet.  The song in question has one of the more unusual titles I’ve ever heard.  I would almost think he was making it up, except he wasn’t.  Throughout our exchange, he continues to involve the film ratings lady in our conversation by demanding that she repeat everything I say.  I find this rather unusual, because I speak very clearly, while she speaks with some kind of a German or Eastern European accent.  I mean, yes, she’s about a foot closer to him than I am, but really?  He can’t hear me, but he CAN hear her?  Later in the conversation, I discover a possible motivation for his actions.  Anyway, here are the highlights of our conversation:

Man: I NEED YOU TO FIND A SONG FOR ME ON THE COMPUTER.  IT’S CALLED “THE BEST VIEW I EVER HAD OF YOU, YOU WERE WALKING AWAY FROM ME.”  [Note: That’s not the actual name of the song, but it was something along those lines].

Me: Okay, give me just a minute.  I’m just finishing up this question.

Man [to the lady with the film ratings question]: WHAT?  WHAT DID SHE SAY?

As the lady repeats what I said, I send a 25-page document to the printer for her.  As I get ready to start typing in the name of his song into Google, he points at the printer.

Man: IS THAT MINE? IS THAT THE SONG FOR ME?

Me: I’m going to look for it right now.

Man [to the lady]: WHAT?  WHAT DID SHE SAY?

As the lady repeats what I said, I type in the name of his song.  I find a couple of websites that claim to have the lyrics, but my results are delayed because the internet connection is sluggish and because several of the sites either don’t have the lyrics at all or just have a “download these lyrics to your phone” button.  As I go through each site, my agita grows and my blood pressure skyrockets.  And the patron continues to add to the problem.

Man: YOU DON’T HAVE IT FOR ME YET?  WHY NOT?  WHY CAN’T YOU GET ME THIS SONG?  [to the lady]: WHY ISN’T SHE GETTING ME MY SONG?

Me: I’m getting it as quickly as possible.

Man [to the lady]: WHAT? WHAT DID SHE SAY?

Me: Believe me, if I could get this to go any faster, I would.

[Note: If you knew me at all, or if you had one ounce of sense in your head, you would know that the fact that I said this out loud meant that I was MAJORLY pissed off.]

Man: WHERE’S THE MAN THAT USUALLY WORKS HERE?

Oh, God.  My least favorite response.  He means Mr. X, of course.  Confirming my suspicion, the lady says, “Oh, you mean _____?” (referring to Mr. X by his first name).  I’ve been hearing this reaction for years now.  It doesn’t matter how well I do or how hard I try.  I will always always ALWAYS hear how patrons would rather work with him.  I used to be able to say that he would be back in an hour or the next day.  But now that’s no longer an option.  I tell both of them that he is working at another branch now, and I even tell them which one.  I resist the overwhelming urge to give them both bus fare and tell them to take their damn fan club over to his new location.

The lady tells the man what I said, and then he and the lady start having their own conversation.

Man: SO … DO YOU KNOW HOW TO MAKE A GOOD SAUERBRATEN?

I try not to fall off of my chair.  So … was he incorporating her in our conversation because he wanted to flirt with her all along???  They briefly discuss sauerbraten and the merits of cooking.

Man: I HOPE SHE’S NOT ANGRY WITH ME.  I DIDN’T MEAN TO MAKE HER ANGRY.  I WAS JUST KIDDING AROUND WITH HER.

Lady: Oh, I’m sure she’s not angry with you.  She’s still trying to find your information.

I notice that the man keeps touching the woman’s arm and shoulder while he’s leaning in and talking to (read: yelling at) her.  I decide to give her an escape option if she wants it.  I give her the printouts I’d made for her earlier, and tell her that she might want to look through them.  She thanks me and immediately heads off to one of the tables.  The man keeps yelling at me about how I’m not giving him his information quickly enough.  Every time I try to explain that I’m waiting for the page to finish loading so that I can print it out, he says that he can’t hear me.  I’m not about to start screaming, so I get a pen and a piece of paper and start writing.  When he sees that I’m writing, he yells at me not to bother, because his eyes are bad and he’s not going to be able to read it.

I begin to wonder if I’m on some kind of hidden camera program (and if I am, there’s a producer that’s going to get punched in the face).

I check the lyrics website that is STILL trying to load, and I grab an 8×11 piece of scrap paper and a magic marker.  I write out a note in enormous block letters and hand it to him:

Of course I saved the note.  Why do you ask???

Anyway, the man walks off and sits at a table, where he immediately starts yelling at the other patrons about the song he wants me to print out for him and how he’s still waiting for it.  As I continue to wait for this godforsaken lyrics site to finish loading, I rush through the questions of everyone else on line.  Finally the page finishes loading and it has the lyrics, but the page format was apparently put together by squirrels with Attention Deficit Disorder.  So I copy and paste the lyrics into Word, boost the font size so that the song fills up two pages, print it out, staple it, and hand it to the man.  Who immediately says …

Man: I CAN’T READ THIS.  WHAT DOES IT SAY?

Me: *faints*

No, that’s not what really happened.  But that’s about how I was feeling at this point.  Instead I go back to help the next people on line while the man approaches other patrons at the tables and yells at them until they read the name of the song off of the printout to him so that he can confirm that I’d printed out the right thing.  He then, you guessed it, horror of horrors, STARTS SINGING THE SONG.  Thankfully he does not sing all of it, but makes his way downstairs where he yells some questions at the staff at the circulation desk for a while before finally leaving the building.

So that’s the end of the story.  Almost.

Later on in the hour, I had another brief conversation with the lady with the film rating question.  While I printed out more information for her, she told me how smart I was, how nice I was, and how good I was at handling things when the library was busy.  I laughed and  said that it usually didn’t get quite that busy … or quite that loud.

The next day I was telling some of my colleagues what had happened and that I was going to write a blog post about the experience.  I was telling one of my fellow librarians (who happens to be deaf) my thoughts on dealing with people with disabilities, based on my experiences with coworkers, patrons, and family members who are disabled.   My general point was that attitude was everything, that it didn’t matter what your circumstances were as long as you were generally nice, polite, patient, and friendly.  Although I was rather flustered after relating that whole story about how that man had driven me absolutely crazy the day before, so I didn’t actually phrase my thoughts in such an erudite way.  What I actually said was, “I don’t care what your disability is, just don’t be a dick about it!”  My colleague had a good laugh over that, and made me promise to use that line in my blog post.  And I always keep my promises. 😉

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