Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Those of you who work with the public know the trials and travails that go with the territory. But, for those of you who don’t enjoy daily contact with the rude and the malodorous, I'd like to share with you a recent encounter.

This one lady (I use the term loosely) (no pun intended!) comes in regularly to chat on Yahoo IM. Her visits also seem to regularly entail dating services. Okay, whatever. No big deal, not my business. BUT. Now we only have one computer that has a working Yahoo IM application. We’ve reported this repeatedly, but our computer people aren’t interested in getting this fixed. They continually inform us that the library is not at the top of their priority list. (Which leads to the obvious question of why we have to be open all day Saturday and some of Sunday when the vital offices that get all their computers worked on first -- because otherwise work isn't getting done -- are closed???)

But I digress. To get back to the story, this lady, okay, woman, would come in and loudly complain if anyone was on that computer for TOO LONG or God forbid, WASN’T USING YAHOO IM. So I had to institute a sign-in sheet for that computer with a one-hour time limit. Not an unreasonable request, and I didn’t mind doing it, but of course she still complained.

Then another patron told me about a url that allows you to use instant messenger programs, a sort of back door to them. (It’s www.ebuddy.com, if you’re interested.) So I posted a sign with that url and took down the sign-in sheet for the one computer, as it wasn’t really effective anyway.

So what did our friend do? I'm sure you guessed it: she complained. She claimed the url doesn’t work, even though it worked for me and it has worked for countless others. Fine, whatever, but I’m not making people get off that computer just because she likes the application better. I’m sorry that we only have it on one machine, and I’ve asked them repeatedly to fix this or give me authorization to, but no go. I explained this and she finally sort of let it go. For now anyway.

Then yesterday she came in to use a computer. There are eleven computers in my area (Reference) and only two people were in here using computers. That left nine other computers free. NINE. So which one did she choose? The one that some lame-o patron decided to reconfigure by running the mouse with the cord coming from under the front of the desk/table instead of dropping behind like it’s supposed to! So she, of course, complained and asked me to fix it. I said I would get someone to come fix it, because I didn’t want to crawl around in a skirt, and I mentioned that there were several other available computers. She said she’d fix this one and proceeded to try, struggling with her ridiculously long fake fingernails, unplugging something else instead, and then finally unplugging the mouse, dropping the cord behind the desk, and plugging it back in.

While I was standing next to her to make sure everything got plugged in correctly (she was busily unplugging and replugging by the time I got over there), a wave of pure bodily funk poured off her and streamed right up my defenseless nostrils. UGH. It was not only body odor, which anyone working with the public or children of a certain age is familiar with. In addition to that lovely aroma was added the delicate, flowery perfume of an overweight woman who needs (a) a good bath with stout soap, a lathery washcloth, and lots o’ scrubbin’, (b) superstrength FDS, (c) DOUCHE DOUCHE DOUCHE, or possibly (d) all of the above. For those of you unfamiliar with this particular stench, I’m here to tell you it is NOT just "not-so-fresh." I work with soldiers, people, and they do not smell this bad! I had to fake a reason to return to my desk to avoid gagging or turning blue from holding my breath.

Then of course the mouse wouldn’t work. I told her the computer just needed rebooting so it could recognize the mouse, and braced myself to walk back over there. Because the reboot took longer than oh my God two seconds, what did she do? She MOVED TO ANOTHER COMPUTER.

Look, lady, if I can stand here breathing your stinkation for as long as it takes a computer to reboot, that I have to reboot because you INSISTED on using it, you can damn well sit there and wait!!

But no. She moved on. Which at least had the blessed effect of removing the cloud of stink from my immediate breathing area, allowing me to get the computer logged in again and retreat to my desk for some relatively pure oxygen before passing out. Ahh, sweet breathable air! I just sat and breathed for a few moments and made a mental note to tell my husband that if he ever smells the slightest bit of funk emanating from me to not let me leave the house even if it takes a full nelson to stop me. She is fortunate, constant reader, that dating services do not include scratch-n-sniff capabilities or smell-o-rama.

And lest you think I am being too hard on her, let me remind you that she is consistently troublesome and often downright rude. I didn't even mention the long loud conversations on her cell phone.

I try to be understanding and accommodating, as that is not only part of my job but also my nature, and I can take a lot, but the odor is what finally got me. I've discovered my Waterloo. A sensitive olfactory nerve is not your friend if you work with the public.

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