Tuesday, 11:26 a.m.

You are called out to assist at the information desk. Craig is helping an approximately ninety-six-year-old man navigate an Obama-era Kindle. You help the next person in line find the psychology section. On your way back to the desk, you are waved down by a patron so short that she would not be allowed on the teacup ride at any self-respecting state fair (that is to say, none of them). Her name is Judy and she says she needs help printing.

You follow Judy to her computer.

11:30 a.m.

Judy sits down and tells you to wait a minute while she finds the document that she wants printed. Her email is open and you take a reflexive step back. People trust librarians, you’ve found—they don’t seem to mind if you can see their emails, pay stubs, social security numbers—but you do it anyway. You don’t want to know.

“Maybe it’s this one,” Judy says, opening an email with the subject line “Have you missed your message from the Archangel Jeremiel?”

It is not.

“Well there’s going to be more than one anyway,” she says, clicking away.

11:35 a.m.

Judy finds the first email. It is from a person whose name is most certainly not Angela. Not-Angela has sent Judy a link to a webpage so full of BS that the library’s firewall refuses to allow access to it on a public computer.

You guide Judy through accessing the webpage on her phone, downloading the attached PDF, and emailing it to herself. This allows Judy to open it on the computer, where you see that Not-Angela has sent (and Judy has paid to be sent) an eighteen-page document that claims to contain the “Sacred Egg of Resputin” [sic] and an accompanying ritual to be read aloud while staring at a picture of said sacred egg.

(You will later spend an unfulfilling fifteen-minute break trying to find any more information on this. You will not find any.)

“But I want two copies of page two,” Judy says. “Because I need to be able to look at the egg while I read the ritual. I can’t be flipping back and forth, you know.”

You nod.

“And I need page two in color. Just page two, though—I’m not paying that extra ten cents for the rest of it.”

11:50 a.m.

“The Sacred Egg of Resputin” is in Judy’s print queue.

11:51 a.m.

Judy opens a second email from a CGI-looking person who claims to be named Maria. Maria has sent Judy links to “The Eye of Horus Meditative Blessing” and “Gift Talisman + Sacred Ritual (printable).”

You begin to seriously consider a career as an online medium. The things you make up weekly for D&D are at least forty percent more interesting and seventy percent less horseshit.

11:58 a.m.

“So I want the text of the blessing and two copies of the Eye of Horus,” Judy says.

You tell Judy that when you print the text, it will come with the picture and ask if she wants two more pictures in addition to the one that comes with the text.

“Yes,” Judy says. “I want two copies.”

Two copies plus the one that comes with the text?

“Well I want the whole text and an extra copy of the picture so I can look at it while I read the blessing.”

So two copies of the picture total or two copies of the picture without text?

“I want two copies of the picture and the text.”

You are suddenly and acutely aware that when you die and go to hell, this is what awaits you.

“And I want just the pictures in color.”

12:17 p.m.

Judy squints at your name tag and tells you that your name could be that of an Egyptian goddess. You do not tell her that you feel rather far from deific, at the moment.

“You know what an ankh is? I studied Egyptology,” she says. “I was going to be an archeologist, but then I went into secondary education instead. I was an English teacher for thirty-five years.”

You have never felt sorrier for high schoolers.

12:19 p.m.

You and Judy walk to the printers. She pays $4.80 for:

  • THE SACRED EGG OF RESPUTIN (pgs. 1, 3-18, black & white) 
  • THE SACRED EGG OF RESPUTIN (pg. 2, color, 2 copies)
  • The Eye of Horus Meditative Blessing (5 pgs, black & white)
  • 735242023_eye_of_horus.jpeg (1 pg, color)
  • Gift Talisman + Sacred Blessing (2 pgs, color)
  • Untitled.jpeg (1 pg, color)

12:21 p.m.

Judy is not sure that everything that printed out is everything that she sent to the print queue. You are.

You manage to convince Judy that everything that she wanted printed is in her hands. She says thank you. You tell her that if she needs anything else, just ask at the info desk.

You feel kind of bad for Craig while doing it.

12:23 p.m.

You sit down in your office and go for the aromatherapy putty. You think.

Something else you know about Judy: she’s a liar. This is a well-known fact in the library (and in multiple police jurisdictions). She is also the kind of person who uses the fact that she’s fifty-five as an excuse to not learn things and has a note reading “patron has been informed that verbal abuse of staff members will not be tolerated” in her library record. Some days she is largely pleasant and some days she threatens to sue the library for elder discrimination. (“I need more computer time because I’m researching cancer treatments for a friend! When she dies, I’ll sue all you bastards. You personally and your whole damn library!”)

You wonder how someone so steeped in their own lies could possibly be taken in by the painfully obvious bullshit of others—by nothing more than a webpage in Comic Sans and a JPEG of the Eye of Horus. You begin to think that maybe Judy isn’t a liar after all. Maybe she’s just delusional and sad.

This knowledge doesn’t make you like her, though.

12:25 p.m.

Your walkie-talkie buzzes. You put your aromatherapy putty back in its container and go to the info desk.

7 Comments

  1. Geneva Langeland

    The inside of Judy’s mind must be a fascinating and bewildering place…

    Reply
    • Annaka Koster

      We have seen its depths and are afraid to delve further. ^^’

      Reply
  2. Marianne Coughenour

    Annaka, you are HILARIOUS! Slightly dry humor, the kind of tongue-firmly-implanted-in cheek that I truly appreciate.

    Reply
    • Annaka Koster

      Thanks, Marianne! It helps to be able to wring some measure of joy out of my occasionally bewildering patron interactions.

      Reply
  3. Kyric Koning

    Wow. Just wow. Customer service is rough wherever you are, I guess.

    Always a delight reading one of your pieces. Light in both the illuminating and easygoing ways. And the “de” prefix highlights how you often approach things critically and sometimes tragically. All of which is to say, I enjoy it immensely. You somehow find that sweet spot that makes it universally enjoyable. Can always count on you for a good laugh. May your own good humor see you through.

    Reply
    • Annaka Koster

      After last month’s piece I felt a real need to create something with levity. Fortunately 80% of my customer service interactions are pleasantly banal and most of the rest are at least humorous in hindsight.

      Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  4. Sandy Kayes

    Wait …. The library keeps notes on patrons? My mind took a slight detour there. Made me laugh as usual. But I need to know what the hieroglyphs mean. Should I ask the info desk? (2 copies please)

    Reply

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