So, here's why I can't go back to my local library branch.
Personally, I blame the Who. More specifically, I blame their 2006 rock opera, Endless Wire, which, although I have never heard it (a little more on this later), I can only imagine is pretty terrible. Seriously, there's no point in calling it a Who album if the band doesn't include Keith Moon or John Entwhistle. Duh. And Pete Townshend, enough with the rock operas. We get it, it's sort of your thing and they're all high-brown and stuff, but man, they suck. Okay, yeah Tommy's pretty widely enjoyed (even if I think it's sort of crap) and you've got me on Quadrophenia (it's a pretty great record), but Psychoderelict? The Iron Man? Lifehouse? White City? Nobody wants to hear that but old muso fogeys. It's boring.
It all started when I tried to renew David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries, which so far is pretty fantastic. I encountered an error on the Las Vegas Clark County Library District's newly-uglified website. Awesome. So, I figured there was some sort of error with the website transition and planned on dropping by my local branch to set it straight. So, while I was logged in, I looked into what books I still had checked out and saw that the system was showing me as having Travis' The Man Who record as well as the aforementioned Endless Wire still checked out, which was weird because, yeah, I'd never checked that out. I had checked out the Travis record in an effort to re-import it into my iTunes at a higher bitrate than what I had (256 kbps vs. the 128 kbps I had in there previously), but I remembered not needing to do so because, turns out, I had already re-ripped it. Awesome. But I'd returned The Man Who like a week and a half ago. Weird.
No worries, though. I was sure that the librarians could help me figure it out.
First off, you guys know me. You know how I feel about libraries. If the Conservatives would chill out a little and let a brother live, I would marry libraries. Our babies would be books. Incredibly white books, but books nonetheless. And since returning to Vegas, I'd sort of grown to like my local library system, even though it treated me like both an employee and a criminal.
See, thanks to (I'm assuming) budget cuts and the relative inexpensiveness of RFID tags, most of the stuff that used to be handled by employees of the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District – stuff like pulling held items and checking out those items – have now devolved onto the shoulders of the patrons. Which is kind of cool in a "pick your own strawberries," sort of way, I guess. I don't have to feel guilty about putting a bunch of stuff on hold or checking out a pile of DVDs or CDs, since I'm having to do all that work myself instead of a LVCCLD employee. This does, however lead to a few annoying moments, like, for instance, if the security device on one of your items decides not to deactivate no matter how many times you wave it across the pad in like a million directions and you and the always borderline psychopathic security guard are stuck trying to figure out which item is causing the doorway thingies to beep like you're stealing something.
And yeah, I can sort of understand why you won't give my kid a library card without me showing some sort of proof of residency even though I myself have a library card that I had to show proof of residency in order to procure. I mean, it seems a little extreme (we're not buying a car or applying for a credit card here, you know?) but there are enough charlatans in Vegas that I can see how you'd need to be a little more strict, I guess, even though I told the guy who told me so that I thought this was a "pretty dumb" policy before I stormed off with my sad kid.
So anyway, LVCCLD is sort of like a gulag, where you're forced to labor while being treated like criminals. (So I'm being dramatic. Sue me.) I should have known that I was in trouble when I moseyed up to the counter and got the same guy who rejected my kids' library card application without proof of residency and the same guy who had told me that he just couldn't bend the rules and let me check out this one extra held DVD because it would put me over the limit, thereby causing me to return the very next day to return one DVD and check out the other one. This guy's been here for years. I remember when he was a high-schooler re-shelving returns back in the good old days, where you'd find me sitting on one of those step-stools in front of the CDs or lurking in the section that held the same five graphic novels I'd read before. Aaaaah, memories. Based on my previous encounters with him, something told me that there would be "nothing he could do" to help me out with this The Man Who/Who snafu.
Sure enough, he was powerless in the face of bureaucracy. The Who CD belonged to another branch and I'd have to "go down there" and work it out with them.
"Um, no. I'm not 'going down there,' to fix this. That's crazy." I said. "Obviously, this is a mix-up of some sort, I never checked out this Who CD."
No, he assured me, I had checked it out. It was nigh impossible that it would show up as being checked out to me if it were not so, but since this belongs to ______ branch, they would have to fix it. There was, he informed me, "nothing he could do." Well, he could do one thing: he could renew Bicycle Diaries for me. Anything more than that was just too difficult. Gee, thanks. You're a pro and a bro.
(I should also add here that during this entire exchange, this dude's giving me the old "Oh man, not this a**hole again," look.)
So, I left frustrated and went about my business, too flustered and flummoxed by the Red Tape Tango to remember that I had the complete Twin Peaks on hold. Which is how I found myself totally sneaking in a few hours later to try and stealthily check it out without running into my nemesis. Except guess what? The self-service machine informs me that there's a "HOLD SHELF CONFLICT" and I can't check it out. So, it's back to the circulation desk. Yipee.
I see my nemesis shifting in his chair, but he's "helping" another customer, so I get a youngish woman who, apparently, is familiar enough with the situation (Hey, I've worked in this type pf atmosphere before. I'm sure he was commiserating with her about this guy who always gets mad when I just flat-out refuse to do anything for him.) to inform me that my account is on hold until I "go down there" to the other location and get this sorted out. She is equally ineffectual, unable to do anything beyond telling me that maybe I can call "down there" and see if they can fix it over the phone. But again, despite my insistence that I never checked out this Who CD, there's just nothing she or, apparently, anyone else can do to help me.
So, I call "down there" and proceed to vent on this poor lady who, again, can do nothing to help me other than calm me down a bit. She tells me I'd have to call first thing Monday morning and talk to their head of circulation and see if there was anything she could do. She did give me the bar-code for the Travis CD and gave me some tips for dealing with my local branch.
Only one problem; it's Saturday. This is gonna bug me all weekend if I have to wait until Monday. Maybe, just maybe there's *something" my local branch can do. Let's call them. Why not, right?
So, back into it. I call my local branch and talk to the same lady I spoke with like a half-hour earlier. I try and find out how this might have happened and she's totally not helpful, bordering on hostile. It's decided: I checked both of them out and must have switched them, despite the fact that I'm sitting here, telling her, "No. I never checked out that Who CD. Why would I? It's probably terrible!"
"I don't know, but that's the only solution." So, could they have been mixed up before I checked them out? Because I don't think I even opened that one. "I don't know. The other branch will have to answer that for you because that Travis CD isn't here. You must still have it." Um, I don't have it. I returned it. "Well, did you keep the receipt?" No. It gave me the option to print my receipt and I pressed "No." Thought I'd save a receipt tree. "Well, you'll probably have to pay to replace the Travis CD, then. Maybe the other one, too, the Endless Wire one. You should always keep your receipts." Then why not just make the receipts mandatory, if they're your only recourse in a situation like this? Why give me the option? "Well, some people don't want them." Yeah, uh, like me. But can't you check and see that I returned this or, I mean, if it came from another branch, wouldn't I have had to request it? Can you look that up and see that I never requested it? "No, we don't keep those records." Really? "Really."
"So," I ask, "let me get this straight, if I can't get this other branch to fix this, I'm going to have to pay for this CD I know I returned as well as this other one I never checked out."
"This is bordering on Kafka-esque here, m'am." I chuckle in frustration, half-expecting to sprout cockroach wings at any moment. "Can you see why this is very frustrating?"
"I guess so, yes. But, like I said," say it with me, kids, "there's nothing we can do on this end."
"Alright. Thanks." And I hang up, defeated. But no sooner have I hung up and start to explain the conversation to Candace – who has already figured it all out and is just being nice at this point, pitying her poor, "special needs" husband who has to somehow beat the system to feel sort of like he isn't insignificant in a world that has rendered him neutral – that I think of another angle to try and weasel myself between the bureaucracy and what I want. To the Dolt-Phone!
So I call back. I know, I know. I'm "That Guy." But this time I end up getting the reference desk somehow. I can sort of picture the guy I'm talking to because I mean, there are like a half dozen people working there and I'm there like once a week. So I explain to him my situation. He pulls up my account and goes to see if he can figure out what's going on.
I'm on hold and it's playing "On Hold," music which, who makes this stuff? I wonder if it's "the Overture," from the Who's epic Endless Wire opus and start to cry on the inside. The music plays on, some weird mixture of easy listening and ambient noise. Tuneless, formless. Audio ficusses dotting the landscape of waiting.
Aaand, just when I think he's forgotten about me, the Reference Dude is back. I brace myself for the lament of impotence; the inevitable, "There's nothing we can do, but maybe if you call this person 'down there' they can help you, even though I know dang well they can't."
Instead, I'm met with a, "Well, okay. I think we figured this out. It looks like the CDs were mixed up when you checked them out." Lo & behold! "Why couldn't this have been figured out the first time?" I wonder to myself, but keep it there for fear of angering the Library Gods. Reference Dude tells me that they'll take care of it. The other stuff has been taken off my account and I should be good to go. I refresh my browser window and KA-BLAM! he's right. Justice – like lightning!
"Are you serious?!" I exclaim, "This is great! You're the fourth person I've spoken to and none of them could help me." I am overflowing with love for Reference Dude.
"Okay." he retorts, probably wanting to be rid of This Dude Who Just Won't Stop.
Not one to know when to stop, I say, "Thank you. You are an incredible person. If I were standing in front of you, I would hug you." Yeah, I did. This is almost an exact quote. Sensing that I have crossed some sort of line because I am totally socially retarded, and, well, I totally have, I say thanks again, get an "Okay, okay," in return and hang up.
And that, ladies and gentlemen of the Internet, is why I can never go into that library branch again, at least not without some sort of disguise. Does anybody know where a fella can get a decent fake mustache in Las Vegas?