Adventures In Customer Service

Names will not be mentioned in this point to protect the identities of the unreasonable.

I work for a small public library branch. I’m not concerned about mentioning this fact, as there are 28 library branches in my county and even if you take out all the branches that are too big to fit the previous description, the odds of guessing which one I work at are very slight. And even if you’re right, it’s not like I’m going to tell you.

For the most part, mine is a wonderful job. I love the duality of my life; I suit up in my motorcycle leathers every day, put on my helmet that’s emblazoned with skulls, climb onto my motorcycle and ride to my job where I then read picture books to children and sing songs with them for story times.

But everyone who has ever worked in public service for more than five minutes knows that sometimes things don’t go smoothly. Sometimes, working with the public is a little, well, . . . strange.

I had a few of those this week. These weren’t the scary kinds of incident, the ones that end with my calling the police. They were just the kinds of things that make you scratch your head and really wonder about people.

First scenario:

A man comes into the library and asks for a study room. We’re a small library, so we only have the one study room and it’s occupied. The man points to a staff work room (which actually happens to be my office).

Man: What about that room? It looks empty.

Me: That’s a staff work room.

Man: So I can use it?

Me: You’re not a staff member.

Man: But nobody else is using it.

Me (thinking about the carefully organized stacks of paperwork, the stacked crafting supplies I’m in the process of organizing, and the calendar with all my various engagements and other business for the month, all neatly organized on the desk): It’s really only for staff use.

Man: I think that’s pretty selfish.

Me: I don’t really know how to answer that.

Second scenario:

A man comes up to the information desk carrying a few pieces of paper. He stops near the same staff office and peers inside for a few seconds.

Me: Is there anything I can help you with?

Man: I noticed you have a paper slicer in that room.

Me (warily): Yeah . . . ?

Man: Can I use it?

Me: I’m afraid not.

Man: Why not?

Me (thinking): Because I don’t know you, I don’t know who you are, I don’t know if you’re a crazy person, so I’m not going to let you near what is basically a scimitar loosely attached to a piece of wood. At best, you’ll manage to cut your own finger off. At worse, you’ll decapitate someone. You’re not getting near this paper slicer.

Me (what I actually say): I think I’d get fired if I let a non-staff member use it.

Man: Why?

Me: Liability.

Man: That doesn’t seem right.

Me: Yeah.

And scene.

I think the lesson here is that I really need to start closing the door to that office.

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