Saturday, October 26, 2013

Attack of the Middle Class Mom

Calling the holds is a mindless task, joyful in its simplicity. Each of the books in the stack at my elbow holds a printed receipt that says, “Hold (this item) for (this patron) until (three days from now). Call them at (this number).” I casually cradle the phone with one hand and browse the New York Times bestsellers with the other, checking the online list against the library’s collection and submitting the occasional purchase request to our cataloger.

I can get through two, sometimes three titles as the phone rings on and on before triggering the patron’s voicemail. At the sound of the beep, I intone, “Good morning. This is Tori at the Library. I’m calling for (patron’s name). I wanted to let you know an item you requested is available and we can hold it for you until (three days from now). Thank you and have a great day.”

Then I hang up, check the name on the next receipt, dial the number listed, and browse some more. So simple. So beautiful. This repetitive motion elicits a state of zen, a mental lull similar to what one might achieve through yoga or tai chi.  I am but a cog in this efficient machine, comforting in its regularity.

Beep: “Good morning. This is Tori at the Library. I’m calling for (patron’s name). I wanted to let you know an item you requested is available and we can hold it for you until (three days from now). Thank you and have a great day,” all in one breath, without pause. Hang up. Check name. Dial number. Browse. Beep: “Good morning. This is Tori at the Library. I’m calling for (patron’s name). I wanted to let you know an item you requested is available and we can hold it for you until (three days from now). Thank you and have a great day.” Hang up. Check name. Dial—

Check the name again.

Oh, crap: It’s her.

Panic! Why is it always her? Frak!

Stay calm! Maybe she won’t pick up? Yeah, that’s it. Maybe she won’t pick up.

Dial the number. It’s ringing. Still ringing. Please don’t pick up. Please don’t pick up…


It Beeped! Oh, thank you, baby Jesus! Quickly now! “GoodMorning. ThisIsToriAtTheLibrary. I’mCallingForMumbleMumble. IWantedToLetYouKnow—”

Muffled static followed by, “Hello?”

No! No! I was so close! Why, God?

But I speak with calm composure and professional courtesy. Just get through the speech, Tori. “Good morning. This is Tori at the Library. I’m calling for (patron’s name)…”

She interrupts me, “This is (patron’s name) speaking.”

I sigh, and continue. “I wanted to let you know an item you requested is available and we…”

“It must be the one for (older child)! Can you tell me the name of the book?”

I look. “It’s (extremely popular middle school book). We can hold it for you until…”

“Is that the one from (that series all the kids are reading)?”

“No, ma’am. It’s the one from (the required reading list at the schools).”

“Are you sure? I don’t remember requesting that one.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Let me just ask (older child) if he requested that one.” I hear her hand muffling the phone as she yells across the house. I don’t even bother to browse books while I wait: the rhythm is gone. “(Older child) says he didn’t request that book. Can you double check my account and tell me if we’re still in line for (that series all the kids are reading)? We placed it on hold (after they announced the impending movie) and that was weeks ago and we haven’t heard from you guys yet.”

I push the stack of holds aside as I pull up her account: I won’t be getting back to those anytime soon. “I’m showing that you’re still in line for that book. It’s just not available yet.”

“Really? But that was weeks ago!”

“Yes, ma’am, but now there are only two people ahead of you. There were probably more before.”

“Great!” she says, and I brace my soul against the coming onslaught that I sense on the other end of the line. “Now can you tell me what else I have out and when it’s due? I lost the due date receipt and I think it was on a Thursday but I’m not sure. I’d like to renew those, if possible.”

“Yes, ma’am, there are five books and…”

“They were late, weren’t they? Can you tell me what my fine is?”

“Actually they were…”

“Can you also look up (older child)’s account and tell me how many books he has and how much his fine is going to be and does he have any items on hold and where is he on the list for (other extremely popular middle school book)?”

“Okay, it looks like he’s…”

“Would you tell me which phone number you have on file for him? In fact, let’s check the accounts for my other children while I have you on the phone. I don’t have their cards handy so you’ll have to look them up. They have a different last name than me. It’s ‘M’ as in ‘Mary’, ‘A’ as in ‘Adam’, C-Z-E-P-(other letters that all sound alike over the phone).”

“Could you repeat the…”

“Actually, I’m glad you called. I’ve just remembered: can I get on the list for (book that came out yesterday)?”

“Well, that’s…”

“How about (book that comes out next week)?”

“We don’t…”

“You don’t have that yet? Can you tell me if you’ll be getting it?”


“How about (book that comes out six months from now)?”

“I’m not…”

“Can you tell me if you have (book that’s out of print)? Can I make an Inter-Library Loan request for it? Do you know how long that will take?”

“It usually…”

“Oh! Wait!”

I wait. It’s a long pause.

“I remember now! That book you called about? It’s not for (older child) after all! It’s for (woman, I don’t know your children and don’t care who it’s for)! How long did you say you could hold that for me?”

I hesitate, waiting for the next question, but there isn’t one. “Three days from now,” I say.

“Wonderful! You’ve been super helpful. Thanks a bunch!” she says.

“ThankYouAndHaveAGreatDay!” I say, then I quickly hang up and leave the desk in case she calls back.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Grinch for All Occasions

In Whoville one day, in October or so,

At the library, where all the hippest Whos go,

The librarians informed all the patrons and Whos

That in only three weeks all their books would be due,

And librarian Tori was ecstatic that day,

For, you see, Halloween was just three weeks away.


“Halloween’s almost here!” Tori squealed with delight.

“We can dress up in costumes and stay up all night!

We’ll eat pumpkin spice chocolates and pet the black cats

And stream purple streamers from our pointy witch hats!

With hay rides and hauntings and pumpkin d├ęcor,

Halloween is a treasure I simply adore!”


She smiled at the patrons and spread her good cheer

Until just after lunch when two Grinches appeared.


After giving the library a cursory look,

They came to the desk with their stacks of good books


And librarian Tori, who checked them out neatly,

Passed them their stacks and she smiled at them sweetly.

She told them “These books are all due Halloween.”


The Grinch wife sneered sourly. “What’s that s’posed to mean?”


“Isn’t this America?” the Grinch husband spat.


“That’s Satan’s high holiday. We don’t celebrate that.”


“Nevertheless,” Tori said as she smiled at the two,

“That is the day all your books will be due.”


The Grinches stormed out, both hateful and dour

While the little librarian seethed for an hour.

And although she recovered her cheerfulness later,

She would never forget this Grinchy behavior,

For there was something about it that bugged her by inches:

“These people,” she thought, “didn’t have to be Grinches…”

Each day we’ve a choice to be Grinchy or not,

And some people don’t always choose as they ought.

We’re surrounded by Grinches no matter the season,

When people act Grinchy for any old reason!


It’s not just at Christmas that Grinches are found:

Grinches are everywhere, all the year ‘round.

When people are smiling and in a good mood,

It’s just downright Grinchy to say something rude,

Regardless of what you might think or believe

About Halloween, Valentines, or next New Year’s Eve.


If you’re out and you hear “Happy Holidays” said

But you think “Merry Christmas” should be uttered instead,

(likewise if you feel the reverse to be true),

Get over it! Don’t to be a Grinch to those Whos!

No one deserves to be treated unfairly

When their greetings, at heart, were both “happy” and “merry”.


It's possible you might feel Grinchy sometimes,

When you're paying the bills or you're standing in line

At the DMV or at some other place, 

And it's tough at such times to keep a smile on your face,

But unless your heart is two sizes too small, 

Don't be a Grinch! There's no need at all!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Tea Shop Dream

As I do every morning, I set the scale in the middle of the bathroom floor and graced it with my touch. It rewarded me with disappointment. Not like that dream I had, though! That wasn’t disappointing at all. I had to tell someone about it! Luckily, I had a captive audience.

“Last night I dreamed I owned a tea shop!” I said to my husband, conveniently cornered in the shower.

“Hmm,” Matt said over the sound of running water.

I sat on the edge of the bathroom counter and combed my hair. “Yeah, it was great! We sold fabulous organic loose leaf tea and people could buy the tea leaves or they could drink it there…”

“Sounds nice.”

“Only I had a huge problem with squirrels, 'cause, like, they wanted the tea...”


“Not to drink, though. The loose tea, because of all the delicious nuts and herbs in it. So the shop was constantly besieged by this army of squirrels and it was really bad for business.”

“I’m sure.”

“But then one day I noticed that the squirrels had trouble with the raw tea because some of the nuts were really hard on their teeth, and so I told the commander of the squirrel army—,”

“Ooh, boy...”

“Did you say something?”


“Hmm. Anyway, I told him, ‘You know, those would be softer if you brewed them first. And by the way, have you ever actually HAD tea?’ And it turns out, squirrels really like tea—I mean, to drink—but also the brewing thing worked well for their teeth.”

“How nice for them.”

“Then I started an exchange program where people could bring in their used tea leaves! The squirrels bought the used tea (cheaply, because squirrels don't have a lot of money), and the people who brought in the used tea got a discount on their future tea purchases, and everyone was happy!”

In the shower, the water flowed steadily. I might have heard sighing. “I love you, my little psychopath. Please don't kill me,” Matt said.

I scoffed at his attitude. “It's not crazy! It makes sense!”

“No, it's totally crazy.”

“Also,” I said, getting to the best part, “the squirrels would eat right out of my hand and that was awesome.”

“That’s great,” Matt said, turning the water off and snagging the towel from the bar on the wall.

As he slipped past me into the bedroom, I could tell he wasn’t impressed. Maybe it really was crazy. It had made so much sense in my sleep. I wondered what it all meant. “The dream interpretation guides probably don't have much to say about squirrels in tea shops,” I mused, taking his place in the shower.

“I'm guessing penis envy,” Matt called from the other room.

I gasped in offense. “How do you get penis envy out of squirrels in tea shops?”

Standing in the bathroom doorway so I could hear him over the running water, he said, “I’m just telling you what Freud would say.”

I sighed. Maybe I needed to find someone else to tell about my dream, I thought. Or maybe it was crazy after all.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

My Limited Governance

There’s a story my grandma tells:

While she was babysitting three-year-old me, I wanted to play pretend. She asked what we should pretend. I said we should pretend I was Queen of the Spider Women, which amused my grandma to no end. At which point I said, “And you shall be my servant. Kneel, servant,” and she was less amused.

After playing along for a time, fetching things for me and preparing my meals to my exact specifications, grandma grew tired of the game and, seeking an easy out with which to end the charade, said, “My queen! The peasants have risen against you! What should we do?”

“Kill dem,” I said, with the adorable speech impediment that went uncorrected until third grade.

“Kill them?” said grandma, shocked at my callous disregard for the lower classes.

“Yes, kill dem,” I clarified. “Dey have disappointed me.”

As much as I admire three-year-old me, that right there is one of the reasons I’m not in charge.


I tried to understand the government shutdown. I really did. I read articles about it, both from reliable news sources and from Fox. I watched videos, both from reliable news sources and from Youtube reports. I listened to the complaints from friends and neighbors, both in person and in bad infographics on Facebook, and I felt really bad for the 1 (one) friend I have with a bad case of “the furlough”.

Then I got distracted by cute cat pictures on the internet.

So that’s another reason I’m not in charge.


 “Would you look at this?” I held up the library book so my coworker Tiffany could see that, while trying to remove the year-old “New Books” sticker, I’d ripped another cover. “Every time! Why can’t they give these things better covers?”

“The publishers certainly don’t make books with libraries in mind,” Tiffany said, nodding sympathetically as she layered plastic laminate over a paperback children’s book to make it last longer.

“Well, they should!” I said. “In fact, when I’m in charge—‘cause that’s totally going to happen someday. It’s a given—when I’m in charge, all the publishers will have to tow the line. First, better covers. Then, standard sizes for all the children’s picture books: I hate all the different heights and lengths! And they’re going to clearly state on the spine of the book whether it’s part of a series and which volume number it is. I mean, the name of the series needs to be bigger than the title, alright? And let’s bring back subject headings on the copyright page! They still do it for nonfiction, but in fiction? Don’t make me read the summary to figure out which genre sticker I have to put on this thing!”

“It all sounds wonderful,” Tiffany said. “You’ve given this a lot of thought.”

“Yes,” I said. “Mine will be a chaotic rule, as no one will collect the taxes and people will be starving in the streets, but at least the publishing industry will be sorted out.”

This seems like a perfectly valid reason not to put me in charge.


“Goodnight, you guys!” I told the evening shift on my way out the door on Wednesday. “I’ll leave you to solve all the world’s problems in my absence, okay?”

“What, all of them?” said Benjamin, exchanging a look with Kristina.

“Yeah, it might take you an hour or two. Just try to focus: I know how easily distracted you can be,” I said, turning to leave.

“Wait!” Benjamin called after me. “Is there a moral or ethical standard we should start from?”

“Oh, heavens no,” I said. “Ethics just complicate things. Have fun!”

I shouldn’t have been surprised on Thursday afternoon when they proudly proclaimed they had the solution. “But you won’t like it,” Kristina said.

“Spill it,” I said.

Benjamin went into full-on Rant Mode: “Well, in the absence of moral standards, everyone agrees that there’s no afterlife and no purpose to living, and it’s all meaningless and—”

Kristina cut him off: “Benjamin advocates mass suicide.”

“That’s your answer?” I said, looking his way. “Try again, but this time devise a solution in which I get to live.”

When Benjamin and I were closing the library Friday afternoon, he said, “I think we’ve really got it this time.”

“Okay, shoot.”

“If we still don’t care about ethics, what we should do is close all the prisons. Just shove all the inmates in a hole or a pit somewhere and use the money we would have spent on them to solve all the financial issues.”

“Oh, that’s marvelous!” I said. “I like it!”

“Wait,” said Tiffany. “Why not an island?”

“Because Australia,” said Benjamin. “You put all the criminals on an island and eventually they take it over, start breeding, maybe even prospering, and the next thing you know they’re cutting down all the trees and building ships and you have an armada of criminals sailing in to repopulate the world after the apocalypse.”

“That’s… not quite what happened in Australia,” I said.

“Still, no islands.”

“Okay, but let’s think this through. Last time we threw a bunch of criminals in a pit, one of them got out and Bane destroyed Gotham!” I said.

“Are you seriously going to protest this plan based on a fictional example?” Benjamin asked.

“So far, it’s a fictional plan, so yes.”

He sighed. “Fine.”

The last patrons of the day were checking out their books. I checked the clock on my phone to see if I could lock the doors yet.

Then Benjamin said, “No, it’s a good plan! Bane didn’t climb out of the pit! He was rescued!”

“That fixes everything!” I said.

And this would be but one of the many reasons I’m not in charge.