Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Cerberus Guards the Gates of the Library

I remember why we haven't been to the library in several years. I remembered when we walked in today. The people there piss me off! They are OH SO UNFRIENDLY! That's no way to run a library, people!

I understand that the workers are probably unpaid volunteers. Because if the were paid, they wouldn't be volunteers. And they might be nicer, because they were afraid of being fired from a paying job. But these women are out of control. They want to be IN control. Of everything library.

I swear, this one old gal, I'll call her Cerberus, nearly snarled at us when we walked in. She must have smelled my preposition-ending-sentence-scented carcass a mile away. To begin with, this is a big stone building that looks like something out of The Scarlet Letter. Just not a real inviting place. It used to have a wrought-iron gate through a two-foot-high stone fence, but the gate has been removed. To present a more welcoming facade, perhaps. Then you have to open a giant wooden door. It is solid wood, not that hollow stuff that is used nowadays. And it is about 10 feet tall. So tall, in fact, that #1 son grabbed my arm, and said, "Wait! You're going to hit that ceiling light with the door." Sad thing is, he did this on the way out. The second time we went out, forgetting that the door had not hit the light the other three times. I told him, "Don't be so nervous, Nelly. This door has been used for a hundred years without breaking that light." Not the 'Nelly' part, because that might hurt his fragile self-esteem, but the '100 year' part I said. And as we walked up the short sidewalk, the boy looked back and replied, "Well, to be exact, you should say '140 years', because that's how old this building is." My son, the historian.

I'm betting that Cerberus was there for the groundbreaking. I don't generally make fun of people for their appearance. Not much. Every now and then, maybe. But Cerberus looked like a vulture. She wore black. She had that hump on her back, and her neck dipped down and curved up like the pipe under a kitchen sink, and she had a feathery cap of white hair over her leathery, beaked muzzle. Perhaps I should not call her Cerberus, because she only had the one head, and I don't like to compare a book sanctuary with H E Doublehockeysticks. It's not like I loaded the young 'uns in the LSUV and said, "We're on an express elevator to h*ll!" Laws no! M O O N. That spells,"I'm neither Private Hicks, nor his look-alike, Corporal Hudson, from Aliens, and the LSUV is certainly not a transport ship, and I would never tell my children that I'm taking them on a field trip to h*ll. They can find out when we get there, and then they won't be saying 'Are we there yet? How much farther till we get to h*ll, Mom?' for the entire ride."

So we walked up the short hallway to the admit desk, or whatever Cerberus likes to call her control center. Cerberus also had another white-hair as backup. I think she was a young trainee. They did not greet us. It was like Staredown at the OH SO NOT-OK Corral. Finally, I said, "I think we will have to pay a fee. We live out of town, and have not been here for a couple years." They hmpfed and huffed, and Cerberus typed in our names and asked our address. She said, "Do you have your cards?" Umm...no. I'm not sure they ever gave us the freakin' cards, because the first time we went there, they pulled this crap, and made us pay, and said we had to wait a week to get the cards before we could check anything out. Which did not set well with Mrs. Hillbilly Mom, but we followed through, and DID check out books that summer, but for the life of me I don't think they ever gave us freakin' cards. That's because I am a collector, but not in the 79 cats in my house kind of collector, but in the I can't throw away paperwork kind of collector. And so is #1 son. So when Cerberus tapped her paw and said if we didn't have cards, it would be three more dollars plus the five dollar out-of-city-limits fee, I said we would go out to the car and look.

And look, we did. I told #1 he might have his in one of his old wallets, but he said, "No. I just looked through them yesterday. I was looking to see if I had any gift cards I hadn't used." I looked in the middle pouch thingy of my checkbook. It's a freakin' library of congress in there. I had a business card from a nutritionist at the hospital when I was six months pregnant with #1 son...which would be...oh...going on...13 years ago. And numerous lawyer cards from when I first met HH and he was dealing with custody issues, and allergist appointment cards from when the boys were 1 and 4 years old. So I swear by the love of Gummi Mary, they just forgot to hand us those cards that year. Anyhoo...we went back in and forked over the extra three bucks. Then Cerberus asked us what we were there for today. HELLO! To check out some books. "Oh, so you didn't want to use our computers?" NO. Lady, we have more computers in our house than you have in this Scarlet Letter-jail-impersonating library. She looked up some ancient history books on Rome and Egypt for #2 son, in the 930s, thankyouverymuch, and we descended into the bookatorium. Because even though you enter from the street, it's a good two-story descent to get to the main floor of the library. Lucky for me, there was a set of stairs, so I didn't have to rappel.

Oh, and #1 son was so kind to point out the elevator while we were waiting in line. His whisper may have been picked up by the eagle-ears of Cerberus, thus enhancing her unfriendliness. "Look, Mom. There's an elevator. Look at the sign. 'Do not use elevator unless you need it. It is not a toy.' Why put it in if you can't use it?" I gave him the stinkeye and said, "Shut up. We're not using it."

#2 son found his books right away. I wasn't sure how many we could take, so I told him TWO. He sat down in a comfortable chair while #1 and I looked. I just like to browse. I have no idea what I want when I go in. I read the book jackets. #1 wanted to look up books on the computer. I told him to go ask the Guadian, because we had told her all we wanted to to was check out books. She OKed him, so he searched for some, but they didn't have them. He even browsed the young adult section, but found nothing. I told him to have something in mind next time, perhaps an autobiography of Bill Gates, or something on major disasters. Things that interest him. I, on the other hand, chose A Million Little Pieces, just to see what the flap is all about, and I most certainly wouldn't buy it, and Comanche Moon, because I've always enjoyed Larry McMurtry, and there's going to be a TV mini-series of this, methinks, with Linda Cardellini, who is Sam-the-Nurse from ER and Velma from Scooby Doo rolled into one, and I want to know what the story is about before I watch it, but I think it is the saga of Call and Gus of Lonesome Dove fame in their younger years.

#2 son got Rulers of Egypt- Cleopatra: Ruling in the Shadow of Rome, and The Great Pyramid of Cheops. He already knows more about history than I do. Which doesn't take much.

We ascended to Cerberus level, and YO and behold, Cerberus had left her post. Trainee appeared a bit nervous all by her lonesome. It was almost like she was trying to be cordial. She said, "I'll have to wait until she comes back. I don't know what to do." Oh, then Cerberus got wind of us, and clawed her way back to the guard shack. She said, "What's the problem?" Trainee told her, "These are the people without their cards. I'm not sure what to do." Cerberus let out a sulphurous sigh, rolled her rheumy eyes, and said, "See? On the clipboard? Type in their numbers." Trainee did so. Cerberus said, "What are you waiting for?" Trainee said, "I don't know what to do next." Cerberus spat patronizingly, "You scan. The. Book." She picked up that little gun thingy with the red light coming out of it, and scanned the bar code. So then Trainee did it on her own. I was a bit unhappy with Cerberus. You know how old people are with computers. She didn't have to belittle her crony so badly in front of us eight-dollar-paying customers.

I yanked open that massive door and we stepped out into the sunlight. Ahh...I was feeling much like fictional Hester upon exiting the jail. Though I carried neither a painstakingly embroidered 'A' upon my bosom, nor a tiny, mewling bast*rd in my arms.

Methinks mecrossed the line into The Twilight Zone. Once upon a time, I muddled along, living the quiet life of Redneck Diva. Now, it seems as if I have been plopped down into Meanie's life. Diva's library ladies love her. But only in Meanie's world could there be beaurocratic library beasts, impeding people from getting their read on.


Mean Teacher said...

It does sometimes seem that our worlds are similar, and I suppose I do have more than my fair share of experiences with progress-impeding bureaucrats, but our local library is actually quite pleasant. I don't think you have to pay any fees for living out of town. You just have to live in the county...or maybe just the state. I'm not sure. The ladies in the library at my junior college were much like your Cerberus. That pisses me off that she berated a gray haired crony in front of people for not being sure what to do with a computer. Crony's probably just an old widow who's trying to make a dollar, or find something pleasant to do with her dwindling time.

I too recently went to my library for the first time in a long time. Last Friday for some reason I decided to go take care of my paperwork at the school district's office right smack dab in the middle of lunch hour. Since nobody was there, I went to the public library to kill some time. I usually go to USM's library because they don't charge late fees, but I think the public one is better. I had to pay a huge fine for late books, and a dollar for a new card. (Hey, if I'm not responsible to turn books in before I accumulate $35 in fines, what makes you think I can keep up with a card!?)

I got a couple of books on marine life. I thought perhaps I could identify the swimming suit invaders. No luck. There are too many different things that might possibly crawl into your underwear and die for me to ever identify who the culprit was.

Sorry for hijacking.

Not really though.

Stewed Hamm said...

Why did none of my teachers ever quote lines from Aliens when I was in school? Man, I was so robbed of a quality edumacation.

LanternLight said...

I'd thought you'd have special access to the school library?

then Cerberus got wind of us, and clawed her way back to the guard shack.

Those spawn of concentration camp guards had to end up somewhere didn't they!

Hillbilly Mom said...

That's a lot of fines. What are you, some kind of scofflaw?

I suppose you didn't have teachers as cool as me. Or Meanie.

I do, during school. But nobody can check out any books in the summer. Or for the first two weeks of school. Or the last two weeks of school. And they don't have a good selection of books that I like. But I do check them out for my kids.

That old grayhair was frightening. I bet she cooks kitten-eye soup for supper. And rides in the elevator after closing time.

Redneck. Diva. said...

Our public library used to charge fees for us country folk, but the last time I went in, they happily announced that they were waiving that fee AND giving out cards that were good for 3 years instead of 1. She seemed nearly giddy about it, like it was the neatest thing since sliced bread. I mean, it was neat and all, but I wasn't giddy. Just pleasantly surprised.

My loving library ladies are the ones from the college one, not the public one. Those college library ladies even loved me before I was a college student! That's love. There's only one nice lady at the public library and she's the children's librarian. She's so sweet and soft-spoken and the kids just think she's the cat's meow. But everyone else is related to your Cerberus. I'm sure of it.

Hillbilly Mom said...

Perhaps the DoRag frightened them.