Wednesday, May 02, 2007

you ask me why i hate you, well i'll try and explain...

Yesterday had actually been going quite well, for a change most of my time at the reference desk was NOT spent alone, and things were going along quite swimmingly~smooth and quiet. My manager was working with me for most of the afternoon instead and then a substitute came in at 5:00, so i was able to get many of my projects done at the desk, like some of the collection development ordering i was behind on, putting the catalogs and professional literature in order, and getting started on begging for donations for our adult summer reading program that i have been neglecting for far too long.

I think i might have been lulled into a false sense of security~my migraine was even surprisingly low key~so i was quite unprepared for what was to come. The night before a rather unassuming old man who i had observed before on our internet computers but had never exchanged words with (i had informed him along with everyone else on the computers at closing time that it was time to finish up and received disgruntled looks from him in exchange), had approached our desk asking us to add extended internet time to his card. My manager looked at the clock (we had about 40 minutes before we closed), looked at the number of people on the internet stations, and rather reluctantly told him that we would, "this ONE TIME give him an extra half hour."

After i had added the time to his card she asked me if i had noticed his name and i told her i hadn't, she said she wanted his name so that we could reset his card at the end of the night and i told her my former manager had told me we didn't need to do that anymore because the system automatically did it now. We then discussed general philosophies of computer time and whether we should add time or not~i think if someone has some REALLY good reason i will make a Special exception but since Everyone gets two hours per day that seems fair. She said she likes to never add Any time and she thought it was up to the individual library but there was some kind of formula that you could apply of percentage of computers in use versus time left versus some type of too-complicated-bullshit-to-keep-track of.

Anyway...last night, about an hour before we were to close, this same old man (who looks something like Picasso's The Old Guitarist except his beard was a little longer and more twisted, and he was dressed in raggedy jeans) comes up to the desk and asks the sub to add more time to his card. As he started to hand it across the desk i opened my mouth, and so began my ordeal:

"I'm sorry sir, but last night we added time to your card as a one time exception so we will not be able to add any extra time to your card tonight."

"What do you mean?"

"Last night, when you had us add extra time to your card my manager told you that this a Special One Time Exception; So i am not going to give you any extra time tonight."

"Why not?"

(It is at this point that i realize that this was going to be a tedious conversation at the very least, and that this man, who had surprised my manager by even speaking the night before was not quite as meek as he had seemed) "As i said sir, i am not going to give you extra time tonight because you have already had your two hours, which is what everybody has, and to make continual exceptions as a matter of course sets a bad precedent and is unfair to everyone else."

"So you're not going to give me extra time."

"No, i'm not."

"Why not?"

Is this a game we are playing, i'm asking myself at this point, because i'm a pretty good game player but i'm not really in the mood. "Well, as i've explained to you, that is a special exception that we have already made for you so i am unable to make it for you again."

"Even though they've always done it for me before?"

I'm not sure who they are, not me (who works every night but one), not my manager, but anyway, "Well, it shouldn't have been happening on a consistent basis and we will have to make sure that policy is understood by everyone but no i cannot do it tonight."

"So you are not going to add time to my card?"

"That is what i'm saying."

"Well what is my recourse."

At this point the sub pipes up, "There isn't one." (i think i kindof love her.)

"There is no recourse?"

"No, not really." i say, i am running through options in my head, i could, of course offer him my manager's name or some other higher-up which i might do with some other person, but i decide with this particular individual i am not going to make that particular offer unless he goes there.

"Well I was at a community board meeting and they said that you had the option to add time to the cards."

"Yes, as you know, we do have that option, because we have exercised it for you before as a special exception, but i will not exercise that option as an exception for you tonight," (with each spin of the record i am visualizing a little decision tree in my head~do you think this man is crazy~if yes choose option a~if no choose option b~if not sure choose option c)

"You can do it but you won't."

"I can't make that exception for you, you've already had your two hours on the computer."

"I got a letter saying that you have the option."

(suddenly the meeting that he attended has materialized into a letter) "The question isn't whether or not we have the option it is when we make the exception which is not now."

"I have a letter in my car saying you have the option to give me more time."

(Now the letter is in his car~maybe he should trade his car in for a computer~this record is beyond broken) I'm sorry sir, but i will not give you more internet time tonight."

"What do you have against me?"

"I have nothing against you, i just can't make an exception for you and give you additional computer time, you have already had your two hours and you are welcome to come back tomorrow for an additional two hours."

"That is like saying someone can only read a book for two hours."

"No, actually it is like saying they can only check out a book for three weeks, then if no one is on hold for it they may renew it three times then they must bring it back in, which is our policy."

"This is ridiculous, I'm working on a project, and i want more computer time. Why are you doing this to me?"

(This IS ridiculous~did i die and go to purgatory~is this my eternal torment~to be locked in a never-ending, never-escalating argument with this man?) "I'm sorry, but i can't give you more computer time tonight."

"But you said you could, and you won't"

"I explained to you how we couldn't make special exceptions and i don't want to continue go round and round on this issue."

"Did I disgust you in some way? Did I offend you? Why do you hate me?"

(other than involve me in this????) "I don't hate you sir, i'm just not going to increase your computer time."

"What have I ever done to you people? Why are you treating me like this?"

At this point the i am hearing the Soft Cell song Secret Life playing in my head, as he talks, and i go through my little decision tree, i'm silently singing:

I'll give you anything

Anything to shut you up

Why do you hate me so much

What have i ever done to you

But leave you

(well i get to that last part which doesn't quite fit~i just wish he would disappear, go pouf into thin air~and then the song repeats itself~as this whole argument seems to repeat itself...)

"Sir, this conversation has become fruitless (BECOME???), and i'm not going to continue having it."

"So, you're not going to give me more time on the computer?"

(has that not been established YET???) "Sir, i am not going to continue having this conversation."

"My god, why am I being treated this way, why do you hate me so?"

"I am not going to continue this conversation." though it seems to be going on and on (and i must note here that i no point in any of this have either of our voices been raised in the slightest). I figure that at some point he will give up and leave or he will blow up and i can tell him he must leave.

He makes some last paranoid-like statement then leaves with a final (rather quiet) "Fuck you" before he exits.

And then the sub said, "I'm so glad you were here." and i said, "Well if i wasn't i wasn't here you would have jus added time to his card and none of that would have happened."

I breathe a little, and go to call my manager to let her know of the fun i'm having in her absence.

I did notice that a)all the internet stations had filled up even though they had only been half full when he originally asked so it was perfectly reasonable that there can be an unexpected demand for them and b)my migraine was noticeably absent though if that's the cure, i don't know that i want it.

Now it may seem to some of you that i was unreasonably harsh but i was doing what my manager wanted and i was being pushed~anyone who knows me will tell you one of the few traits of my birthsign i truly retain is that Taurean stubbornness~i can dig in my heels better than pretty much anyone. It's a weakness, i know, but i own it. Here's a tip for everyone though, i've spent well over twenty years in customer service in all sorts of different venues (many of them even in management)and it's all in the approach~treat me like a person, explain the situation, and i'll probably work with you~if you push me or try to intimidate me you will get the horns every time; when i'm on the customer side of the counter i dig in my heels as well but there is a big old smile on my face and i always say please and thank you~it gets me where i want to go~like i said it's all in the approach~persistence, anger, and intimidation might get you what you want often but persistence, friendliness, and politeness get you what you want 99.99% of the time.

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