A day in hell: Or, one day in the life of a public (almost) librarian

Posted: August 14, 2009 in Uncategorized

I reported for work at our branch library about fifteen minutes late. No big deal. I was still there early enough  – the program started at 7:00 and it was only 5:30.

Then it hit me. I forgot to print off the attendee list for the event. A program promising to fill the room to capacity, requiring every attendee to be checked in by name. No problem! The director of the branch let me use his computer. Crisis averted, list printed.

I noticed how terribly hot it was in the branch library. But no matter. All that mattered was everything was in order for the program.

Or almost.

I skipped back downstairs to the meeting room, then I remembered. I hadn’t printed the handout for the program. Our printer at the main library was broken yesterday, so I thought oh no problem. I’ll print it out when I get to the branch. Looking up I saw it was only 6:00. I had a full hour to print out the handouts and make copies.

For whatever reason, none of the branch computers I tried would let me access my work email. My work email. From the library, where I work. Granted, it’s our branch. Still, it’s our library, with networked computers.

The presenter had gotten there by this point, and I told her my quandry. She cheerily re-sent the handout to my yahoo address, accessible from the web. It came through, and I printed it out. Success! And with a half hour to go!

To the staff copier I went, the copier that collates, making life much easier. I was beginning to sweat from the heat, but with everything else going well that was a small inconvenience. I’d worn a light sweater over a sleeveless top, thinking the branch library would be as cold as our main library. I hadn’t bothered shaving my armpits (gross detail, sorry), because the main library is known for keeping a temperature equivalent to a meat locker. I never thought I’d need to remove the sweater, since it had felt so good that morning.Not so much at our branch. And I couldn’t remove it, because I was too lazy to take two minutes with a razor.

Whistling, I copied one set first, to test that all was well. Then the copier jammed.

Bending over to open all the little doors I saw a sheet stuck in the roller. Stuck tightly, and I do mean tightly. I pulled on the paper and it ripped. My perspiration increased; sweat beginning to roll down my temples. Finally, using an advancing roller I got the piece of paper out. Success!

But the printer still said there was a paper jam.

When I bent over again, my back suddenly gave out. I have an off and on problem with sciatica. It strikes when I least expect. And last evening I least expected it.

Sweat now ran down back, sides, and popped out on forehead. Curses scrolled through my brain.

Not one to ask for help,  I toughed it out. Grabbing the copier I straightened up all I could, massaging the muscle that had seized up in my lower back. Still, nothing I did convinced the copier I’d dislodged the errant paper.

Light bulb moment: the patron copier! I asked one of the lovely circulation workers for the bypass key, then realized that copier does not collate. Inconvenient. Oh, and did I mention the program had started by that time, and I still hadn’t shown my face downstairs in the meeting room? All I could do was hope everyone had gotten a seat, imagining nightmare scenarios of people rioting, climbing over each other, scratching and clawing.

Sweat increasing, I unbuttoned the sweater and, when no one was looking, pulled out my shirt and flapped it to get a breeze.

I put in sheet one of four, and set it to copy for all EIGHTY FIVE expected attendees. It started copying …. one……..two…….three…. agonizingly slowly. I stuck in sheet two, and flew downstairs – as quickly as one can while hunched over – with sheet one. I told the presenter I’d be back down with sheet two.

And I was. Still half bent over, I went back upstairs, where sheet two was still in process. Fifty…fifty-one…fifty-two… I’m holding myself up with, of all things, the wheelchair we have in case it’s needed by a patron. By this point it was looking inviting to me.

Sheet two finished. I hobbled to the elevator, delivered it, and came back up where sheet three was printing. I thought. That’s when the lovely lady at circulation told me, “It just stopped. I don’t know why.”

It had run out of paper.

The copier paper in a storage cabinet, on the bottom shelf, which may as well have been forty feet down a well. I used a series of contortions – similar, I imagine, to the affliction known as St. Vitas Dance – and grabbed another ream of paper. I refilled the copier, sweat now running down backs of legs, down sides, back, face and neck.

Forty-one… forty-two… forty three…

I went ahead and put in sheet four, figuring it would take them a while to get through sheets one and two, anyway. By the time Quasimodo delivered sheets three and four they hadn’t even worked through sheet two. One small blessing amidst torturous pain and suffering.

Making my way to the back of the room, I realized all the seats were taken. Knowing I couldn’t stand for an hour and a half, I rummaged through the storeroom and found a stool. A high stool. I climbed, painfully, onto my seat. Thankfully, It was much cooler in the basement, and I could at last relax. Sweat began to dissipate.

Then the presenter asked me, “Oh, could you close the door? I got complaints last time that people couldn’t hear from the noise in the hall …”

Oh God.

Sliding off the stool, I forced myself to straighten up again, making it to the front of the room without falling over. Back at my stool, I unelegantly climbed back aboard. Leaning back against the wall – the nice, cold wall – I found a measure of relief.

The program came off fine, then of course once it was over the patrons had questions. I was standing by then, giving my back another hard rub. The director came downstairs with the key, so we could lock the library and go home. I stifled my impulse to scream, SHUT UP AND LEAVE, WOMAN!!! I gritted my teeth and held a plastered smile.

FINALLY, she went, making us all ten minutes late closing up. Two Naproxen tablets later (which, in case you’re wondering, have no impact on relieving sore muscles), I was lying comfortably on the sofa. At last.

One of the worst days in the history of my four years at the library was, finally, blessedly over. Notice I said “one of.”

Don’t you sometimes wonder, why me, and why this long string of horrible events? It can make a girl paranoid the Universe is out to get her.

One positive thing, it makes for a good story. The only positive thing. Print this out and re-read it next time you think you’re having a bad day. If you still think your day trumps this I am so, so sorry.

And, my final words of wisdom: TAKE TIME TO SHAVE YOUR ARMPITS. Unless you’re a man, of course. That would be weird.

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Comments
  1. Dave says:

    I’m a trustee, not a librarian, but I know the feeling. My worst day was 3 days into a new assignment at Sears back in the 70’s. I watched someone give an all day presentation that included 140 slides (Kodak carousel type) on Monday. Tuesday I gave the presentation while the other guy observed me. Satisfied I was ok, he flew home. Wednesday morning I got to my next presentation in NJ and found that they didn’t have a slide projector at all, which had been requested of them weeks earlier. There I was with a tray with 140 slides, plus 2 sample cases of merchandise and I had 6 hours to fill. There had been no printed handouts so I had to do everything from memory after giving the presentation only 1 time!

    I survived but it was NOT fun!

    Dave

  2. lisa says:

    Ouch! That qualifies as a really bad day…

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