Posted by: Jeremiah Graves | October 27, 2010

My Encounter with Punky Bookster

Punky Bookster walks into the library. He doesn’t come around to the front of the desk, because he’s weird. Most weird people like to come in and stand awkwardly beside the desk. It’s just sorta their thing.

I should mention this right away, because I’d be remiss if I forgot to let you all know that he looked almost identical to Jim Varney in the Ernest Goes to… movies. That having been said, let’s get this story on the move.

He slams down a book and pulls out fifteen pages of printed out Amazon listings—single-sided, mind you—and then just looks at me.

As one might expect there is a brief and fleeting moment where I assume I’m on Punk’d and Ashton Kutcher is gonna leap out from behind our bust of Nikola Tesla.

I turned to the bust, but alas, there was no Kutcher…so I began my line of questioning as such:

Burnt-out Book Jockey: “What can I do for you tonight?”
Punky Bookster: “I want books.”

Another peek toward the bust, fleeting hopes that Kutcher’s shaggy hair will be sticking out from behind one of Tesla’s shoulders and I can nip this whole thing in the bud. Unfortunately, there is no Kutcher once again.

Burnt-out Book Jockey: “Okay, what kinds of books? I see you’ve got some print-outs.”
Punky Bookster: “Yes. This is a list of books. I would like them.”
Burnt-out Book Jockey: “Okay, cool, let’s see what we can do here.”

I thought to myself, “maybe this one won’t be so bad. I just need to find some call numbers and send this guy on his merry way.”

The problem is we didn’t have any of the titles he wanted. Mind you, I didn’t go through all fifteen pages of titles because—well—after the first six were strikeouts, I figured I’d best inquire a little more about the these books, most of which has prices in the thousands beside their Amazon listings.

Burnt-out Book Jockey: “Did you check our catalog to see if we had any of these titles before you came in?!
Punky Bookster: “Yes. I checked Amazon.”
Burnt-out Book Jockey: “Riiiiiiight, Amazon isn’t a listing of items we own. It’s an online marketplace where you can buy books.”
Punky Bookster: “You’ll buy the books?”
Burnt-out Book Jockey: “No, no…this is where you would buy the books. The libraries often purchase books that are requested, but I highly doubt we’re going to purchase fifteen pages worth of books that cost thousands of dollars.”
Punky Bookster: “The library said you would.”
Burnt-out Book Jockey: “…which library said they would?”
Punky Bookster: “The other library, where they printed this list.”
Burnt-out Book Jockey: “Another library here on campus or off-campus?”
Punky Bookster: “No, it was the other library in here.”
Burnt-out Book Jockey: “Wait…what?! The other library in here as in, “in this building” or as in, “in this campus?””
Punky Bookster: “No. In this city.”
Burnt-out Book Jockey: “Cambridge? Was it the Cambridge Public Library?”
Punky Bookster: “Not Cambridge, but the other library.”

I took a minute to take a deep breath and ponder the good things in life, like alibis and get-away vehicles and lawyers who work pro-bono. All those good things filtered through my head for a second before I finally jumped back into the mess that was this conversation.

Burnt-out Book Jockey: “Okay so one of the public libraries printed you off fifteen pages of Amazon listings and said we’d buy the books. Is that correct?”
Punky Bookster: “Yes.”
Burnt-out Book Jockey: “Okay, being that you’re not a member of the MIT Community, I cannot guarantee we’ll purchase any of these for you, but you can always suggest a purchase on our website. It is likely, however, that you’ll have to purchase these for yourself.”

At this point—in what can only be described as just and merciful act from the heavens above—he seemed to get what I was saying. He nodded and then started flipping through the pages to the back page where some of the books fell in the $30-$50 range.

Punky Bookster: “So if I buy this. Do I need to have software installed?”
Burnt-out Book Jockey: “Software, like to make the purchase? No, you’d just buy it on Amazon using a credit card.”
Punky Bookster: “No, software for the book. It’s about ‘AutoCAD.’”
Burnt-out Book Jockey: “I’m sorry, I don’t know what AutoCAD is or whether or not you’d need any software to go with the book. You’d have to che…”
Punky Bookster: “You don’t know what AutoCAD is?! How can you not know what AutoCAD is? What kind of engineer doesn’t know about AutoCad?”
Burnt-out Book Jockey: “Well, I’m not an engineer.”

I never get why this is so shocking to people. Do you really think there is a legitimate engineer hanging out in a library at all hours of the day, just geeking out waiting for the chance to answer your question? No, they’re out doing engineering things like…um…driving trains and stuff.

The same thing goes for librarians. No, no there’s not a real librarian here at 7:30pm on a Wednesday, just like there’s never one here at 10:30pm or 3pm on a Saturday. Not all librarians just sit at a desk, adjusting their bun and reading from Oprah’s book club. Ugh…

Anyway, Punky stared at me, mouth agape just long enough for me to contemplate putting my foot in it before he gathered his wits and continued with more important questions.

Punky Bookster: “Okay, since you’re not going to be any help with my real questions, I’ll give you some easy ones.”
Burnt-out Book Jockey: *sigh*
Punky Bookster: “What comes with the book?”
Burnt-out Book Jockey: “What?”
Punky Bookster: “Maybe these aren’t easy enough.”
Burnt-out Book Jockey: “…or maybe they don’t make any sense, because you’re not giving any context or information of any kind. If you want to know what comes with the book, go back on Amazon and look it up.”

There was yet another moment of awkward silence in which I think he realized he’d pissed me off pretty good. In that same moment I was thinking about how awesome it’d feel to beat this assbag in the face with a desensitizing brick.

Punky Bookster: “…b-b-b-but I didn’t look it up. I don’t know how to find it.”
Burnt-out Book Jockey: “Go to Amazon. Search it. Check the details to see what comes with it.”
Punky Bookster: “How do I get to Amazon?”

This is the last of our conversation that I’m going to submit to you, my Faithful Readers, because the rest of it was actually quite mundane and less exciting and profanity-laced as you might expect.

I sat him down at a computer, opened up a browser and told him to type in He “oooh’d” and “aaaahhhh’d” and then spent forty-five minutes browsing around the site after I showed him how to search. All the while wishing I was teaching him how to fly from a fifth-story window.

Whilst he was looking up more books on Amazon and potentially making purchases or maybe just adding them to a wishlist—who effing knows what he was or wasn’t capable of online—I did some more searching for his ‘AutoCAD’ bullshit and found that we’ve got some stuff—none of the crap he wanted, but some stuff nonetheless—in the Rotch library.

He left happy. I was happy he left.

Ashton Kutcher never made an appearance.

Sometimes I think that I’d be better off working as a late-night janitor. No people, just you, your iPod and a bunch of toxic chemicals.




  1. How is he going to learn AutoCAD, if he can’t manage to get to Amazon?????


    • I felt the EXACT same way when he started talking smack about me not being an engineer. I was like: “really?! you can’t handle Amazon…but you’ve got the balls to talk down to me?!”

      I SOOOOOO wanted to kill him, unfortunately, I’m good at my job and just offered assistance.



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