Posted by: Jeremiah Graves | January 13, 2011

The Elderly are Special

I know that I have blogged many-a-time in the past regarding the large gap that exists between the perceived abilities of the folks behind a circulation desk and the actual abilities of the folks behind the circulation desk.

There is a reason I have written about this many, many times before and that is because people are crazy.

That’s right, they’re crazy.

No matter how many asinine questions you answer or ridiculous requests you have to turn down, there is always another crazy just lurking around the corner waiting to run the gambit on you again.

For example, last Saturday I had an older lady come in and right away I knew she was going to be a problem because she was talking to me before she even entered the library. That’s right, mumbling and asking questions from in the lobby.

For those who have never worked in a library, this is never a good sign.

If a person is going to be a pleasant patron (ie: come in, get their stuff, leave) they generally just meander right on by the desk and head up into the stacks. When you hear people rambling from the lobby, you’re in for a world of hurt.

She started things off by asking a dozen questions about printing. The big question—as it always is—being whether or not she could print for free. I directed her upstairs to the computer lab with free printing. The problem is she didn’t want to go upstairs, because she said she was going to need troubleshooting help.

This did not please me.

“Troubleshooting” generally means one of three things:

1) They have no idea how to run a computer, how to do a Google search or where to apply the stamp on an email, let alone the cost of postage.

2) They’re notorious for breaking shit and they intend to destroy your computers.

3) They’re lazy and want you to do all of their research for them.

I told her that she couldn’t print for free from the main floor, so she decided she’d just look up the information she needed and then email it to herself and print upstairs. She then sauntered over to the computers to get her researcherizing on.

My mood elevated and I thought, “dang, maybe this won’t be so bad…”

About thirteen seconds later she was calling for help because the computer she wanted to use wouldn’t boot up.

Naturally, she asked me to fix it.

Then she urged me to fix it.

Finally, she begged me to fix it.

All the while, I pointed to the five open and readily available computers that all appeared to be working just fine.

Of course, she wanted THAT computer. Does this sound familiar?! It certainly should to frequent readers.

I don’t know what it is about these nutter-butters, but they pick the one computer they’re in love with and they refuse to move on. As always, I went through the very meticulous, incredibly complex and technical process of turning the power off and back on and the machine worked fine.

She settled in and once again, I assumed all was right with the world…and it was, for like an hour.

After she’d found all of the articles or data or LOLcats or whatever the hell she was searching for, she came back up to the desk with a problem.

Edna the Octogenarian: “Excuse me…”
Cap’n Charisma: “Yes…”
Edna the Octogenarian: “I seem to have forgotten my password.”
Cap’n Charisma: “…okay?!”

This was followed by a lengthy staring contest between the two of us wherein, I can only assume she was waiting for me to cross my arms, wiggle my noise and blink my eyes before bobbing my head—ever-so-gracefully, mind you—and forcing her password to appear on a tiny piece of parchment in her hand.

Instead, I just stared with my best “I’d love to help you, but seriously…” look.

After the silence had reached a point which can really only be described as “uncomfortable,” she piped up…

Edna the Octogenarian: “So will you get it for me?”
Cap’n Charisma: “Get your password? I can’t get your password for you.”
Edna the Octogenarian: “…b-b-b-but it’s for an MIT account.”
Cap’n Charisma: “Riiiiiight, but you created and set the password for the account. How would I know what it is?”
Edna the Octogenarian: “Isn’t it in the computer?”
Cap’n Charisma: “No.”
Edna the Octogenarian: “Are you sure?”
Cap’n Charisma: “…yes.”

She seemed to grasp what I was saying and left to head back to the computer. I assumed this was the end of our interaction, being that I couldn’t magically pull whatever combination of birthdates, grandchildren’s names and favorite Kama Sutra positions she’d used to create a password, out of her head.

Roughly fifteen minutes went by with her muttering under her breath, letting out deep woe-is-me sighs—the kind that are generally reserved for high schoolers and people on reality television—and generally being overtly miserable.

Eventually she came back up to the desk, seemingly hoping that I’d somehow mastered the art of passwordology in the time she’d spent pouting.

I had not.

Edna the Octogenarian: “…and you’re sure there’s nothing you can do?!”
Cap’n Charisma: “No ma’am, I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do to retrieve your password. You could call the IT people and see if there’s anything they can do or computing help, but there’s nothing I can do for you.”
Edna the Octogenarian: “I think it had something with yellow in it or green, a spring color and some numbers, you’re always supposed to have numbers in your passwords.”
Cap’n Charisma: “Okay…”
Edna the Octogenarian: “Does that help any?”
Cap’n Charisma: “Not really. No amount of clues you give me is going to help me figure out your password.”
Edna the Octogenarian: “Okay, I guess I’ll just call those computer people. That’s what I usually do, but they’re never open on the weekend.”
Cap’n Charisma: “…usually do?!”
Edna the Octogenarian: “Oh yeah, I forget my password all the time.”

We had ourselves another brief staring contest. This one wasn’t nearly as long as the other and I didn’t feel myself welling up with rage and the fury of a thousand angry woodchucks in January like I usually do when dealing with this type of stuff. Instead I saw a cute—albeit confused out of her gourd—old lady with no clue how to get into her email, so I offered a bit of advice.

Cap’n Charisma: “…maybe you’ll want to write down the password next time.”
Edna the Octogenarian: “I always do. Then I can never remember where I wrote it.”

With that she meandered back over to her computer and looked at something that made her giggle, snort and squeak for the next hour (note: I did NOT check the history, some things you just don’t wanna know) and then she just got up and left.

Long-story short, the elderly are special…


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