Posted by: Jeremiah Graves | June 5, 2012


I’ve mentioned before that we have a system wherein patrons can complain about fines and generally they do so in a way that makes me question what I’m doing with my life.

Today it got taken to a new level of what-the-fuckery when some dude had his mom—the ultimate helicopter parent—call in to complain about his library fines.

Cap’n Charisma: “Hello?!”
Helicopter Helen: “Is this MIT?”
Cap’n Charisma: “Um…yes?!”
Helicopter Helen: “Is this the MIT Library?!”
Cap’n Charisma: “This is Jeremiah Graves, I work at the MIT Libraries. Can I help you?”
Helicopter Helen: “So this is Jeremiah?!”
Cap’n Charisma: “Yeppers…”
Helicopter Helen: “You’re the one who has been emailing my son about money…”

As you might expect, I was a tad confused as I’m not known for emailing anyone’s children in regard to money.

In fact, in case there are police officers reading this, I’d like to make it clear that I rarely, if ever, email anyone under the age of 18 for anything. Just sayin’…

Naturally, I assumed she had mistaken me for a bookie or drug dealer or something of that ilk.

Cap’n Charisma: “…could you be just a bit more specific?!”
Helicopter Helen: “Yes. You’ve been harassing my boy about library fines.”
Cap’n Charisma: “Ah…library fines.”
Helicopter Helen: “I want to know why you’re charging him.”
Cap’n Charisma: “Well, if your son is being charged fees, it’s likely because he was late returning some books.”
Helicopter Helen: “He said he was never late with anything.”
Cap’n Charisma: “*sigh*”

No one is EVER late with anything. It’s always a staff error or a horrible, unfair, Gestapo-like return policy that’s to blame. Certainly no library patron is ever at fault for returning items well after their due date.

Cap’n Charisma: “Well, I remember checking his record yesterday when I responded to his email and yes, his items were late, by nearly a week.”
Helicopter Helen: “Oh?! Well he also said that someone said they would waive the fines for him.”
Cap’n Charisma: “Right. Our staff at the service desks cannot waive fees or make the decision to waive fees. We’ve got a fine appeal form he can fill out and I certainly did not offer to waive his fines in our exchange yesterday.”
Helicopter Helen: “Oh?! Well, how can I pay the fines? Can I give you a credit card number or something?!”
Cap’n Charisma: “Here at Barker we only accept cash and check.”
Helicopter Helen: “…cash or check?!”
Cap’n Charisma: “That’s correct. He can pay with TechCash at the Hayden Library.”
Helicopter Helen: “So I can’t pay his fines over the phone or online or anything?”
Cap’n Charisma: “I’m sorry, no. We don’t currently have a service like that.”
Helicopter Helen: “So he’s going to have to pay his own fines?!”
Cap’n Charisma: “If you’re not near campus to pay it for him, I guess he will.”
Helicopter Helen: “I’m in Arizona. There’s no way I can get in there to pay it. Can I mail you a check?”

I knew I didn’t want to answer this question, because this always leads to the same awkward line of questioning whenever someone is interested in paying fines for someone else.

Whether it’s a coworker, a lab mate, a significant other, a family member or just a friend who caused the late fees by borrowing a book for too long, we can’t give up any account information about other peeps. No matter how good their fine-paying intentions are.

This tends to annoy the hell out of people.

Especially mothers.

Cap’n Charisma: “Well, yes, you could…but we’d need to know which account to attach the payment to and due to privacy rules, I can’t give you his account number.”
Helicopter Helen: “…but I’m his mother.”
Cap’n Charisma: “Right, but—in theory—you could be anyone.”
Helicopter Helen: “But I’m not anyone. I’m his mother. I can tell you his birthday. His Social Security number. I can prove I’m his mother.”
Cap’n Charisma: “Ma’am…I don’t know his birthdate. I don’t know his Social Security number. I don’t doubt that you’re his mother, but I can’t give you any of his information.”
Helicopter Helen: “Oh…”

There was a momentary pause. I took this as a good sign. Perhaps it had sunk in and she’d quit pushing, especially by offering me every bit of info I’d need to steal her son’s identity. That just feels like poor parenting.

Helicopter Helen: “So he’ll have to pay it himself?!”
Cap’n Charisma: “…that’s what it looks like.”
Helicopter Helen: “Maybe this is good. Maybe it’ll teach him not to do it again.”
Cap’n Charisma: “Here’s to hopin’…”
Helicopter Helen: “…and then I’ll just repay him when he comes home.”
Cap’n Charisma: *sigh*
Helicopter Helen: “Thank you for your help. Hopefully we don’t need to talk again.”
Cap’n Charisma: “Hopefully you’re right.”

“Helen” hung up the phone and I spent the next five minutes or so bashing my head on my desk.



  1. One week of fines…aren’t we talking about $3 here?


    • The dude had like 10+ items so the total fines was just north of $30…but still, kind of ridiculous to have your mommy calling in to deal with that stuff.

      If you’re an “adult” you should be able to deal with your own shit, right?!


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