Sunday, April 21, 2013

Seeing the Future! Live (not really) From the Service Desk

I can see the future! You might be all excited, thinking you'll be getting valuable stock tips or thrilling visions of space alien technology or reaffirmations of your need to keep crates of canned goods in your basement. But nope, it's nothing like that. It's just...more clerk stuff. What's that? You love clerk stuff? Well okay then!

Here's how I see the future. A patron comes to me at the front desk. There are intimations already; the off kilter angle at which they approach my desk, the way they don't really look at me, the way they only pause, as if to say they don't have time for any of this. Their question is "I have something on hold, where do I get it?" The answer to this question is actually very simple, but comes with 2 curious caveats; it takes longer to say than one might think, and you really have to pay attention to it to understand it. "Items are held alphabetically by the first 2 letters of your last name and the first letter of your first name." It's all those second, first, 2, last, first things. I try to convey this 3-letter filing system to people through my inflection of the words and the mixed pacing of the explanation. Usually it works, sometimes requiring a rhythmic reiteration. But it will not work with this person, with this lady who is about to trigger my vision of the future. Even as I begin to speak she is looking in the wrong direction. Before half the statement is out she is already wandering out of hearing range, has already allowed my answer to recede into a series of pointless buzzes and snaps. And there, right as she crosses that invisible line where I can no longer reach her, that is where I have my vision, my fully formed, completely accurate perception of the future, about 20 minutes worth of it.

I will list these elements as singular visionary facts, but the seeing is a little more like a movie that's shown at an illuminating, confident instant, in my head, before it plays out in its stately, unchangeable real time in the world.

1. As she fully leaves the range of my voice there will be a sudden rush at the front desk and a long line will quickly form up.
2. The woman will wander aimlessly among the thousands of requests, hoping to accidentally run into her title.
3. The woman will start a cell phone call while looking for her request.
4. After several minutes of aimless, random searching and cell phone chatting the woman will try to cut in line in a sort of confused distracted way that has no chance of succeeding.
5. The woman will find her way to the end of the line.
6. When the woman's turn comes I will be the available clerk, not my co-worker.
7. The woman will not be able to find her library card.
8. The woman will have charges on her account and "address correction" issues.
9. After resolving all the issues on her card I will run out and get her hold book. It will take 7 seconds.
10. While checking the book out to the woman she will ask where I found it. After I tell her where she will say, a bit thrown and a bit annoyed, "Huh, I looked there."
11. We will part amicably.

Why, you might ask, if I know all this will happen, don't I just chase her down as soon as I can and get her book?

There are several reasons for this, but I will leave you with just these two:

I believe visions of the future are rare, and only granted when it is impossible to change them, and
If, say, once every few weeks I could, briefly, but under my own power, fly, but only as fast as I could walk, I would surely choose to fly, for even if a power of the Gods might be useless, it would be disrespectful to reject it.

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