Monday, September 9, 2013

Bad news

It is always a moment that sticks in my throat, a momentary touch of toil in my job unlike any of the other toils. and it is worse when my dealings with the patron are warm. We are chatting maybe about their Portugal guidebooks, the ones they are bringing to check out. They tell me excitedly about their plans, and I tell them about that nice gelato place in Lisbon, or about the fabulous cafe' Pois (pronounced, I think, poysh). They want to know more. And while we're talking they give me their Library card. I bring up their record and everything stops. I have some bad news.

Oh how I pity a Doctor. My burden and bad news is but a trifle next to someone having to tell someone that they have some terrible cancer or something, but, nevertheless, I find no joy in it.

"You have $150 in late fines." I say in the gentle tones of an undertaker. "And these four DVDs are still out and overdue." I add, turning the screen towards them.

Our warm chat is over.

If there is any saving grace it is that people rarely take the news as hard as I think they will. I can't think of anyone ever breaking down in tears, and hostile belligerence is very rare. To tell you the truth I think the sort of people whose Library borrowing can go so completely pear-shaped tend to be, at least generally, the sort of people who are used to it, and the sort of people who take it with aplomb.

"A hundred fifty dollars?" They might say. "I'll write you a check."

No worries, huh?

I just hope it doesn't bounce.

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