Friday, May 2, 2014

The bad good Samaritan

A patron approaches one of my colleagues.

"Can you page someone?"

To my mind this is a bad start. There is something faintly suspicious about people who start by discussing solutions and then work backwards to the problem. There's something controlling about it. "Can you waive fines?", "Do you know CPR?", "Are you authorized to call 911 in the event of a shooter in the library?". The natural starting point seems to be elsewhere in all these discussions.

"Yes, I can page over the intercom system." My colleague says politely. "Is there a problem?"

"Here." Says the patron, handing over a slip of paper. "This is the make and model of a car in the parking lot." We continue backwards. We have not yet reached any pertinent information. We merely circle.

"Is there some kind of issue with this car?" My eminently patient co-worker inquires.

"The driver's side door is open." The Samaritan says. Even now, as we get to the crux of the matter it is reluctant, incomplete, and forces my co-worker to ask for more.

"Wide open?" She asks. "Broken into? Torn off?"

The patron clicks her tongue. "The door did not close properly."

"So, like there's a seat belt in the way, and it's not flush?"

"Yes. It's closed, but not fully closed."

I take this to be a case of the bad good Samaritan. These are people who so love the feeling of being good and doing good that they make opportunities for themselves to be helpful where none really exist. They do good deeds that help no one and only serve to inconvenience others.

"Hello." A patron says to me.

I look inquiringly, with my most helpful expression.

"Do you have a lost and found?"

"Yes we do." I say brightly. Easy question.

"I found this on the floor." The patron says earnestly. "I think someone might be missing it. I don't know if you can track the person down from this, but perhaps you can put it in your lost and found." The patron hands me a small slip of paper and walks off, the Lone Ranger, good deed done.

I look at the paper. It is a Target receipt, two months old, for toothpaste and cotton balls. Cash paid.

Aaarrgh! If only that patron hadn't handled it so much we might be able to get a decent set of fingerprints off of it and track the owner down! They must be worried sick.

Oh well, I guess they were trying to be helpful.

Did my colleague, I imagine you are wondering, announce over the intercom system about the car with the door slightly ajar? No, she went out to check on the car and leaned on the door to fully close it. That's why they pay her the big bucks. 

And me? With the receipt? Did I carefully file it in the lost and found?

No. I threw it away. That's why they pay me the big bucks too.

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