Thursday, June 30, 2016

A few pounds

You have probably noticed that I have lost a few pounds recently. While I do not usually look favorably upon comments about my appearance here on clerkmanifesto, especially as it is a written medium and you can't see me, I cannot help but understand. Three pounds is a lot! It is between one and two percent of my whole body weight. So first of all let me reassure you that I do not have cancer and am not dying from some wasting disease. To be honest I don't even know why you would think that! I am in excellent health, and we can entirely attribute my recent three pound weight loss to a great increase in healthful living.

But since you have brought up my weight loss I feel I should clarify. I do not have a scale. I have not weighed myself in ages. When I say I have lost three pounds it is based on the looseness of my pants. My pants have grown a bit loose. My guess is three pounds of pants looseness. I don't usually like to talk here about my pants, but since you have asked, I have begun to employ a belt.

I don't love wearing a belt. What can I say? Sometimes there is a cost to clean living.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Your new password

This is actually alarmingly close to a collection of recent correspondence I have received at my library:

Dear Staff Member;

Welcome to the County's brand new payroll and personal access system. From this system you can access every aspect of your personnel records, manage payroll and paychecks, and see your most sensitive professional and financial information. This is information that you will need and want to keep secure. You will keep your vital personal information secure through the use of a personal password. Do not share this password with anyone! This password is the key to your personal information!

Because of the delicacy and importance of this password we have assigned a highly secure one to you. It will be sent in a separate email. We suggest that you memorize it and delete the email as swiftly as possible afterwards.

Dear Staff Member;

Here is your new password that will allow you to log in to the County's payroll and personal access system. Your password is:


This password will log you into your account. Because it is the same password we have issued to all 12,948 County staff it is possible someone may be able to guess your password. Because of this we urge you to reset your password as soon as possible. We will  be sending you an email explaining the password reset process. In the meantime we urge you to keep your current password secure.

Dear Staff Member:

In order to change your password for the County Payroll and Access System you will need to create a password reclamation account. In a few weeks we will be rolling out our new Password Reclamation System. With this system you will be able to access your password in the event you forget it. You will also be able to change your password, which we recommend that you do right away, and you will be able to access your password history. A link to the password reclamation system will be provided in an upcoming email.

Dear Staff Member: 

You have received a link to the password reclamation system. Please do not try to use it. The site is not active and will only appear to register you without actually registering you. When the password reclamation system is active we will let you know. At that point you will be able to create an account using your current County Payroll and Access System  password that we sent to you in a secure email. This will remain your login for the password reclamation system even if, as we suggest, you change your County Payroll and Access System password. Please remember both passwords. Thank you.

If you have any questions please login to the County Payroll and Access System query engine. You will need to create an account to access it. Only your personnel manager can create that account. Please contact your personnel manager to access our query engine.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The big lesson

My dear co-worker, you are no longer quite new here. Now, for the most part, you have mastered the basics. You are of us, rather than new to us. No longer are we keeping tabs on you, I mean other than those of us who keep tabs on everyone because we can't help ourselves.

I'm simply saying that you are ready. It is time for you to receive the next lesson.

This is the big lesson.

Don't panic. This lesson is simpler than all of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of lessons you've already had to learn, directly and indirectly, to work here.

But this lesson is far deeper.

It goes to the core of who we are. It explains what it's truly like here. And it confesses what we do. You might even go so far as to say that it is the lesson that defines clerking everywhere.

I urge you for your soul and your honor: learn this, know this, understand this:

The less you are cleaning up the failings of others, the more we are cleaning up the failings of you.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The cherries arrive

And finally, feverishly awaited, the cherries arrive.

In an old gallon ice cream bucket, two-thirds full.

I look inside and feel the immediate intimations of the meaning of life.

The pits must be removed.

Ah yes, the industrious, defensive approach to life. Don't dismiss it too readily. The pits must be removed. Once that is done it is all fruit. In this approach we let the fruit take care of itself.

I sit on the back stoop of my house. I have the bucket of cherries, all varieties of deep and pure reds. I have a pot for the bloody meat of the fruit. I have a bowl for the extruded pits. The weather, though summery, is acceptable. I pry out the pits with my thumbs. It is not hard work, but it is long work. The cherries are not large and the more I peer into my bucket the more dazzling the number of the wee cherries grows. One of my hands cramps up from all the same tight motions with different fingers, all contorted to different jobs: holding cherries, holding pits, bracing the cherry, opening the fruit, digging out the pit. I change working hands. Better.

Here is another in the meaning of life held in the bucket of cherries:

How sad I am that there are so very many cherries to pit. And how sad I am that I only have this many cherries. I wish there were more.

I wish there were more and I wish there were less.

Is this how I feel about life?


So why am I writing about it?

Well, alas, I was hoping it would resonate with you.

Good on you that it didn't. Let's get back to those pits then. The fruit will come.



Sunday, June 26, 2016

More prayers

I have mentioned before here that sometimes the gods answer the prayers of my blog. It is always in small ways. And ever it is so that I did not know I was praying to begin with. Perhaps the gods all love prayers so much they are sometimes compelled to go make them into prayers by the mysterious act of answering them.

More things happen in the world by this device than any of us would dare to imagine. "It would be lovely if we got a little rain tonight" is an idle musing and nothing of a prayer. But if a god can puff over a pit of cold front in answer to it, well, it becomes prayer in retrospect, whether the muser wants it so or not.

Not so many days ago I advocated in this space for the growing of edible plants in public places. Most significant in my argument involved trees with red berries of no edibility and my fervent desire that they would be cherries. I knew they could be cherries because on my weekday commuting walk I go right by someone's front yard cherry tree, all charming looking, shady, modest, and bursting with cherries. I wanted some of those cherries, but they were private cherries.

Today I walked by that cherry tree and there was a sign under it: "Help yourself to a cherry!" So I did.

It wasn't a prayer, and I was asking for something else anyway. I was asking for a vast reconsidering of public landscaping.  But the prayer I didn't ask for was answered, so I'll take it.  Especially as it involved cherries

The gods are fickle, mercurial, stinting, and strange. On the whole it is best to thank them when they find their strange way to come through. That is, if one can spot it happening. I try to keep a look out.

Oh, right, I almost forgot. Amen.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Under the surface

One thing that repeatedly surprises me is how little work my co-workers do. I mean this without rancor. And I'm not talking about the handful of co-workers I have who are awful at their jobs and obviously won't get anything done. I'm talking about good, solid, industrious seeming co-workers who I barely think of as goofing off or squandering time in any notable way. But every once in awhile there are markers, clear markers. I can see precisely how thorough a job someone did on the automated check in machine, the detail of everything done and left undone. I may be privy to exactly how much there was to do in processing requests and through experience can sharply chart the amount of work done and how long it would take without even thinking about it. And sometimes, not always, it all adds up to they did less than even I would consider minimally acceptable for myself. These are people I have no grudge against. I am by no means keeping tabs. I don't even really mind that they did such a spattering of work. I can even be glad of it. I'm just surprised.

Maybe it's an American thing. We're so well-versed here in presenting a good image. Self advertising is a fundamental aspect of our culture, so ingrained in us that we barely even notice that every fiber of our being can emanate a vibe of industrious application all while we're chatting with co-workers, snacking, or surfing the net.

Of course, I don't think of myself this way. I assume I look like I'm goofing off pretty much all the time, even as I'm sprinting around the machine or helping a patron. But I am truly heartened when I see that my solid, industrious, gold standard co-workers are also really a bunch of wastrels under the surface. Because even though I know it to be unlikely, it gives me the hope that when I am trying to follow a soccer game while on the desk, or writing a blog post while shelving, all that my co-workers can see of me is a paragon of clerkdom, golden boy of the library. 

Which, in the end, is exactly what I am.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Pedestrians unite!

I was walking through the heavily pedestrianized campus of the University when I saw someone do something brilliant. They were walking along a street they had no intention of crossing, but as they passed by the signal button for crossing the street they pushed it.

They pushed it!

I was flabbergasted. And I thought "But won't that make a red light for cars whether pedestrians are coming or not?"

And then I thought "But I am a pedestrian. Drivers have all the powerful oil companies for them, all the traffic engineers, and all the Politicians. The streets are designed for them, lights timed for them, and the city constructed around them. All we pedestrians have is each other."

So now I push "Walk" signals all the time when I pass them. At least I do when there are a reasonable number of pedestrians in the area. From the perspective of a driver I'd no doubt hate me. That's perfectly natural. But it's also a good reason for me to get out of my car and walk. And from that perspective maybe I'd be able to cross the street.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Things we don't discuss

When I consider it, there are a lot of things we don't talk about at work. I am generally keen to shorten that list of items, but have no interest in obliterating it. This is why I will be bringing up this particular issue here but have never brought it up in casual conversation with my co-workers. Admittedly here is a gray area in the sense that a smattering of my co-workers (the best, brightest, most dedicated, and spiritually evolved ones) read this. But clerkmanifesto is a bit of a safe area where certain issues can be touched on that would be too much for the analog world of the library.

That is why today we will be discussing the toilet paper.

Yes, I know what you are thinking: "Thirteen hundred blog posts and finally, FINALLY, he is going to talk about the toilet paper."

That's not what you were thinking? 

Well, just because I don't get it right every single time doesn't mean I'm not psychic.

Toilet paper is a beautiful way for an employer to express exactly how they feel about their employees. And, if that is so, which it may be since I said it is, then our library employer hates our guts.

The toilet paper at my library is a thin, hard, single ply that I would describe as one grade better than just using newspapers. Oops, there I go exaggerating again. It is two grades better than newspapers. One grade better than newspapers would be newspapers without ink on them. We're one grade up from that. Our single ply, papery toilet paper comes in gigantic rolls mounted low on the wall in big plastic dispensers that issue forth the paper an uncomfortable five inches from the ground. The paper is not serrated in any way and the only reasonable way to tear off pieces is to grab a section in two fists and rip it savagely apart. In this regard the newspapers would be easier to use, or possibly leaves. To make it worse, when the closer of two mounted rolls is used up we switch to the far side of the dispenser which is even more awkward to reach, requiring the height of Billy Barty, the agility of Nadia Comanici, and the arms of Kareem Abdul Jabbar (or, for my younger readers, the height of Peter Dinklage, the agility of Svetlana Khorkina, and the arms of Marc Gasol).

It is, and please forgive the pun, crappy toilet paper, miserably presented.

But there is one more wonderful thing to this toilet paper that is expressive. These giant, awful rolls of toilet paper are mounted in big, tough plastic dispensers that are locked.

Yes, they're concerned we might be tempted to steal it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A short episode of losing my mind

The big automated self check in machine at my library sorts returning items into bins. When we put a new bin on the machine, replacing a full one, we need to put a card in a pocket on that new bin that says what the materials are going to be in that bin. These pre-printed cards say things like Fic, YA, DVDs, Juvy AV, etc. etc. There are a lot of them. Then we write the current day's date on the card with a dry erase marker so that throughout the sometimes lengthy shelving process we can all along track what these items are and when they came in. This comes in handy for finding things in the meantime and for shelving in an orderly and timely way.

In all the tumult of changing out bins we may not put one of these item/date cards in their pouch right away, but if we're halfway decent at our job we'll make sure we get to it, and we'll scan along a couple times during our one to two hour shift to make sure all the bins have cards in them. 

I was on the machine, scanning along the north side of the machine looking for empty pockets and noting in my head what I needed a card for. Then I went to the other side of the machine where all our cards are kept, hanging in contraptions on two posts. But even though I had just noted in my head seven seconds ago what card I needed I could not for the life of me remember what that card was.

I stared at the cards. Fortunately I did not remember nothing. I knew for sure that I needed either "JUVY AV" or "DVDs", but which one? I prevaricated for a long time, many times longer that it would have taken to walk over and check. Finally I decided I had a fifty-fifty chance to get it right. Those aren't such bad odds, are they? I grabbed a "DVDs" card, put the date on it, and walked to the other side to see which of the two were empty.

They both were.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Double down

One of my colleagues was weeding a glossy looking large picture book about former President George W. Bush. "It's the last copy of this book in our system." He explained. Then he became reflective. "You know" He said "We're really a resilient country, America. We survived eight years of this guy."

I smiled at him. "I suppose we did" I replied "So now we're thinking of doubling down on Trump." 

"I guess we are." He said.

There's a campaign slogan for you:

Donald Trump
You don't know how much you can take until you're broken

Monday, June 20, 2016

Sick joke

I'm afraid that for today I have written a sick joke. And not only is it a sick joke, but it uses an inappropriate, not really politically correct word. I could have subbed that word out, but just find it funnier with it in. I mean, funnier in a sick way.

I'm not kidding. It's a warning. If you don't like sick jokes you might want to move on for today. There's still time, but if you're going to go, go now.

Why a sick joke?

I blame the heat. It's just so hot.

How hot is it?

It's so hot that when I go out to my car it's full of dead babies and retarded dogs.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

It's not personal, it's just business

When I immoderately throw around the term "Fired" in relation to the library's building manager, I hope you will forgive me. It is definitely not polite behavior to casually go around one's workplace suggesting that someone else directly connected with that workplace should be fired. And I feel no personal animosity towards this person who I am willy-nilly suggesting should be stripped of their livelihood. I am happy to greet this co-worker when I see them and even exchange in a short bit of chat, perhaps about the weather, which is hot. So when I suggest that this person be fired I hope you will chalk it up to the agitation I experience when it is a humid 82 degrees inside the library. I do not do well emotionally in warm environments. Sure I may be angry at the privatizing of our custodial staff (still the most insane, evil, and counterproductive act in my history here), and I may be outraged that when ID key cards stop working this person likes to blame the employee and try and make them pay for it. Then this person takes four months to replace it while the employee is forced to do laborious end runs around certain doors. But what do I know about the pressures on this person regarding the budget? What do I know about this person's own dictates from mangers above? Maybe the only way this person can meet their budget is to wait until the library has been open for two hours to get the air going. Maybe to provide even that paltry amount of cooling the property manager has to supplement with revenue collected from staff members. I so often think I know the whole story, but I when I take a breath of cool air (located elsewhere) and consider it all seriously, I know that I rarely have anything close to the whole story.

No one has to be fired. This is the library. We hang on to some of the most incompetent workers in the world, and we give them a place to go, a modest living, and an (occasionally self deceiving) feeling of usefulness. But there is a solution to this problem in plain sight. It is never used by my bureaucratic, managers, but it is simple, ennobling, democratic and leveling.

It's called shelving.

Assign the property manager to shelving, a good long, long stint of shelving. I'll run the thermostat for awhile.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

We could be in Eden

I'm not actually going to be blaming trees here. And I don't have anything against those perfectly pretty, modestly sized trees full of small red fruits. "Are they cherries?" I think, as I approach them, growing as they are all along sections of the river paths, festooning the landscaped lawns of the University. No, they aren't cherries. They just look a bit like cherry trees from a dozen yards out.

But that then begs the question "Why aren't they cherries?"


I quite like cherries, and they grow here, right on the trees. They look pretty doing it too, prettier even than all these trees growing everywhere, the ones with the red berries that aren't cherries and that you can't eat. In my neighborhood I walk by a couple of real cherry trees, twelve feet tall, draped so prettily with fruit, all yellows moving into deep reds as they ripen. How tempting to pick them, but these are private cherries, so I remain hungry. One of my library co-workers has cherry trees and in the last few years has brought me a bucket or two at the start of summer. Much as the story about favoritism goes with parents and children, I too endeavor not to have favorite co-workers, but when my gardening co-worker shows up and says "There's a bucket of cherries for you in the break room." my resolve is sorely tested.

But there are never enough cherries. And when I walk by the open medians and grassy fields of public land, all tended and cared for by city and University workers, I can't help but note that here are perfect places for cherry trees. Decorative, fruit giving, shade throwing, glamorous cherry trees. Surely they couldn't be much harder to grow than all these other inedible fruit trees they've got growing. I want cherries. And while we're at it what's with all these stupid lawns they're mowing and watering all the time, the great banks of boring petunias they plant every Spring? Do they think I look at all that and find it pretty? No. I look at all that and think "Those could be fields of strawberries, and why not grow tomatoes all along the sunny side of this bike path."

But no. That is not the world I live in. I wait on the kindness of my co-workers, and I am forced to garden on my own. It's okay. I like the garden, aside from all the weeding. Nevertheless, on the whole, I'd prefer to just go for walks, picking ripe fruits as I go.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Angry man

Sometimes I get angry, just, angry. And I think "This is not so good all this anger."

And then I think "But it is all so justified."

And then I think "But it is not so good all this anger. If you were angry at everything that there is to be angry at you would not have enough time to feel anything else."

Then a third part of me thinks "Aha! Perhaps that is the point!"

And then I think "Now I will not be so angry."

Which makes me very mad.

Very mad.

It turns out one has to take care of all the angry stuff down in the roots if one really wants to do anything about it, and it is very hard to get down into the roots. Much digging. Whereas it is pretty easy to go hacking among the branches of anger. Not least because one can do this in a fury.

Sadly it just makes more branches grow.

But you know this. You know everything, which is why it is so nice to write to you.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

A prayer

May the holy one keep and protect you. May the great lord guide you and refine you. Let the master of spirit see fit to watch over and lead and inspire your soul, infusing it with the sacred light of the exalted one's magnificence. And may the King of the Master of Hosts endow you always with wisdom, tranquility, and the shining light of intelligence. Rest in the hand of God, in beauty, sanctity, humbleness, kindness, and the connection to all creatures in the world as you go forth and steal someone's lunch from the break room refrigerator.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Winning is impossible

I had decided I really shouldn't go on and on about soccer here because it is not likely to meet with my readers' expectations. Then I wondered what my readers' expectations were. What do my readers expect? I will do it! Just let me know.

In the meantime let me tell you about tiny Iceland Vs. Portugal in the European soccer championships.

Iceland, a country of barely more than 300,000 people, has defied the odds and qualified for the European Championship for the first time EVER. It is amazing for them to simply compete in this tournament. If you're excited by this, think how Bjork must feel. Or maybe don't because Bjork's feelings are dangerously inscrutable. Anyway, here was scrappy, tiny, yes, plucky Iceland playing against a world class team with the richest athlete in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo. Cristiano Ronaldo is the chest thumping 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th best soccer player in the world, depending on who you ask. He is richer alone from soccer than all the money everyone in Iceland together has ever earned from the game. It is a beautiful mismatch. David vs. Goliath. It is an exercise in disaster.

I started writing this just as the game was starting. My teeth were grit for tragic humiliation for dear Iceland. And I knew in the end that I would have to report Iceland's loss. I just hoped it wouldn't be by much, that somehow this least likely team would only lose by a little.

I won't give you a play by play. Portugal was very clearly the better team. Mighty Portugal relentlessly pressed and took its shots on goal. But somehow wee Iceland, ever scrambling, blond hairs flying, fought it out for a 1-1 tie. It was a miracle.  

A miracle.

I was delighted. And I learned from it. I learned that against the great and mighty and powerful, if one is tenacious and gritty, if one fights seemingly unwinnable fights, and meets with extraordinary fortune, on a special day, with all ones skill, it is possible to tie.

Winning is out of the question, but it's best not to let that get one down.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Fresh from the fields

Feeling a little need for recharging, I let my accumulated blog posts roll out onto the Internet while I sat around, quietly at home, watching soccer. I watched 1,937 minutes of soccer between two major tournaments, and then, as from a dream, woke up. Here is what I found:

1. These tournaments have barely even begun! I have to watch 4,698 more minutes of soccer whether I want to or not now!

2. I have to write a blog post immediately, or my consecutive blog posts record will end and I'll have to start over from scratch, explaining what an overdue book is, and trying to convince you all over again that I deserve a Nobel Prize. Do you know how hard it was to convince you I deserved a Nobel Prize the first time?

3. All my ideas for blog posts involve feverish ravings about Spanish Midfielder Andres Iniesta, which, thought I'm sure you would find interesting, would run on for 177 single spaced hallucinatory stream of consciousness pages.

4. I'm at work! What am I doing at work? How long have I been working here?

If it's okay with you I just need to mull this all over for a bit, and clear my head, and maybe just jot down a few notes about Andres Iniesta, Spanish Midfielder, who may be the subject of my next 311 blog posts.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The noisy library

While the first association of libraries is to books, the second undoubtedly has to do with the subject of quiet. The shushing librarian and the whispering library is a cultural fixture on the order of a person shipwrecked on a tiny island, one that holds just that single Palm Tree.

But there is a back current to the idea of a quiet library that anyone working in a library well knows; libraries are noisy. People who think of libraries as quiet, reflective places are deluded, trapped in the fantasies of a 1950s America. Here in the modern public library it is all leaking headphones and cell phone conversations and public events and socializing and children melting down at a decibel level comparable to the screams of Howler Monkeys, that is Howler Monkeys playing in jet engines at a thrash metal concert held in an overcrowded aviary. 

When a reference to that mellow, studious library of yore rears its funny looking head, my co-workers and I become tired, sardonic, knowing, dismissive, and derisive. We are coldly amused. Quiet, yeah, this library was last quiet when we got two feet of snow, and we were closed for repairs, and it was the middle of the night and there was a power outage and everyone was asleep. 

But then, we are wage laborers here at the library, and all wage laborers see things a bit like hardened convicts. We are illusionless and lacking sentiment. It's our way. And in addition to our world weary bitterness we tend to be ever placed in the center of any library maelstrom. We're half the noise problem to begin with. Yes, the library is insanely noisy, wild, coming apart at the seams. People are disrespectful, parents suck, our carts are noisy, and all the machines everywhere, big and little, are indecently humming. 

But come with me upstairs. Come back to Non Fiction, towards the windows. Right now, today. Look at all the people, mostly they are alone, but some are sitting together. There are plenty of them. But not a one is talking. Shhhh. Do you hear that?

Me neither.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Changing America

Yes, America has changed.

There was a time, not so long ago, when if a stranger sneezed one could simply say "God bless you." And everyone understood. With the descaling of religiousness, due to increasing enlightenment, this sneeze salutation soon became more commonly just "Bless you." But that was still widely accepted throughout the land.

But now people come from and embrace a wider range of spiritualities, backgrounds, and health philosophies. People live in America by a wider range of specific codes. Now if someone sneezes one must say "Bless you, unless weird cultural remnants of superstition offend you, or you are bodily function acknowledgement averse, or belong to any cult or devoutist subset of any religion that would quail at a non member blessing. If any of these be true please accept my comment as a mere greeting, if you can. No response is necessary."

Traditionally overblown public screeds like this one, about the changing nature of America, are complaints. But not this one. Come a sneeze I am only willing and, indeed, eager to give the longer response.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Advanced author knowledge pun

A patron was looking for a book, The School at Thrush Green, and I was helping them. I wrote down the title for the patron and the author's name. I gave explicit instructions as to location, and I sent the patron on their way.

After a long time the patron returned uncertainly to my desk with a book.

"I looked forever for this book!" The patron exclaimed. "It has the right title, but I don't think it can be the right book. It isn't by the author you wrote down. This The School at Thrush Green is by Mizreodd!"

I looked down at the book. "No." I said, pointing down at the author's name spelled on the cover. "That's a Miss Read."

Friday, June 10, 2016

Yeah, I know you

I am not particularly good with people's names. I don't learn them quickly, but I understand that that's more a function of my will than my brain. When introduced to people I don't immediately start memorizing their name in my head. I don't make the necessary point of remembering who they are.

But there are a lot of repetitions in the library I work at. There are hundreds and hundreds of people I see at least a couple of days each week. Out on the public side of things many of my interactions with patrons involve access to names, checking names, and typing names into a computer. So though by nature I am not a networker, and by what I value I am no great recollecter of names, by vocation I know great numbers of people around here, all throughout the library, by their names and faces, some of them even without any real personal connection.

This is great for magic tricks.

My favorite magic tricks work best with our thriving collection of middle aged and older, lone, crusty, male patrons.

I don't profess to know much of the personal details from this collection of people. I'm sure it's diverse enough in its psychology, circumstance, and income. But by their very category certain things about them are true. They have a lot of free time (they must have to be at the library so much). Their social relationships are limited (I see them often. They are by themselves at all times and are rarely seen talking to or with anyone else). And they operate in their own orbits (working on idiosyncratic personal projects of their own). From these facts I can guess that they are not used to being known, recognized, or considered a part of things. All of this is a guess about them, but I suspect that it is true often enough.

So if someone turns in a lost library card, or perhaps some other name-labeled thing, and I know the man it belongs to, I can often find them in the library, albeit with some searching, and, without ceremony, hand it to them. Astonishment fills their eyes. "You know who I am?" They ask, befuddled, baffled, slightly amazed.

"Of course."

Oh I love that trick.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Another day on the ocean

I work in a library system. It is not tiny nor is it huge. And the library I work at is a big one, but not so big that I don't have a reasonable acquaintance with all its many corners and personalities. And what I and many others do here is important. We make the library go.

But there is not one of us, in all my glorious library system, who cannot disappear for a day or a week or a month or a year, and have it affect nothing. I may like a co-worker, or dislike them, approve or disapprove, be sad that they're gone, or relieved, but let them leave and it never takes more than five minutes for the waters of normality to level off. The great sea of the library may have its tides that rise and fall with the seasons, with events, and with the workings of the moon, but though an individual falling into that sea may thrash a bit going down, they are nevertheless swallowed up without a trace.

A manager here has been gone for an extended period of time. Our library director will soon be off to a new job, leaving her spot vacant for months. The vacations of my co-workers will come and go all summer. And yet through it all the library will and does remain unperturbed. It soldiers on to its own hidden music. Indeed it does not even seem to notice. I will be gone from the library for five weeks later this year, and I assure you I am no exception. The library won't even blink. The number of books checked out will not alter a whit. My co-workers and a patron or two may have a few passing thoughts of me, but the library without me will become instantly normal, and will remain as it ever was.

And then when I return, that will be normal as well.

Somehow I find this calming more than upsetting. The burden is off our shoulders. Let the library carry on.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Olympic withdrawl, Zika Virus


American Olympic hopeful Feldenstein Calypso today added his name to the list of athletes not competing in the Rio Olympic Games due to concerns over the Zika Virus.


Though I know it may be a disappointment to many, I must regretfully announce that, due to concerns over the Zika Virus, I will not be competing in this year's Summer Olympics in Brazil.

As excited as I am at the prospect of being crowned "Fastest Man Alive", the risk to my family, friends, community, and nation must outweigh my pursuit of personal glory. I am as committed as ever to my ambitions for international glory and torrents of unreasoning adulation, but not regardless of any cost, nor in a way that could cause harm to others.

Would I have won the Olympic Gold Medal in the 100 Meter Dash? No one could ever say. I have never actually run a 100 Meter Dash so there is no telling how fast I might be. While most athletes who are crowned "Fastest Man Alive" are not yet in their fifties and don't get slightly breathless after a brisk walk, very few of them have my unique attributes either. I am frequently described as "quick" and am uniquely well suited to focusing on tasks that take less than ten seconds. It has also been suggested that I have lost a few pounds recently, which could have only aided me in my pursuit of an Olympic title.

I wish the other sprinters much success in the Olympics and in no way mean to suggest that, without having faced me to reach his goal, the ultimate winner of the Gold Medal in the 100 Meter Dash is not, or will not be, "The Fastest Man Alive" . Though we can never truly know who would have won that thrilling Olympic match up between us, his victory will nevertheless be hard fought and fairly won just as it is, and I freely salute him. I also extend condolences to him, his family, his friends, his community, and his country for the terrible ravages of disease he will be spreading through them as a result of his triumphant pursuit.

To my own disappointed fans I say that knowing that I might truly be the fastest person alive is enough for me, so long as all of you continue to be safe, well, and happy.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Italian at the library

One would not necessarily think that in the heart of the USA, famous for its disproportionate monolingualism, in the inner ring suburbs of the Twin Cities, a place not particularly noted for its Italian immigrant population, there would be so many Italian speakers. But lo, almost everyone around here speaks a zesty, enthusiastic Italian.

Except me.

And I am the one who is going to Italy for a month.

On the plus side they all know this and are trying to bring me up to speed on the Italian language. On the down side...


I am leaping a little quickly to the down side here. Let us duly note how very large the up side is on this one. I am going to Italy for a month. This is absolutely winning no matter how one tries to qualify it. Plus, several dozen nice people who speak Italian are trying to help me be able to speak Italian as well. This is so kind of them. They come up to me and ask me questions and say bright, wonderful things in Italian. It is a little like being in Rome already. Oh how fun it must be to be able speak so! But they also seem to expect me to respond to their enthusiastic Italian. They repeat. They look at me expectantly. Then, as I look back at them like a small child playing soccer with Messi, both in awe and understanding nothing of what's happening, they ask "Did you understand that?"

Not wanting to disappoint any of my many Minnesota Italian teachers I employ my minuscule bit of Italian and I guess at maybe what they were saying. I am usually about 12 percent correct. Like pleasant, doting parents they are warmly impressed by my almost total misunderstanding, then they give me a lesson about what they said. I learn how to say things like "thunderstorm" and "weekly" and, with their correcting, relentless coaching, and their helpful prompting, I stammer laboriously through a rudimentary sentence in Italian. Panicked, dependent on their help, seized with shyness and performance anxiety, I forget and misspeak even the few simple words I do know.

And then our lesson is over. "How nice it was to see you!" We say in English. We once again talk about the dates and itinerary of my trip. I can do this part endlessly. And then they are off.

"Arrivederci." We say. "Ciao!" We cry out multiple times. This I can handle.

And then they are gone, and I forget everything.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Old library story

I have always been very fond of this old library story. I am so fond of it that I suspect that in three plus years of rigorous storytelling here I have already told it at least once to illustrate some trenchant library point. But I'm pretty sure this is a new point today. Which is great because it allows me to tell this story again!

Once upon a time two of my colleagues, now long gone, were working in the weird little back anteroom that the old version of this library used to have. They sat or stood back there, mostly processing book drop returns and materials that came in the delivery.  One of the two workers, let us say the much newer one, was working at a normal, steady, industrious pace. You know, like the one I employ when I feel like it and no one has offended me. The other worker was doing... whatever. And this other worker turns to the newer, industrious worker and says "Hey, slow down. You'll make the rest of us look bad."

I would like to use this story to illustrate the differences in the "olden days" library I used to work in and the "good old days are now" library I currently work in.

First of all, his saying what he did about slowing down was ridiculous no matter how you cut it, and unusual, but it was reflective of its contemporary situation. It spoke to something happening then. It said "We will never, ever get the work done back here, so please don't change the standard of how much work we are expected to get done." 

We have plenty of crappy workers around these days, just as ridiculous as this one, but no one would ever say what this one said. This difference is determined by the fact that now we often get caught up on our work in various areas. The only thing it means if one of our colleagues works harder in our current era is that there is less work for the rest of us to do because of it.

So in the olden days if you worked harder it contributed to a faster pace. Nowadays if you work harder it allows for a slower pace.

I still work my hardest when no one is looking. I'm not entirely sure how this relates to the above story or to the history of my library. I suspect it has something to do with not liking people to be up in my business.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Going to say: "on your left"

As any regular reader here will know, I mean, if they read clerkmanifesto all the time, and have a really good memory, and take notes, and memorize their acquired information gleaned here as if they are prepping for a major trivia contest, I greatly dislike the convention of passing bikers calling out "On your left!" When I am walking this heralding invariably startles me, causing me to swerve, which could get me killed. When biking, this announcement startles me, which causes me to swerve as well, which could get both myself and the passing biker killed. The second of these scenarios is a dramatic improvement over the first, but is still 50% dreadfully bad.
My preferred solution to the "on your left" problem is to do what I do when I'm biking. What I do is I avoid hitting things. This is easier than it seems, and most bikers do quite a bit of it when they're biking. I mean, most bikers don't yell warnings to everything, they just avoid them. In fact, they avoid hitting things regardless of warnings, making those warnings superfluous.

Whenever a biker helpfully yells "On your left!" to me, after I swerve and then immediately after I hope they die, I like to think about how it's exactly as if every time a car passed another car it honked to let them know they were coming through. Or maybe it's like how if every time a person said "Hello" to another person, they first said "I'm going to greet you."

"I'm going to greet you."

"Oh, I'm not up for pleasantries now."

"Well, couldn't you have warned me you were going to tell me that?"

"I'm going to apologize... I'm sorry."

"I'm going to thank you. Thank you. I appreciate that you are not up for pleasantries, but my momentum at this point cannot allow for me not to greet you."



But maybe in the end the best analogy is this. Someone comes up quietly behind you, gets quite close, and then loudly says "I'M HERE!"

You jump. Your heart seizes. You scream.

You turn around. "What did you do that for?" You ask.

"I didn't want to startle you."