Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I Feel Like I've Been Cleesed: A Reference Interview Gone Wacky

My strangest reference interview of the afternoon (of the week, of the month) was right out of Monty Python. One of the reasons many people love the old comedy show so much is it shows life through a slightly warped lens, but only slightly warped. There is more truth behind each silly Python situation that some people admit. Yesterday's experience reminds me of interview skits with John Cleese. Cleese invariably turns away from his interviewees to yell at other characters, many of which are imaginary. Michael Palin or Eric Idle sit in shock and bewilderment, uncertain what to do.

Here is what happened with no names or identifying references. A woman called the library to request that we check our shelves for an item. I had trouble understanding her. Her voice was fuzzy and there were loud children's voices in the background. I think she was in a kitchen on a speaker phone. I had to ask her twice the title of the item. Just as I understood, she yelled, "Leave him alone! I told you to leave him alone!" I identified the item in the catalog and told her I was going to check the shelf.

When I got back to the phone, she was gone. Then the phone rang. "We got disconnected," she said. "Nicky! Put that down!"

"I have (library item)," I replied. "Can I put it at the Checkout Desk for you?"

(Loudly) "What did I tell you, young man?" (Less loudly - slightly) "Yes, how do I get to your library?"

"From where are you coming?" (Notice the "from" is not at the end of the sentence. I'm proud of that.)

"(Name of another suburb)," she said. (More loudly) "Now you've done it!" (Slightly less loudly) "Wait a minute!"

At this point she left the phone. I heard what could have been chairs moving across a kitchen floor and bowling balls being dropped. The sound of the woman lecturing a child or children faded in and out. I wondered how long I should wait. Her voice started getting closer. Then I heard her say, "How did you get in there? Come out of there!" Her voice faded away again. A child's voice got closer. Then I heard, "Don't touch that!"

"Hello?" I said, hoping I could be heard, if it was a speaker phone. "Hello-oh!"

"How do I get to your library?" she snapped.

I tried to give her directions. Though they only involved two turns on two major streets, I had to repeat them three times, because she kept speaking to the children while I spoke.

"Wait till your father gets home! Did you say you're on a corner? I'm angry now! You just wait! What corner was that again?"

I described the corner and the library, she scolded the child and asked me our closing time, and, finally, the interview ended. I noticed how quiet it was in the library.

Note that the library user did get what she requested, if she was able follow the directions to the library.

I wish I had it all on tape. It was as good as calling Python for some verbal abuse. I was cleesed!

Seriously, while this is funny, it is also disturbing. The woman needs parenting counselling.


Dan Trabue said...

What's that you say? Disturbing? No, it's not! I beg your pardon, yes, yes, of course. There you go, then. Disturbing!? Of course it's disturbing! I should say not!! Hello? Yes, be a dear....

Our church works with some homeless and mentally ill friends. I identify all too well with the Pythons.

Zeut said...

I've lived this. It happens all to often at the library.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how i stumbled onto your blog, but it was quite entertaining... thank you