Roundabout: Circling the Emerald Isle, Day Three


Day Three (9/16/18): Welcome to Dooblin

With the weather being what it was in Iceland, we were more than happy to get up at 4 am to catch our flight to Dublin. We flew with WOW Air again, and although it was just as uncomfortable as the first trip, we only had to endure it for two hours.

We’re under there somewhere…

The weather in Dublin (or “Dooblin” as it was pronounced by locals)was vastly improved from the cold and rain we had left at Keflavik. However, we weren’t sure how long the nice weather would last, as Ireland was in the path of Tropical Storm Helene. Another challenge presented itself when we picked up our rental car. From here on out, we would have to drive on the left side of the road. Tim eagerly took up the duties as driver, and made it all look easy. I was more hesitant to try, especially in a city. I knew at some point I would have to get behind the wheel…but not just yet.

I managed to enjoy this!

Instead of a host home, we opted for a stay at the Plaza Hotel, located just outside the city center. After a leisurely lunch, we returned to our room where I was mercifully able to take a shower and change into clean clothes for the first time in several days. Getting back to lunch, our lengthy repast at the hotel was the first time I truly noticed how long meals are expected to last. It was a novel experience for me, considering meal breaks at work last only a half an hour. As a result, I typically tend to inhale my food without the bother of actually enjoying it.

In beginning our exploration of Dublin, we stopped off at a local mall to purchase some needed supplies, like another plug adapter. As it turned out, I purchased outlet adapters that work just about anywhere in Europe…except for Ireland. So, I needed to get an adapter for my adapter. It was all rather strange. And speaking of strange…we shopped at a drug store where the self-checkout prompter was voiced by…Elvis; or rather, a very poor impression of Elvis. To be honest, it left me all shook up (insert eye-roll here).

For the nature portion of our visit, we went to the Kilmashogue Forest Recreation Area just outside city where we had a beautiful sunset view of the rolling hills. 

Dublin at night

In the evening, we wanted to sample the Dublin nightlife. We hopped aboard the Luas red line tram and shuttled into the city center. My first impression of downtown Dublin was that it was really quiet, especially for a major city. Even though it was off-season, I thought there’d be more activity. Actually, what we found was that because it was Sunday, a lot of places shut down early, or didn’t open at all. We managed to find a place with a sort of walk up drive-thru where we ordered New York style pizza slices.

Actually, I went with the Guinness. Tim went with an ale.

After that, we had a drink at the Brazen Head Pub. Established in 1198, it claimed to be the oldest pub in Ireland. It was a vibrant place with live music and several small tap rooms where one could get a pint. I settled for a Guinness. It seemed the right thing to drink.

Afterwards, we wandered the streets for a while before getting on the tram back to our hotel. While there, we had a rather interesting encounter with an elderly Irish gentleman, who either drunk or senile. He would sit quietly for a little while, then start loudly blurting out statements to the passengers around him. Tim and I sat a couple of seats cattycorner from him, trying to understand what he was saying. Between his Irish brogue and his slurring, it was hard to make out. Eventually, all the passengers around us departed, leaving us in the line of fire. He brightened up considerably when he found out we were Americans. It was still hard to understand everything he was saying, but he clearly didn’t like our politicians, frequently calling them “clowns” (pronounced cloons). Well, we couldn’t exactly disagree with that, so we nodded and smiled. This kept up until a tram security guard came up to the old man and told him that if he didn’t quiet down and stop harassing us, he’d toss the man from the tram. 

“I’m just talking to the Americans,” he slurred in defense. He really wasn’t bothering us and we didn’t mind having him rail against the “clowns.” We even might have made his night, as no one else was talking to him.

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Roundabout: Circling the Emerald Isle, Day Two


Day Two (9/15/18): Iceland, or, Never Bring an Umbrella to a Wind Fight

It was 11 am local time when we landed in Keflavik, Iceland. We disembarked into overcast, 40-degree (Fahrenheit) weather, although I didn’t notice it initially because I was overjoyed by the return of blood flow to my legs. Once inside the terminal, I was struck by just how quiet and orderly the Keflavik airport was. No shouting, no running around, everyone obediently lining up. I had a similar experience while I was with a group of Americans at the airport in Amsterdam. You always knew where the Americans were in the airport—they’d be the ones making the loudest noise! However, Tim and I wanted to show good decorum and to be good representatives of our country. So, we quietly and orderly shoved people out of our way, sometimes remembering to hiss “Excuse me” in English, because, hey, everyone knows English, right? I just can’t imagine why the world hates us…

I quickly learned the monetary difference between the U.S. dollar and the Icelandic krona when I paid my first visit to an ATM. When prompted, I hit what I though was the button for 20 kronas. It wasn’t 20 kronas…it was 20,000! I stared aghast at the wad of bills I received from the machine! I was afraid that I had changed over every last cent I possessed into foreign currency. However, after some quick Googling, we discovered that this amount was the equivalent of about $182.

Our next task was to pick up our rental car. With the rental stores located some distance from the terminal, we had to wait in line for a shuttle bus. Normally, this wouldn’t have been so bad, except that all the customers were forced to wait outside with very little structural protection from the stiff wind blowing off of the ocean.

All right, so maybe it wasn’t THAT cold…

The line was also very long… aaaand there was only one bus running. We grimly watched as the shuttle pulled up, filled with people, and drove away with the remainder of us hopping in place, trying to keep warm. On the shuttle bus’s second go-round, we were finally able to wedge ourselves and our carry-on luggage into the vehicle. An hour later, we had gotten our car and were soon cruising the streets of Keflavik. I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that they drove on the right side of the road in Iceland. I only had to adjust to the large numbers of roundabouts within town.

It was about lunchtime, and Tim and I were eager to sample the Icelandic cuisine. So, we stopped off at the Olsen Olsen Restaurant where I got…a chili cheese dog with bacon and a side of onion rings. All right, so I’m not one to plunge head-first into a new culture. There is some easing to be done. Overall, it was a very good lunch. It should have been considering I shelled out 3,000 kronas for it!

After our meal, we made a visit to nearby Stekkjarkot, a restored 19th century house. We didn’t stay long because a steady rain had begun to fall. Having recently bought a travel umbrella, I thought this would be the opportune time to use it. Then a huge gust of wind from the sea nearly had me doing a Mary Poppins impression over the city. Accepting defeat, I put away the umbrella and got rained on.

South of Keflavik lay the tiny community of Harfir where our first Airbnb host house was located. We were immediately greeted by Anna, who quickly set us up in one of her spare rooms. We had a nice conversation and Anna gave us some sight-seeing recommendations. She was also very amused at my umbrella fiasco. “We don’t use umbrellas here,” she laughed. Lesson learned.

Tim was eager to start exploring but I talked him into taking a nap first. Despite not having my CPAP, I had a very refreshing sleep. Several hours later and feeling more rejuvenated, we continued traveling south until we arrived at the Bridge Across the Continents. As it turned out, Iceland was formed between the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plates. The country was literally being ripped in two. So, we visited the rip and the wooden bridge that crossed it. Again, we had to make our stay short because the weather had gotten even worse since our arrival to Iceland. The land around the growing chasm (and as far as the eye could see) was black with volcanic rock. One could imagine being on the surface of the moon. The scenery was magnificent desolation. The cold, hard-driving rain beating upon Tim and me was adding to our own desolation, so we decided to continue our journey around the southern coastline. We stopped for dinner in Grindavik at a cozy place called the Bryggjan Café. While the rain continued to fall, Tim and I enjoyed several bowls of lobster soup along with warm brown bread and butter. It was a meal that hit the spot considering the weather!

Roundabout: Circling the Emerald Isle, Day One


Friday, September 14, 2018: Marching Bands, Flying Guinea Pigs, and WOW Moments

There’s nothing like having a parade to send you off on your journey in style. Okay, so maybe the parade wasn’t exactly on my account. Truthfully, it was the local high school’s homecoming parade. However, they were marching right by my house…so I claimed them as the official prelude to my upcoming vacation.

For much of this year, my brother Tim and I had discussed the possibility of a trip to Ireland in order to, among other things, get back to our ancestral roots. The only potential roadblock to our proposed trip was the timing. While Tim was hard at work for a St. Louis contractor, I spent my summer finishing up my grad school program at Dominican University and preparing for the craziness that is the library summer reading program. (Incidentally, if you believe that public libraries are becoming obsolete, please pay a visit to your local library during the summer months, especially in the children’s department! But I digress…)

By mid-August, I had graduated from school, the SRP had come to an end, and the vacation planning began in earnest. Naively believing that a month was more than enough time to plan a two-week trip, it all came down to the final few hours before departure before everything was settled. The packing was simple enough, the plane tickets were ordered, and the Airbnb housing was set. However, a number of things to take care of before I could flee the country. Tim and I weren’t due to fly out until 11:40 pm, so I had much of the day to chop away at my to-do list. I got up bright and early to run errands in the morning. At lunchtime, my dad came by to pick up my two guinea pigs, Click and Scarlet. It was a nice afternoon, so before we packed away my little furballs for their separate trip, my dad and I decided to stroll downtown Geneva and have lunch at the Geneva Diner.

As we were walking back to my apartment, we noted the large number of high school students roaming around town. It was only around 1 pm, and we couldn’t figure out why the kids would be out of school so early. It was when we saw people setting up chairs and sitting along both sides of State Street (the main drag in Geneva) that the penny finally dropped. It was the start of homecoming weekend. By the time I had my own homecoming (of sorts), the marching band was in position in front of my apartment along with representatives of other clubs and activities. I wanted to thank them for such a thoughtful send-off to me, but that’s when the guinea pig drama began.

I live on the top floor of an old house that can only be accessed via a steep, narrow flight of stairs. It was not ideal for hauling down a full guinea pig cage as we soon learned. At the very top of the stairs, just as we began to tip forward, the bottom fell out of the cage. As the stairs got a thorough coating of cedar wood chips, Scarlet went flying down to the bottom. We thought that she would be severely hurt by the tumble, but she turned out to be fine, I think mainly because she has the resiliency of furry Jell-O (try picking up a guinea pig against their will and you’ll understand). Click managed to stay in the cage bottom, but seeing her opportunity in the midst of the confusion, she hopped out and made a break for the inside of my apartment. We eventually managed to round up the girls and safely stored them in my dad’s car as the parade marched on.

My next big project of the day (and completely unrelated to the vacation) was to film myself doing a monologue. Unfortunately, auditions for my theater group’s next play were going to be held while I was away. My only option was to email a recording of my audition for the director. I thought this would be an easy matter. I propped up my phone to record and even placed cue cards to ensure that I could make it through the monologue without messing up too badly. That didn’t work out very well, as I took take, after take, after take. Despite my best efforts, the final product was nothing spectacular, but I was running out of time, so I sent it off to the director and hoped that she would rely more on my past performances than my present efforts.

And I digress again.

Meanwhile, in another part of the Midwest, Tim was having trouble getting out of St. Louis because of his workload, then his fight with the traffic all the way up central Illinois and into the Chicago suburbs. It was after 8 pm when he finally arrived in Geneva. Our Uber driver arrived almost at the same time. The driver’s name was Laurie, and she provided us with a stream of pleasant conversation all the way to O’Hare.

We arrived at the airport and checked in with plenty of time to spare; actually, more than anticipated because our flight was delayed. However, this was not our first setback of the trip. The first came at luggage check-in when we discovered that while we would be having an extended layover in Iceland, our checked-in luggage would not. This meant several days without clean clothes, toiletries, medicine, and worst of all (for me), my CPAP machine. We were going to be roughing it.

I saw a familiar face at the drop-off point. My coworker Amy and her husband were sending their daughter off to Iceland on the same flight Tim and I were on. We said our hellos and goodbyes, then got in line for the security check. I was somewhat worried about this. At the time that I had taken my passport photo, I was curly-haired, heavily bearded, without glasses, or a smile. I pretty much looked like a terrorist. My worries turned out to be unfounded as I passed through security without a hitch.

We were scheduled to fly on WOW Air, an Iceland-based airline. I was told a number of times by friends that flying WOW economy would not be a comfortable trip. It wasn’t too long into the flight when I came to full agreement with them. My back and legs hurt almost from the start, making it hard to rest, or to move for that matter. Five hours later, and I was ready to get out to stretch my legs, regardless of whether the plane was still in the air or not!

League of Unknown Presidents, Part Five


(There is a knock at the door)

Hayes: Now who is it?

Harrison: Come in.

(The door opens to reveal 23rd President Benjamin Harrison)

Benjamin Harrison: (To William Henry Harrison) Is this a bad time?

W.H. Harrison: (Sighing) Ben, it’s always a bad time here.

Pierce: What is he doing here?

Tyler: (Looking at his notes) Actually, this is next up on our agenda.

Pierce: What is?

W.H. Harrison: (With a hint of pride) The initiation of my grandson into the group.

Pierce: Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Since when are we accepting family members?

W.H. Harrison: Since Ben is the 23rd President. Besides, we never get to do anything together.

Pierce: Then take him fishing. He’s not joining.

Fillmore: What are you getting so worked up about?

Pierce: It’s nepotism, that’s what it is!

Hayes: I don’t see a problem with letting him in. He’s got a nice beard. Besides, we’re in the market for a new treasurer anyway.

Fillmore: I…hey, wait a minute…

Hayes: (To B. Harrison) Tell me, Mr. President, would you trust President Harding with any sum of money?

B. Harrison: What? That’s crazy!

Hayes: You’re hired!

Fillmore: (Standing) Now just a minute!

W.H. Harrison: (Shouting over Fillmore to Pierce) If this were a government position, I’d agree with you! But this is just a club! I have no special treatment to give him!

Pierce: Well then, maybe I should just invite my grandkids to join too. Oh wait, I don’t have grandkids…

W.H. Harrison: And how is that my fault?

B. Harrison: I think I’ll go check out the Cool Facial Hair Society. (Leaves the room)

Fillmore: (Pointing at Hayes) Look, I’m the League treasurer…

Hayes: (Sarcastically) And you’re doing a splendid job! By the way, how much money don’t we have right now?

Fillmore: It wasn’t my fault!

Hayes: I swear, you’re worse than Congress!

Fillmore: Take that back!

W.H. Harrison: (To Tyler) I have a feeling that this meeting is about to come to an end.

Tyler: Just about…

(Fillmore picks up his chair in preparation to throw it)

Tyler: …Aaaaand now we’re done.

W.H. Harrison: (Slamming down his gavel) Meeting adjourned!

Tyler: Duck!

(Harrison and Tyler drop down as Fillmore’s chair goes flying)

League of Unknown Presidents, Part Four


Harrison: (Turning to Tyler) What’s next on the agenda?

Tyler: (Looking down at his papers) The League Treasurer President Fillmore’s report on the progress of our fundraising campaign.

Fillmore: (Clearing his throat nervously) Ah, yes, the fundraising. Well…it hasn’t quite been as, um, fruitful as I had hoped…so far.

Harrison: What happened to the President’s Day bake sale two weeks ago? Didn’t we get anything from that?

Fillmore: We did at first…

Harrison: At first?

Fillmore: We were doing pretty well actually. But I had been drinking a lot of coffee that day, and well…I needed to use the little president’s room. So I found another President to cover the table for me.

Harrison: Which President?

Fillmore: (Sighing) Warren G. Harding.

(Everyone around the table collectively groans.)

Harrison: You should have known better! You can’t trust that man around money.

Fillmore: Look, I knew he was a bit shady, but I didn’t think he’d walk off with the entire till!

Hayes: He took all of the money?

Fillmore: All he left was a note saying that he had an emergency poker game to attend.

(Another round of groaning by everyone.)

Harrison: Did you make any more money from the rest of the baked goods?

Fillmore: (Hanging his head) They were all gone too.

Harrison: What?! Why would Harding…?

Fillmore: I don’t think Harding was responsible for that.

Harrison: Then who was?

Fillmore: Well, when I returned to the table…President Taft was standing nearby with a satisfied smile on his face…

Harrison: (Shaking his head and muttering to himself) I don’t believe this…

Fillmore: (Indignant) It’s getting to where you can’t even trust a President!

Harrison: So…does anyone have any new ideas on how to raise money?

Pierce: (with a smirk) Raise taxes?

Fillmore: (with a sneer) Oh, that’s hilarious…

Harrison: Will you two stop?

League of Unknown Presidents, Part Three


Pierce: Hey, I have a question. Why is Harrison always in charge of these meetings?

Harrison: Because I was the first President to die in office. It’s sort of an honorary thing.

Pierce: But you were only President for, what, a month? You guys make fun of my presidency, but what did he actually do?

Hayes: Well…he did have a catchy campaign song. (Singing) “Tippecanoe and Tyler, too. Yes, Tippecanoe and Tyler, too…”

Everyone (except Pierce): “And with them we’ll beat little Van, Van. Van is a used up man. And with them we’ll beat little Vaaaaaaaan!”

Fillmore: (Sighing) That’ll be stuck in my head for a week.

Hayes: Has anyone seen President Van Buren lately? He used to come to these meetings all the time.

Harrison: He had told me that he was feeling a bit over-committed. After all, he’s pretty active in the Forgotten Vice-Presidents group and the One-Term Wonders Club. I think he’s also planning to start a group for presidents who speak Dutch. But as he is the only one qualified, I can’t see how that can go anywhere.

Pierce: So you like Harrison’s campaign song. Fine. No one can top my campaign slogan though.

Hayes: “We Polked you in ’44. We shall Pierce you in ’52…” Okay, I’ll give you that one.

Fillmore: Yeah, it’s pretty clever.

Pierce: Thank you! Now can I leave this group?

Everyone (except Pierce): NO!

Harrison: (Rubbing his temples) Can we please continue with this meeting before my head explodes?

Fillmore: That’s what Lincoln said. Hey-oh!

(Fillmore and Hayes laugh and exchange fist bumps.)

Hayes: Well played, Mr. President.

Fillmore: Thank you, Mr. President.

Harrison: (Mumbling) What did I do to deserve this?

League of Unknown Presidents, Part Two


Hayes: (To Pierce) I don’t know what you’re complaining about anyway. Personally, I’d rather be here than be in the League of Forgotten Vice-Presidents. I hear that’s a sorry group…

Fillmore: Hey! I’m in that League!

Hayes: (Gesturing to Fillmore) See what I mean?

Fillmore: I wouldn’t talk, Rutherfraud B. Hayes!

Hayes: (Jumps to his feet, pointing at Fillmore) My election was legitimate!

Fillmore: There were 4,287,670 Americans in 1876 who could beg to differ. Not to mention Samuel Tilden…

Hayes: I won the electoral vote!

Fillmore: (Also getting to his feet) Through voter fraud. And then an electoral commission was created to investigate. Eight Republicans, seven Democrats– yeah, guess who they gave the presidency to.

Hayes: Lies! I’m a model citizen. I don’t even drink!

Pierce: (Clearly enjoying the commotion) How do you live?

Tyler: (Raising his hand) Can I say something?

Fillmore and Hayes: No!

Tyler: (Quickly puts his hand down) Right.

Harrison: (Banging his gavel) Order gentlemen, order! This squabbling is pointless!

(Knock is heard at the door)

Harrison: (Shouting) WHO IS IT?!

(21st President Chester Arthur pops his head into the room)

Chester Arthur: Hey, could you gentlemen keep it down a little? We’re meeting in the next room.

Harrison: What meeting is that?

Arthur: (Fluffing his whiskers) The Presidents with Cool Facial Hair Society. President Lincoln is about to give a speech about beard grooming. Should be exciting.

Hayes: (Pulling on his beard) Hey, why wasn’t I invited?

Arthur: Beats me, Rutherfraud. Ciao! (Exits)

Hayes: (Angrily) Hey!

Harrison: Can we proceed now?

(General murmur of assent)

Harrison: Thank you. President Tyler, as League secretary, could you read the minutes of last week’s meeting?

Tyler: (Shuffling through some papers) Minutes…minutes…Ah yes, here we are. (Reading from paper) The meeting was called to order by President Harrison at 7:01 p.m. At 7:05, we recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Harrison then called roll. At 7:07, President Pierce made a motion that he be allowed to leave the League due to his popularity and good looks. No one seconded the motion. At 7:10, Harrison read the list of accomplishments of the Pierce administration. Five seconds later, the list was concluded…

(Fillmore and Hayes snicker.)

Harrison: (Sighing) Please continue, President Tyler.

Tyler: Ah, yes. (Finding his place on the page) At 7:12 p.m., President Fillmore made a remark concerning Pierce’s mother. At this point, Harrison excused himself to go to the bathroom and did not return to the meeting. A heated discussion ensued thereafter in which many…unprintable words were exchanged. During the…discussion, Pierce referred to President Hayes as “Rutherfraud.” At this point, Hayes entered the discussion by punching Pierce on the nose. The discussion and the meeting were concluded at 7:26 p.m. when Fillmore threw a chair through one of the windows.

Fillmore: Humph. I see they still haven’t repaired that window yet…

Hayes: (To Tyler) Where were you when all of this was going on?

Tyler: Under the table taking notes.

Harrison: Your dedication to your office is commendable.

Tyler: Uh, thanks.

League of Unknown Presidents, Part One


(A typical meeting hall setting. A group of lesser known U.S. Presidents sit around a table, talking among themselves. 9th President William Henry Harrison rises from his seat and bangs a gavel.)

William Henry Harrison: All right gentlemen. I now call tonight’s meeting of the League of Unknown Presidents to order. Let’s begin by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

(All rise, except for one man, put their hands over their hearts, face the American flag that is standing in corner of the room, and recite the Pledge.)

Harrison: (Retaking his seat and looking at the man who remained seated) Excuse me, sir. May I ask why you didn’t stand up for the Pledge?

John Macdonald: Oh, was I supposed to do that as well?

Millard Fillmore: Of course! All presidents should honor their country and flag.

Harrison: If you pardon me for asking, have you been to one of these meetings before?

Macdonald: Erm, no.

Harrison: What is your name, sir?

Macdonald: Uhh…John Macdonald.

Harrison: (Flipping through paperwork) Hmm…I don’t see your name on the lists of Presidents, known or unknown.

Macdonald: Yes, aboot that…

Fillmore: Aboot?

Macdonald: “About!” I said “about!”

Fillmore: (Standing up and pointing at Macdonald) No, you didn’t! I heard you! You said “aboot!” You’re a Canadian!

Harrison: Sir…are you, in fact, Canadian?

Macdonald: (Throwing up his hands) All right, yes! I’m Sir John A. Macdonald, the first Prime Minister of Canada.

Harrison: What are you doing here?

Macdonald: Well, the Canadian Prime Ministers don’t meet like this, eh?

Harrison: Please leave.

Macdonald: (Standing) Right. Sorry. (Leaves)

Harrison: All right, now that’s settled, we’ll take roll. (Looks down at a piece of paper) 9th President William Henry Harrison…I’m here, obviously. 13th President Millard Fillmore…

Fillmore: (Raises a hand) Here.

Harrison: 10th President John Tyler…

John Tyler: Present.

Harrison: 19th President Rutherford B. Hayes…

Rutherford B. Hayes: I’m here.

Harrison: 14th President Franklin Pierce…

Franklin Pierce: I protest!

(Everyone grumbles)

Fillmore: (Sighs) Not again…

Pierce: I shouldn’t be here!

Tyler: You’re an unknown President.

Pierce: Not true…I am known as the handsomest President ever!

Tyler: Who told you that?

Hayes: His mother, probably.

(Everyone but Pierce laughs)

Pierce: I also played a crucial role in the history of this county!

Harrison: (Pulling out another sheet of paper) Well, let’s just check your credentials again, shall we? (Reading to himself and mumbling for a few moments before looking up) Well, Mr. Pierce, I think your track record is best summed up by what Harry S Truman had to say, and I quote: (reading from paper) “He’s got the best picture in the White House…”

Pierce: (Smugly) Ha!

Harrison: (Still reading) “…but being President involves a little bit more than just winning a beauty contest, and he was another one that was a complete fizzle…

Fillmore: Ha!

Harrison: (Still reading) “…Pierce didn’t know what was going on, and even if he had, he wouldn’t of known what to do about it.”

(Everyone except Pierce laughs)

Pierce: (Pouting) Oh, what does Truman know? He’s from (sketching air quotes) “Mizzoura.”

Harrison: (Continuing to look at the paper) Now Theodore Roosevelt has this to say about you…

Pierce: (Throwing up his hands) All right! All right! You made your point…(under his breath)…for the time being.

Duties of a Children’s Librarian from A-Z


Librarianship is not all about reading books and shushing people. At least not anymore. As I have discovered over the course of several decades of library work, the patrons we serve expect a lot from us, some expectations more reasonable than others.

For those of you of the non-library persuasion, I present to you for your amusement (and bemusement) some of the official and unofficial duties that I and my co-workers have performed in the name of good customer service.
Naturally, I’m listing these duties in alphabetical order because 1) I work in the youth services department where the alphabet is sort of important, and 2) if I put the list in Dewey Decimal order, your heads might explode.

Advocates: We are the defenders of the library world. With the rise of technology, many non-library users assume that the brick-and-mortar libraries of the past are now obsolete. Some feel that libraries are a waste of tax money. I can only speak for my own place of employment, of course, but I can guarantee that we’re anything but obsolete. The uses of the library have changed over the years, but our usefulness has not.

Baby-sitters: A number of patrons with young children tend to view the library as a free day care center, ignoring the fact that we are a public building where anyone, and I mean anyone, can come in. The children are dropped off in the children’s department while the parents find other things to do (although technically this is against the rules, but hey, rules are for other people, right?). Meanwhile, the librarians on the floor divide their time between doing their actual work and herding kids. Surprisingly, tax-payers seem disinclined to pay librarians extra for this service.

Collection concierge: In library lingo, this duty is known as “readers advisory.” When a patron comes in looking for a good book, librarians who are well-read in a number of genres have a near-magical ability to find that right book, rendering the patron well-pleased. This ability has led people to think that librarians know everything. Well…keep believing that ; )

Disciplinarians: Sometimes, we just gotta lay down the law, often resulting in a patron being asked to leave the library. Sometimes rule-breakers invoke the First Amendment to justify their behavior, but I’m sorry, where in the Constitution does it grant someone the right to be obnoxious to other patrons and staff members?

Entertainers: We bring in many performers to amuse our patrons, but on non-performance days, the librarians become the entertainers through hosting story times, setting up video game consoles in our meeting room, distributing stickers, bookmarks and coloring sheets with reckless abandon, swearing at malfunctioning computers, juggling flaming chainsaws, you know, the usual.

First aid responders: Thanks to some library in-service training, most, if not all of the staff are qualified to perform CPR or to use the defibrillator on patrons (or on each other). For the most part, though, the most we do on a given day is to hand out band-aids and ice packs.

Game piece distributors: We have board games in our children’s department. As a way to keep the game pieces from getting lost (or eaten), we keep said pieces behind our desk and distribute them in an orderly manner. Other than directions to the bathrooms, this is our most frequent request (I’m kidding…mostly).

Homework helpers: We do what we can to help children with their homework assignments, although we do draw the line at actually doing the assignments ourselves. Personally, I draw the line at anything pertaining to math work (unless the student doesn’t care that I’ve given them the wrong answer). One time, I had a boy ask me to type up his book report for him because he figured that I was the faster typer than he was.

IT: We do have an IT guy at the library, but as he needs to go home and sleep at some point, we library employees are still expected to know how to fix some of the more common problems that plague our computers (like when a three-year-old hacks a top secret government website and launches missiles at Canada. If I had a nickel for every time THAT happened…). Fortunately, most of the repairs merely involve turning the computer off…then on again.

Janitors: We also have a maintenance department. Still, we’ve all had the pleasure at one time or another of having to clean up various items like dust, mud, spilled liquids, food wrappers, poop, pee stains, blood, dead bodies, etc. All in a day’s work, I guess.

Kowtowers: We serve at the pleasure of the patrons and do so willingly and cheerfully. Even if we are not thanked for our help. Even if we are treated disrespectfully. Even if we are used as personal servants. We bend over backwards for our patrons. But once our shift is over, all bets are off…

Lego guardians: twice a month, we host a Lego Builders Club in which kids work very hard on some pretty amazing creations. Their work is then put on display on the main floor of the library. Unfortunately, the projects are easily accessible to anyone, adult or child, who neglects to read the display signs saying that they’re not to play with them.

Mind-readers: “I’m looking for a book that I read years ago. The cover was green and it was about a guy…or maybe girl who did something. There was a dog in the story too…or a cat, I can’t remember. Do you have it?” I exaggerate this request…a little. I suppose this goes back to the fact that librarians seem to know everything. We do, of course, but we’re not mind-readers for goodness sake!

Notary publics: Yes, we have librarians who are notary publics. No, none of them are working today.

Office supply dispensers: If a patron doesn’t have it, we at the youth services desk probably do. Paper, pencils and pens, glue, scissors, tape, staplers, rulers, paper clips, markers, crayons, colored pencils, Post-it notes, highlighters. Kids, we have everything except the answers to next week’s quiz (for those you need to go to adult reference).

Psychologists: I find it amazing how sometimes complete strangers are willing to divulge personal issues to their librarian. I suppose it’s because we’re trained to be good listeners. I am reminded of a time when a mother came in looking for a book that dealt with the death of a pet that she could read to her young children. I found a picture book that was titled “A Dog Like Jack.” The mother burst into tears when I gave her the book. She told me that, in fact, it was their dog that had died…and his name was Jack. This job can break your heart at times…

Quixotic questers for quiet: Yes, I still do shush people (and no, I’m not wearing my hair in a bun), but the concept of a quiet library (at least for my place of employment) has gone the way of the dodo…and card catalogs. In general, we tend to be pretty busy (and we are a one-floor library where sound bounces all over the place), but it also seems like patrons are less comfortable with silence. Perhaps it’s just me but…wait, hold that thought. I have to get up and shush someone now…

Resume editors: Once and awhile, we have a person who comes in to work on their resume and asks us to proofread it. I’m okay with correcting grammatical errors, but if they want expert advice on building the perfect resume…er, not my department, What’s more, if they ever got a look at my resume, they’d run screaming (quietly) from the library.

Security: During the school year, we have security guards who come in to patrol the library on weekday afternoons (If you’re surprised that a library requires a security guard, then you haven’t been cooped up in a one-floor building with 40-50 hyperactive and hormonal middle schoolers for several hours). Unfortunately, not all of the guards we get are proactive in enforcing discipline as we would like. When this happens, the librarians drop whatever they’re doing and take up guard duty. We call this event “Teen Patrol” (and we’re trying to come up with a theme song to sing while we stalk the aisles).

Telephone operators: When a child needs to call home for a ride, an adult wants to do an over-the-phone job interview, or a patron with a dead cell phone desires to shoot the breeze with a buddy (or prank call 911 for kicks), we provide our desk phones. We also provide comprehensive instructions for those who no longer know how to use a push-button phone (a surprising number of people as it turns out). For more on this, I refer you to a previous posting: https://dexysmidnightramblings.com/life-at-the-library/desk-phone-dilemma/. We also have a payphone at the library (insert cynical laughter here).

U.N. ambassadors: Speaking for my library, we serve a very diverse community. There are some days where I sit at the reference desk and not hear a word of English spoken for long stretches of time. I find it to be a wonderful cultural learning experience; Spanish, Hindi, Polish, Vietnamese, Klingon, you name it, it’s spoken here. However, this does make for difficult (and sometime embarrassing) reference interviews at times. There are probably a fair-sized number of recent immigrants who think I’m a complete idiot because I have to keep asking them to repeat themselves multiple times.

Video game gurus: Several afternoons a week, our library sets up a couple of video game consoles in our meeting room for our rambunctious middle school crowd. Two lucky staff members are then assigned to stay in the room to resolve disputes and to generally keep the kids from hitting each other with the Wii remotes and insulting each other’s mother. Surprisingly, knowledge of video games are not actually required for the staff members (otherwise, they’d never let me step foot into the room).

Wordsmiths: At the youth services desk, we have two boxes of sight words, each color-coded by grade levels. A child picks out a word and tells us what it says. A correct answer earns the child a sticker. For pre-readers, we have cards with letters and colors. This has been a hit with parents and children. Wanting to capitalize on the success of this enterprise, I made up my own box of sight words for those who wanted an extra challenge. Unfortunately, the words I picked were a little too challenging (or so people have told me). But hey, if I can get at least one child to learn to use words like “obstreperous,” “winsome,” or “bifurcation,” I would be a happy person.

Xylophagous: Eating, boring into, or destroying wood, as certain mollusks or the larvae of certain insects. I bet you didn’t know that. Did I mention that librarians know everything?

YouTube police: It’s amazing what those crazy kids will find on YouTube these day, despite content blocking. Staff members frequently remind our internet users that what they’re watching can be seen by everybody, including that little toddler who is staring mesmerized at your screen.

Zombie monitors: By “zombie,” I am referring to the glassy-eyed patrons who stagger into the library and spend every spare moment they can on the internet. They don’t need too much looking after, but one has to be proficient in interpreting the grunts and moans that occasionally come from the internet stations.

Private Dexheimer: Civil Warrior…Sort Of


Mock me if you will, but for several summers during my undergraduate years, I was a Civil War reenactor, proudly serving with the 64th Illinois Infantry. I spent a number of weekends dressing up as a soldier, camping out, having mock gun fights to the delight of audiences, and generally geeking out on all things historical. Some of the greatest (and not-so greatest) moments of my life occurred in the camps and on the “battlefields.”

I recall one particular battle where I briefly (and unexpectedly) found myself the darling of some very vigilant spectators. On a warm Saturday afternoon in a large field somewhere on the outskirts of the Chicagoland suburban sprawl, I, and my comrades in arms, lined up with a number of other Union regiments; at the opposite end of the field stood the ranks of the motely Confederate army. As it happened on that fateful day, I was placed at the very end of our battle line (what we armchair historical experts call “the flank”). Despite my perilous position, I had no fear of the Rebels getting around me because I was strong, courageous…and thoroughly protected by the roped-off audience members crowding a few feet away from me. Normally, I never paid attention to the spectators. Even as close as I was to them, once the battle began, I was in the zone.

At about the midway point of the “battle,” with men falling all about me, I pointed my loaded musket toward the general direction of the Confederate line and fired. Usually, during smaller events, reenactors are only provided with a very basic battle plan. We knew who would win and major troop movements. Everything else, such as if and when you are shot, is more or less spontaneous. In one of those unplanned moments, a Rebel standing directly across the field from me, reacted to my random shot and dropped dead, almost as if we had coordinated it. The crowd (possibly believing that we had) roared with delight.

“Woooo! Do you see that?” someone shouted. “He killed that Rebel!”

And the audience cheered…me.

Needless to say, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. I then decided to up the ante. After letting a few minutes go by, I dramatically reeled from a shot and fell dead. As I had hoped, the crowd reacted with commiserating dismay.

“Awww, no!”

“They killed him!”

“Man, I thought he was going to make it.”

I lay, face-down on the ground, hiding my smile and soaking up the adulation. As the audience murmured about my sad fate, the battle continued, drifting up the field. I listened intently for the end of the fight, after which would come “the resurrection,” when all the wounded and slain soldiers would rise up to the applause of the audience. With fewer and fewer men left fighting, the sounds of gunfire grew more and more sporadic as the action continued to move away from me. Finally, the popping of the muskets stopped altogether…or so I thought.

I popped my head up to look around.

The battle wasn’t over.

“Hey!” several members of the crowd shouted and pointed in my direction. “He’s not dead!”

Blast!

The audience reception to my sudden restoration was rather lukewarm. I tried to make the best of it, pretended I was grievously wounded to play upon their sympathy, but the damage had been done. I had given them something to cheer for, pulled at their heartstrings with a beautifully tragic ending…and then killed the magic by my impetuosity.

Such are the fortunes of war.

Where Does the Time Go?



Soooooo…it’s the first week of July, and I suddenly realized that I have made ZERO posts so far this year. I blame it on grad school. Since January, I have been taking classes for my library science degree (yes, you need to have your Masters to be a librarian). All of my writing since then has been academic rather than creative. I assure you the papers I write are thrilling page-turners (and they usually leave me in tears), but I’ll spare you-the non-library employees-the details.

DMR is Two Years Old!


My, how time flies!

This year has been one of extremes for yours truly. Funerals, road trips, 80-hour work weeks, World Series glory, grad school hoop-jumping, Christmas plays…and even a little bit of Santa impersonation!

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Shh! Don’t tell your kids!

2016 has been one of the best (and worst) years of my life. However, I won’t belabor you, the reader, with an exhaustive recap.

Unfortunately, I have not been as productive on the creative writing front as I would have liked. Hopefully inspiration will strike in abundance in the coming new year. Until then, keep on ramblin’.