Tuesday, October 25, 2005

AKA: Mr. Sanderson

Ever since the day I first started working information, I was always surprised by some of the questions I’ll get asked on a daily basis. Everything from the obscure to the strange will pass across my screen and only 5 years of experience researching for college has prepared me for the type of digging I often do.

Quite fortunately, it is but one question and then I may go about my day. However, there is a patron that is the phone scourge of our library. Five times a day he’ll call and pelt us with questions so obscure, so inane that we spend the first twenty minutes of our three-hour quest lost in a daze of horror.His fake name (for all intents and purposes) is Mr. Sanderson. However, he had kindly let us know that he has gone by many aliases. He looks like Santa Claus but don’t let that bowl full of jelly tummy fool you, his rusty ego-centric attitude rivals even the worst know-it-all type of Ph.D. professor. This man will call in an endless loop in which he gets the answer for his question and then asks another. To make matters worse, he usually hangs up on us when our answers displease him or whenever he feels the conversation has ended. He also doesn’t bother with hello; he just starts barking out commands.He absolutely abhors waiting on hold so will promptly tell you he will call you back which could either be in thirty seconds or three days later depending on how sadistic he is feeling that day. If you dare to be so insolent as to put him on hold, then he will promptly hang up and call again to yell at you for your audacity.

The funny thing is, he’ll usually forget the obscure piece of information we unearthed for him and call us a few days later to get it again. Now we have a folder just for him brimming with everything you never wanted or needed to know.He is the ultimate penny pincher. He will have nothing to do with a number unless it is toll free. He uses us as a phone book getting numbers and address from all over the room because the thought of losing a quarter to call 411 sends him into a rage. He will demand us to scour the far reaches of the Internet to get him a refund on a half-eaten burger he found dissatisfying. Even the 5-cent fee to print is far too grand a price and he has been quite vocal about it. His questions know no generalities. He will want to know the exact second an obscure Irish rebellion took place and will brook no lenience for the rough estimate that is the only thing the poor librarian can find.We’ve all learned to cringe when that nasally, yet low voice grates over the phone. And woe be to she who he has deemed to be his favorite for he will ask for her personally and unload all of his ungodly requests upon her indefinitely. Fortunately, he leaves the country for several months at a time. That little courtesy and chocolate is the only thing that convinces me that the world isn’t completely evil.

“What is the postage rate for a 3.5 lb. package shipping to Germany?”
“How much does Fruit Cake International charge to ship a cake from France to England?”
“Give me all of the numbers for businesses who sell insurance in the nation.”
“What time do school children get out of school in Greece?”
“How much would it cost to ship a computer to Ireland?”
“I need (some obscure religious document) in the original Latin and two different English translations.”
“Give me a list of all the Gregorian chanting groups who sing (some even more obscure medieval religious song in Latin).”

These are but a few samples of our personal hell and none of those questions were exaggerated in any way. These are real questions that we had to research!!!!! The kicker was his response when you sadly informed him that after several hours’ research and three hospitalizations, the staff was unable to locate the answer to his unreasonable request.He unfailingly asked: “Are you sure?”Long experience has taught us to expect this totally irrational and cruel response to our tortuous experience, so another staff member is usually standing by with a syringe of thorazine and all sharp objects have been removed from the immediate area (one staff member tired to perform brain surgery on themselves nasally with a pencil to try to erase the last few hours from her mind).

No, we’re not sure. In fact, we haven’t been doing anything all day. We just made up that phone number we gave you. I think it goes to a tree surgeon in Tibet. The agonized, frustrated screaming you hear in the background is out little way of killing time. Has anyone seen my pencil?

In a long string of endless, mind numbing, nervous twitch inducing questions, three stand out amongst the others. These are the Olympic medals that shall remain with me forever. He truly outdid himself on those days setting a new standard for other patrons to live by.

Bronze Medal

Mr. Sanderson requested the toll free number to the corporation head of a fast food chain restaurant (don’t remember the name now) to complain about shoddy service. After quite extensive searching through our databases and the Internet, we discovered that the corporation had gone bankrupt and was dissolved. The individual owners of the restaurants were able to keep the name and style but they were no longer tied to each other or to any higher authority.
Me: It looks as though the corporation that owned that chain has gone bankrupt-
Mr. S: (cutting in) That’s not true! I was just at that restaurant last week in Idaho! Look again.
Me: (deep breaths, find my happy place) Yes, the individual restaurants were permitted to keep the name, but they are each run by their respective owners. The individual restaurants are not linked to each other or to a corporation anymore.
Mr. S: How’s that possible? It’s just the same, did you check the Value Line (business resource index)?
Me: (twitch) Yes sir, the information is accurate. We even double-checked through other resources to be sure.
Mr. S: I saw the same restaurant in Utah, the name and menu were the same.
Me: (twitch) Yes, they were all allowed to keep the format but they are no longer a part of a corporation.
Mr. S: Are…(don’t do it)…you…(don’t do it!)…sure?
Me: (internal screaming) Yes, we are quite sure. I can get you the local number of the restaurant you are looking for but there no longer exists a toll free number.

He hung up shortly after that in a huff. I love it when patrons are absolutely sure that we lie all the time just to ruin their day.


Silver Medal

“I want a list of the policies to adopt children internationally.”As a future child psychologist, my immediate instinct was to notify the proper authorities to prevent this heinous crime. I’m going to have one hell of a workload anyway why must he add to it?

Sadly, though, my professional obligation is to look no matter my horror. Within the first ten minutes, it became clear to be that there are hundreds of agencies out there and they each have different policies and specifications. So, with my Mr. Sanderson buddy standing by for moral support, I awaited the dreaded call.

Me: There seems to be over a hundred different international adoption agencies and they all adopt different policies. These policies are also quite lengthy.
Mr. S: That’s fine, read them out to me.
Me:……..I’m afraid that would be too time consuming (and stupid, let’s not forget stupid). If you’d like, you could come down here and get on one of our public computers. I’ll show you how to find these results.
Mr. S: Just read me the first ten.
Me: *sigh* The policies for each agency go on for several pages, I’m afraid it would take too long to read them all. (Where’s my pencil?!)
Mr. S: I’ve got the time.
Me: I’m sure you do. Torturing us is a full time job) Yes, but I need to help the other patrons as well.
Mr. S: Print them out and leave them for me at the check out desk.
Me: I can do that, but it will be a lot of pages and we charge 5 cents a page (take that cheapskate).
Mr. S: Fine, then give me the toll free numbers for the first few.
Me: Okay. (Ah, progress at last! Whatever it takes to get you off the phone, my sedative is wearing off.)

Now where’s that number for CPS?


Gold Medal

Mr. S: I need the toll free number for the head of the homeland defense department. They stole my tortillas!
Ophelia Paine (supervisor extraordinaire): They stole your tortillas?
Mr. S: That’s right. When I cam back from Spain, they confiscated my tortillas and didn’t give them back. They are specially made, you can’t get them anywhere else! (snork* I’ll bet).
Ophelia: Did they give you a reason?
Mr. S: No! They didn’t say a word, they just stole them from my suitcase when I wasn’t looking and then refused to even acknowledge that they had them.
Ophelia: …….Ah…Okay…..(the only possible diplomatic reply) I’ll just look up that number for you. (While we’re at it, shall we get you the number of a good therapist/mental hospital?)

Thankfully that was the end of it but we would’ve killed to hear his conversation with the homeland defense dept. head.The final note I’ll make on this interesting specimen ties up how we feel about him nicely.

One day, just for fun we entered his name on the county’s criminal record search. Among many other crimes that were dismissed in court, he was convicted of phone harassment.Ahahahahaaaaaahahah (twitch) hahahahahaaaaaaahahah (twitch twitch) aaaaaahahahahaaaaaaaa (collapse)

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