Friday, January 8, 2010

Put in My Place Parts 13,491 & 13,492

Usually it’s patrons who do this, today it was a fellow employee. I’m a reference person. I’d like to think that all us library folk are on the same team, but not everyone wishes to bridge the divide between reference and circulation. A circ person came to the desk, patron in tow.
“You speak Spanish, don’t you?” she asked.
“Not really.” *
“Well I do,” she said.
It sounded like the beginning of a sentence to me, so I sat there, a model of patience, waiting for something like, "and he would like to know how to do heart surgery on a hamster," or something. But there was nothing, so eventually, I sprang into action with this sparkling conversational gambit: “Cool.” I mean, I didn’t want her to think that her accomplishment was underappreciated.
My word hung in the air for a moment, as though the movie had been paused. Eventually, she told me what the patron, who appeared to be as monolingual in his tongue as I am in mine, wanted.

Then, a little later, a woman came to the desk wielding a book. I was informed in firm and somewhat derisory language that she found the book. My blank expression begged for more information. She, however, thought it begged for a restatement: she herself had just found that very book. I asked a few tentative questions. It turned out that the day before, she had been in looking for the book and, after two of my esteemed colleagues had searched both the catalog and the shelves, she had been assured that the book was not in our collection. But, determined, she returned today, and, by golly, found it. Her confidence in finding the item came from the fact that she had rented it from us before. I wanted to tell her that it must have been at a different library, since this one did not rent things, and while we were at it, what was I supposed to do about her successful search. But I didn’t have time, because at the conclusion of her diatribe, She scoffed, “You people don’t even know what you have.” I actually felt a little bad for her; she had obviously come in hoping to rub the book in a few people's faces, and I had spoiled her fun by not being one of the people who had failed her yesterday.

*I can say such important-to-the-library things as "la copiadora está allí," although it may be es and not está. I never can't tell. That and when to use por and when to use para. If you want to know when to use por and when to use para, here is an easy system: ask me, then use the other one.


shushie said...

If any of our patrons care to discuss their favorite colors, farm animals, or carnival rides in Spanish then I'm at their service, but unfortunately my bilingual skills disappear after that.

Tinkerteam said...

shushie, you make me laugh as much as this blog does. Thank you!

Dances With Keyboards said...

I get this - sometimes it's because the customer gave the wrong title to begin with.

My favorite question: "It's that book by that female (or African-American) author. You know the one!"

Yeah, because there is only one African-American author, and only one woman writing books out there. Could be true. They might be using millions of pseudonyms.