12 December 2009

Jabberwabby or Something

I just found these notes that I jotted down following a staff-patron interaction from sometime in the 1990s. This was too good not to share.

(And yes, I do know who the "Clueless Wonder" was. The person is no longer associated with our system, but I'm not going to give the name.)


I set the scene. Don is standing at his station, placing holds for a large thousand-year-old woman ("Grandma") who wanted every book that Oprah had ever featured, discussed, or thought about. A staff member we will call “C.W.” (for “Clueless Wonder”) is at her station, to Don's left.

A teenage girl (let's call her Ashley) approaches C.W., with appropriate sound f/x of snapping gum and three "y'knows" for every two actual words.)

Ashley: My teacher said I had to read a poem called, um, Jabberwabby or something.

C.W.: (frowning) Uh...do you know how to spell it?

Ashley: Uh, hold on. (rummages through her backpack, pulls out a crumpled paper, squints) Uh, it's J...A...B...

C.W.: "B" like "Boy"?

Ashley: Uh, I guess. Here (hands C.W. the paper)

C.W.: (squinting at paper) Oh...kay. (types furiously. frowns. types again. frowns again. clicks the mouse a few times for good luck. types again. frowns and grunts.) Hmmm. I don't see it listed anywhere.

Don: (aside, to C.W., while holding a finger up to silence Grandma for a moment in the middle of The Deep End of the Ocean) C.W., it's in Alice in Wonderland. (returns attention to Grandma, knowing full well that it's actually in Through the Looking Glass, but figuring that anyone with at least a Bachelor's Degree would know what he meant.)

C.W.: Oh, okay. (types furiously, frowns, types, clicks, frowns, grunts, frowns, clicks, clicks, types, types, grunts, frowns) (to Don) Uh, I can't find it.

Don: (aside to C.W., while holding a finger up to silence Grandma in between Drowning Ruth and The House of Sand and Fog) Try "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland."

C.W.: Oh, okay, thanks. (types, clicks, frowns, grunts, and then executes the ever-difficult triple-click-and-frown with double grunt, earning a 9.3 from the Russians) Uh... (silent appeal to Don with deep, brown eyes that have never been tainted by the slightest trace of a clue)

Don: (aside to C.W., not even bothering to pause Grandma at We Were the Mulvaneys) C.W., just go check the shelves under "Lewis Carroll" and you'll find it.

C.W.: Oh, okay, thanks. (to Ashley) Come on. (Departs the desk, leading Ashley in the direction of Adult Fiction) [Alice, meanwhile, is on the Children's Fiction shelves.]

Don: (sighs and explains to Grandma that no, she doesn't want the Bible, she wants The Poisonwood Bible)

Ten minutes later, C.W. returns to the desk with Ashley in tow. C.W. is triumphantly clutching a tattered paperback of Alice. She quiveringly holds it in Don's direction.

C.W.: I finally found one in the Classics section. Uh...

Don: (face frozen in Professional Smile Number Six, the one that shows his venom-dripping canines to best advantage) Here, let me see. (flips through the book, gets to Through the Looking Glass, recognizes the White Knight and so knows he's in the right neighborhood, then opens to p. 134-136. Briefly considers pointing C.W. toward the mirror-image first verse, but then takes pity on her and indicates the start of "Jabberwocky" without a word.)

C.W.: Oh, okay, thanks. (hands the book to Ashley.) Does this look like it?

Don turns away, thinking that it was much pleasanter at home, when one wasn't always growing larger and smaller, and being ordered about by mice and rabbits.

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