Monday, May 21, 2007

My last job

For 13 years I was director of the #&$^&! Library. Each year brought challenges. There was always some damn thing to prevent me from hanging out in my office, relaxing, with my feet on my desk.

Year I. Year of the dragon, personified by a superannuated secretary who had been there so long she thought she owned the place. She did exactly as she pleased. Of course, I wanted to do as I pleased, since I was director, so we locked horns. She also had her fans on the library board who she tattled to.

The largest issue between us was the giant word processor which loomed in a corner of the secretarial office. The thing was a dinosaur, but she was attached to it. I wanted her to learn to use a computer. She was determined not to. When I found out that she had spent $1,200 for a one-year service contract on the dinosaur, I went ballistic. Even in those days, you could buy a computer for $1,200. I finally killed her with kindness and she retired. As soon as she retired, she bought herself a computer. I'm not kidding.

Year 2. Year of the crazy person who thought he had been discriminated against and brought his entire family plus the neighbors to the board meeting. He had a way of dropping in on board members at home and plying them with information on how we had done wrong by him. The town finally paid him off.

During this year, the board and staff decided to look into a complete redesign of the main floor of the building. We hired a consultant, had lots of meetings, and submitted a revised plan to the governing body.

Year 3. Year of the ex-librarian. This man--I will call him Howie--had been a librarian somewhere and offered us his expertise and his services free of charge. He decided to show the board how to save a lot of money by firing the entire professional staff and not buying books or magazines. Also a regular at board meetings, he always dropped by after a snow day, wanting to know why we were closed.

The town council approved my request for a redesign of the main floor and appropriated the money. The board and staff then decided they preferred the main floor the way it was. I then had to explain to the mayor and council that we didn't need the money, thanks all the same.

Year 4. Year of the leaking roof. The mayor and council kept insisting that it didn't leak, and of course, it never did when they were around. It only leaked when it rained or snowed. They only dropped by on sunny days. I retaliated by closing the library when the floor was covered with water, snow, or on one memorable occasion, ice.

Year 5. Year of the bathroom lady. Our next regular visitor at board meetings was a crazy lady who used to, among other things, lock herself into the ladies room, make up her face, wash the makeup off, and cry. This took ages, and the other patrons had to stand outside the bathroom with their legs crossed for hours, which does not work for young children. Bathroom lady also did not care for the quality of the soap we provided. So we began to keep small cakes of soap--the kind hotels supply to their guests--behind the desk. We gave her a fresh one every time she came by. That worked for a while. She still locked herself into the bathroom, however.

Year 6. Year that the staff joined a union. For years it had been a complaint of staff that the other people who worked for the town made more money, and this year the resentment boiled over. The board thought it was better not to involve me in negotiations, possibly believing that I showed too much sympathy for the staff, so I was totally in the dark. The staff, meanwhile, thought I was a tool of the bloated capitalist board. They were not actively hostile, but there are plenty of passive-aggressive ways to make yourself unpleasant.

Year 7. The head of circulation retired and we were not allowed to fill the slot while negotiations went on. And on. And on. Finally, the state sent a mediator whose considered opinion was that they were all nuts. Still, negotiations went on, and would be going on to this day, except that the Mayor locked them all in a room at the town hall--two years later--and wouldn't let them leave until they reached an agreement. Even so, the deal was not sealed until about 6 in the morning. But that was in the future, far far into the future. Meanwhile we had...

Year 8. The year of Eddie. Eddie was the only applicant for the job of head of circulation, which we decided had to be filled. The salary was abysmally low. How can I describe Eddie? He was a world-class slacker, who was never anywhere to be found when there was work to be done. He was also a liar and a suck-up. Every day or so I had to have a talk with Eddie about something he had done or not done. The worst thing about Eddie, among a lot of bad things, was the giant smile he always greeted everyone with, the hypocrite. It was the kind of smile you would see on the face of an alligator who was getting ready for lunch. Just seeing him smile ruined my whole, subsequent, day.

There was a window of opportunity during which I could fire Eddie with impunity, so I did. Eddie was the only person I ever fired who I didn't feel bad firing. The thought of putting up with him after he became a permanent employee and became fireproof, so to speak, was all the spur I needed. It was him or me at this point. Of course, then we had no head of circulation, but that was actually preferable. Yes, it was preferable to have the job vacant than to have Eddie filling it, that's how bad he was.

Year 9. The board treasurer becomes paranoid and decides that my new secretary-bookkeeper, now in place for 8 years, wasn't doing her job properly and goes after her, mainly because he holds her responsible for the union. The stick he chose to beat her with was me. I declined to be his hatchet woman so he turned his ire on me. Every statement was questioned, every piece of paper sent back. A lot of this could be attributed to the fact that I was a woman. A man would have beaten him to a pulp.

He always claimed that he never received papers that were faxed to him, and since he was treasurer, we needed him to approve, or at least look at, lots of papers, budget, expenditures, etc. So I started sending the papers personally, via his nemesis, the aforementioned secretary treasurer. He still claimed he did not receive anything. So I mailed the stuff to his office, registered, return receipt requested. For some reason this made him crazy. I mean, crazier than he was already.

Year 10. The stickwoman with googly eyes becomes board president. If every stick has a wrong end and a right end, she always firmly grasped the wrong end. The union contract is finally signed, and the staff discovers that their cumulative raises are mostly going to the federal government in the form of income taxes. Consternation all around. Several staffers resign or retire. Stickwoman decides that new programs have to be financed with new money--i e, that I have to raise money for ESL and Korean books. I take to the streets with a begging bowl. Meanwhile, stickwoman hires a pal of hers to give a children's program which costs $2,000 and involves 20 children, including two of hers.

Year 11. Pettifogging lawyer is hired by the board, comes to board meetings, wasting time with inane suggestions, and incidentally charging a lot of money. One of his inspirations is background checks for all new hires, including 15-year-old high school students who are employed as pages.

Year 12. Board starts to hold secret meetings before the board meetings, in contravention to state law. When I explain that this is a no-no, the board president says, "So arrest me." Since I had left my junior G-man badge at home, I didn't take him up on this.

Year 13. I started having anxiety attacks, especially before, after, and during board meetings. Fearing that if I didn't retire, I was either going to die or kill one or all of the board members, I retired. I immediately had a total knee replacement, which believe me, though painful, was more enjoyable than board
meetings.

Year 14. There is life after retirement. I become a blogger.

6 comments:

airforcewife said...

Oh my goodness! One would never have guessed what goes on behind the scenes at a library!

Did the crazy bathroom lady ever stop coming?

miriam said...

I think she went someplace, else, thank goodness.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Amazing you stuck with it as long as you did.

It's sad that some peoples' psychosis makes life so miserable for others. And the petty little "kingdom building" is so irritating. My wife has all sorts of similar stories from dealing with the PTA at my kids' school. No accountability, so there's free reign to be a tyrant.

Sad.

~Steve B

That Broad said...

Yikes. That sounds like it got pretty awful towards the end.

Anonymous said...

Now, Miriam, imagine being an architect working on a courthouse project!
Multiply that board by the number of State, County and City Departments each having their interest, but wanting someone else to pay for their whimsy...oh, and the contractors who're supposed to be only union - and you can't fire them, ever - I can continue for hours...

Tatyana

The Sanity Inspector said...

I hope you still get email notifications on these old posts, because here are a couple of library memes you might enjoy:

http://i0.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/original/000/258/970/875.jpg

http://i1.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/original/000/258/974/7cb.jpg