Public PC Turf Wars

Background I: The library where I work has about a half-dozen or so computers for patrons to use (once they've signed our Access and Use Policy, of course). They're situated along a row of windows to the left of my desk, pretty much in one long row. A bank, if you will. The end of the bank--and for some reason completely incomprehensible to me--is the prime spot to sit. Seriously, I don't get it. Maybe because you have your back to most of the main area? It's crammed up against the end of my collection's fiction shelves, so I hate it. I hate it even more because my desk is to the right of that corner spot.

Background II: If you know anything about libraries, you know there are "regulars." Some regulars come often for good reasons; some regulars come often for not-quite-as-good reasons. A lot of regulars at my library are computer-user regulars. Sometimes I swear they think they own the place. On top of that, they think they can impose their own rules and standards, and everyone has to abide by them.

These things combined are like combustible ingredients, and there was a minor dust-up this afternoon.

The defending champion: Sour-faced older female regular who, as far as I can tell, is job-hunting and currently unemployed. She usually is at the computer for hours on end, often until we make the announcment we're closing, and likes to socialize with her other regular buddies, most of whom are elderly men.

The challenger: Flaky elderly woman--looked familiar to me but not quite enough to call her a regular.

Round I: Shortly after I sit down to my desk in the afternoon, I see Champ take the corner computer, do some work, pick up her purse, and walk away. I thought that was odd, as that was a short session for her. Thought no more of it because I had an article to finish writing.

Round II: A few minutes later, Challenger walks past a bunch of PCs not in use along the bank to go to the corner one (natch). She gets my attention and asks if anyone's using that computer. Apparently there was still a browser screen open. I said that there had been, but that she had gotten up, so I didn't know. I'm not the computer police, so I left the decision in her hands. She sits down and starts using the computer.

Round III: Shortly thereafter, Champ comes storming up and starts laying into the Challenger: "I was using that computer! Didn't you see something on the screen? I was just in the bathroom!" Challenger seems unmoved. "There was something there, but I closed it." This infuriates Champ even more. "Oh, so it's gone now." It's a freaking web page, probably the same sites she looks at all the time. It's still where its address says it is, you drama queen. Maybe if you tried keeping a cool head and projecting a little more competency with computers, you could kick some interview butt.
Challenger is not getting up. I'm not even sure she apologized, but that's because I was trying to pay attention to my supervisor while she talked to me about something important with her back turned to the whole catfight.

I was dying. I almost was hoping it would get shrill and make my supervisor turn around. The Champ defeated, she shuffled down to another computer at the far end of the bank, muttering the entire way. "Can't even go to the bathroom. . . someone takes your computer." She bitched for about five minutes straight, in spite of the fact that she was zooming along on another computer and probably right back where she'd left off. There was no way I was giving her any eye contact, because that would dignify the whole childish event. Later, I noticed her bugging the poor kid on the computer next to her, telling him he was to ward off anyone trying to use her computer as she went to get up again.

First off, lady: It's not your computer.

Second: It's sinking pretty low to order a kid who doesn't know you to guard "your" computer.

Third: People forget to close windows when they're done with the computers all the time. You should be familiar with that, as a regular--and you've probably had to close things yourself upon arrival at "your" computer on at least one occasion. If it's that important to you, either don't get up or bring a notepad or something with you to leave in place while you go. You know, to make people think you're actually doing something there. It's not that hard of an idea to come up with.

I really, really want her to get a job. Maybe she'd be happier then.

Also, director or no director, that renovation has got to happen next year or it's just going to get uglier with those computers.


maggiecheung said…
Was just at my library today looking for new bedtime story books and there were lots of crusty old folks. While Jack tore through the bins of puzzles (SORRY LOCAL LIBRARIANS) I made up stories about the crusty old folks. I found them very entertaining, but that's because I don't work there.
Dave E. said…
"I really, really want her to get a job. Maybe she'd be happier then."

Heh, or even better, maybe she would buy her own computer and Internet access. I know, she's your customer and you wouldn't say that(out loud). Some customers just aren't worth it though. At least she spices up the shift. :)
Kate P said…
Maggie--trust me, they're used to the crash of puzzles. In fact, there was a huge crash of them over in the children's area yesterday when I was working, too! And crusty old folks aren't half bad, most of the time, I think. You get used to their ways after a while. These ladies--I didn't know they had it in them. That was a surprise.

Dave--you know what? If that sour old lady left, it very well make traffic in the library go UP.

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