Friday, September 27, 2013

The Old, The Lonely, and The Crazy

So I'm back working at a public library for the first time in 16 years.  It's only been a few months, but one thing I've learned in that time is that public libraries have been become a refuge for The Old, The Lonely, or The Crazy.  (Often all three of those are found in one person.)  A large portion of my time is spent answering questions from people who don't have the google, have too much time on their hands, or want answers to things we can't possibly know. 

There's the old lady who will call 3 times in one evening shift for various random questions, and while I'm trying to answer the question will make a disgusting sucking sound with her teeth.  ("Will the robins or sparrows in my back yard migrate?" Um, there are 32 different kinds of sparrows, and I don't know which ones are in your back yard.)  When I answer her question, then she just wants to chat.  By now she knows my name, so she'll say, "Tim, you sound so young.  How old are you? You must be in your 20's!  No?  30's then?"   

There's the grumpy, crotchety old man who gets impatient if I take too long or ask any clarifying questions.  "Don't make a mountain out of a molehill, just answer the question!"  Yes, sir, that's exactly what I'm trying to do, but I can't tell you who was "buried in African water" until I can define what "African water" means.  "Water!  You know what water means!  W-A-T-E-R!"  He'll point to the monitor and demand, "Just type it into the computer!"

There's the man who calls five times a day to ask what's on TV, and when we say, for example, that the show he wants is on NBC, he wants to know which number that is.  There are 14,000 different cable/satellite providers in Chicagoland, but he doesn't know which one he has.   

One guy called to tell me he saw a guy on the bus rubbing something into his neck and hands that had a menthol smell to it.  He wants to know what it was.  It wasn't medicinal (like Ben Gay), but he also wouldn't let me call it a "cologne."  It was a "scent."  He did not see the tube or bottle it came out of.  The closest thing I could find for him was something called Tiger Balm.  I suggested that maybe the next time he ask the guy what it is.   


For the second year in a row, on my birthday I've yelled at my sister Debbie on Facebook. I remember last year on my birthday being a crappy mood because I went off on her that her crazy rants about our president on FB were starting to sound like a confused old man yelling at an empty chair.    

 I've done a good job lately of avoiding political posts on FB and on this blog, but every once in a while they bubble up.  The recent one was when I heard about Republicans trying to defund Obamacare a week before the major part of it will be implemented.  This is ten pounds of crazy in a five pound bag, since they have no chance of succeeding.  Obamacare is happening, and even Republicans admit that once it's fully implemented, it will be too hard to repeal because it will be too popular.  So they're clawing and scratching to sink it before it starts.  So I posted this on FB:
Imagine if we lived in a country where whole swaths of the population were NOT working as hard as they can to make our nation's first black president a failure. Imagine if they did what was best for our country and worked with him to make the most significant social program of our generation a success. Imagine if they simply stood out of the way and let his novel idea of providing health care to all Americans a chance to work. Because trying to defund a program before it's been fully implemented, and voting 40 times (!) to repeal a law that's not going away, and states refusing to participate in a program whose sole purpose is to keep your citizens healthy, well, you just look like an obstinate dick who cares more about your side winning than your country succeeding.      
I won't re-hash the whole thing here, but let's just say my sister Debbie (and her husband Denny, which I suspect was Debbie also, accidentally logged into his account, because she's as confused about using FB as she is about politics) and I got into another raging political debate, which left me in a bad mood about my ignorant fundamentalist sister.  


Yesterday one of our reference assistants referred a question to me.  I was supposed to call this guy back who had a grammar question about "pass tense (sic.)"  So, armed with books and websites about English past tense rules, I called the patron.

He tells me that he's trying to write a radio ad, but he's not sure if his use of past and present tense is correct.  He tries to explain it, but then he says, "Let me just read what I have written, and you'll see what I'm talking about."

He has a lovely deep radio voice, so I'm a little taken aback when he starts reading,  "Barack starts his study of socialism and marxist propaganda under ...."

His question is about past and present tense, but the subject matter immediately makes me tense.   

My hackles are raised.  The 60-second radio spot is a total hack job on Obama and his "socialist agenda."  At one point it mentions Obama's previous job as a community organizer as a front for socialist propaganda.

As he's reading this, I look at the website that I had open about using past tense: Here are the examples they use on this page:
  • You called Debbie.
  • Did you call Debbie?
  • You did not call Debbie.
Is the Universe mocking me?  First I have this fight with my sister Debbie on FB, then this nutjob on the phone is reading me his Obama attack ad, while I'm looking at sample sentences with my sister's name?

In the end, the guy didn't need any authoritative grammar sources.  He just needed me to confirm for him that if he uses present tense throughout the whole ad, it does indeed sound weird to switch to past tense for the last part.  I made no comments whatsoever about the content of his ad.  I'm a professional, after all.     

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Goldilocks and The Three Roofing Estimates

Our new house needs a new roof.  We knew this when we bought it, and the inspector said it had to be done soon.  (Since I didn't have a new job yet when we bought it, and we weren't married at the time, and I still own my other house, Katherine bought this house on her own.  Since she bought me a house, I said that I would pay for the roof by myself.  It also means I can I say I put a roof over our heads.)

Roof Over Your Head Day?  Seriously?

So I called three roofing companies to get estimates.

The first was a local company with a really good reputation.  They made a scant, cursory inspection the roof without ever consulting with me.  The estimate was not very descriptive, just a short paragraph. And the price was $3000 more than the others.

The first estimate was too cold

The second guy was so friendly and personable on the phone I thought, "Wow, he sounds like he'd be pleasant to work with."  He came over for the estimate, and he was very chatty.  We learned that we're both the youngest of five children, and that his name is Dan with a brother named Tim.  My name is Tim with a brother named Dan!  He walked all through my house, looking in the attic and the basement, helping me to figure out where a leak in the basement might be coming from.  He kept commenting on things that have nothing to do with the roof, and made suggestions about products I should buy.  Then he went up on the roof and rooted around there for like 30 minutes.  He came back inside and sat down with me at the dining room table and continued to talk at me for another half an hour.  By this time Katherine had to go into work, so I had to say goodbye to her while this guy continued to talk.  He kept telling me not to believe all the "smoke and mirrors" that roofers are going to give me.  About how the warranties are really useless.  And then told me all about his warranties.  He spoke at length about "synthetic roofing underlayment," which is supposed to be way superior to the traditional felt underlay.  (Afterwards I looked it up, and it seems like the biggest advantage to the synthetic stuff is that it's easier to install.  Which doesn't concern me, because I'm not putting it on myself anyway. That's what I'm paying the roofer to do.)

So after the guy finally left I was so annoyed with him that I thought I don't even want to work with him even if he gives me the best estimate.  He was trying way too hard to be chummy, and was also trying way too hard to prove to me how much better he was than the other roofers.

When the estimate did come, it was addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. Tim Mylastname."  Uh, what is this, 1950?  The estimate itself was two pages long, with tons of optional add-ons.

The third company had a guy come out, he got a little bit of information, talked to me for maybe five minutes, went up on the roof, then told me he'd send an estimate.  The estimate was lower than the others, with three options for differently-priced shingles, and two options for add-ons (new gutters and/or a new chimney.)  All of this seemed very reasonable.  It wasn't too much information and it wasn't too little.  It was just right.


When I called the third company to tell them I wanted to go with them, the guy was very friendly and happy we'd chosen them.  He came over again to discuss shingles and a schedule and to get the deposit, and when I asked him about the other guy's explanation for the leak in the basement, he said the other guy was absolutely wrong.  So, there's also that.  He made one comment about my collection of beer bottles in the basement, but not in a desperate, stalkery, trying-to-hard-to-be-my-friend way like the other roofer.  He was the kind of guy I'd like to do business with: competent, trustworthy, and not getting all up in my business. 

My bottle collection, tastefully admired by my new roofer