Blog: Grave-Searchers, Iron Fists, Superhero Scuffles SOLD For One Dollar!

(originally written 5/13/16)

Left (by a meeting postponement) with some time to kill around noon on Monday, I made an unplanned stop at Santa Clara Main Library—all San Jose libraries remain closed until 1pm on Mondays—for a bit of bulk online document printing. 


At the outset, all was normal in the tech room—just the mild tapping of keys by an assortment of mostly fortysomethings. There was no reason to believe that would change. Of course, last November there was no reason to believe I'd soon need neck surgery. But I'm not here to talk about the past.


Things did soon change. Remember that mild key-tapping I referred to? Well, one of those fortysomethings actually wasn't so mild. We'll refer to him as Cal, an acronym for caffeine-addled lunatic, which is how I'd describe him based on his typing.


At the dizzying rate of speed his police baton fingers pounded the keys, I concluded Cal woke up that morning, did some angel dust, chased that back with nine cups of coffee, then set out to type his memoirs in 10 minutes or less. Just now, I attempted to type a sentence using the Cal approach. "Good morning, how are you today" came out as "Glood  mforfdljhjowjear eyuoud fjdopj?" And to paraphrase Raymond Babbitt, I'm an excellent typer.


Five minutes into my session arrived Distraction #2, a 70ish woman joined by an unrelated 50ish woman. One turned out to be a volunteer assisting the other with Internet use—and not who you think. Yes, the senior citizen was instructing the younger gal, who was trying to look up some relative on FindAGrave.com.


Though the women kept their voices down, this room isn't big and I could hear almost everything they said. Now, I don't pretend to be smarter than everyone else—okay, that's not true, I do pretend to be smarter than everyone else, even though I know I'm not. My point is...how do I put this delicately...going by their exchange, online research can't be the only thing the student has trouble understanding.


For starters, the volunteer had to inform her that in the FindAGrave "Name" search box, she was to enter the dead person's name, not her own ("That's strange. Nothing came up").


The lesson lasted far longer than it should have, largely due to exchanges like this:


STUDENT: "Am I supposed to type in the cemetery here?"
VOLUNTEER: "No, you're—"
STUDENT: "Am I supposed to type in something else, then?"
VOLUNTEER: "Yes, you—"
STUDENT: "What am I supposed to type?"


All I could think to myself: the dead relative is in a better place.


Throughout their lesson, I began to hear small outbursts from a baritone voice in the rear. At first it seemed this guy—who sounded like Isaac Hayes but looked like Chris from Everybody Hates Chris—was expressing annoyance with the Grave women, but no, he was just a nut. Or a Tourette's sufferer. (And yes, his pants were indeed up, buttoned and zipped.)


For my final 10 minutes in the library, "Chris" serenaded us all with bizarre, random exclamations such as "Urrrt!"  "Oh!"  "Don't want to!"  "Owah!" It was like a 1960's Batman fight come to life.


Despite all the disruptions, I wasn't really annoyed until the final three or so minutes when the "Hack-Man", as we'll call him, chimed in with a prolonged coughing fit. We've all had these, he clearly was embarrassed about it and at least tried to drown out his coughs by synchronizing them with the other noise.


At one point, the aforementioned patrons' noise formed a little diddy...


"Hit the enter key. " (TAPTAPTAPTAPTAPTAPTAPTAPTAP!!!) "Now type the name in." ("URGIT! haaaack-hack!!")


Eventually it did get to be annoying, however, and I beat an earlier-than-planned retreat. In the main area...further hi-jinks.


Again, I only pretend to be smarter than everyone else. I do know in the grand scheme of things, I'm of average intellect at best. But I feel once you've reached a certain age, there's just some stuff you should KNOW, or at least be able to figure out. If you hold a certain position at a certain institution—same rule. Sadly, that's not always the case, and it can lead to embarrassment...


There I am at the library catalog computer. A robust sixty-something man (picture the actor Casey Sander, formerly of Grace Under Fire) calls out to a staffer—he's filling out an e-form and is completely stumped by the field marked "Suffix" (the designation of Junior, Senior, III, etc. after one's name). The staffer, who's only slightly younger, is equally puzzled! Soon, the poor guy is in auctioneer mode, desperately calling out to anyone who can offer help. 


I come to the man's rescue at long last, sparing him further indignity. (SOLD!) And more importantly, I manage to mask any condescension in my voice—after all, this guy could build a functioning rocket out of Play-Doh for all I know; who cares if he's forgotten third grade English?


So if any of you out there need to auction off violently-typed, phlegm-soaked directions to the grave of a Batman actor, I know just the people to help.