Saturday, June 2, 2012

Breadcrumbs and popcorn

At the library the other day I needed help. I had checked out a book on folk art. When it was time to leave the library, the book got left behind.

This is typical TBI move. Even so, I was stumped when I got home and went to show the book to Danny. It was not with the other books in my bag. I looked over and over. Where could it be? Where could it be?

It's still not my view of myself, the kind of person who drops every sort of thing wherever. When I look in the mirror I see my old self, not Hansel from the fairy tale. Every breadcrumb is a different item, usually valuable. I'll never find my way out of this forest.

The next morning the library catalog showed the book was recently returned. So last night someone  checked it back in. Excellent - we can forget about Hansel and just go get it! No one has to know.

Searched the shelving carts. Found the other 3 books I had looked at, but not this one. Stood in line at the front desk. Talked to the clerk, and by this time forgot the name of the book. We looked up the name together. She threw up her hands and said there was no way to find the book anyway. The supply chain at the library is just not that robust. The business process is clear but the IT infrastructure can't tell you where a book is in the library.

Then she said, the book could be buried in a pile at the return kiosk, or it could be on the shelf.

When you're leaving your things everywhere and forgetting names and important details, your survival skills kick up a notch. Can't take credit - this just seems to happen.

No, I said. It can't be on the shelf or in a pile of other returned books. The other 3 haven't reached the shelf yet. This one needed special handling, so it would be a step or two behind in the supply chain. Not a step or two forward.

And no, it can't be in a pile of other returned books because it never went into that pile to begin with. It came from inside the library and shortcircuited the whole return loop. Furthermore, according to the computer it is already checked in. But not shelved. So it can't be in a pile of books waiting to be checked in. That's not how libraries work.

It must be behind the desk, could you take a look?

We don't keep library materials behind the desk for any length of time, it can't be there.

Could you take a look for me anyway? (at this point, raising my voice and speaking firmly)

At this point she is probably thinking, who is this person who left a book behind and then forgot the name of it and now is telling me how to do my job? Who cares if she gets her stupid book!

And at this point I am thinking, yes I got knocked on the head and I forget stuff that makes me look stupid to someone like you. But the stupid facade hides an A #1 escape artist who solves self-inflicted problems 24x7. Figuring out where stuff HAS to be because all other options have been eliminated, that is my specialty. Now go behind the counter and get my freakin' book.

She goes away and comes back 90 seconds later. No book.

I get the reference librarian upstairs and she goes downstairs behind the same desk and by golly comes back with the book.

When you leave stuff everywhere and forget details all the time, it becomes really important that the book is behind the counter. One, when you find the book you can pick up where you left off after this fascinating, frustrating detour. I mean, no one would consciously choose to live this way.

Two, if the book is not where logic says it must be, your brain ain't worth a kernel of popcorn (unpopped). And if that's the case, why be in the library at all? Why not take up skydiving? At least plummeting through the atmosphere, you wouldn't have to show your faults to people who are supposed to help but don't. There's no time for that.

Before my head injury, I wasn't aware of relying on others much at all. Situations like this one didn't really happen to me. I didn't forget stuff. So I didn't realize how unhelpful other people could be. How much I really don't like needing to rely on them. The whole machine feels pretty broken: me, and the people who are supposed to help.

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