Thursday, March 10, 2011

Help! I'm Stepping into the Twilight Zone

It all started with a missing audio book. While processing four blocks of juvenile audio books for the NCLF, my intrepid volunteer discovered that one was missing. We sorted through all four blocks, checking titles and double-checking our results. Confirmed! One audio book was just not there.

There was no need to panic. It was quite possible that the missing item was at the federation manager’s house, a straggler that simple didn’t make the journey to the library. I dashed off an e-mail asking her to look for it. She dashed one back saying that she didn’t have it. The seeds of frustration were beginning to sprout.

We re-checked the boxes containing the blocks of audio books. We checked the shelves in case it was inadvertently mistaken as one of belonging to HPL. It wasn’t there. It wasn’t anywhere. Another e-mail. Another reply that didn’t solve the problem. Another search through the boxes and shelves. Three people and a couple of hours of searching and the result remained unchanged. No audio book.

Okay, frustration was growing, but there was one last hope. Enter A, the Assistant Librarian. I asked her if she recalled seeing it while she was processing the blocks. She said she did not recall it specifically and asked which block it belonged to. I showed her the box holding the missing audio book’s block compatriots, which she opened. Without hesitation, she reached into the box and withdrew the missing audio book from the top of the pile. “You mean this one?” she asked.

I could not believe my eyes. There it was. Right on top of all the rest of the audio books. I shook my head and thanked A for solving that little mystery.

Next came the bill from ULS for February. ULS is the library’s main supplier of books and bills us monthly for the orders we receive from them. The statement listed six invoices, but I could only match three of them to orders I had received and posted. Another e-mail was dashed off to the wonderful ULS employee whose job it is to track down wayward shipments and invoices. While waiting for her reply, one of the missing shipments was delivered. Partial relief and another e-mail to let her know ensued.

I wasn’t terribly worried. If the shipments went missing, they would be replaced and I would not have to pay for them until they were received. But still! The invoices were dated three weeks earlier and that just seemed like a very long time for them to be in transit with the courier. I didn’t want to complain too heavily as the option to the courier is the mail and that would mean having to pick up the boxes from the post office. I much prefer having them delivered to my door.

I had a few days before the bookkeeper was going to be in to pay bills, so I decided not to give the problem too much of my time and attention. It was in good hands with ULS. They always come through in the end.

Then the phone rang. It was ULS calling to let me know that the missing shipments had been signed for at the library by the Circulation Clerk on March 2nd. What?! And more importantly, then where the heck were they?

Once again A came to the rescue. I asked her if she recalled seeing any of the missing books and read off the titles, which had been provided by ULS. She pointed to the cart full of books that she was cataloguing and said that they were all there. I had checked the cataloguing shelf when the statement first arrived to see if maybe the books had been put there with the invoices. They weren’t there. They weren’t there the previous day when I put three other books on the shelf to be catalogued. A said they were there that morning when she arrived. Impossible!

Now to locate the missing invoices. Glad that the books, at least, were accounted for, I returned to my office with the intention of e-mailing ULS to let them know that we had found the books and request copies of the invoices. You’ll never guess what I found sitting on top of some papers waiting to be filed. That’s right – the missing invoices. I had torn my office apart, going through every paper and file on my desk not half an hour earlier, and yet there they were. In plain view. Right in front of me.

Baffled, but relieved, I carried on with my day only to discover that yet another object had taken a quantum leap into some worm hole that has apparently opened up in the library. It is my habit when I arrive at work to remove my cell phone from its case and place it on top of the case on the left side of my computer monitor. An alert on my cell phone indicated that an e-mail had arrived and I reached over to check what it was. My pretty yellow case was not in its proper place under the cell phone.

I launched a search for it, shuffling files and papers and crawling under my desk. I pulled my purse and my bag apart hoping that I had – for some unknown reason – tossed it back into one of them instead of putting it on my desk. It was nowhere to be found. I asked the staff if they had seen it. No one had. I reshuffled papers and files. I crawled back under my desk. I even rifled through the garbage can. No case. I told myself that it was only a case. At least the cell phone had not disappeared and, hopefully, like the other things that had gone missing, it would turn up.

So far, the case remains... undetectable. I am not entirely sure that it is lost. I just can’t see it. I couldn’t see the audio book, the orders or the invoices and yet they were, to all intents and purposes, right where they belonged. Only when A entered the picture did they reveal themselves. Perhaps I will ask her to sit at my desk and see if she attracts it back out of its current state of invisibility. (Or I can go and buy a new one.)

I am completely baffled by these strange disappearances and even more so by their strange reappearances, welcome as they were! How could three people not see the same audio book? How could I not see seven books on an otherwise empty shelf? How could I not see two invoices sitting on my desk? How did the books and invoices get onto the shelf and my desk in the first place? And how did the cell phone case wiggle out from under the cell phone and vanish?

Help I'm steppin' into the twilight zone
The place is a madhouse
Feels like being blown
My beacon's been moved under moon and star
Where am I to go
Now that I've gone too far

Fade to black. Cue TZ theme song....


  1. Oh, man, aren't those days just too weird!!

  2. Do-do, do-do. Do-do, do-do. (Twilight Zone theme - just isn't the same in print, is it?)


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