“How am I doing today?”

A regular patron came in recently and said “How am I today?” The clerk at the desk replied “I don’t know, how are you?” The patron then said “Works every time!”

He wanted her to ask him how he was doing. This is entirely backwards, and very needy. It is a sign of a need of external validation, at a minimum.

I heard this exchange from the back room and thought it over in case he decided to use this line on me. Luckily, he did the very next day.

When he said “How am I today?”, I replied “Only you would know that.”

This stumped him. He mumbled something about how I was supposed to ask him how he was doing. I pointed out that the normal way of doing things was for him to ask me how I am doing, and then after I answer, I would ask him how he was doing.

I told him a story of when I worked in retail. After many years of various retail jobs, I got tired one day of constantly asking people how they were doing and them not asking me. This is normal in retail. You are treated like a machine, a non-person. You are a means to an end. You aren’t really there to them.

That day I started answering for them. After I asked, and they replied, I waited a bit and when (not if) they didn’t ask me, I would say “And I’m fine too, thank you!” This confused them. Some would say “But I didn’t ask you.” I said “Yes, that’s the point.”

I explained to this patron that it is rude to not ask the other person how they are doing, and to only care about yourself. It creates an air of higher and lower.

So then, I asked him how he was doing and he said he was OK.


Then he said “Notice I didn’t ask you how you were doing.”

Yes. I noticed. Now I know that he doesn’t do this out of ignorance, but willful neglect of basic courtesy.

This explains a lot about him. It shows how terribly broken he is. I wonder how he was raised. I wonder what would twist someone into being intentionally rude. This isn’t thoughtlessness. This is on purpose.

Now, there are certain people who get too familiar, too close. They assume they are my friends when they don’t even know my last name. Certain people insist on telling me what books I should read, not even knowing what I like to read. Some people even went so far as to insist that I had to have children when I got married, not understanding the family history that I’ve lived through.

Plenty of people are too personal at the library, but then some are too impersonal.

This is why the self-check was such a great thing. People didn’t have to come to us. They didn’t have to treat us like ATMs. If something wasn’t working right, they only had themselves to blame.

This is always an interesting job. If you are a people-watcher, it is the best job ever.

A conversation at the YMCA

I was in the changing room at the Y when I heard the most amazing thing. This lady who I’ve known for a few years through my water aerobics class asked me what I thought about “The Trump thing”. She actually didn’t even give me time to give an answer. She started saying that “He has a point, that all the terrorist attacks were being done by Muslims and so it was a good idea to keep them out of this country.” She even said that she had some Muslim friends but she still thought that it was a good idea.

I paused and looked at her and shook my head a little. I said “I can’t believe that you’re actually saying this. I can’t agree with you at all.”

She said “What? All the terrorist acts have been done by Muslims.”

I said
“What about Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the Columbine murderers?
What about Timothy McVeigh, who blew up the Murrah federal building?
What about James Holmes, the Aurora theater shooter?
What about Sandy Hook massacre, by Adam Lanza?

These are all acts of terrorism
that have been perpetrated
by young white males.
They weren’t Muslim.”

Sadly, the list is much longer than these that I could recall off the top of my head, with all of them committed by young, white, males.

I then quoted this famous speech from Martin Niemöller, speaking about how the German people didn’t stand up against the Nazis during World War 2.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

I said “I can’t stand behind this entire idea of keeping people out based on their ethnicity. That’s racist.”

I repeated the word “racist” several times through the last part of my discussion. I wanted her to hear it for what it is. I wanted her to think about her support of something that is as dangerous, as un-Christian, as inhuman as racism. I’m sure she didn’t even think of herself as being racist.

At the same time I was thinking of the Rwandan genocide, where nearly a million people were slaughtered by their own countrymen over three months, simply because they were seen as “other”, as “lesser”. They were called “cockroaches” by the leaders, who encouraged average citizens to take up machetes and kill their own neighbors. I’m sure they didn’t think they were doing anything wrong either.

When we marginalize a group, when we group them together and say that the actions of a few represent the whole and propose eliminating the entire group, then that has moved from racism into genocide. We have to stop this entire way of thinking before it is allowed to get to this point. These are like weeds that will take over the garden, choking out all beauty in the world.

At the end of my speech, she said she didn’t know all of that. She recognized the names but hadn’t put it together. She hadn’t realized that in America, more acts of terror have been committed by non-Muslims than Muslims.

I’m grateful for all the classes that I’ve taken that allowed me to maintain my cool and answer her in a calm way to educate her. Years ago I would have thought she was wrong, but not been able to speak up. Now, I was able to not only take a stand against a racist but also to educate her.

We must all be lights in this world. We must all combat racism and ignorance no matter where it erupts.