My name is Zella--I carry a badge. Well, not really. But I sorta feel like I do. Or that I should. Same difference.
My beat is the local public library. I wish I had an intimidating, muscular colleague to help me enforce law and order, but until we have the funds to employ this gentleman, my fellow librarians and I are the only things standing between our dear library and utter anarchy.
Fortunately, I have been well trained for my role in literary law enforcement. I have read, erm, trained under the tutelage of classic strategists like Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Nero Wolf, and Miss Marple. I have also apprenticed under the hard boiled detectives of yore, such as Sam Spade and Philip Marlow, and the not so easy to categorize procedural cops, like Jules Maigret, and quirky cops, like Thursday Next. And, as a multi-faceted learner, I have also studied under the TV greats, such as Adrien Monk, Dragnet's Joe Friday and Law and Order: CI's Robert Goren, though technically the reason I watched Goren was because Vincent D'onofrio--who is only one of the most underrated actors ever--was playing him. But enough about my extensive apprenticeship with awesome detective, lest I inspire your wrath and everlasting jealousy. Ahem.
Our most vexing criminals in the library world are not the ones who incur outrageous book fines, believe it or not. The most vexing, obnoxious, nay, dangerous miscreants we face are those who abuse their computer privileges. They make our blood boil. We have a lot of these law breakers at our library, and they are of all ages.
This week, I had to interrogate one. He is one of many hard core recidivists at our library. Recidivism. REPEAT O-FFENDER! Not a pretty name, is it, Hi? (If you have no idea what I am talking about here, you should rent, no, buy a copy of Raising Arizona immediately.)
I had the late shift, and it was about twenty minutes before closing. A boy of about ten or eleven who I will call Martin asked me if he could use the computer. Now, I was instantly suspicious because Martin is always trying to whine his way onto a computer. At our library, one must be thirteen to use a computer without his/her guardian present. He likes to show up without an adult or with one who is not his legal guardian and fast-talk his way onto a computer. Some of my fellow librarians are nice to him and give in. I am not one of those librarians.
Oh, don't get me wrong. I let things slide with a lot of people. I learned very quickly that if you try to enforce every single rule, you will feel like a pathetic failed librarian. But I am sick of Martin getting a free pass to do what he wants. Call me mean. Call me by the book. Call me an anal-retentive jerk. Whatever. Martin wasn't using a computer without his guardian present.
So . . . when he came up to my desk and asked for permission, I asked him if his guardian was with him. He hem-hawed around and wouldn't directly answer my question. My detecting skills were immediately suspicious by this display of suspicious behavior, so, as a highly skilled library detective, I repeated my question. His exact response was "My guardian for the day is present." Yeah, well, that could mean his mother or his twelve year old cousin. I told him there was a big difference between one's guardian and a guardian for the day. Me being me, I nearly launched into a long diatribe about the difference between one's legal guardian and any ol' "guardian" you pull out of the woodworks. But then I decided to be a bit more shifty with dear Martin.
Me, trying best to not raise eyebrows and look sly: "Exactly who is your guardian?"
Martin points to some lady who he comes in with but who I know is absolutely not his guardian.
Me: "So, what, is she one of your relatives?"
Martin, after pausing and then breaking into a wide grin while his eyes brighten: "Yes!"
And that's when I knew I had him. This is Lying 101, but if you're lying to someone and they ask you a leading question, never pause, then answer brightly with a sly flicker in your eye. Because that immediately makes the person asking leading questions assume that you briefly considered the best way to answer it and then felt smug when giving what you believe is the answer they want you to say. Any experienced liar knows the best way to go about this is to keep a solemn face and answer in a monotone voice to avoid being perceived as a liar. But young Martin has a way to go before he learns this. I decided to pounce.
Me: "How is she related to you?"
Martin, pauses and furrows his brow: "Um, I don't know."
Me: "You don't know? Well, what's her name?"
Me: "So, you have no idea who she is or what her name is, but she's your guardian? You know, I don't really believe you."
Martin: *blank stare*
Me: "She's not related to you, is she?"
Martin: *puts head down* "No."
Me: "Then, why did you lie to me?"
Martin: "I didn't lie to you."
If there is one thing in the world that I cannot stand, it is being lied to and then having the liar deny it. I feel like Michael Corleone in The Godfather: "Only don't tell me you're innocent. Because it insults my intelligence and it makes me very angry." And this is when I transformed from a mildly sadistic nerd to a furious nerd who was more than a little bit hysterical in my questioning.
Me: "What do you mean you didn't lie?! You just told me she was your relative and then you said she wasn't. How is that not lying?"
He continued repeating his line that he didn't lie and had this deer-in-the-headlights look, as if he had no idea why I was jumping down his throat. I decided to just stare at him and not blink.
My interrogation had morphed into a Mexican standoff, with Martin looking at me pleadingly and me emotionlessly glaring at him. He made the first tentative step toward detente. "Can I get on the computer now?"
He made a very boneheaded step toward detente. "No." I kept my voice flat, to avoid totally losing my temper.
Now was Martin's turn to be indignant. "WHY?" he squealed.
I leaned forward, narrowed my eyes, and answered in an icy whisper, "Because you lied to me."
Martin may suck at lying, but he's not stupid. Rather than arguing further with me, he decided to stomp off. As an idealist, I would like to think that he comes away from our little battle with the moral that lying does not pay or, at the very least, that if one is going to lie, do it less obviously. As a realist, I know that, in all probability, I will now be Martin's sworn enemy, forever known as that evil librarian who wouldn't let him get on the computer. That's fine. Next time, I'll let Conan deal with him. ^^
So . . . ever get to interrogate anyone at work? Who are your favorite detectives?