What do you do on Christmas Day when you have no money but time to kill between free turkey dinners on the Downtown Eastside?
You go to the library.
"I'm glad the libary is open," one guy said as he walked into the Vancouver Public Library in the Carnegie Centre. "Everything else is closed."
The Library is paying a staff person to keep the library open, one of those Library Technicians who don't cost as much as a real librarian. She is not actually alone though. The Carnegie security guards are hanging around in the lobby just outside the wide open doors of the library.
The Library staff person looks sullen on Christmas. She's twenty-something; she looks like she's of hispanic descent. But the thing that stands out most about her is that she does not go out of her way to fuck with people. Not like the other woman who worked there for 20 years, who I haven't seen lately. She was a middle-aged, white woman with dyed blonde hair. She was wicked. You wouldn't want her around on Christmas.
This woman was rude to a Carnegie regular who works as a fork lift operator in an nearby fish plant -- $14 an hour, non union -- when she was checking out his books. So he told her that he was finding her rude. I believed L.M.'s version of events because this woman has been rude to me to; she's rude to everybody.
According to L.M., the wicked library worker responded to his complaint by marching out to the lobby to complain to Security about him. I believed that part of his story too because that's the way the Library staff and most other unionized staff at Carnegie operate: they've long ago forgotten the "enjoy working with people" emphasis on their resumes; they more often than not opt to call security rather than talk things through with Downtown Eastsiders. And if there are complaints about their work performance, who they gonna call? CUPE, to cover their asses. That's what they pay union dues for.
But even the security men were getting fed up with this wicked Libary worker asking them to run interference over every little thing. So one of the security guards, after listening to her and showing her the utmost respect, said under his breath to L.M., "What did you say to that bitch?" I laughed when L.M. told me. Bitch is a sexist word that I would be the first to say is best avoided. But I'll make this one exception.
There is another Library staff person, Johann, who worked earlier today. Johann, is generally respectful toward the public. But one evening a few months back, he was playing a game of chess with his pal at the end of the check-out counter when a man farted at the nearby open window. Johann jumped up and ordered the guy to leave, according to eye witnesses. 'I told you before not to do that!', Johann yelled. The guy yelled that Johann should take a walk through Canada Packers sometime. Johann kept telling him to leave the library and the buy, obviously feeling humiliated, kept repeating the Canada Packers suggestion. Johann called security who escorted the farter out of the Library. The security guards and the library clerk are both CUPE and the farter knew and the witnesses knew that he has no recourse.
But today there was no trouble in the Library. There were candy canes and an assortment of other candies provided free at the check-out counter, a tell tale sign that today was a special day. There seemed to be a temporary suspension of the practice by staff of having Security bully people who talked back or farted, people who could only wish for the protection afforded by union dues. They are no match for CUPE members for whom every day is Christmas.