international librarian of mystery

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Dooced II: The Hiccups of Terror

I was in a last-day-before-the-holidays-haze, going through the motions before the start of my endlessly-awaited two week summer break from the Library.

The daze was probably a good thing: the citizens of the city appeared to be dump-trucking their books onto the returns desk before departing on their own holidays, a situation that would normally drive me to despair - but today was merely a reminder of what it was I wouldn't be doing when I was lying on a beach somewhere, probably feeling (a) vaguely guilty for not doing something, and (b) the dull throb of my occupational overuse syndrome aching away in my right shoulder.

So, when Mrs Darjeeling phoned the desk and requested my presence in her office as soon as possible, I suspected nothing. More so, I was naively optimistic that the news might be good: my stand-down time from the library web-team was surely at an end, so I thought I might be about to get the green light to rejoin the geek-squad. I walked into her office. The inevitable request came...

"Shut the door please Natalie."

Ohhh, she looked stern. Trouble.

"Natalie, I have to ask you if one of your more recent online entries contains any element of truth to it."
"Um, okay, fire away."
"Your entry regarding the copying of CDs. Did this take actually take place?"

Ohhhh ... shit.

"Um, yes."
"And did you copy CDs taken from our collection?"
"You wouldn't happen to know exactly how many?"

27. But not all the tracks off each, necessarily.

"Um, a few, I'm not too sure..."
"It's a moot point, anyway. The damage has been done. Not only is copying of our CD and DVD collections in direct contradiction of the terms of your Employment Contract, it's also quite illegal. You must be aware we've passed on lesser cases involving patrons to the police..."

I hiccupped in terror.

"...which we won't be doing in this case, " continued Mrs Darjeeling, "but, I'm afraid this incident, on top of your previous warnings means the Library really has no choice but to terminate your contract."
"You're firing me?"
"I'm afraid so Natalie. As this would have been your last day before your holiday, it has been decided to give a month's severance pay, instead of the usual fortnight, so as to not completely ruin your summer. I have here your letter of dismissal and final payslip. I wasn't required to give you a Reference Letter, but I have."
"Um, thanks."
"I've been assured by the legal people that everything is in order, but you do, of course, have the option of taking legal advice against the Council for unjust dismissal."
"Would I have a chance?"

Mrs Darjeeling took off her glasses, and looked across the desk at me.

"Natalie, really, it is beyond me why you've got yourself into such a pickle. You're obviously a very smart girl, but you seem intent on undermining the good work you do here with this ... this ... blog business. I've been happy enough to overlook things so far - the grey area you inhabit has been suitably vague enough to warrant any serious reprimand. But this latest entry, it's ... really ... just a step too far."
"Copying the CDs?"
"Yes, Natalie. I mean, really, you, of all people. Our resident music expert."
"Well, that's why, isn't it? And besides, everyone else does it too."
"They do not Natalie, and, certainly, those that do don't disclose their low-level work-based illegal activities in an online journal."
"There are many people who watch what you do, you know. I dread to think how many other cases like this are going to crop up. I'd like to think we at the Library have been giving you fair warning that discretion might be the better part of valour when it comes to your written exploits. It seems, however, that all we've been doing is giving you enough rope to hang yourself with."

And so, on that appalling metaphor, Mrs Darjeeling passed across the papers, ending both our discussion, and my job.

My summer holidays had begun.