This TIHATL is a hybrid of two well-trod library tropes: The Customer Who Refuses To Be Helped and Left Behind By Technology. It makes for sad, frustrating interactions and irate customers.
R needs to do something on the internet. He hates the library's computers. He hates Windows 10. He is convinced that our public computers and Windows 10 are the causes of his problems.
He marches triumphantly into the library with a used laptop that he purchased, announcing that, at last, he has a copy of Windows XP. He also has a newly purchased ethernet cable. And he's convinced that this combination -- both, unbeknownst to him, outdated -- will solve his problems.
I explain that we have no way to use the cable, that we can only connect to the internet wirelessly. This infuriates him. "Why not? What kind of crap operation are you running here? What is wrong with this library?"
I try everything I know to get his laptop to pick up the library's free wifi, but it will not. This also infuriates him. Fortunately -- and a bit surprisingly -- he does not blame me.
After a while I convince him to move to one of our public computers. This also involves getting him to pack up his laptop, his jacket, and all the papers he has strewn across the table. It's like dealing with a 5-year-old, with none of the cute factor.
He sits at the computer for about five seconds before he starts complaining. "Where's the search box on this crappy thing?"
Incidentally, R is hearing-impaired, so we're both shouting. He also has very bad body odour, and I am highly sensitive to smells. He looks disheveled and unkempt.
I show him how to open a browser and find Google. He tells me what he's looking for, and waits for me. I explain that I won't be doing this for him. He angrily types in his search, bashing the keyboard, then clicks on the first link without looking at it. "What am I supposed to do now? These damn computers! Windows 10 garbage! What kind of library is this, anyway? Why can't I use my laptop! What kind of garbage is this!" and so on.
At one point in his rant R says, "I ran my own business for 40 years! I never had these problems!". This gives some insight into what he may be experiencing. Presumably, he's been competent and independent in the past, and now finds himself helpless and frustrated in a world that has left him behind. Unfortunately, my empathy for him cannot help him. I also wonder if this is actually true.
Also while ranting, R says he wants to buy a typewriter and use Canada Post. He has said this several times at the library. It must be an expression of frustration and a longing for something simpler. He hasn't actually tried to buy a typewriter, or asked us how he might go about that.
When I last saw R, he was using Google and writing down whatever he found, with pen and paper. His handwriting is illegible and his grasp of written English is marginal.
Based on his searches, I think he may be sending some kind of promo or advertising to various companies -- which is even sadder, as I can't imagine what this would look like.
I really want to help this man. But he is so invested in being right, and so frustrated that he cannot navigate the world, which now feels so foreign to him, that he refuses to be helped. Instead, he wastes money on an outdated laptop, and ends up feeling more aggrieved than when he started.
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