Thursday, April 22, 2010

[True Work Tales] The Case of the ID and the Eyebrow

I am a librarian. A librarian at a private medical affiliated college in the Metropolitan NY area. My students are awesome. But sneaky. This is a true story.

As of March, I am officially in charge of the ID making machine for my (very small) college. At some point (probably during the massive overtime of accreditation), the ID Machine and I – not unlike King Arthur and England – became one. This explains my strange binary dreamscapes and why the ID printer sometimes hums the Allman Brothers. Taking pictures of the students at my college has allowed me to meet lots of new people – which I love – and to learn their names (which is good, because no one can escape having to sign in at the library desk for usage statistics). And to hone my guerilla tactics to get them to come back and utilize the burgeoning powerhouse that is my library. This last has been very successful.

You… well, maybe it’s just me… but I cannot believe the amount of passion, emotion and angst that is involved with the rather pixilated photographs that are printed on the ID cards. I’ve been begged, bribed and generally amused by students who seem to be expecting a Glamour shot from our Watchport V2 camera. That is seriously not going to happen. I’m not a bad photographer when the camera is stationary, focused and instantaneous. But under fluorescents and with the graphic backdrop of the Cardiovascular System, miracles are highly unlikely. Although very welcome, of course. It probably doesn’t aid the photographee’s cause that I am not picky about pictures. The gem for my ID was taken in the sweaty lost hours of March whereby I suspended the camera to about eye level and snapped a shot. I was desperately in need of either a shower or a beer – probably both. I don’t think my well meaning: “Oh! That’s not that bad,” really engenders confidence in my finished products.

The other issue is the printing capabilities of the card printer – which has been likened in physique to a Roomba by the observant. It’s kind of awesome altogether and consistently churns out a finished product with a doggedness the USPS could envy. But it also has a tendency to recolor faces. In yellows and oranges – particular shades that are not much represented in nature. Except by the manufacturers of highway paraphernalia. This has also caused no end of complaints featuring a host of adjectives I have never heard before in my life.

And this is where my true story begins.

Mr. X*, a student at my college, lined up for his photo ID with the rest of his class (a cohort of about ten students who are graduating in August). From the first, he was displeased with his picture. We had some words over his using the adjective “Chinky,” in the library – which I have some control over – which actually fostered some interesting discussion about stereotypes, racist adjectives and the general ethnic population segregation of JC. His dislike of the ID never waivered however.

In early April, Mr. X came to the library to report that he had lost his ID. “It just blew out the window,” he explained, while I wondered how likely it was that it was actually thrown out the window. I was happy to replace it… with the same picture that was already in the database. Cue Mr. X’s sigh.

While we were waiting for it to print (which takes about 6 seconds), the true story of his ID’s demise leaked out. Either I am getting really good at interrogation techniques (which is possible) or his conscience was entirely too guilty to maintain silence indefinitely. Here is the sad – but very true – tale that was recounted to me: “Well… I did have it clipped to,” Mr. X points to his left eyebrow, “here with the window down.” I inquired as to why it was attached to his eyebrow. Through a complicated series of motions, it became clear that this was not the first time it had ended up there. “So I was on the phone with my friend and it just… flew out the window.” I mentioned that perhaps his eyebrow was not sufficient enough of a perch for the metal clip of the ID card, to which he responded, “Yeah. I’ll know better next time.”

My goodness, I love this job.

*names changed to protect the guilty


  1. My library used to house the campus ID machine - and we used to take all the pictures at orientation. We'd have 100+ students to get through and they'd still want us to take the picture 2 or 3 times to get a good picture. A student once asked me if I was in a bad mood because I told her no I would not retake the photo after it had printed out and she didn't like it.

  2. I was particularly fond of the student who asked if she could take a picture for her ID with her back facing the camera with her face over her shoulder. I was like: "This is not for Facebook, guys."