Monday, July 18, 2005

Urban myth #143: the warped CD

In the summer of 1985, the Association of Frustrated Librarians and the Collective of Instrumental Order (the AFL-CIO, who would go on to lose a trademark dispute in 1987) met in Shreveport for their annual conference, because New Orleans was booked solid. One of their most contentious issues was the rise of library patrons who would borrow music instead of books.

Mildred Tatum, then Sergeant-at-Arms of the AFL, commented in a panel discussion that "We get all sorts of unsavory types in our libraries now. Greasy, long-hair types... are they boys or girls? Who can tell?"

Agatha Wilson, who headed the Glendale Area Library System, added that "The system was fine before the music came along. People would check out books, and at worst return them with a few dog-eared pages. In 1979 we had a 93% on-time return rate. At long last our patrons were falling in line. We'd even reduced the shushing quotient to 8 per operating hour countywide."

Mumbles of approval filled the crowd.

Agatha continued, "But it's all changed now. Our first quarter reports indicate that 56% of our music -- vinyl records, tapes, and those newfangled compact discs -- gets returned late, or scratched, or..." She holds back her tears. "...both."

Mildred Tatum struck her gavel 6 times to silence the crowd.

"We're on your side," replied the President of the CIO, Eugene Goodall. "So we brought an outsider who could help restore a little discipline to the music borrowers."

The crowd responded angrily.

"An outsider!"

"How could you!"

"We're done for sure!"

"Relax, conference members. I'm only here to help." Even then, Karl Rove carried a mystical air about him. He had the heart and authority of a lion, yet the cunning and temperament of a weasel.

"Mr. Rove was telling me about a new campaign to curb the misuse of library music."

"That's right, Mr. Goodall. In my experience I've learned that the authoritative use of misinformation can go a long way. My stable of scientists down in my underground lab tell me that applying a blowtorch to a record, tape, or disc for 35 seconds will warp it beyond playback, or even recognition. I suggest you all start a campaign to warn patrons that leaving library music out in the sun, in a car, or even by a window will cause irreparable damage, and that they are responsible for the cost of replacing the item, plus unspecified shipping and handling expenses."

That final phrase rang in the audience's ears. Librarians were always seeking a way to take their patrons' money by less accountable means.

"We can get the Department of Education involved, so the cost of the campaign can be financed by the taxpayers. In this political climate I'd say you could get about $700 million a year, the same as your READ celebrity poster series. Go back to your libraries and spread the word. Do it now!"

With those words the ground began to shake, and the floor of the Shreveport Conference Center split about 6 feet behind the podium, opening a hole about as wide as the panel table. A red glow arose and the sound of tortured cackling could be heard below. Observers near the thermostat would later report that the temperature of the room increased by 13 degrees. Mr. Rove appeared to descend a staircase as the floor resealed itself.

Author's Note: I discovered today that I had left a library CD under the passenger seat of my car for nearly two weeks. This car is kept in a garage, but is used almost daily on the hot streets of Las Vegas, where temperatures are commonly in the 110s outside, and so much more inside a hot car. The CD remains in perfect, playable condition. I present the above story without any editorial comment. Yet.


K-Lyn said...

Are you kidding!

Story: We found a NKOTB cd in the parking lot of our high school when we arrived at the end of the summer for band camp. We spent DAYS thinking up ways to torture this disc into no longer playing the right stuff. We drove over it, dunked it in soda (or pop wherever you are from), and one guy even took it home to try a frying pan (I don't know for sure what he did but it did have some flame marks when it came back)

The only thing that actually worked was stomping on it in the gravel. Which we did. With pleasure.

Neel Mehta said...

I'm kidding about the story, but not the CD. Checked out Echoes by Pink Floyd on the 8th, found it today.

It's amazing how quickly that library conference story came about -- most of it within seconds of finding the CD. I guess I'm good at making up stories to illustrate a point. Maybe I should be defending criminals.