or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Reference Question of the Week – 6/6/10

   June 12th, 2010

You Bet Your Life logoA middle-aged male patron approached me while I was at the desk alone and asked,

Do you know any good jokes?

In fact I do, so I told him my current favorite:

A duck walks into a bar wearing one shoe. The bartender says, "Hey duck, you lost a shoe." And the duck says, "Nope, I found one."

Awesome. Anyway, he said he liked it, but he wanted a lot of jokes. I showed him where our humor section* was, and he said he'd look around.

A little while later, he came back up to the desk and said he wanted jokes delivered by text message to his phone. We started searching the internet for "jokes by text" and "joke of the day" and found a ton of jokes people could retype and send out as text messages. There were also lots of jokes by email, and other joke sites, but most looked kind of sketchy.

Then we found Comedy Central's jokes.com. It offers signups for a joke of the day by both email and text, and they seem reputable enough to trust. The text messages were not free, and when he saw that he kind of gave up on the idea.

Before he left, he asked if I knew any other good jokes, so I told him my all-time favorite:

A hotdog walks into a bar and orders a beer. The bartender says, "Sorry, we don't serve food."

Ah, the many required skills of a librarian.


*Of all the classes of the Dewey Decimal System, the 800's irritate me the most. Patrons just want to browse for poetry, but no, the books are arranged geographically by the author's country, and sometimes chronologically by publication date, which means similar books are in multiple sections. Our humor books are in 818.5 (or .6), which is something like Literature > Miscellaneous Writings > American Authors of the 20th (or 21st) Century, but could also be in the 808's, 817's, 827's, blah blah blah.

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8 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 6/6/10”

  1. lucy Says:

    i had a good one yesterday. i don’t want to sterotype, but he a was a bit worse for wear, down on his luck kinda guy – last time i had tried to help him he was drunk and trying to apply for a job at the local mexican restauraunt. he wanted me to fill out his application. when i said i couldn’t he said – “well, they are not going to hire me if they know i can’t write”. it was tragic and sad. i think i actually cried when i went back to my office to regroup.

    so, yesterday he comes in and is sober, but still worse for wear. he asks for help using the Internet so he can find out about carnivorous plants. i was looking forward to actually being able to help him. realizing it would take his entire 30 minute internet session just to get him logged in and teach him how to use the mouse i suggested we find books. i gave him a few, with lots of photos, and he asked for a magnifier, cause he “got kicked in the head” and can’t see well. sigh.

    in the end, he wanted to download “day of the triffids” on the computer so he could watch it. thank god for Youtube – that kept him busy and happy, and he didn’t need to use the mouse…

    oh, and the reason he wanted info about carnivorous plants was because he had heard of a “man eating tree” and wanted to be sure to recognize it so he could stay away from it. i told him not to worry but to stay out of the amazon, just to be safe.

  2. Maria Says:

    Are you sure you’re not a relative of mine? We are known for our particularly corny sense of humor.

  3. Brian Herzog Says:

    @lucy: your patron sounds very familiar. Sometimes I feel people don’t ask questions because they want answers so much as they just want company. I try to steer people like this to our computer classes so they can learn to use the computer themselves, but sometimes they seem to prefer interaction to independence.

    When Massachusetts started the state-wide health plan a couple years ago, a patron very similar to the man you describe came in and asked for help signing up online. During the process (and showing a drunk man with no computer experience how to use a government website is definitely a process), he asked me if I had healthcare. I said I get it through the library, and he said I should drop it and get on Mass Health, because he can tell me which doctors will hand out drugs. Nice, thanks.

    @Maria: bad jokes always bring people together – got any you can share?

  4. Heather Says:

    This is my favorite joke ever (adapted from joke #755 here: http://www.rinkworks.com/jokes/jokes76.shtml) — but I’m an English major, so I have to find it hilarious:

    Davy Jones and his crew have been falling on some hard luck recently. They’ve been plundering and pillaging but haven’t ended up with a lot to show for their efforts. Before setting out on his next expedition he had a dentist appointment, and while at the dentist he happened to mention that he hadn’t been getting a lot of gold recently.

    “Well,” said the dentist, “lots of people have gold teeth and gold fillings. Have you thought about checking bodies for gold in their teeth?”

    Davy Jones thought this was a great idea, and he and his crew set out. When they reached a village, Davy Jones’ crew went about their plundering and pillaging, while Davy Jones went looking for the local cemetery and spent his time digging up bodies and pulling out their teeth.

    When the crew returned to the ship, they had little treasure, but Davy Jones had several bulging sacks of gold. Perplexed, his crew asked how he had met with such success. Jones replied, “Before setting out, I spoke to my dentist, who said to me, ‘Booty is tooth, and tooth booty.'”

  5. judy Says:

    Borrowed from Prairie Home Companion: ” A skeleton walks into a bar and orders a beer and a mop…”

  6. sharon Says:

    My favorite in this genre:

    Two pieces of string walk into a bar and the bartender looks at them suspiciously. He says “Sorry, boys, we don’t serve your kind here.” So the pieces of string walk out again.

    They’re sitting in the gutter outside and feeling really thirsty when one piece of string says “Hey! I’ve got an idea.”

    He starts twisting and turning, wriggling this way and that, pulling out a few threads here and there. His mate’s looking at him and thinks he’s gone completely nuts.

    The piece of string walks back into the bar. The bartender looks at him a little suspiciously again and says “Here, you’re not a bit of string, are you?”

    The piece of string replies “Nope, frayed knot.”

  7. laura Says:

    Yes, I also hate the 800s — and we have actually been thinking about rearranging ours by genre and then alphabetically by author. The horror! But I really think it would make for a better patron experience, especially at most small public libraries.

  8. Marcie Says:

    People can send text messages to ChaCha (242242) and get jokes in return. The service is free. Check out http://www.chacha.com/category/humor/topics for specific kinds of jokes.