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Saturday, February 14, 2004



Boundaries

Last night I broke a cardinal rule I had established for myself when I started working at the public library: I saw one of my patrons socially. I made this exception for a lovely and elegant Dutch woman for whom I am always ordering Inspector Maigret mysteries from other branches. Even though it's the easist thing in my job description to do, she makes a huge production out of it and carries on like I'm pulling strings and granting her special favors and really going out of my way for her. She is always so charming and thankful and tells me things like, "I would have nothing to reeeeed if it weren't for you." She is a nice compensation for some of the borderline personalities who wander into the library that I have to deal with.

My friend Jack and I helped find an apartment in Paris over Christmas for her and so she wanted to take me out to dinner. She's a neighbor of mine so we had dinner at a Thai restaurant down the street. She's led a very interesting life (she lived under German occupation as a child) and it was a lovely dinner and I'm glad that I did it.
I'm also considering breaking my rule again and taking the Feisty Old Broad to an Irish pub for her birthday and getting loaded with her. She always keeps me entertained with her outlandish statements and stories which always make for really good blog material.

I have a sad feeling that I am the only meaningful human contact a lot of my more lonely patrons have, and their intense neediness and desperation for companionship can be a little overwhelming, and at times, scary. Some patrons misinterpret my librarian service ethic as an invitation into my personal life. We had to change my listing in the phone book because a few patrons who lack proper boundaries somehow found out what my last name was and were calling me at home, sometimes at 7:30 in the morning, which really freaked me and Elizabeth out. There's a balance between being civil servant rudeness/apathy and friendliness and I'm still working on it.

Take John the Fisherman, the one who wanted to give me crabs (see Feb 5 post). He doesn't see the the fact that I live with a woman, that we have a 30 year age difference, that he's semi-homeless and lives on a boat, or that he reeks of brine and dope as any sort of barriers to our love.
He's a Vietnam Vet (I'm surprised that his bantam stature - he's only about 5'6 - didn't earn him a 4F deferment) and seasonal fisherman. On the first occasion I met him, he leaned over my desk to look at my computer screen and a fat smoldering marijuana roach fell out of his pocket right onto my keyboard. The next time I helped him he gave me this sad song and dance of how he left this paperback book belonging to the library on a boat and had no way of getting it back. This book was just an uncatalogued donation so I gave him a break and took it off his record. This was evidence enough for him that I had fallen deeply in love with him. Now whenever he's in town he's always trying to chat me up while I'm trapped at the reference desk, mostly to complain about his treatment at the VA hospital, especially how it will only cover two Viagra pills a month, which, he said to me sauvely with a raised eyebrow, "is hardly adequate."

When I declined his invitation to accompany him to some 'happening' up in Marin for the weekend he didn't take the news too well, but when I didn't react with appropriate gratitude (i.e., I didn't want to have sex with him) when he donated a Harry Potter book to the library he acted really hurt, like I led him on or something, and had cruelly wounded his pride intentionally. I shouldn't feel bad but I do, so I'm making it a goal to work on my personal boundaries and make my intentions more clear.

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