Thursday, April 08, 2004

There is a band of losers I mean people (mustn't...judge) on a methadone maintenance program that likes to gather in the park near the branch where I work. The church across the street feeds them, and there are plenty of tourists passing through to hit up for money, so they don’t want for much and seem content to while away their lives in the park in a pleasant, if thoroughly unproductive, narcotized haze. Good times.  They're kind of like the Lotus Eaters in the Odyssey, but not nearly as appealing or attractive.

I always wonder what the recent Chinese immigrants who also congregate in the park to practice Tai Chi must think, and if they can’t help but get a little wistful for their former homeland’s solution to drug addicts and drug dealers, which is to round them up periodically in the town square and execute them while the entire town is forced to watch. Since this isn’t totalitarian China, whose answer to the problem of drug addiction seems simplistic and - to use my favorite word so often associated with China- draconian , I am a firm believer in the principles of harm reduction. Methadone is an integral tool in treating heroin addicts in the harm reduction method. Believe me, it’s better having them in a pacified stupor in the park than desperately hitting someone over the head with a lead pipe for money for their heroin fix.

Interesting fact: Like Sarin nerve gas, the Autobahn, and Volkswagens (and, by extension, Fahrvergnugen), Methadone is a gift of the Nazis. The Third Reich was concerned about getting its supply of heroin and morphine from opiate producing countries cut off, so it had its finest scientific minds come up with a synthetic source: methadone. Eli Lilly then got the patent as a kind of spoils of war arrangement in 1945.

At least when a person uses methadone they're somewhat coherent and functional. The other day a middle aged heroin user (whom I've nicknamed Cap'n Syringe) wandered into the library and pretended to look at videos. He kept nodding off while standing up, slumping over into the bookshelves, startling himself awake when he would knock over a book. When he passed out face first into our plastic bucket of DVD covers I asked him if he were OK, and did I need to call an ambulance. He replied that he was fine and continued to browse and nod off. Meanwhile a very lovely young woman accompanied by her elderly mother were having a nice mother daughter outing and decided to come to the library. They both applied for cards so I assumed it was their first visit. The daughter was browsing through the videos when Cap'n Syringe spotted her, and his pin pointed pupiled eyes lit up like he had just seen a big shimmering pile of uncut China White. He then smoothed back his hair and lurched toward her to chat her up. He managed to get out a few slurred words when I intervened and asked him to leave before he fell into her, ensuring that her first trip to the library would be her absolute last.

He was compliant and left right away, much to my relief. I'm still getting my sea legs as far as asking people to leave the library. We don't have security, and the last thing I want to do is to set some paranoid schizophrenic off. But then again, it is my responsibility to ensure that the library is a safe and welcoming place for families and patrons who want to use the library legitimately. I’m wondering if a Masters in Social Work might not be a bad thing to get in addition to my Masters in Library Science.

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