Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Act Disruptively and Carry a Big Stick 

The other morning I was walking the dogs and was stopped by the sight of a flock of feral parrots that had completely taken over a berry tree. A crowd soon gathered to watch the parrots devour the berries. To my left some tourists were busy taking photographs. I was dismayed to notice standing right next to me on my other side was one of the most problematic patrons in the system. I run into a lot of my patrons outside the library in unexpected places, sometimes so much so that I suspect that my reality is just one goddamn giant computer simulation and that the program is running low on memory and is having to recycle its characters.

This patron comes in to use our internet and is infamous for his histrionics when the computers aren't working. He is also notorious for carrying a large quarterstaff. He uses it ostensibly as a walking aid but it could easily double as weapon and it terrifies me. One of the side effects of his psychiatric medication is a dry mouth, a condition that makes his breath poisonous and causes him to smack his mouth in this maddeningly rhythmic way. This sound has almost driven me to tears more than once. Supposedly he had a large trust fund which has been bled dry by stays at mental institutions. He's abrasive, demanding and entitled. He likes to hover over my shoulder while I look up obscure titles for him on the interlibrary loan database and slowly smack in my ear and poke my monitor with his grimy index finger.

I first encountered him on the rainy night when the police came in to question the old homeless man who had been killing and roasting pigeons on a spit outside the library. He began to complain loudly to me that the interrogation was disruptive and that the police should have removed the suspect from the premises so as not to disturb the other patrons in the library, all two of them. I was frankly overjoyed to have the policemen there and couldn't care less about how much noise they were making. I wasn't about to go shush them and interfere with their job. He began complaining and fussing about how he was this serious scholar who had spent a lot of time at the British Library, an institution that would never have allowed this sort of disturbance. I told him that every system has its own unique challenges and that there was nothing I could do.

The last time he came in the library he was apparently off of his meds because he was wild eyed and agitated. He had used up his allotted time on the internet and the system wouldn't let him on again. He began to flail about in distress and I was terrified that he was going to start smashing the monitors with his cudgel. To calm him down I gave him a pass on the internet and he settled down. My favorite homeless man who gives me all of the background on all of the characters that wander into the library said that he has been kicked out of every shelter in the city and, although he is universally loathed by homeless and social workers alike for being so obnoxious, is basically harmless.

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