Friday, July 30, 2004

Ooops, I stalked you again 

A man in his early forties waved me over to the computer. He was wearing a baseball cap and looked relatively normal, considering the Diane Arbus retrospective this place usually is. He was at the Britney Spears official website and wanted to know how to send her a get well e-mail. Whether his get well wishes were for her torn ACL or her spiritual sickness (as evidenced by her descent into moral turpitude and low down man stealing) I don't know and didn't ask. He then said softly, all Mark David Chapman,

"When I send her this e-mail she's going to know it's me. She's going to know it's me by what I say."

Unfortunately, he was at the 15 minute express computer and he had only a minute or so of time remaining before the computer was going to shut off on him. I tried to show him how to send the e-mail, but there wasn't enough time. There was a line of people waiting, so to send his e-mail he needed to wait his turn again at the back of the line. I explained this to him and he got agitated like this was my fault. Perhaps he could sense that deep down I was a little conflicted and didn't want to abet his stalking, and suspected me of hesitating and dragging my feet. He kept saying, “Why wouldn’t you help me faster? Why wouldn’t you help me send her that e-mail? Now I can’t! Now look what you've done! Oh, God, what am I going to do?” He then gave me a dark and wrathful look, like I alone was now responsible for keeping the two of them apart, and stalked off (ha, ha get it? 'Cause he's a stalker), probably to go retrieve some weapon to blow me away, the one and only barrier to his true love, Britney.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Librarian, What are you Wearing? 

I had the most bizarre obscene phone call of my life this evening at the library. For educational and entertainment purposes, I have created a transcript. This is to the best of my memory.

Foxy Librarian: ****** Library. How may I help you?

The voice on the phone was obviously a man’s. I could also tell from the quality of the connection that the phone call was long distance. He sounded elderly and refined but I detected a whiff of Old World corruption. I imagined some elegant but depraved soul like Count Olaf, Montgomery Burns, Hannibal Lector or The Continental.

Good evening. May I inquire as to what time your branch closes this evening?

FL: Of course. We close at 9 PM.

Thank you! How very kind of you. My husband  (It was obviously a man, but maybe he was married in San Francisco or Massachusetts? Why would he lie?)  and I used to live in your neighborhood for many years. Now we live in Oregon in the country. I miss our city apartment, but love all the space we have in the house where we live now. It's very large - over 15 rooms!

FL: Your home sounds wonderful.

May I please tell you that you have a lovely speaking voice. Are you a librarian or an intern?

FL: Thank you. What a nice compliment. I'm a librarian.

Well, you have a cultured way of speaking. I can tell you are well bred. I appreciate that you speak slowly and clearly. (This should have tripped an alarm. I don't sound THAT good, and I tend to mumble.)

FL: Thank you.

In fact, I appreciate your manners and your way of speaking so much that I would like to write a letter of commendation and my husband and I would like to make a large donation to your branch. How would I go about doing that?

I thanked him and told him to call my manager in the morning or the main library.

Oh, manners are not what they used to be, don't you agree? Children are just not raised properly. They do not speak slowly and clearly. My dear, if you were a child, and you came to live with us and be raised by me and my husband, what would you be?

FL: Uh, your ward?

Exactly! And if you were raised in my house, how would you be taught to speak?

FL: Let’s see. Slowly and clearly?

Very good. And, if you were my ward, wouldn't it be important that you always speak in that way, in that consistent manner, even if you were speaking to ill bred children who might be your playmates who spoke way too fast? That you wouldn't mimic their manner and pace of speech? That you wouldn't LOWER yourself in that way?

FL: I - I guess.

And how would I achieve this? How would I ensure that you always spoke so well?

FL: Leading by example?

No, with discipline, of course! Wouldn't you agree that discipline is extremely important?

FL: Er...

And discipline not in just manner of speech, but in all aspects of your upbringing. How would you expect me to discipline you?

FL: I, uh… What?

Let's move on for now. We'll return to this subject later. If you were my ward, how do you think I would expect you to dress?

FL: Uh, Conservatively? (I'M SUCH AN IDIOT)

Exactly! Now describe your height, physical characteristics and what you would wear. Go into as much detail as possible.

FL: I have a line at the reference desk. I'm sorry, but I need to go

Oh, I'll hold. Be thinking of how you would dress if you were my ward.

I'm sorry, I don’t like the direction this conversation -

*CLICK* He then hung up on me.

What an elaborate set up! And how clever of him to lie to me about his gender and then disarm me with flattery and the lure of a letter of commendation and a donation for the library. I felt like such a naive idiot, but please understand my confusion. It had been a really long day, and I get a lot calls that, although legitimate, are really strange. The public can be really freaky. Anyway, live and learn! I guess in the era of caller ID that libraries are one of the last few places to make an obscene phone call with impunity.

Speaking of getting freaky, did you know that there is also a thriving market for librarian pornography? Who would have thought? Human sexuality never ceases to amaze me.

To my patron who lays on the Musk a little thick 

Your heavy cologne has a smell
That causes me to feel unwell
Please be more sensitive; use your head
Or better yet, just use soap instead

Monday, July 26, 2004

Book Art 

The other day a patron, an elegant matron in her early sixties, came in and handed me a book. She was holding it along the edges with her fingers like it was a dead rat she had by the tail, and with a withering look of distaste said,

"This book should be withdrawn, for reasons that will become abundantly clear after you open it."

I suspected that someone had decorated the book with the usual graffiti: profanity, lewd pictures or racial epithets. I began to flip through the pages to try to find what she had found so offensive. The book seemed absolutely pristine until I arrived at the blank pages at the end of the book (called 'the stack,' FYI). These pages were no longer blank, because someone had used each one as a fingerpainting canvas. I would have found the art rather impressive - it looked like a fine example of abstract expressionism along the lines of Jackson Pollack - except that the 'paint' used was unmistakably blood which by now had dried to a dark rust colored crust.

I'm still kind of a greenhorn so I was a loss as to what to do. I considered dropping it in plastic biohazard waste disposal container we have for the occasional syringe we come across. The blood was dried so it was likely no longer a contaminant harboring live pathogens, so in the end I just put a note on it, wrapped it in a plastic bag and sent it back to the Main because they owned it and should decide how to deal with it.

I hope the patron finds a more socially acceptable, less nauseating way to express himself artistically. I also pray that this defacer doesn't become a serial vandal, like the homophobic man who made it his life mission to remove the word gay out of every single book owned by the library in another system. He would bowdlerize the word ‘gay’ with a pen knife out of each book even when the word was not used in a homosexual context, like in the case of the bomber Enola Gay. And boy did he have it out for author Gay Talese! He was finally apprehended, but not before causing thousands of thousands of dollars in damages.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Bite the Wax Tadpole, Mao 

I have always been fascinated by propaganda posters, and have a little collection going of my own of vintage ones from The War to End all Wars and The War to End all Wars II. Today my branch received a brand new copy of Chinese Propaganda Posters, and I have had a death grip on it all day. I could not recommend it more. Doesn't Mao just look like the most benevolent, huggy wuggy teddy bear? It's hard to believe that he starved 30 or so million of his own people to death just 'cause he could, but he did!

The pictures are hypnotically beautiful in their otherworldly, super idealized kitschiness, but the best parts are the text and slogans written on each poster.

Some of my favorites:

People of the world unite and defeat the US aggressors and all their running dogs!

Eschew the worlds of literature and art and become familiar with the lives of workers, peasants and soldiers.

I love the blue sky of the fatherland!

A bad element is to be publicly criticized!

The atom bomb is a paper tiger the US reactionary uses to scare people! It looks terrible, but in fact, it isn't.

I'm sure they have lost a little something in translation, like the Pepsi's marketing slogan "Come Alive with Pepsi!" which loosely translates as:

Come alive out of the grave with Pepsi
Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead

Coke had its problems as well. Coca-cola phonetically translates to:

female horse fastened with wax
wax-flattened mare
bite the wax tadpole

Thursday, July 22, 2004

A Raisin in the Staff Room 

The patrons of the branch where I'm substituting today lavish the staff with gifts of food. The break room is stocked with boxes of bagles, expensive chocolates, exotic fruits from the Asian markets and homemade cookies and brownies. I don't know if it is an indication of the depressed economy of my regular branch's neighborhood, the place our patrons hold us in their esteem, or some sort of statement that are customer service is not up to par, but the only gift we have received from our patrons lately is a box of raisins dispensed by WIC.

These government issued raisins has been sitting untouched for weeks on the staff room table. The packaging of the box is white and generic, and on the back is a sad little recipe for stewing them, which sounded absolutely disgusting even if you were starving. Not to be unappreciative, and I hate to see food wasted, but I have never been a big raisin fan and I have a feeling that these raisins have hardened into inedibility and are now not even suitable for fruitcake.

I missed the turbaned Norma Desmond today (this is her home branch), but a few days ago she came up to pick up her reserve, On the Down Low. Usually she only orders interlibrary loans of obscure texts on the tribes in New Guinea or nomadic bushmen, but her'research' must have taken a new direction. When she picked up the book she yelled at the tech who was standing 20 feet away, like she was addressing a crowd of hundreds,

"Have you heard of this phenomenon? There are black homosexsuals  masquerading as heterosexuals who are living a DOUBLE LIFE of anonymous GAY SEX!"

She opened the book and the tech just knew she was about to start reading highlights, but then she was mercifully interrupted by a woman with children who need the tech's help with some children's videos. When he finished helping them the coast was clear because she had apparently left to go immerse herself in the study of the hidden lives of black gay men.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Finest quality. MUCH NICER! 

When Dan and Eleanor were trekking across India the national catchphrase to compliment possessions or to sell a product was "finest quality." When Eleanor was signing a hotel receipt with her own pen the hotel clerk asked to see her pen, an ordinary ballpoint. He examined it slowly and carefully and as he returned it to he said with approval, "Your pen is of the absolute finest quality."

Another time Eleanor went to go buy toilet paper. She dreaded the errand because the smallest transaction, even for intimate personal items, was always a big, involved process requiring a lot of tedious haggling and time consuming negotiation. The sales clerk presented her with a roll of toilet paper, and then unfurled a few squares as if her were unrolling the finest Persian rug. He waved his hand with an elegant flourish and asked her to examine it herself. Unlike his American counterpart Mr. Whipple, he wanted her to squeeze the roll and pinch the squares so she could marvel at the loft of the tissue. After she touched it, he said smugly, "As you can see, this is of the finest quality." Even though the toilet practically cut her fingers with its coarseness she played along and said, "Yes. Certainly the finest quality I have ever felt."

They were constantly approached and hassled by people trying to beg, sell items, offer their services or con them. The most outrageous come on was when they were traveling in a rickshaw and passed another rickshaw going the opposite direction. The driver of the empty rickshaw yelled at them, "You need rickshaw?" Since they were already in a rickshaw traveling quickly the opposite direction Dan looked at him dumbfounded. Even as the distance rapidly grew between them the rickshaw driver continued his sales pitch and the last thing they heard was a faint " I promise the FINEST Quaaaliteeeeeee."

Lately I've noticed that the common saying to upsell or convince the reluctant buyer among the Chinese in this city has become "MUCH NICER!" I was working in the predominately Chinese area of town and went to a corner market to buy a snack. Most of the products were unrecognizable but I did find some Cheetoes, but only the spicy hot variety. When I asked the store clerk if she had any regular Cheetoes she said, "No. But buy the spicy! MUCH NICER!"

Elizabeth was getting her legs waxed at our neighborhood salon, which is Chinese owned and operated. After the waxing technician finished with her legs she asked Elizabeth if she wanted her bikini line waxed as well. Elizabeth was in a hurry so she declined. The woman gave her a look of reproach and asked, "Are you sure? MUCH NICER!"

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Touched by an Angel... of Death 

We have a lot of patrons who come to this branch quite consistently, many on a reliable, predictable schedule. Every so often one of these regulars will abruptly terminate his or her visits and I'll never see the person again. It's as if the patron has vanished from the face of the earth, and often I ponder their whereabouts. If the patron is elderly, I fear the worst, like in the case of of a patron in his eighties who used to come in without fail every Tuesday. He was a bit of a rake and was always trying to take me to lunch. Even though I always would demurely decline, each time he came in he would go through the same little routine of harmless courting. Because of his age and his charm I found it sweet and flattering rather than harassing and annoying, especially when he started to lie about his age to me by subtracting 40 years from his 83. When he suddenly stopped coming in I grew concerned and considered calling his home number to check on him. Before I did he came in with his son, who is 60, and explained that he had surgery and had been convalescing, but would soon be as good as new and resume his regular schedule of library visits. I was so relieved that I think I might even break my non fraternization policy go to lunch with him to celebrate his recovery.

The other day I was fortunate enough to get closure on another patron, who is also a
senior citizen. She always wore purple clothing, just like the poem. She usually had a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye, but her adorable old lady act was actually a form of diabolical mimicry, because in reality she was a vicious, nasty shrew.

Instead of reaching into her pocketbook to hand you a piece of candy, she would instead hand you a piece of your ass. She used to come in to use our internet almost daily and was extremely territorial and possessive of the computers. She would start fights and bully people off so they would relinquish their turn early to her. Usually people were so startled by this unexpected behavior out of this sweet old looking lady that they wouldn't challenge her and would wander off stunned. I saw her make a young English tourist girl cry one time.

Before I knew the extent of what an old C U Next Tuesday  this woman was I noticed her flailing at one of the computers one day. Our internet booking software locks out the computers 5 minutes before each half hour, and she was trying to log on at 25 minutes after the hour. I made the mistake of leaning into her and asking sweetly and softly,

"May I help you? Are you trying to log on?"

She whipped around and sneered, "What do you mean to ask me that? What does it look like I'm trying to do! Don't assume I don't know how to use a computer! And I just got a new hearing aid, so don't scream at me!"

From her overreaction, I thought she must have assumed that I was just another patron who was trying to muscle in on her time.

"I'm sorry - I didn't mean to startle you. I’m not trying to take your spot. I work here. I was just going to tell you that our internet booking software won't let you on until the half hour.”

"Oh, I know you work here! I know who you are. My tax dollars pay your salary, and don't you forget it!"

I have learned not to take these kind of encounters personally. I have also learned that trying to explain or reason with people like this just escalates matters. So, I said, "Well, OK then." and left her to her own devices with the computer for another 5 minutes until the software allowed her to go on.

She continued to come in, always starting fights, always wasting the support staff's time with these lengthy, monotonous complaints about how other people were overusing their time on the internet, a crime that she was almost always guilty of herself. Then one day she stopped coming in, and things became much more pleasant around the internet stations.

A few months later I was at another branch and I saw a small photograph of her under the plastic cover of another librarian's desk. It was unmistakably her, because she was wearing the same purple clothing that was her signature style. I asked the librarian if she knew her, and explained that she was a patron who came in the library all the time but I hadn't seen her in a few months.

"Oh, yes! That's -----! She was such a wonderful, involved activist! You name the cause, you could always count on her to be leading the march! I participated in many a peace rally with her."

Apparently old purple pants had been a real union activist and involved in all the peace activities for years, which just goes to bolster my theory that many of those crusading, save the world types are the biggest interpersonal assholes. Please explain to me if they love humanity so much why they are invariably the nastiest people you've ever met one on one?

The librarian then went on to tell me that she had died of a stroke recently. I actually had to cover my mouth and bite the inside of my cheeks to stop from smiling when I heard the news, and the librarian was touched because she thought I was overcome with emotion. When I got a hold of myself I told the librarian that I was so sorry to hear that and that the branch just wouldn't be the same without her.

2004 Bulwer-Lytton Bad Fiction Contest Winner 

She resolved to end the love affair with Ramon tonight ... summarily, like Martha Stewart ripping the sand vein out of a shrimp's tail ... though the term 'love affair' now struck her as a ridiculous euphemism ... not unlike 'sand vein,' which is after all an intestine, not a vein ... and that tarry substance inside certainly isn't sand ... and that brought her back to Ramon.

Another good one:
The knife handle jutted from her chest like one of the plastic pop-up timers in a frozen turkey, but from the blood pooling around the wound, it was apparent that this bird wasn't done.

Click here for more.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Tao of Poop 

One of the colleagues who started in the system around the same time as I did substituted for my vacationing manager the other day at my branch. We had a good time catching up. Like me, she came from a corporate library background and so we always enjoy exchanging stories and marveling at how different our jobs are now that we are civil servants.

When she first started she reported to a branch in the famed hippie section of town. It was her very first day and as she was walking up the steps and about to unlock the front door something stopped her dead in her tracks. There on the doorstep was mighty, steaming pile of human excrement. Since this was her first day, she was at a loss as to how handle this situation, which was not exactly the ‘welcome mat’ she expected or hoped for. This was not like anything she had faced before in her corporate job or an eventuality covered in library school. While she was standing there wondering what to do a homeless man came up behind her and said, “Pardon me, ma’am.” He then did a very chivalrous thing. He did not lay his coat down for her to walk over it like Sir Walter Raleigh (Elizabeth’s guess), but he did take some newspapers and cleaned up every last bit of it. After he was finished, this gallant drifter then walked off, never to be seen again. Although some people might have considered this an inauspicious beginning, she (like I do) loves and appreciates her civil service job, because although working with the public has its challenges, some of them even fecal, you have to put up with a lot more ‘shit’ in a corporate job.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

You will respect my authoritAY 

I had to get a little iron fisted with the computer boyz in the children's section the other day. They are in here from the moment we open until the computers shut off fifteen minutes before we close, meaning sometimes they'll be at the computers for 11 hours at a stretch. Since they spend their day cooped up inside playing computer games that exercise nothing but their hands, they get, unsurprisingly, rowdy and disruptive. Sometimes going beserker on them is the only way to reach them and keep them in line.

I think they are already a little frightened of me since they witnessed an incident involving a little boy about six months ago. This little boy is a real brat with indulgent, older parents who think everything he does, not matter how obnoxious, is absolutely adorable. Whether he's tearing around the library getting dangerously underfoot, sassing the librarians when they try to reign him in, or throwing a tantrum because we don't have a certain video or it's time to leave, his parents just chuckle indulgently while I dig my nails into my hands and the other adult patrons glare at me to do something. One time he came running in, and after I stopped him and asked him not to run in the library he reached over and maliciously turned my computer off, destroying an e-mail that I had put a lot of thought and care into. He then ran off. Furious, I followed him to the children's section. He then came barrelling out from behind a bookshelf, his arms full of videos, yelling greedily,

"Look, look, I got the last TWO Arthur videos! And they're all mine!"

He then tripped and fell flat on his face right in front of the children's computers, scattering the videos all of the floor, unhurt but stunned. Of course I burst out laughing, and the computer kidz looked at me wide-eyed, amazed that an adult, someone in a position of authority, could be that immature and petty. Even if I'm going to burn in hell for that, it was deeply satisfying thing for me to see.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Please allow me to explain 

Several of you commented on Billy's attire in the photo I posted on July 9th's entry. Before you accuse me of being the kind of odd, reclusive spinster librarian who dresses up her cat and dog children in twee outfits and forces them to participate in creepy tea parties, let me explain that they were in those outfits for a good reason: work. Although Sid's outfit (pictured left, in beefcake green) suggests International Male, they modeled for Pets.com, the irrational e-business that ruined many an exuberant investor and became a case study for dot com idiocy and profligacy. Say what you will about us exploiting our animals - Sid, Spoon and Billy Jack got to be part of dot bomb history.

How did they get this gig? Well, this whole thing is just who knows who and favoritism. (Elizabeth is friends with a photographer who was doing business with the company.) The dogs weren’t paid in stock options, but they were compensated with boxes and boxes of ridiculous merchandise, including a naugahyde bomber jacket, which I think cost $60 retail on the site. I can't figure out why the company went bust.

Instead of being wildly rich on paper, the dogs became wildly rich in crappy product, which arrived all at once in four huge boxes. We had a wonderful time opening up all of the boxes with the dogs. It was just like Christmas for them, and now they think anytime a box comes it's for them. We still have a bunch of outfits and Pets.com schwag, mementoes of the bubble that we hope to sell on Ebay for nostalgic, ironic types who collect that kind of crap.

Speaking of collectible keepsakes from defunct companies: people look covetously at my WANG coffee cup, which is not for sale, FRANCIS, ever. You'll have to pry that from my cold, dead hands.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Creep Sweep 

The criminals who designed and built this shoddily constructed branch inexplicably filled it with nooks, crannies and blind corners, a terrible idea for a public facility like this. I dread doing the ‘creep sweep,’ the closing procedure where we patrol the stacks to make sure all the patrons are out of the building, because I’m terrified one of them is going to ambush me and pounce on my back like a chupacabra.

So far this hasn’t happened, but the other night I got quite a scare when a homeless man suddenly materialized from behind one of the shelves right in front of me when I thought the library was empty. I was so startled I almost fell back and fainted, just like the man in Mulholland Drive after the creature pops out from behind the dumpster of the Winkies, a scene for which I will never, ever forgive David Lynch. This homeless man, who is a regular, looks amazingly similar to the monster in Mullholland Drive. Like the thing that lives behind Winkies, his clothing and skin are completely blackened with grime and his long hair has matted itself into greasy dread locks. What I find most horrifying about him is that he has that same sinister lack of facial expression, this beatific blankness about him. I usually see him on my morning walk with the dogs by the bay, picking intently at the weeping sores that cover his filth encrusted body or sorting through the trash for cigarette butts, waiting for my branch to open so he can pay me and the keyboard of one of our catalog computers a visit. For reasons I cannot fathom, he is obsessed with the keyboard - it seems that it has a powerful, totemic attraction, a religious signficance, for him. When the library opens up he’ll shuffle in, grab a volume of the encylopedia and park himself at a table in the back. He’ll behave quietly for while, but the call of the keyboard will be too much, and he’ll move toward it and start tapping on the keys in this ritualistic, compulsive manner. He’ll peck slowly at first, typing gibberish, but then he’ll build momentum until he’s frenziedly, destructively pounding on the keyboard with his filthy hands, all the time maintaining this eerily serene expression even as his level of exertion increases, as if what he is doing is bringing him deep peace. At that point my manager will ask him to leave, which the homeless man will do but slowly, because he is reluctant to be separated from the object of his obsession. He usually won’t return again until the next day, when the entire scenario will repeat itself. Since it wasn’t part of his routine to be in there so late at night, I was more shocked to see him than I would have been ordinarily. I hope he doesn’t do that to me again, because I only have so many of those in me that I can take.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Behold my Radiance 

Billy Jack has been out of control lately - suspiciously insinuating and aggressively charming. His vanity and narcissism know no bounds. I suspect he is trying to overcompensate after his disgraceful cowardice over the 4th of July weekend, when he had to be sedated like a hysterical woman because of the fireworks. Lately, when he’s lounging in the sun preening himself and notices someone looking at him, he’ll roll on his side, slowly open up his back legs and expose his genitals to that person, like a peacock displaying his feathers. Our two places are connected by dog doors, so the puppies have access to both apartments. Billy has begun sleeping in all the different beds during the night, spending a few hours in one and then moving onto the next one until he's curled up with every single person in every single bed in the house. Elizabeth calls him a polygamist.

The branch were I am stationed today is so small that there is only one bathroom, which means that the staff has to share the bathroom with the public. Anyone who has seen how I keep house knows that I am far from finicky, but even I have my limits. I know too much about what goes down in the public restrooms of a metropolitan library to ever set foot in one. Since I have a bladder the size of a pecan, I have been trying to avoid liquids, so maybe I’ll make it to closing.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Aromatherapy for Librarians 

This was the title of an actual seminar offered at a recent library convention. I wonder what healing and stress reducing aromas the seminar suggested as therapy. I certainly encounter a lot of aromas while at work at the library, and none are remotely therapeutic. Since I began working with the public a few years ago I have encountered odors so noisomely evil that I have flirted with the idea of taking up smoking, a hideous habit I gave up years ago, to dull my sense of smell. Sometimes I contemplate even more drastic measures, like shooting a bottle rocket up my nose so, like Selma Bouvier, I would be permanently deprived of my sense of smell.

One particular patron has a body odor so putrid that the unfortunate page who had to check out his material one time retched right in front of him. I’ve really smelled nothing like him before – it’s indescribable, but I’ll try. He smells like a combination of stale cigars, hair grease and slow death (apologies to Joseph Conrad). He always wears the exact same oily hat and raincoat, and his odor contaminates the entire library like a dirty bomb or tear gas. His odor is so abominable that the staff was almost driven to revolt, so my manager had the unenviable duty of talking to him about his problem. The patron became belligerent and defensive, and didn’t return to the library for almost a year, which made us all rejoice. The other night he returned like some kind of curse, though, dressed exact same greasy hat and clothing, more putrescent than ever. Since my manager no longer works the same night as I do I hope that the responsibility never falls on me to give him another talking to about his odor.

Another patron with an odor problem I feel very conflicted about. He is a homeless alcoholic but has a very courtly and charming Old World manner about him and is perfectly well behaved in every other aspect. He is always so gracious and every time he visits the branch he makes sure to visit my desk so he can shower me with compliments, flattery, and, regrettably, molecules coated in his stench. Despite all of his refinement and courtesy, he has such a pungent odor that when he stands before me my eyes will begin to water and I will start to panic. He actually smells like he has been swimming in a port-o-let. I don’t mean that he smells like sewage, but that he actually smells like the blue deodorant chemical disinfectant liquid that port-o-lets use. I don’t know how it is possible that he reeks of that distinctive odor unless he bathes in it. Now I have become so sensitive to that odor that whenever I pass by a port-o-let I get a full body shudder and my mouth waters as it does as a harbinger of vomit. This patron also wears the same, never varying, never cleaned dark suit every day. Lately it has been covered with a fine dusting of white powder, as if he had just escaped from Pompeii or the World Trade Center. Maybe he is sleeping every night in the port-o-let of a construction site, and the powder is dust from the site. I have considered getting a scented hankie I could pull out and discreetly dab beneath my nostrils when he visits. That way, I could protect myself from his odor and playfully and coquettishly flick it at him after pays me a particularly over the top compliment.

Friday, July 02, 2004

The Moleman Cometh 

If Joel Steinberg had paid a visit to the Island of Dr. Moreau and been crossbred with a mole, you would have something like my least favorite patron, the Moleman. Physically, he's like a mole, but there the resemblence ends, because unless you happen to be a grub, Thumbelina or fussy gardener, moles are gentle, untroublesome creatures who serve a useful purpose in the ecosystem by aerating the soil. Personality wise, however, he is a lot like child battering lawyer Joel Steinberg: abusive with an explosive temper and a dangerous sense of self entitlement. He would be absolutely terrifying if he weren’t 5’4, pear shaped and, judging from the thickness of his lenses, legally blind. He also has a voice that rises in a very unmanly, regressive way while he's throwing his tantrums like a nasty three year old.

He likes to come in Tuesday nights because he is a bully and a coward and he knows there are no men working then to throw him out. He stalks in, already in a snit, dressed in a three piece suit because he's a man to be reckoned with.  A man who won't pay $9.95 a month for his own internet, but a man to be reckoned with nonetheless. The gremlins (Pixies? Hobgoblins? Brownies? Ghosts in the Machine? Angry souls of ancestors?) that infest our computers sense his humorless, pompous, self important air and amuse themselves by fucking with him, usually by disconnecting whatever computer he is working on from the internet, always timing it to destroy the bulk of whatever he was working on because he is an idiot who never learns to back up his work. Ordinarily I would derive petty satisfaction from this, but he then starts to throw a tantrum and the staff has to bear the brunt of his petty rages. He actually screamed at me one time,

“Maybe the other people who come into use this library ARE LOSERS (quit projecting, Moleman!)  who have nothing better to do than deal with this these computer issues, but I MYSELF am not A LOSER! (protesting a bit too much, Moleman!) ”

Somehow I’ll get the computer back on-line and then he’ll pound angrily on the keyboard until his turn is over, huffing loudly in this exasperated, put-out manner, poisoning our plants with his toxically perturbed energy. Afterward he’ll approach the desk to check out a book. Because he considers himself above due dates he always has a large fine, and when he is told the amount he will start screaming and ranting at the poor female Asian support staff worker about how the library is always trying to rip him off. He will actually jump up and down in this incredibly undignified manner like Yosemite Sam or Rumpelstiltskin after the queen guesses his name. The first time I witnessed one of his fits I stood there with my mouth open, amazed that a grown man could behave in such a way. Since I have worked a lot with children I managed to placate him, but his Tuesday night tantrums began to become a regular thing and were beginning to rattle the staff. I suspect that he saves up all of his slights and frustrations from the week and then comes into the library to blow off steam as some kind of sick release. I also get the feeling that there is something creepily sexual about it, since he really likes to let loose, to ejaculate emotionally, on the support staff, all beautiful, delicate Asian girls.

One time he approached the circulation desk to throw one of his tantrums and he spotted the security guards, who for the first and probably only time in my entire life had made a surprise visit from the Main and were somewhere where they were needed. Because he's a coward, he choked back his incipient tantrum and then scurried off like a roach into the night. I thought he was ridiculous but when I realized how traumatized the circulation desk workers were by his behavior I had my boss have a talk with him about his behavior and he has improved. He rarely comes in the library now, but I can always tell he's there before I even see him because I’ll hear his exasperated sighs and feel a pull from the vortex of peevishness that surrounds him.

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