Thursday, June 09, 2005


I have a really bad habit of sticking the ends of pens and pencils in my mouth and chewing on them in this absentminded fashion. I don’t know why I go around putting objects around in my mouth like a toddler - I guess I must be partially arrested in some oral fixation stage or I never got over quitting smoking. I had a wake up call as to how dangerously unsanitary this habit is the other day at the reference desk, where we keep boxes of golf pencils at the edge for the general public to use. Toward closing time a man who had so much grime encrusted all over him he looked like he was doing an impression of Al Jolsen in The Jazz Singer approached the desk. He was particularly memorable because he had a large goiter, something I have never seen outside of a textbook. He fumbled around in one of his pockets and produced a handful of our golf pencils he had been hoarding for some reason. He dumped them in the box and grunted, “I’m returning these.”

When I tried to thank him I realized that I had a pencil in my mouth – a staff pencil, but still, seeing those little golf pencils grimy and crawling with pestilence brought it home that I must break myself of this habit immediately. I spit out the pencil like a blow dart and desperately wished I could run off and scrub my mouth with lye and boiling water. After he lumbered off I stared at the pencils and thought how nice it would be if we kept the pencils for the public suspended in barbicide, like barbers do their combs. It would be way more sanitary that way, and if I ever, EVER stuck one in my mouth the bitter taste would serve as a corrective reminder.

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