Saturday, April 29, 2006

Magic Thought Ray 

"Oh, hi. Weren't you sitting next to me this morning?"

I looked up and there was a patron I recognized from the branches. He is friendly and most likely harmless, but whenever he goes of his medication he becomes a bit of a pest. At my old branch, he had developed an obsession with one of the attractive female pages, and would follow her around the library like a duckling while she shelved. My manager gently pulled him aside and explained that this was this page’s place of work, that she had to be here, and it wasn't right for him to follow her around. The patron began crying, and said that he didn’t want to do anything bad, or hurt her or scare her - it was that she was just so beautiful that he wanted to be near her. He apologized and said that he would leave her alone, and he was good on his word, as long as he took his medication.

I can always tell when he’s not on his meds because he’ll transform from a tranquil, if a little lethargic, patron who stares placidly at a book of pictures for hours to an agitated, manic one bursting with child like exuberance. During his manic upswings, he would often run up to the desk, his eyes wild with joy, and declare things like, “’Cause I can be anything I want! Like a librarian or a doctor or president of the United States!"

He was definitely off his medication now. "I didn't recognize you! I thought you were an FBI agent. Be right back."

He returned a minute later. “I had to make a phone call to alert my mother in law that she was being Shanghai'd and sent on a rocket to the moon.” He giggled and leaned in and whispered, “Undercover cops. They're all over the place. I think you’re one of them.”

“I assure you, I’m not.” He gave me a knowing smile and walked off. This was disconcerting. I didn’t like the paranoid direction his delusions were taking, and that I was figuring in them. Although he’s a slight, little man (he reminds me so much of scene stealing Louis Tully from Ghostbusters, and has the same jerky, bowlegged gait) he looked certainly capable enough of leaping across the reference desk at me.

A patient, a young woman, my cousin saw in psychiatry rotation was convinced that a girl she knew in high school was using some sort of thought ray magic to prevent her from moving her bowels. She could only go to the bathroom once every month, and she blamed her old classmate. In calm, rational tones she explained, “I’m so miserable and constipated that I feel like I want to kill myself. Or her. Yes, probably her. I’m really afraid I’m going to act on this.” This poor old classmate, who probably barely even remembered my cousin’s patient, was cheerfully going through life, oblivious to the fact that she was in danger of being murdered in order to restore some mentally ill former acquaintance's regularity. Let’s hope that if my patron wants to kill me, he’ll confide this to his doctor, who would then be obligated to forewarn me.

How unnerving. Do you get pissed? This sort of thing would anger me. Being at work and kind of trapped by them. I guess you could act wacky back and then they would think they were dealing with someone with a mental problem and go away. Wouldn't that be funny?
Actually, I find them for the most part fascinating, and often prefer dealing with them than some of the entitled, well to do bourgeoisie jerks who darken our doorway. In other words, those people who expect preferential treatment and think that it's empowering to lash out at service people.
ah, those people are my favorite. once, i worked at a super saver/dollar theatre in a wealthy neighborhood. the clientele frequently asked for their money back. (did i mention it was a dollar theatre?).
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