Friday, June 09, 2006

Brother, can you Spare 60 wpm 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comThe other day while I was at the reference desk a man asked if I could type a short letter for him. He looked like a hard luck case and it was slow at the desk so I agreed, although I told him that this was an extraordinary, one-time exception and that if he told anyone I would deny having performed this service for him. If word got out that the librarians were transcribing or taking dictation then every patron with a manifesto, 20 page rambling letter to estranged family, social security disability plea, resume or neighborhood bulletin warning about CIA brain monitoring* would storm the desk, papers in hand, demanding equal treatment. Those kind of favors always bite you in the ass. If my colleagues discovered that I had started this precedent, one of them would probably slip up behind me in my cubicle and slit my throat, Colombian narco-execution style. I can’t say that I would blame them.

The patron was gratifyingly appreciative, and promised to maintain his silence. The next day while I was clear across town for a dentist’s appointment the same patron approached me and asked me for spare change in a suspiciously aggressive manner. Not to sound like a melodramatic paranoid, but I think he may have been considering mugging me. I was out of context so he didn’t recognize me until I said hello, and then we both had a good laugh. I was glad that he remembered my kindness, especially if it stopped him from taking my wallet.

Even though I live in one of the largest cities in the United States I find that I run into people I know with eerie, improbable regularity. One day when I was working at my old branch I helped a girl fresh from a Midwestern backwater figure out which buses she needed to take to get to her interview. Two days later, in a neighborhood miles away, the same girl, not recognizing me at first, came up to me and asked me what bus she should take to get to another part of the city. I wonder if she thought that I had materialized like some bus schedule guardian angel, or something more sinister, like she was in some sort of Truman Show situation.

*All items I have been asked to type while I was on the reference desk

I once took a filthy hand-written manuscript home from the library and typed it up for an old boy. It was his theory on miniaturising gas turbines with loads of difficult formulae. When I handed it over to him he pressed sixpence into my hand (about ten cents) with a flourish and left.

Foxy, could you please remove my old link on your site, I haven't been there for ages. Mouse Child, that is. Thanks.
I'm afraid I'd be leading the line-up to sneak up behind you. I'm glad it stopped you from being mugged, but my stars, if there was a tiny whiff of us typing anything for a patron, we'd be overrun. We get enough requests as it is. Why librarian = personal secretary so many people I just don't understand.
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