Thursday, July 20, 2006


Image hosted by Photobucket.com The other day my colleague asked if someone could take his shift on the front desk for the first hour. He had just biked to work in the heat and wanted to clean up a bit for the public. I offered to go out to the front desk but another colleague insisted. About 20 minutes into the hour I was sitting in my cubicle in the back offices when my colleague who had volunteered to be at the front desk called me and told me, with gleeful excitement in his voice, that I should come out to the front desk, and that I should hurry. I bounced out front, wondering if someone had sent me flowers, or if there was some celebrity sighting, or perhaps even an exciting bum fight like the one a few days before when two homeless men decided to settle some point of honor by the internet terminals. Instead what greeted me was a giant pool of vomit splattered right in front of the desk, which our valiant custodian, who surely deserves combat pay, was trying to cordon off. The mess was this bright, fluorescent orange, and there was an ungodly amount of it, as if the man’s stomach had just rejected 10 Orange Juliuses, or a giant bag of Cheetos, or a gallon of Tang. I suspect that his morning methadone dose, which is served in a liquid that same unearthly, violent shade of orange, hadn't agreed with him.

My colleague, hiding and laughing behind his computer terminal, told me that a disheveled man had stumbled toward the desk and without warning retched his guts out noisily for 2 minutes, spraying torrents of bright orange vomit. The library was packed and everyone stood by in helpless horror, shielding their eyes and gagging along in involuntary sympathy. It looked like it was going to escalate into a Stand by Me Barf-o-rama chain reaction, but by some miracle did not.

After he finished vomiting the man wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and headed straight for the elevators, into which he disappeared. While I was standing near the vomit listening to the story my mouth filled with water but I choked back my gorge so I could run to the back offices and pull the same thing on another unsuspecting colleague. I wonder if my coworker who switched desk duty and avoided the whole disgusting ordeal had a little premonition, like those animals who reportedly head for the hills minutes before a tsunami or the passengers who don't show up for fatal airline flights, which have twice the regular number of no-shows I read somewhere, although that may just be an urban myth.

I should have known not to fall for it. At the obsolete, throwback women’s college I graduated form one of the most thrilling things that could befall you was to have flowers delivered to you from a boy. When the lucky recipient got the phone call from the front desk informing her that she had flowers, she would run squealing to the front office and then parade triumphantly back through the campus quad to her room, flowers in her arms, gloating and glowing in her classmate’s envy. I had a friend who could perfectly mimic the voice of the chain smoking old dragon lady who ran the front desk and made the phone calls announcing flowers and visitors. My friend and some other girls got drunk in the middle of the afternoon and thought it would be great fun to prank call classmates to tell them they had had flowers delivered. One of their victims was a girl who had just slept with some completely unappreciative fraternity asshole from the neighboring men’s college the night before. My friend called her and said, “Front desk! Dozen roses delivered for ya’.” Then they all leaned out the window and watched the girl run out of her dorm and sprint to the office, then walk out a minute later, head down, crestfallen. Her second "Walk of Shame" that day! This is the kind of sadistic shit girls all cooped up together and at loose ends do to each other.

Click here for more of the eerie tableaux of Sandy Skoglund. I've always been partial to Radioactive Cats myself.

Great stories, especially the SB one! I sent it to Coco.

Bleagh and eurgh and yuck.

But I must say you're very fortunate to have a custodian on site. Because I'm the damn librarian in cahrge, I'd be having to try and cordon it off and call our custodial service at the same time. For that much I'd get to call them, for something smaller I'd probably have to try and clean it up myself.
Which obsolete women's college? I went to Agnes Scott, where we too had calls to pick up our flowers. I mean, other people did. Actually, I did get flowers once. From my parents.
Just the sort of hit-and-run vomit story I know is true and horrible for everyone (well, almost everyone). I laughed so hard I farted.
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