Sunday, September 13, 2009

Nodding and smiling politely

Special patrons find their way to the library every day of the week, but sometimes it seems like Sundays have the lock on being the day one is most likely to encounter strange happenings and interesting requests.
I was helping a lady when a short man came up and asked to borrow a pencil. I don't like other patrons interrupting while I'm conducting a reference transaction with someone else, but quick things like writing utensils or pointing to the bathrooms I don't mind (as much). I handed the gentleman the pencil and continued to help the lady who was looking for a DVD movie version of a book that doesn't actually exist (I get this question a lot, usually from students though who are looking to skip reading a book in favor of just watching the film version, but just because you may want there to be a movie of this book doesn't mean that someone has actually made the movie yet!). After the lady got huffy about our library not owning the non-existent film adaptation of the book and walked away, I turned my attention back to the man with the pencil, who was standing at the end of the desk writing something on a slip of scrap paper. At first I thought perhaps he was taking some information down about the book like the author or title so he could return for it later, but once I viewed him slipping the paper inside the book and placing it on a nearby shelf I decided to stop him. What was he doing? He wrote his name on the slip of paper and was putting it inside the book so he could find it later and remember to check it out(?!?). When I offered to put it on hold for him so that he could pick it up later he refused, but did reluctantly remove his "reminder" from the book.
Later, right before closing, a boy of about 11 or 12 approached the reference desk holding his hands up as if he were a doctor preparing to scrub up for surgery. Then I noticed his hands were dripping wet and he informed me that the boy's restroom was out of paper towels. I thanked him for letting me know so that I could put a request in with the janitor and apologized for not having anything else present like tissues or napkins. The boy just stood there staring though and finally said, "Well what am I supposed to do?" still holding his hands stiff.
I shrugged. "I don't know, maybe dry your hands on your jeans?"
The boy wrinkled his nose up, obviously not liking my uncouth response.
I apologized again, "I'm really sorry, I just don't have anything else here for you to wipe your hands on."
What happened next took me by surprise and grossed me out: the boy started licking his hands! It was like he was attempting to drink the excess water off of his hands. So very weird, especially considering that he found wiping his hands on his pants to be repulsive when compared to treating his fingers like his own personal water fountain.


  1. I suppose it could have been worse; the guy with the pencil could have been leaving naughty messages for other patrons, or the boy could have been hanging around the bathroom waiting to lick someone else's hands.

    It still sounds like a rough day.