Thursday, April 27, 2006

just another day/night at the library

(I fear this may be another epic post)

I used to have a doctor who would tell me, every single time i went to visit her that her fantasy job was to be a librarian. That when her job got to be too stressful, too hectic, she and her nurse would talk about how nice it would be to work in the peace and quiet of a library and just read all day. I have heard this fantasy from a number of people now and when i hear it i usually just smile and nod--who am i to shatter anyone's illusions.

Once my sister and i were watching Bob (actually a great and terribly funny and underrated show--don't know if anyone remembers it) and one of the characters (Trisha, if it matters) was in a rush to get to a anniversary celebration and, of course, everything was falling apart; she and her companion made a stop at a convenience store and while they were there, an armed robber came in to rob the place; Trisha grabbed the gun out of his hand, shouted, "We don't have time for this!" and tossed the gun aside. The bandit was too shocked to do anything but run away, my sister and i commented about the implausibility of the situation and laughed at the absurdity; but it brought to mind my own reckless youth.

When I was eighteen I worked in a gas station/(supersmall) convenience store. The day i started i was called in to cover for a guy who had just been robbed and was too shaken up to continue working. Somewhat later in my somewhat unremarkable career as a gas station attendant, as i sat quietly reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest i glanced up to spy, coming around the ice machine, two men with nylon stockings over their heads about to enter the door, and i quite quickly realized, "well, Now I'm going to be robbed." So, i set my book down (face down so as not to loose the place,) slid off my stool, and stood at the counter. They came in, drew their guns and demanded all the money in the cash register; i readily complied but they were not happy with the amount (i, ever dutiful, had been making my required safe drops and therefore the cash drawer amount was low). One of the robbers started to come around the counter to check under the till. I was a)extremely annoyed that they wouldn't believe me; b) feeling that they were invading my territory (i.e. MY side of the counter) and c) (here's the biggie) eighteen and stupid (you know that whole bravado thing where you think you're immortal and all...) so i put my hand up to physically stop the guy WITH THE GUN from coming around to My side of the counter. I said, in my most commanding voice, "No, you stay there, I'll do it." And so he did. (interesting that--improbable--i don't really know, maybe everyone just responds to the tone of your voice--or the craziest/stupidest person in the room is the one who gets listened to?)

Anyway, they left with the money. I called the police, then i called my manager (might i mention that i both finished out my shift and never closed the store--neither was a replacement nor closure suggested and i never thought to ask) Once i gave my statement to the police they told me i was the calmest robbery victim they had ever seen--i'm not sure it was a compliment. I was never really too upset about the incident--i was more upset about some things my manager told me that same night, tho i don't remember what they were now--i do remember calling my mom and saying "Julie (manager) said blah...blah...blah...(ranting for about twenty minutes)... and, oh yeah i was robbed." I thought at the time perhaps i was in shock and it would all hit me later--about twenty-two years now--still hasn't hit.

Here's a little campfire tale: I once was camping with some friends, sitting around the campfire drinking some wine, about 11:00 p.m., when out of the woods, comes stumbling a man with a shotgun asking if we'd seen his friend. We hadn't seen or heard anyone else all night and told him so. He continued to talk to us somewhat drunkenly, agitatedly (is that a word?), incoherently and stumble around until he was actually standing in the middle of our campfire. I don't know if it was the level of his intoxication, the thickness of his boots, or the increasing emotional intensity of his ire which caused him not to notice that he was standing in the middle of the fire. I think a few of us softly, meekly, mentioned it to him; softly because as i said he was quite agitated, holding a shotgun, and only seemed to be getting more agitated. He finally wandered off into the woods from whence he came, hollering for his friend, we later heard some shots but never learned anything more. I think what is really interesting about that night is that after he stumbled off and the five of us began to talk we had each believed in the minutes that he had been there that we were all about to be shot dead and yet we all remained remarkably calm about it.
Now you may be wondering at this point, given the title of this post, that's all well and good; but what does it have to do with being a librarian? Quite a lot actually. There used to be a show on TLC called Faking It one of the episodes had a stereotypical librarian (shy, quiet) who had to train for four weeks to trick people into thinking she was a bartender at Coyote Ugly. One of the things she had the hardest time with was learning to talk loud and interacting with the public, now granted, she works behind the scenes in an academic library and there are many types of librarians, BUT i have NO problem talking loud when needed and interacting with the public--i work in a public library--shyness is a little difficult to maintain.
What, in my vast experience, besides library school, best prepared me for a librarianship? Probably pretty much everything. Probably having a gun pointed at me. Time spent with all the crazy people doing crazy things in Theatre school. Sure there are books and reading, but i have almost no time to read at work (i did a whole lot of reading at that gas station--and at various other jobs--but not this one). I was a back-up cook in a bar (two nights a week--the cook's night off) for a year. A bar where almost no one ordered any food, I spent a lot of time playing pool with the bouncer until things got hopping then i usually read 'til the kitchen closed, making an occasional order. I worked for almost three years in one of the most popular campus hangouts, a pizzeria that was open til 3:00am this pizzeria was THE PLACE where everyone came After the bars closed, imagine a bunch of drunk collegians five nights a week. I don't remember Ever having to call the police at either of those jobs. As a librarian i call them on an almost daily basis.
In the afternoons when school lets out its the usual stampede from the junior high across the street (we've talked about this haven't we?) Its surprising how frightening those raging hormones can be. Its kind of humorous in a non humorous kind of way to watch the police arrive to deal with these preteens and teens. First one car with an armed officer or two will pull up, but usually they will wait for backup and gosh we shy librarian have to deal with these Tough Kids all by our little old selves. We've been complaining to administration off and on for years and they stop by for about a half an hour here and there to observe but we're all a little jaded and numb--we just got a new youth services librarian about a month ago who is wonderful and was horrified by what we go through daily--things are beginning to change now--thank you, thank you, thank you Susan! (the interesting thing about this is as i describe daily events to the people in my life they seem to think that things have been getting much worse lately when i think actually what has happened is that those of us who have been living with it for so long have just become inured to it and tend not to describe or even notice how many times our lives are threatened each day.)
Then there are the less routine calls--the ones that seem to hit when i am alone at the desk, like when our regular but slightly unbalanced porn viewer finally blows up and stands at the reference desk yelling at me, refusing to leave, even while i am on the phone with the police; he stands in the middle of the library yelling invectives, explicatives, threatening me and the patron who is trying to calm him down. Or the time when the members from the wrong gang wandered into our library only to discover it was the rival gang's turf and unwittingly incited the invitation for warfare when all they wanted was a ride home; and i (once again alone at the desk) had to to ring the police up to take care of the ever amassing group of Bloods that i noticed gathering in the playground across the street. Actually the Crips were nicer than our usual crowd and i had some pleasant conversations with them as well as set them up with some good reading choices (which i knew they read because i saw their lips moving) as they made numerous calls to their friends who seemed to have a very difficult time finding the library.) When the Metro Gang Unit finally arrived they told them to stay in the library until their rides arrived.
Tonight was a nice change of pace because it was just the paramedics who were called in when our new shelver had a seizure and our court-ordered community service volunteer found her lying unconscious in our backroom. They came and carted her off to ....(i hope it was the hospital, they neglected to tell me where they were going or even when they left i guess they thought i was busy enough since i was alone at the desk...) Anyway such is the quiet, peaceful life (don't you wish there was such a thing as a sarcastic font?) of the librarian, i remember when i was an acting student thirsting for experience and everything was experience. Living every minute of it! I do love to have stories to tell.
(have you noticed that i sometimes tend to get a bit tangential and that brevity doesn't seem to be one of my strongest points?)

No comments: