Let me tell you about my first week on the new job, in list format.
– My office (how excited I was to have an office!) is in an unfinished corner of the basement, next to the boiler room. It smells like damp socks, my childhood asthma is acting up again because of it, and there are thick bundles of cords hanging dangerously from the ceiling, but it’s mine, dammit. (*proud sniff*) Black mold appears to be growing in one corner, but after filling out the proper work orders and getting approval from their boss who got approval from his boss, Buildings & Grounds has confirmed that it is not actually black mold. I’ll put a plant in front of it.
– A group of older homeless men and one older woman come in almost every day and sit at the round reading table. They talk about food, all day long, and it’s the saddest thing. They describe, in sensuous detail, a ham sandwich they once ate, the corned beef their mothers made when they were children, the quality of the Thanksgiving dinners at various local churches. They talk about it reverently, like soldiers in the trenches describing home. They seem to enjoy describing food almost as much as if they were eating it — as if the right words could conjure up a big, steaming hot meal right there at the reading table.
– Found 17 syringes and a spoon in an open McDonald’s bag behind the utility box in front of the building yesterday.
– Our library partners with a local organization that makes sure homeless women have a safe place to sleep each night, and these women start coming in with their luggage in the afternoon after the sketchy veteran’s center around the corner closes for the day (“sketchy” because it’s not government sanctified, there appears to be no organizational infrastructure [sort of an inmates running the asylum sort of thing], and, once, a woman came to the library saying she’d been beaten up there). Except for some hygiene issues, the women with this program are generally model patrons, sitting at the tables reading books (imagine!) and keeping to themselves. But there is one woman who just sits at the table closest to the reference desk, staring in front of her and periodically laughing at nothing. “What is it?” I asked her once, on my first day, and she shot me a look that suggested I’d just insulted her recently deceased grandmother. Note to self: do not ask patrons why they are laughing at nothing.
– Met a patron named Dumpster Dan (that’s how he introduced himself) who said Uriah Heep was his first real concert and asked what mine was, but when I started to answer [The Decemberists circa 2002 if you must know, Dumpster Dan. JEEZ.] he talked over me like he’d already forgotten the question, complaining that the sound on his computer was broken. When a patron says something is broken, 9 times out of 10 it means that they are just confused about a very simply process. Showed him where the volume toggle was and he proceeded to happily watch Uriah Heep videos for the rest of his hour.
– Female patron dressed as Batman, sitting at the computer checking her Facebook.
– Seriously, I feel bad for those of you who don’t get to work with librarians. Librarians are the weirdest, most interesting lot of kooks, and my new co-workers are among the weirdest and most interesting I’ve met. Since our branch is located way over on the north side of town, far away and forgotten (for the most part) by library administration, there’s a sort of isolated, Siberian feel to our building. Anything goes. Fashion choices that would’ve been cause for write-up when I worked at the main branch flow freely out here. There’s the herbalist who wears pentagrams. Actually, there are two herbalists who wear pentagrams. Cleavage and hoodies abound. None of the other managers seem to observe the dress code (which tells us to always wear a suit coat), which is great since I’ve never managed to pull off shoulder pads without feeling like a kid in mommy’s wardrobe.
– I asked a co-worker (one of the herbalists) if there were any ghosts haunting this old building and she went to her desk and dug out a CD mysteriously labeled: “J.R. GHOST HUNTER. EVIDENCE OF THIS LIBRARY.” I guess a ghost hunting group set up camp here a while back. I can’t wait to watch this disc; saving it for Halloween.
– Apparently changing from air conditioning to heat is a massive, two-day project, so the temperature inside the library has been more or less what it is outside this whole week. My hands and the top of my nose are always cold. There aren’t enough cardigans in the world.