Monday, January 26, 2009


I've been completely neglecting one of the biggest wellsprings of blogfodder in my life, the library weirdo. Weirdos come in all flavors* varieties, from mild cases like the guy who sneaks in with a razor blade to cut photos of pretty girls out of magazines and Crossword Lady who calls at least three times a morning for help solving her puzzle to the more extreme like Snotman and Porn Hobo. In between, there is a whole gray area of bearded women, men who attempt to speak only in poetry, and couples who gamble together online. There are also the weirdos who outwardly seem normal and after nearly a decade of working in a public library, I've started being able to recognize them before they even say a word. The one who will lie without hesitation because they don't want to pay for the ream of paper they just printed, the salesman with too much cologne and a pinkie ring who will try to order you around, the freaked out single mother who will yell at you because she can't find her child after school, and the trying-too-hard-to-be-cool teenager who will ask for copies of The Kama Sutra and Helter Skelter. There are also the "experts" who feel the need to lecture you on their topic of choice, usually loudly mispronouncing terms while smelling quite strongly of alcohol. I smile pleasantly and nod, encouraging them because, really, what do I care? I'm not listening anyway.

Like the other day...a man stopped in front my desk holding two picture books on the Iroquois and the Cherokee** and started in almost immediately.

Him: "Did you know that there are all kinds of Indian nations and that they were part of a larger nation?" Waves book.

Me: "Mmhmm." Nod.

Him: "They sometimes fought amongst themselves, you know. Lots of Indian wars." Opens book, gestures at page.

Me: "Uh-huh." Smile blandly and attempt to look through patron.

Him: "Even before the white man came."

Me: Think to myself, "Oh, Lord, here we go."

Him: "And then the white man came and tried to divide the Indians and then there were more wars and they put the Indians on reservations and gave them smallpox and then...then...Hey!"

Me: Squint quizzically. "Yes?"

Him: "Ever hear of the natives getting restless? The saying? The natives are getting restless..."

Me: Blink.

Him: "Well, you know, that's where it came from. You know from the Indians fighting the white man and stuff..."

Me: "Oh, yes. I'm familiar with the term. Happens around here quite frequently." Grin.

I don't think he got the joke.


*That is very much the wrong word. "Flavor" implies tasting which...Oh no. It's a concept so horrid I will most vigorously avoid it.
**the Native American obsessives are an entire subset unto themselves, by the way. "My great gramma was a full-blooded Cherokee!" they say...
Sigh. "Not another one." I think. Those Cherokee must have been busy.


alan said...

Do librarians have web sites where they make fun of the stupid patrons?

They're a staple in IT support circles.

I bet there's some overlap.

Jenny said...

Those Cherokee must have been busy.

They were. Or more to the point, they were amongst the nations that really assimilated into settler society in the late 18th/early 19th century.

In the Southern Appalachians, you'll be hard pressed to find someone (at least someone whose family has been there a few generations) that doesn't have more than a few Cherokee in the woodpile.

First (if not only) native written language to. Pretty spiffy. :)

(And momma's family still has unkind words for President Jackson. Old grudges die hard I guess)

rickn8or said...

Ja ever notice how their Indian ancestors are always women?

Eric said...

My mom worked in the base library when my dad was stationed in Germany. The staff had nicknames for their "favorite" patrons. Starsky and Hutch were the two who liked to sit opposite the circ desk in the music listening area so they could eavesdrop on the librarian/patron conversations.

Those were the days!

Bob said...

Remember what Lone Watie said of the Cherokees in The Outlaw Josie Wales?

Josie Wales: You're Cherokee, huh?

Lone Watie: They called us the civilized tribe. They called us the civilized tribe because we were easy to sneak up on.

Old NFO said...

Bless you for what you do... I couldn't put up with the idjits and asshats you deal with on a daily basis!

reflectoscope said...

Alan, and all: Try Not Always Right, its a collection of anecdotes from retail workers about all their interesting experiences. I know I've had a few laughs. (Mostly because I don't work in retail anymore, nor ever again!)


New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

It could be worse, Breda. Instead of library wierdos you could be surrounded by gunnie wierdos. Those people are FREAKS!

Jeffrey Quick said...

Not so many oddballs here in the academic library, but yesterday I discovered a new PITA: the distance learner. Somebody who pays tuition and will get a degree from Boston University, but works our library and faculty for all she can get. Pleasant enough person, but high energy/demanding...and it all seems unfair somehow.

phlegmfatale said...

Wait, did Jenny just out herself as one of those weirdos? Do you hang out in libraries with a week's worth of chin-stubble and reeking of gin, Jenny? :P

Weirdos. I'm a nut-magnet, so I know all about that...

Lil said...

I wanted to be a librarian when I was a kid...until I realized I'd have to deal with people all day. But some of my favorite childhood memories are of the librarians who never blinked when I checked out something age-inappropriate. :-)

Crucis said...

My wife and I both worked in the library when we were in college. One of my jobs was rousing the drunks and druggies at closing time.

Once a druggie locked himself into a carrel and had overdosed. Guess who got to spend night talking with the cops.

B Smith said...

Yeah, my great-gramdmother (dad's side) was Cherokee.
I'm full-blooded American :-)

Smokey Behr said...

Breda/Alan: I'm an IT guy for a library system. I could tell you a few stories that would leave you in a puddle of tears and whiz from laughing so hard. is a great place to rant about idiots.

Oh, and there's a Native American somewhere in the woodpile of my history. I think it's about 8 or 9 generations back, though.

Rabbit said...

I dunno, the Wife and I owned/ran a coffeehouse for awhile. They draw their own sort of the guy who came in almost every week at lunch, ordered a BLT and a latte w/chocolate and surfed amputee pr0n for a couple of hours at a time in full view of everybody.

Then there was the guy who lived in his truck and tried to steal electricity out to said abode in the parking lot...


Anonymous said...

OK, I can understand the weird patron stuff, but my grandmother really was Cherokee, so was my dad, so am I.

So, what about it?

Mike ;)

Roberta X said...

...I have Cherokee ancestors, too -- Andy Jackson wanted 'em to walk to Oklahoma, they lit out for Ohio and passed as plain ol' citizens instead. Worked, too -- about all I got out of the deal was cheekbones and a fondness for beans & cornbread.

OTOH (sorry, Breda), I haven't felt any desire at all to visit a public library since years before they yanked the stacks out of the old Central Library here, dug a huge hole in the ground, and poured money into it until a modern abomination of a building emerged, a process which pretty much assured I would never return. I prefer used bookstores instead.

Anonymous said...

Quite a change from the days when my Great Grandfather chased a Fed off the property for insinuating that Great qualified for land in Oklahoma under the Dawes Act!

Verification is "icater." Is that the Apple version of a mercator?

smith kaich jones said...

You had me at "men who attempt to speak only in poetry" . . . reminded me of a guy I briefly dated who would call me up & commence to read these pages long "poems" - LOL! - whilst I would just put the phone to the side & paint my toenails or something. I'd pick up the phone every few minutes, listen for a few seconds until I could grab some bit of verse, comment on said grabbed bit, put the phone back down & carry on with whatever I was doing. I'm not proud of pretending to listen, but then, he was one of those weird poetry guys. If he's moved from Texas, you're probably dealing with him right now!

Terrific story.

:) Debi