Monday, November 30, 2009

the devil you know

Public libraries always have their share of "regulars" - those patrons who come in often enough that you know their names and smile at them when they visit your desk. They greet you by name, linger a while to talk, give you small details of their lives and then move on. It's all very pleasant and there is comfort in the routine of friendly faces.

It'd be so easy to forget that they're all strangers - the young mother asking for the latest bestseller, the teenager wanting to use the computer to check their Myspace, the older gentleman who comes in every morning to read the newspaper, and...Joe.

Joe has been coming to the library for years. He's a nice enough guy - seemingly a bit bipolar, in and out of work as a mechanic, he comes to use the computer to search for automotive parts and ideas for his next tattoo. Joe's always happy to be able to chat and occasionally approaches that awkward TMI territory, but has never given us any real problems...until the other day.

"Did you hear what happened with Joe?" my coworker asked.

"No..." I had just reached the reference desk for my evening shift and was putting my things away. Something nutty is always happening at the library, so I listened a bit distractedly to the story of how Joe came to the reference department and threw a card down on the desk.

"What was it?" I wondered.

"Some sort of military I.D. - he said he was on a secret mission."

I stopped what I was doing. "Seriously? Joe?"

"Yeah, and he told us that we were not to tell anyone he was here, because it was top secret. Then he went on the computer and this woman showed up a little while later...and that's when he really flipped out. He came up to the desk and started demanding that someone call the police because "that woman" - who turned out to be his sister - was bothering him."

"And so? Did you call the police?" I asked, totally baffled that no one had bothered to call the police long before that anyway.


".........," I believe, was my stunned reaction. A visibly agitated, probably hallucinating, definitely way off his meds man comes into the library acting a little more than abnormal, talking crazy talk and no one calls the police.

"Well, it was Joe." Right, Joe. Only-crazy-sometimes Joe, top-secret-mission Joe, yelling-in-the-library Joe. Completely harmless, I'm sure.

I sighed. "I would have called the cops, just in case. If I can't carry my gun in the library, I'm sure as hell going to call for someone who can."

My coworker looked a bit shocked, but there it was, the absolute truth. Since I'd already decided I'd shoot anyone in self-defense, dialing 9-1-1 no longer seemed like a big deal.


Old NFO said...

Those are the ones that WILL kill somebody and not even know it... Caution and 911 is the best answer if you are disarmed.

Mike W. said...

You can't be too careful with mentally imbalanced folks.

"Harmless" Joe could have decided it was time to choke his sister to death for "bothering" him.

Hell, even emotionally unbalanced people can be unpredictable and I'd put some dude yelling about top secret missions far worse than just a little unbalanced.

Texas Ghostrider said...

The mentally ill or we have to call them "consumers" are the most dangerous ones. Becareful around them and yess call the cops whenever you feel that there may be trouble. I have got into some knock down drag out fights with them and that was before the taser. Even with the taser, the fights are not pretty....

Sam said...

Always, I mean always, be the first one to call 911. Because there are always witnesses, and the first to tell their side has more credibility, at least at first.

Good for you, Breda, on making the decision to defend your life before hand.

The first problem to solve is to survive. The second and third are criminal and civil liability.

Better to be tried by twelve and all that, but it doesn't hurt to ameliorate those liabilities.

Matt G said...

OldNFO is right. He's crazy, and what's more, he's got all that secret agent training that makes him MORE dangerous. ;)

In all seriousness, as a cop, I'm always baffled by people's reluctance to call us. If we walk in and decide that he's harmless, then no harm, no foul.

What do you people think you pay us to do, anyway?? ;)

Buckshot said...

Texas Ghostrider,

It's just a little thing, only takes 4 trained psychiatric attendants and a nurse with a large bore needle and a gallon or so of Thorazine to take care of!



Calling 1911 would be better, but I know you can't there, so definitely 911 is the way to go. Always remember that the first one to call 911 gets to be the victim. They only have two classes, victim and perp, so you always want to call first!

You could always keep an eye open to see if you could drop a stack or two on him if you had to, but that is a long shot, mostly only available in Pepto-Bismol commrecials!



Weer'd Beard said...

We have a bipolar guy at work. Nice enugh guy.

Still he has bad days where he is nothing but paranoid, and he had one break-down at work. Everybody was terrified when that happened.

He's a good guy, I kinda like him. His mental illness also make him an occupational hazard.

Always err on the side of caution.

James E. Griffin said...

There was a reason, historically, that many cultures say you avoid the insane in all situations. From the Native American, the Arab, and even the Japanese - which included the Samurai. As a researcher, you're invited to look it up! :)

Ahab said...

Matt G - We pay you to eat donuts and give us speeding tickets, dammit! God forbid you should actually do something to UPSET one of God's Special Jewels.


Matt G said...

I'll do better, Ahab.
Now make me a pie.

TOTWTYTR said...

Yeahhhhh, ignore the threat, that will make it go away.

Your coworker has excellent anti survival instincts.

Your instincts, OTOH, are dead on. Psychiatric, er, Emotionally Disturbed, patients have a generally high risk for violence. Well, at least in my experience, I never seem to see the "good" ones.

Which is why I'm prone to restraining them early on.

Be safe.

sethmcdonald said...

I used to work in child support enforcement and often dealt with hostile, angry, and often unstable people. We had a panic button, but I would have been long dead before help could have arrived. That was one scary "criminal protection zone (cpz).". Knowing what I know now, I should have carried anyway. Better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6.

The Saj said...

I've been visiting the local library as of late. Needed internet access and needed out of the house away from distractions of a 2 yr old and newborn.

Anyways, every day this guy in camo is there talking to himself, cuss, going off in violent tirades, arguing with the voices in his head. (Except for when he sleeps.)

Library doesn't do anything about it...

The last time there was some guy who had that homeless stench and pretty much filled the whole hall with it. *blech*

I guess as it gets cold the Library becomes a homeless shelter. Thankfully, Borders finally started providing free WiFi. So I went there last week.

dr mac said...

Never underestimate psychopathology.