Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Extreme Librarianship

So, I have been working downtown for years, and downtown is where a lot of colourful characters go to use the library. I am very used to people who behave oddly. And now, I have moved to one of those suburban branches where people behave, well, decently. It's like moving to Pleasantville.

And yet.

You can take the girl out of the crazies, but you can't take the crazies out of the girl. Or maybe I'm just a weirdo magnet. It's one or the other. (And let me remind you, for this story, that I walk a lot and so people stop me to ask directions constantly. It's Street Librarianship.)

I got a ride home the other day from a colleague, and I asked him to let me out of his car early so that I could have a bit of a walk before I got home. He dropped me off at the yoga studio strip mall, and I had only walked for a half a block before it happened.

I suddenly became aware that a young man on a bike was pedalling madly straight at me, hollering at full volume, "Help!!! You've got to help me!! I need help!!"

Being a librarian used to strange behaviour - and quickly considering that he's probably on drugs, but there's lots of traffic going by so I probably won't die, or at least die alone - I stopped and gave him my full attention. He rode up, dropped his bike, clutched his chest, and said, "I have asthma, and maybe I'm [pant, pant] having an anxiety attack! [pant, pant, sweat, sweat, eyes rolling wildly] I'm really, really scared! I'm so scared, you've gotta help me, etc., etc."

I was about to offer to find a phone to call someone to help him, when A SECOND PERSON (woman) came up to me, ignored the young man, and asked directions to a nearby street. I multitasked by pleasantly answering her question while keeping my eye on the other guy, sent her along on her way, and resumed helping him (while thinking "HOW CAN SOMEONE NOT NOTICE THAT I'M KINDA BUSY WITH THE EMERGENCY SITUATION, HUH? STUPID FREAKING LADY...")

By this time, had assessed that the young man was likely not on drugs after, but was simply having some sort of mental breakdown.

Anxious had decided, after all this, that all he needed was for me to stay with him while he walked to a phone to call his friend. I agreed to walk him to the strip mall, and took him to the shoe store that was still open. We went in, and in my best 'librarian in charge' voice, asked if the young man with asthma having the anxiety attack could use their telephone. He was still puffing and agitated, and called his buddy on the portable phone. I was pretty sure he was not going to do anything really odd, like rip off their cash register, but I had my beady little eye on him steadily all the same. I got him to sit down after a while to calm down, and that sort of worked, even though he was on the phone for a good five minutes.

And then it got dull, so I asked them if they were indeed closing right away. The woman was great: she said, "He's calming down. He can stay as long as he needs to." They had three staff members there, and two of them were big men, so I figured my superhero job was done. After checking with them about whether I could go or not, and getting a confirmation, I was off like the littlest hobo.

A little extreme librarianship after a long day at the branch where they all play nice. Keeping my hand in, I guess.

After all, what would the crazies do without folks like me roaming the streets.


Blogger PostCards said...

What a great story! (I think my favourite part was when you said you were 'off like the littlest hobo'. Eh voilĂ  :), another true Canadianism!) May the crazies keep finding you, to keep your life interesting. Gawd I miss the reference desk sometimes...

5:23 am  
Anonymous Paul said...

Yeesh, big-city boy says that sounds like a setup - did you check for your wallet after the woman stopped for directions?

9:29 am  
Blogger Gwen said...

And small-town friendly hobo dog didn't even think of it being a set-up, even for a second!

8:19 am  

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