Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Good Omens

Today it rained. Not just a little rain, mind you, but a heavy torrential downpour that lasted most of the day. Because it rained a whole bunch last week, the ground was still pretty saturated so the rain had nowhere to go, leading to serious flash flooding throughout southwest West Virginia. There are surrounding communities that are mostly under water. To paraphrase one of our patrons today, "Where there were fields, there are now ponds. Where there were ponds, there are now lakes. Where there were valleys, there are now rivers. And where there were rivers... well, you'd better just stay the hell away from the rivers." Fortunately, my wife and I live on top of a tall hill, so we're at least high if not dry.

What does all this talk about rain have to do with the "liberry," though? Well, rainy days tend to bring in some of the stranger and more colorful patrons we have. I guess it's mostly because there are very few dry outdoor activities when it's raining, so if people aren't at work and don't want to stay home they can either come to the library or go to Wal-Mart. Which is cheaper?

We have a fairly wide range of mentally handicapped patrons, who mostly come in with aides from the local Unobstructed Doors group. And when it's raining, the aides don't have that many options open for places to take their clients, so they come to the library. I'm not complaining in the slightest. I'd say 95 percent of them are great folks and a joy to work with. However, it's that remaining five percent that's a bit tricky.

Enter Ron the Ripper. Ron is in that five percent. In fact, he's most of it. Ron's a roundish, bearded fellow with a permanent mischievous grin and the wild eyes to accompany it. Ron's not precisely retarded, but he's certainly not independent. He's a lot like a really big three-year old, but without the vocabulary.

I first encountered Ron a couple of years ago when he began stomping around the library while belching at the top of his lungs and laughing about it. You'd think with my own belch history I might appreciate this, but I just don't.

In addition to the belching and having a penchant for subjecting everyone he sees to obnoxiously loud primal caveman growls, Ron's favorite pastime is tearing up our magazines. He does this by rapidly flipping through the pages, backwards and forwards, repeatedly, until there is no magazine left to flip through. He laughs and laughs and primal growls the whole time. It's an amazing sight to watch, if only for the vicarious joy of seeing someone have so much fun. As far as we've been able to determine, it's the only reason he comes to the library. It is his passion. It is his way of life.

We've tried to accommodate Ron by providing him with a large stack of donated magazines he can destroy at will, so he doesn't make for our brand new magazines. Doesn't matter. Ron knows which ones he's not supposed to touch and makes it a point to attack them first thing through the door. We've pleaded with his aides to keep an eye on him but I don't think they really put in much effort at doing this. If they try to take the new magazines from Ron, he starts primal caveman growling at them progressively louder until they back down or until one of us comes upstairs to see what's the matter—then he primal growls at us. Some even send him into the library alone while they stay outside to smoke. Ron always makes a beeline for the magazine rack and then we have to follow him around trying to get him to relinquish them, which always ends in more primal growling and, once, a very minor physical assault upon my person.

Some of the other employees, and indeed his aides, are a little scared of him. He's definitely a wild-card, but fairly harmless, unless you're a magazine.

He was in today, which seemed a good omen toward my blogging future. After all, with guys like Ron walking the earth there will never be any shortage of material.

And, of course, there's always the tale of Ron's Secret Identity. I'll have to get to that one of these days.

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An employee of a small town "liberry" chronicles his quest to remain sane while dealing with patrons who could star in a short-lived David Lynch television series.