Thursday, January 15, 2004

Weird Wednesday

Our Wednesdays have been getting weirder and weirder. I've missed the past several, but the tales I've heard from fellow "liberry" staff back it up.

Evidently the local mental health social services agency, Unobstructed Doors, has mandated that its aides take their mentally handicapped clients to the library and have put it on their schedules of things to do. We're happy to have them, but something about mentally handicapped patrons being force-marched into the library, whether they want to come or not, makes me uneasy.

We have a group of mentally handicapped patrons whose aides bring them in like clockwork every Wednesday around 2 p.m. The group varies in size from week to week, but there have been weeks where nearly all four tables upstairs have been full. Now again, I'm not complaining. Most of these patrons seem to enjoy coming to the library and that's good. However, there's one of them who on more than one occasion has thrown a screaming fit upstairs. And when I say "screaming fit" I'm talking a blood curdling screaming fit. You'd think the girl was being murdered, and I've rushed up the stairs (nearly breaking my ass despite our new sign) to make sure she wasn't. She's not. She just gets fed up with being there or is in some other way offended and just opens up at full squall to protest. This happened yesterday and the whole crew had to leave shortly thereafter.

Meanwhile, there's always Ron the Ripper...

When Ron turns up at the library, he usually turns up alone at first. This is because his primary aid, Donald, is a firm believer in giving Ron as much space and freedom as possible. Donald usually takes Ron to the Unobstructed Doors office downtown, tells him to go to the library and sets him free. Ron walks up the hill to us and Donald follows a few minutes later at his leisure. Now, freedom and space is all well and good, but between the time Ron hits the door and Donald shows up, Ron can rip up quite a few magazines. And Donald, despite our many pleas, doesn't care to check and make sure Ron isn't ripping our good magazines.

While I was out of town there were a couple of Ron incidents.

Mrs. A, our head liberrian, said that Ron came in one morning and went right upstairs to his favorite ripping table as usual. I don't know if someone had beat him to the table or not, but Ron got upset about something and began doing his usual loud caveman bark. It sounds like "Unnnngh! Unnnnnnnngh!! UNNGNGGHHHHHG!!!" only much louder. Mrs. A rushed upstairs and put her finger to her lips to shush Ron. Ron, however, is incapable of being shushed. He firmly knows that caveman barking is unacceptable behavior and he longs for someone to shush him just so he'll have an excuse to turn the volume up to 11. This he did. Mrs. A said it was deafening. About that time, Donald meandered on in, heard the tumult upstairs and came rushing up to see what was going on. He was able to calm Ron down. (In fact, we're pretty sure he's one of the only aides Ron will listen to. From what we've been told, Donald has quit his aid job on several occasions only to be begged to come back because he's the only one who can deal with Ron.)

The second incident takes some setting up...

Sometimes the library staff comes in early to take care of administrative concerns or to clean. While in early, it's quite common to hear the sound of someone trying to open the front door. This happens several times a morning as, it seems, no one in town is capable of reading the posted hours prominently positioned on the door itself and they always try the door anyway before scratching their heads in confusion and driving off. One day, though, Mrs. B, my fellow liberry ass., was in early and was sweeping the walk outside when she saw a seemingly mentally healthy patron walk up to the front door and try to get in. After he failed to open the locked door, Mrs. B saw him notice and read the posted hours. Then he stepped back onto the sidewalk and walked around to the back door which she had left unlocked. He opened it and went in. Mrs. B followed and said, "Excuse me, sir, but we're not open yet." He said, "Oh, I know. I just wanted to come in anyway."

Ron did much the same last week but at least he has the whole mentally handicapped thing as an excuse. This time it was Mrs. C who was in early. Again, she said she heard someone try the front door, then a few moments later she heard the back door open followed by the sound of footsteps walking upstairs, no doubt pausing by the magazine rack to snatch up a few fresh and as yet unripped magazines, and then on into the upstairs room and over to the favorite ripping table. A few minutes later, Donald rolled up and knocked on the door to ask if Ron was in.

"Well, someone came in the back and went upstairs," Mrs. C said. It then took Donald 20 minutes to coax Ron into leaving, with much caveman barking as the soundtrack.

That was all over the past two weeks.

Being Weird Wednesday, yesterday, though, Ron had to come in. This time Donald was nowhere to be seen. In fact, the aid who was with him was brand new and very very green as to the ways of Ron: The Ripper. As soon as they reached the top of the stairs, we could hear Ron start in with the caveman barks. They lasted for a few minutes until both Ron and his new aid came back downstairs and quickly departed. The new aid looked quite embarrassed.

Mrs. A, who was upstairs at the time, later described what happened. As soon as Ron began barking, Green-Aid became horrified and began saying things like, "Ron! No, Ron. You don't scream in the library, Ron. Ron, be quiet. Ron, this is not how you're supposed to behave!" This, of course, just fueled Ron's fire, turning up the volume and forcing their flight.

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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.