Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Lennie `n' Me

I wasn't completely solo yesterday. Lennie, our mentally handicapped Monday/Thursday volunteer came in for his shift at 1. Mostly when Lennie is in, he's there to talk to Mrs. C, who he's known forever. He talks to me too, but mostly to repeat his theme of the day or to latch on to something I've said that connects to something he's heard of. When I'm there solo, like yesterday, there's not as much communication. This is probably my fault, as I don't have all that much to say to Lennie beyond the usual small talk. He's not one for in-depth conversation and tends to return to such topics as N ascar, West Virginia college sports, how cold it is, or to whatever his theme for the day is.

Mostly, Lennie tries to be helpful, or at least look helpful. He straightens books and carries non-fiction upstairs to put on the cart. Sometimes he disappears upstairs for a whole half hour, where I'm sure he's doing more shelf-straightening. And since Mrs. C wasn't there to tell him not to, he used her computer to surf the web, look at pictures on _Yah oo_ and watch clips from the new _Sylves ter Stal lone_ reality show. That was fine by me, if it gave him something to do. Otherwise, he wanted to come over and keep resetting my computer timers.

We keep three kitchen timers set up at the circ-desk to time how long each computer patron has been on their computer. We give them a half hour and after that we don't run them off unless someone is waiting. The timers count down from 30 minutes and then I set them to 01, 02, or 03 seconds to indicate the order in which potentially bumpable patrons should be bumped. Lennie doesn't get that. He just sees stalled timers that need to be reset to 30 minutes and makes it his job to reset them. He won't mess with timers that are counting down, but if the little : isn't blinking, they're his to reset. So throughout Lennie's time there, I had to keep resetting his resets in order to make sure I was busting off the right patron when it came time to do so.

I tried explaining my system to him and he would nod as though he understood. This would only last for about a minute and he would go and reset the timers again.

At one point, a college-aged girl came in to use a computer. Lennie, who had been keeping vigil over the timers, wanted me to know which one was available. I thanked him and told the girl which one to use. She wasn't even out of the room yet before Lennie piped up with, "She's a good lookin' one, ain't she, JUICE?"

I don't know if she heard, cause I didn't make eye contact with her. I can't see how she didn't, though. All I could think to do was agree with him in the hope he wouldn't keep repeating his question until he got an answer, and saying, "Yes" was the safest response I could think of.

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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.