Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Coot

The Coot has been in the Benign Irritants column of our Rogues Gallery for a while now, but I've not had much to say about him because he's not been much of a hassle to me personally. Well, until this week.

As far as patrons go, the Coot is actually pretty ideal in most respects. He visits the "liberry" frequently and stays for several hours at a stretch, either reading books or periodicals. He doesn't hound us for computers, nor does he seem to have any use for them at all. He keeps to himself. And while he rarely checks anything out, thereby keeping our circulation numbers slightly lower than he might, he is a user of the library in its best sense.

Of course, not all is rosy with the Coot. He has, on occasion, complained in bitter tones to our staff about a lack of certain nonfiction titles on our shelves that he wants to read. (We've offered to ILL them and he has sometimes taken us up on the offer.) The Coot has also disingratiated himself to Mrs. A in particular by being a less than quiet patron.

See, Mrs. A's office is located beside our periodicals area, at which there are two semi-comfy chairs and a small table. This is where the Coot likes to nest, piling the tiny table high with periodicals and books that he peruses throughout his visiting hours. While he's perusing, though, the Coot is known to make many strange noises. Sometimes these noises take the form of the usual coughing and sneezing and snorting. More often, though, they manifest as loud and painful sounding moans, groans and wails. Sometimes, he sings. We don't know if the Coot is in actual pain, though we suppose it's possible. Our theory about his noises has evolved somewhat. Originally we thought he was in pain. Then we thought he might have some form of tourettes. Now, though, we are starting to suspect that the Coot moans and wails as editorial comment against the frequent phone calls Mrs. A receives throughout the day disturbing his reading time. Whatever the case, the noise he makes drives Mrs. A nuts and she's frequenly fled our office to get away from it. And sometimes, her noise seems to drive him further into our nonfiction room, where he relocates his nest to a different semi-comfy chair.

None of this affects me, so I don't really care if he emits the odd wail now and then. What does affect me is his seeming inability to put our periodicals back where he found them.

One of my duties as "liberry" ass. is to process and catalog the periodicals. When they arrive, I enter them into the system, put barcodes on the ones that need them, stamp REFERENCE ONLY on the ones that don't and haul `em all upstairs to stick in the magazine display shelf. Each magazine has its proper place on the shelf, clearly labeled for all to see. The Coot cares not for labels. If he actually manages to put a magazine back on the shelf at all—which is rare, because most of the time he just leaves them wherever he happens to be nesting when he's finished reading them—he refuses to put it back in its proper place. He just wedges it on in wherever his hand happens to fall and walks away. Granted, he's not the only patron who does this. (In fact, evidence suggests that most periodical reading patrons do this, but then again I wouldn't notice when a patron has put a magazine back properly, precisely because it would be put back properly.) However, the Coot is the most flagrant disregarder of our magazine labeling system.

At closing time on Monday, after a day of fending off book-shoving brats, I went upstairs and found our magazine rack in the most utter state of disarray I'd ever seen. Someone, the Coot, I'm guessing, as he'd been right there reading magazines all day, had relocated nearly every magazine we have on display to what I can only describe as its OPPOSITE location on the display shelf. Seventeen was shelved under U.S. News & World Report, Time under Organic Gardening, Rolling Stone under Mother Earth News, Atlantic Monthly under FamilyFun and Parenting was shelved under High Times. (Okay, I am kidding about that last one. It was really shelved as Teen People.)

I don't know for sure that the Coot was responsible. It could have been that book-shoving brat's revenge for busting him shoving books. But it seems like it could have been the Coot at play. I wonder what sort of editorial comment he was trying to make this time.

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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.