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.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Founding Fathers Return to Plague Us Some More

Our “employee” Lennie has shifts on Monday and Thursday afternoons. I’m usually gone by the time he arrives on Thursdays, but toward the end of my shift he came in a bit early. After some small talk, Lennie held up a small pamphlet.

“Some guy gave me this,” he said. “He’s giving them to everyone.”

I took a look at it and saw that it was a gospel tract, the kind given out by door to door missionaries or left tacked to the bulletin board at Wal-Mart.

Within a few minutes, the front door opened and an older man entered carrying a thick manila folder. He wore the largest pair of wrap-around blue-blocker sunglasses I’ve ever seen. I didn’t recognize him, but he recognized me.

“Hi, there. Brian, isn’t it?”

“No.”

“You’re not Brian?”

“I’m not Brian.”

“Is there a Brian here?”

“There’s no Brian here.”

“Huh. But I’ve met you before,” he said. “At least, I recognize you from somewhere. What’s your name?”

I told him my name.

“I’m pretty sure I know you from here,” he said. “I think you helped me out by typing up some documents once.”

I have never in my life typed up documents for a patron, so I was pretty sure he didn’t know me at all.

“Yes!” he then exclaimed. “You typed up the Declaration of Independence and Constitution for me a while back.”

Recognition sucker-punched me and I realized the man’s identity: he was Grandpa Sam, the elderly gentleman who, back in the summer 2005, plagued not only my “liberry” but several libraries in two counties, by phoning them up and asking for copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. All of the libraries had the documents and offered to produce copies of them for him, but ours was the only one he actually showed up at to check in person. We’d provided him with copies of those documents and I had been the one to print them for him from the internet, taking time to adjust the text and repaginate them myself so that they would fit comfortably in around 25 pages so he wouldn’t have to pay a lot for them. And after walking from our building with those documents in his hand, he turned around and phoned up some senator in Arkansas and made the false claim that we’d refused to give them to him. Yes, this was the same Grandpa Sam who had showered us and all our patrons with gospel tracts back then, proclaiming himself an associate pastor at a local church—a church I phoned after we later learned of his deception to make sure their real minister knew the full story before Grandpa Sam had a chance to spread false rumors to their congregation. The pastor had then told me that Grandpa Sam was sadly suffering from Alzheimer’s and had likely done what he had in some sort of delusional state.

For an Alzheimer’s sufferer, he certainly was doing better job in the memory department than I was. I would never have recognized him, for Grandpa Sam looked quite a bit thinner than during his previous visit.

“Oh, yeah,” I said. “Now I remember.”

Grandpa Sam then brandished his manila envelope at me. He explained that since we’d been so kind as to type of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution for him, two years back, he had another typing job he wanted us to do for him. He then told me that he’d been doing a lot of writing recently and had composed something of a memoir of inspirational stories from his life, in long hand, and was hoping to have the whole thing typed up.

“I’d pay for it, of course,” Grandpa Sam said.

Sensing the danger of the situation, I quickly explained that we hadn’t actually typed anything for him when he last visited. We’d only printed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution from the internet. We didn’t type them up ourselves. Furthermore, typing documents for patrons was not a service that we offered at the library. We offered computers on which people were welcome to type documents, but we ourselves did not type them for patrons.

"But, I’d pay you for it,” Grandpa Sam reiterated.

“I understand, but this is simply not a service we offer.”

Grandpa Sam didn’t seem very happy about this. It seemed to him that if he brought something to us to be typed and offered to pay, we should type it. I told him he was welcome to speak with our library director, but she was out at lunch that moment. He didn’t press the issue further. Instead, he asked where we kept our exercise books. He said he’d been sick for the past few months and had lost a lot of muscle mass that he was looking to get back. I wrote down the call number for him and directed him toward nonfiction. He passed out a gospel tract to a nearby patron, gave one to me, and off he went.

Normally, I might consider doing a bit of typing for cash, particularly for an elderly patron who clearly didn’t have the skills to do it himself. However, for this particular elderly patron, I was not having any of it. Anyone who phones around to all the area libraries, demands copies of historical documents, is given them and then phones up some senator’s office, in a seemingly random state, and then lies and says we refused to give him the documents, even if only doing so under a delusion, is not someone I’m interested in doing business with.

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