Tuesday, July 24, 2007


The man known as Red Alert exists in every library across the globe. He's that guy; the one who, perhaps, used to be smooth with the ladies, back when he was in his 20s; the one who, perhaps, is recently divorced and therefore eager to begin distributing some of that smooth stylin' once again, no matter how inappropriate; the one who, perhaps, doesn't realize that what had been smooth stylin' in 1976 has now become an 8-mile stretch of poorly patched, pothole-speckled road, abandoned by all except similar creatures of his ilk and which sounds really creepy coming out of the face of a 53 year old man, particularly when aimed at girls half his age.

Yep. That guy.

In the late days of last century and the early days of this one, Red Alert enjoyed distributing his particular brand of "smoothness" to certain female members of our staff, i.e. the very married Mrs. B, the then unmarried Mrs. C, and our former weekend warrior Miss. D. At the height of Red Alert's notoriety, Mrs. C and Miss D were both less than half his age. Mrs. B was closer to his age, but, again, very married. This mattered not to Red Alert, who seemed to fancy himself quite the ladies man, and he would spend increasing amounts of time trying to chat with them whenever he could. And let me be clear, Red Alert was never exactly offensive or lurid in his words with them, so there was nothing Mrs. A could kick him out about. However, it was evident from his manner that he was on a fishing expedition; he knew he wasn't necessarily going to catch any fish but he could enjoy the scenery while he tried. He seemed to enjoy the raport he clearly thought he had with the ladies—a raport which they quickly began to discourage by becoming intensely busy with official "liberry" projects whenever he came around.

And that's how Red Alert attained his monicker, because "Red Alert!" was the warning call that used to ring out from the staff whenever we saw him coming. As soon as the warning was sounded, there followed a sudden exodus of Mrs. B and Mrs. C, if there were other staff members who could run the circ-desk. If not, it was basically a coin toss as to who would be left behind to deal with him and who would escape to the safety of Mrs. A's office.

Early on, Red Alert used to arrive in his distinctive hooptymobile, but I imagine he eventually noticed that that the only female staff-member this tended to net him was our sexagenarian "liberry" ass. Mrs. J. I deduce this because soon Red Alert began arriving exclusively on foot. Unfortunately for him, we were quite vigilant and as soon as we spied him prowling up the gravity hill we'd shout "Red Alert!" and the ladies would head for the bunker.

Miss D, however, was not to be spared. She was the lone weekend warrior "liberry" ass., after all, and had nowhere to escape whenever he lurked by on a Saturday. Thus, she was the first of the staff to get officially asked out by Red Alert. Quite wisely, she turned him down, but that didn't put him off his game. He was a regular weekend visitor.

I've often wondered if Red Alert was half the reason I was hired in the first place. Mrs. J, the usual defensive shield, only worked in the early half of the day and Red Alert learned that he could pin down at least one of his quarry if he arrived in the afternoons. Once I was on staff, though, both Mrs. C and Mrs. B could go to ground and wait him out, leaving me at the desk to disappoint him. Red Alert didn't hang around to talk to me, other than occasionally dropping skin-crawling little phrases, such as, "Only us roosters here, today, eh?"

In such cases, he would stroll on past the circ-desk and head upstairs to the periodicals to leaf through the daily newspapers. Unfortunately, Mrs. A's office is right by the periodicals section, which trapped the ladies in that office until Red Alert had finally moved on.

Months after I'd joined the staff, Red Alert came in one night after the ladies had gone home for the evening. He went upstairs to read papers for a bit, then left the building. Soon after, an attractive regular female patron in her mid-40s came downstairs to the circ-desk and asked if I knew the identity of the man who'd been upstairs reading newspapers. I said I did, adding, "What did he do?" I was fearful that he'd exposed himself to her or otherwise offended her, yet also hopeful, because if he had we could finally kick him out.

The lady smiled and said, "He hit on me. He asked me out."

"Oh, I'm sorry," I said.

"No, no. I told him I was married," she said. Then she smiled again. "It's just been a while since someone hit on me, like that. It was kind of nice to be noticed."

Score one for Red Alert, I guess.

Eventually, Red Alert left the area. The story that we heard was that there was some sort of incident at his place of employment. And while we never heard the details, we can certainly speculate.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I live in the St Louis area, and work at a small campus library, in a community with LOTS of homeless people. Of course, we get our share of rogues. This story aired on the local TV station recently, and I thought of your roll call for 'rogues' Although, the people mentioned in this story are a bit beyond 'rogue'.

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.