A seizure of horror gripped me as I casually glanced out our front window. There, in our parking lot, was the open-sided, plywood-roofed Jeep that we know as the Stankmobile. More horrific still, it was empty, which meant its owner, one Mr. Stanky, was no doubt coming up the walk outside of my field of vision. This was the moment I'd been dreading for weeks.
Because of our recent introduction of additional patron computers, we've increased the amount of time our patrons can have at a station from a half hour to a full hour. This is almost meaningless, however, for we only enforce that time limit on the rare occasions that all the computers are full, including the 15 minute stations. Most of our regular computer patrons, such as Gene Gene the Geneal0gy Machine, really like the new rules since it means they potentially have no time limits whatsoever. As long as there's at least one computer available, and there usually is, they can stay on all day. The major drawback I foresaw weeks ago was that this new setup would also work to the advantage of our more tenaciously repulsive patrons, such as Crusty the Patron and Mr. Stanky. I was afeared to my very soul.
Within seconds of my Stankmobile sighting, the front doors bumped open and in he came, clad in the usual sweat-soaked, sweat-stained T-shirt and shorts, which he had, no doubt, been clad in for at least a week. I remained at the far end of the desk, away from the computer sign-in sheet, which Mr. Stanky noticed shortly and for which he made a slow lunge. I hadn't yet caught a whiff of him, and was looking to prolong the time before I was gifted with that inevitable experience.
I scurried away from the desk and went out to log him onto a computer, so that I would then have time to scurry away from the computers before he got close. But which one to put him on? There were only two people on computers at that moment, but despite the fact that one of them was Gene Gene the Geneal0gy Machine (who had already been on the entire morning), I politely decided to place Mr. Stanky equidistant from both computer users. Before I could get that particular machine logged in, though, Mr. Stanky was upon me. I tried to take in enough breath to sustain me back to the circ-desk, but he was too close and I wound up inhaling some of his fumes.
Sweet Melissa!! It was worse than usual, if such a thing is even possible! Had he been rolling around in a carcas all morning?!!
I made my escape, but the stench just seemed to follow me. It felt like it was not only in my nose but permeating my clothes, sticking to my skin like some sort of stank napalm. I wanted to take a shower—a nice, long, radiation-scrub shower administered with a wire-bristle brush on a long stick, Silkwood-style.
Where the hell was the Febreeze?! The Lysol?!! The Easy-Off?!!!
I retreated to the staff workroom, but the fumes followed me in there, too. Every time I took a sip of my instant tea from my hard-plastic sippy cup, my nostrils pulled in Odeur de Stanquet, nearly causing me to gag.
Unfortunately, I couldn't stay in the relative safety of the workroom because the front doors opened wide, a stream of people seeking computers began to flow through them and beyond Mrs. J, I was the only staff member not out at lunch. I tried keeping the newcomers away from Mr. Stanky, but there was only so much I could do before most other available spaces were taken. When Mrs. J took a turn at logging people on, she sat some poor kid directly next to Mr. Stanky despite the fact that the 15 minute station furthest away from him was available. It would have been kinder to seat him beside a mace-fogger, really.
Fortunately, Mr. Stanky didn't stay the entire afternoon, but cleared out shortly after an hour. If only the lingering evidence of his presence had cleared out with him, for we were forced to share space with its slowly diminishing returns for another couple of hours still, thanking God that we'd had the good sense to order vinyl-covered computer chairs to replace the old cloth ones.