Thursday, November 09, 2006


I think I’ve made it clear that I have no skills dealing with distraught people. Uncontrollable sobbing makes me want to bolt. So imagine my consternation when I’m on the quiet floor of Library X making my way to the stairwell to head back upstairs when the sounds of a man wailing erupt. The sounds emanate from the stairway doors. I stop in my tracks and stare at the metal doors like a scared woodland creature at the entrance to the den of a nasty predator. My heart begins to race.

The students studying nearby are looking at the closed doors with worry and sympathy. They’re also darting glances at me. The glances make their expectations clear: I’m supposed to go into the stairwell and help this man. With a petulant mental stomp, I wonder why I gotta be the responsible adult here and check on the guy whose world is crumbling around his ears. It sounds like there may even be shirt rending happening.

I stall. With my head bowed, I pace back and forth in front of the doors. Every shuddering sob makes me wince. I try to figure out what I’ll say to the guy. I need to get him out of the stairwell and somewhere quieter. His sobbing is probably echoing up the four flights of stairs into every floor. But how do I say that without coming off as a cold, heartless bitch, and where the hell am I gonna move him?

I wonder what has upset the guy. It could be a romantic break-up, death in the family, a poor grade, or some other catastrophe. It is clearly something major for this young man, and I have absolutely no clue of how to console him. I am now pacing, wringing my hands, and becoming upset myself. I know I look ridiculous. If I don’t do something soon, I may begin to cry. I clutch my two books and head to the stairwell. I have no clue what I’ll say, but I’m going. My feet are in motion. My steps are purposeful. I’m going to do it. I’m going into the stairwell.

I clasp the door handle and pull...only to find the door swinging toward me as a teary-eyed student comes slinking in with a friend. The friend is murmuring something about getting their stuff and heading out. I watch the young man sniffle and go to a study table to collect his things.

There is such a huge wave of relief flowing over me that I am temporarily paralyzed. Once the euphoria lessens, I jog up the stairs with a little spring in my step. I avoided a very icky emotional kerfuffle. It makes me happy. Yes, I’m a poor human being for not reaching out to help this distraught man, but you know what? I’m still relieved.

You may begin the scolding.

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Anonymous Arkham said...

I feel your pain, trust me.

I don't deal with the public in general very well (which is why I'm a cataloger) - and in my part time job working circulation at a public library, we used to get this guy in...older man with congestive heart failure, bladder control issues...and he might have been homeless, I was never sure on that. He certainly didn't have the care he needed.

Anyway, he'd frequently start calling for help in the middle of the library - and the patrons would all stare at you like they expect you to do something. Fortunately, our lawyers told us we weren't allowed to touch him...we had to call 911 to help him (I say fortunately, because he and his clothing were always filthy - and smelly). Usually, it was just so he could get up and use the restroom, and you can imagine how thrilled the police and paramedics were with getting calls to help him out of a chair.

At least you didn't have to face one of those situations.

8:01 PM, November 09, 2006  
Blogger Vampire Librarian said...


I hate it when the patrons stare! What do they expect ME to do?

I'm glad you don't have to help stinky man to the restroom. That would just suck.

11:02 PM, November 09, 2006  
Blogger tiny robot said...


Are you a Little Britain fan?

4:12 PM, November 10, 2006  
Blogger Vampire Librarian said...

Hey Tiny Robot,

I've been asked that before, and I've never seen the show, but it sounds like it would suit me.

As for kerfuffle, I just like the word.

8:43 PM, November 12, 2006  
Blogger Inexplicable DeVice said...

Dithering works. Always. Except for when it doesn't, of course. But even then, it nearly always does. One just has to dither a bit more.

See? I didn't know what to say so I dithered. And lo and behold, a comment has appeared!

4:29 AM, November 13, 2006  
Blogger listmaker said...

In my department I'm the designated hugger of distraught students and waker of loudly snoring patrons. I'd much rather deal with an upset student than an angry patron and vice versa with my co-worker.

5:21 PM, November 13, 2006  
Blogger Spike said...

Ew, Arkham you poor sod.

Thank christ us teachers can dart back into the classroom demanding someone else take care of such things.

9:59 PM, November 17, 2006  

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