This is a bit longer and more heart-warmy than I normally post on this blog, but a friend thought I was crazy for not posting it here. So here goes!
You know those shows where someone throws a dart at a map and goes to the town they hit and randomly chooses someone from the phone book and finds something remarkable about that person and does a story about them? Well I had an experience like that, but the remarkable person just wandered into my library looking for donuts.
Let me back up.
An older man walked up to me at the reference desk and this was our exchange:
“I’m looking for the nearest place to get Krispy Kreme donuts. See, I’m 83 years old and I thought it was time for a Krispy Kreme donut.”
“Good idea!” I said, and typed my query into the vast Interwebs. “Ohhhhh…looks like the closest store is 134 miles away.”
“Is that right! I was willing to drive a little ways, but….” he said, dejected.
“Sometimes they sell them at grocery stores and gas stations. Let’s check!”
I did another search to no avail, asked some coworkers, called the corporate number and found that stores that carried them were even further away.
“Well, thanks for trying,” he said, looking miserable.
I hate not giving people the answers they want. So I said,
“Lucky for you, I’m going to Los Angeles this weekend and they’re bound to have some there. Tell you what, call me on Monday morning at 9 and ask me if I have some donuts for you.”
“I couldn’t ask you to do that!” he said excitedly.
“But you didn’t ask. Plus, you’re 83!” I said, writing down my name and the library’s number for him.
After a marvelous trip (a picnic in a sculpture park, a night at the symphony, brunch with friends, shopping, a Sarah Silverman sighting, ooh), I stopped at the Krispy Kreme in Burbank and ordered Bob a dozen glazed (and some chocolately ones for me).
Sure enough, on Monday morning, Bob called. “I have a dozen little sumthins for ya!” I said happily. He came straight over.
When he arrived, he was very grateful and thankful and pulled out a neat stack of money (not a wad, a stack) and offered to pay. But I’d already thought up a great idea to avoid an awkward money exchange.
“I won’t accept money, but if you would tell me one interesting story about your life, over a donut,” I said, licking my lips, “you’ll be off the hook.” So we broke all the rules and started eating donuts in the library as he told his story.
Bob was the editor for his steel company’s magazine in the 1950s when the Cold War was brewing. The United States government decided to send 11 people to Russia as a sort of cultural exchange (read: to spy on them). They sent an athlete, a businessman, and some others, and decided to ask one magazine editor—Bob was nominated. Not only was he an award-winning editor, but also a freelance photographer who’d won all sorts of awards. He went to Russia for six months and took 3000 color shots of everything he could get his sights on, including the Kremlin, sometimes hiding his camera in his jacket and coughing to cover the sound of the shutter. When he got back to the U.S., the government took possession of 250 of the pics, he made a documentary film about his experience, won several civilian awards, and was asked to speak and show his film all over the country.
“You’re a SPY!” I said.
“Oh, I’m just a dying man who wanted a donut.”
“Well, now you’ve got eleven. Now get out of here and save the world.”
“Call me if there’s anything I can ever do for you, you hear?”
And turning to my coworker, he said, “Isn’t she remarkable?”
Today a man came into the library to learn how to use the scanner.
“Let me show you,” I said, and then walked him through the steps.
Man [confused]: “But how do I scan something other than a piece of paper?”
Me: “Like what?”
Man [looking around, whispering]: “My face.”
Man: “It’s for a dating site. This lady asked for a recent picture.”
Me: “Do you have a camera or a cell phone that takes pictures?”
Me: “Wait here, I’ll go get mine.”
Overheard: “You can’t buy a floppy disk nowhere no more!”
A man up here at the desk is talking about being willing to kill Satan’s Disciples for $500, or even for fun. When I told him that subject is not appropriate for me to discuss, he said, “I’m 63 years old. You can’t tell me what’s inappropriate!” And off he went.
A man and his two daughters approached the desk.
Man [handing me his library card]: “I may owe you some money.”
Me: “It looks like you have one overdue book with a current fine of 70 cents.”
Man: “Which book is it?”
Me: “Pop Princess. It’s a teen book.”
Man: [turning to his tween daughter]: “Pop Princess! Is that the one you wanted to keep?”
Man: “I’d like to pay for it.”
Me: “Well, you can’t pay for it until it’s either returned or renewed, because the fine will keep accumulating every day it’s overdue. You’ll have to wait to pay the fine until you return it.”
Man: “No, I mean I want to buy it.”
Me: “Oh! Well, we don’t sell books, we just lend them. I’m sure you can find a copy of it on Amazon or in a bookstore?”
Man: “I can’t just pay for it?”
A young girl came up to the children’s desk.
Girl: “Do you have the fancy dictionary?”
Me: “What do you mean?”
Girl: “It’s got fancy words in it, like pretty and glamorous.”
I brought her a children’s dictionary but she just shook her head and left it. It wasn’t until many hours later, that it hit me: she wanted the book Fancy Nancy’s Favorite Fancy Words: From Accessories to Zany.
Every time I wash my hands in the staff restroom I think to myself, “If I were homeless, I’d use this sink to shower because the stream is nice and strong.”
Every single time.
Man: “When did Mother’s Day become a federal holiday?”
Me: “Wait. What?”
Man: “Your sign here says you’ll be closed on Mother’s Day.”
Me: “Are you sure it doesn’t say ‘Memorial Day’?” [turning sign around] “Yes, see it says ‘Memorial Day.’”
Man: “That says ‘Mother’s Day.’ Maybe they’re the same day this year?”
Me: “What? No. This sign reads, ‘The library will be closed on Monday, May 27 in observance of Memorial Day.’ Besides, Mother’s Day is always a Sunday and Memorial Day is always a Monday.”
Man: “I guess I read it wrong.”
For some reason, our library keeps music CDs in a locked cabinet. I say “for some reason” because the key just hangs from a nail on the side of the cabinet, available to anyone and everyone. One day, I was about to shelve some CDs when I noticed the key was gone. Sure enough, I found a man looking through the cabinet with the door swung wide open.
Me: “Excuse me, may I please have the key?”
Man: “Oh…sure.” [holds out his car keys]
Me: “I meant the key for the CDs, sir.”
I was shelving easy readers when I overheard this conversation between two six-year-old boys:
Boy 1: “Do you pick your nose?”
Boy 2 [completely unfazed]: “No.”
Boy 1: “Oh.”
Boy 2: “-“
Boy 1: “-“
Boy 2: “-“
Boy 1: “I do.”
A man and his teenage daughter approached the desk.
Man [handing me his library card]: “We have some fines to pay.”
Me: “Ah yes, there’s $18.55 in fines. It looks like it’s all a bunch of smaller fines that just kept building up.”
Man [going through wallet]: “Umm…I’ve only got $15.”
Me: “That’s fine, I can bring it down to $15 and call it even.”
Man: “How about $10?”
Man: “Come on! Do it for $10!”
Me: “We don’t haggle here, sir…this is a library.”
Teenage daughter: “Oh my GOD, Dad! Stop it! This isn’t the streets of Vietnam or something!”
The man hands me $15.
I was working the reference desk and noticed that, when I’d stepped away to help a patron at a computer, someone had left a voice message. The message consisted entirely of:
“I NEED GRAMMAR HELP! …please!”
She left no name or number.
4-year-old girl: “Mommy, I’m only going to school until I learn to read and write. Then I can take care of myself.”
Patron: “I need to come around and show you something.”
Me [slow on the uptake]: “Hmmmm?”
Patron: [comes behind reference desk and removes shoe]
Me: “Um, you—”
Patron: “See how my foot is swollen? I need to Google it to see what’s wrong with it but I don’t know what to Google. Would you say it’s inflamed or irritated?”
Me: “I’m sorry, I really can’t give medical advice.”
Patron: “I just need to know what to Google.”
Me [with a sigh]: “Have you tried WebMD?”