Last night I was volunteering at the local library. At about 6:30 I was engaged in a lengthy phone call with a woman who wanted to know when Jean Paul Getty was born. That wasn’t the lengthy part, we then wound up talking about many other things.
Behind me I could hear a co-worker beginning to shout at a patron. I handed him the phone and said “get out of here and take this” before he could become so shrill that he got in trouble.
I should have let him have her.
She was about 50, and had no eyebrows. And as it turned out, she was “very Russian,” to use her words.
“He is,” she said, waving her hands at my retreating comrade, “Unsuitable person.”
“Can I help you?” I chirped.
“Can I help you?”
For some reason, she had come up to my floor to complain about something that was happening two floors below me. “There are American woman down there who is make fast joke. She laugh at me when I ask to fix computer. In Russian, this does not happen. I am very Russian.”
Then she leaned forward to squint at my name tag. “Why is crossed out?”
Let me explain. I used to manage a library branch. My name tag at the time said “Dunce One,” and beneath it, “Manager.”
This is now my spare name tag since I’m no longer a manager. I forgot my tag that only says “Dunce One” so I was wearing the spare. The spare has the word “manager” crossed out with an appropriate amount of permanent ink.
“So is not even you?” she said, turning to walk away.
I should have let her go.
“Dunce One isn’t crossed out,” I said, “Manager is. Of course it’s me.”
Over the next 20 minutes she proceeded to tell me that if an American Millionaire proposed to her daughter, she would “forbid it…10,000 times.”
“That is a lot of forbidding,” I said.
“You think I don’t know this? I was teacher.”
Finally she turned to go. “Good night,” I said. “Stay dry.”
She turned back and put her bag back down. “What this mean? Stay dry? There is only one definition for this?”
“I meant don’t get snow on you. It’s snowing out there.”
I wondered where her eyebrows were. I was hypnotized. I am not having the eyebrows said the Russian voice in my head.
She thought I was accusing her of being drunk. Apparently, everyone in America thinks everyone in Russia is drunk. “Opposite is true,” she said to me. “One in two Americans…crazy. Crazy and drunk. Do you see?”
“You..crazy. Probably drunk. You are familiar with syllogism?”
“What is mean by stay dry?”
“I wasn’t saying you were drunk.”
She leaned in and got another good look at my nametag. “If there is more than one meaning…” she waved her finger at me and walked away. And then came back.
“I will verify meaning.”
“I will verify.”
It began to snow even harder after she finally left. My co-worker came back and asked how it went.
“You are unsuitable person,” I said. Then I began to ask him if he thought I was drunk.