Librarian stories: The Hug

day riverside library

It happened inside (and outside) this library

A story.

It was 8:30 when he walked in, yelling nonsensical syllables about nothing in particular that I could tell. He walked past the reference desk and disappeared over by the unused reference section.

Everyone in the library looked at me.This is what happens when you are the manager, or the biggest person in the room. I was both.

I walked over to find him seated at a table, hastily flipping through the pages of a Bible.

“Sir?”

He looked up. “What?”

“Are you all right? The yelling startled everyone.”

Look. I just want to read my Bible and be…left…alone!”

“Oh, well–”

“Bye-bye!” And he held up a hand and waggled it at me.

He quieted down so I let it be. At about 8:45 I started making the rounds, reminding people that they would need to continue their online games of solitaire and Farmville tomorrow.

I saw him walking toward me. Before I could say anything he apologized and burst into sobs. Then he grabbed me in a bear hug that was unnerving in its ferocity. When he started patting my back I realized that it was merely a hug.

With his cheek pressed against mine, he began telling me about the “black lady” that had run into his car. And now the insurance said he had to pay.

This is an understatement: he was still hugging me (the same hug) 10 minutes later. He was still patting my back. He was so upset that I couldn’t quite bring myself to give him a foot stomp and escape.

My employees closed the library. He patted my back.

They asked me if they should stay. He patted my back.

Finally I gently pushed him back, put my arm around his shoulders, and led him out the front doors, which my Assistant manager locked behind us.

He reached for me again but I avoided it this time. Then he told me that he was moving up to Portland where “The streets aren’t full of crazy drunks, unlike Salt Lake City!”

Just like that, he turned and walked away at a brisk pace. On his way to Portland, I assume.

 

One thought on “Librarian stories: The Hug

  1. There was a crazy lady that would come to the library in grad school with her Bible (what is it about the Bible?) She would pace and talk to herself and yell at people if they got too close. I don’t know if it was fear or pity, but the librarians just let her be, despite the fact that the rest of us were paying tens of thousands of dollars a year to be there, and she had probably wandered over from a shelter somewhere.

    I am no stranger to unwanted touching from strangers in public either. Once, on a bus in Europe, this little man asked if he could read my palm. I said “no thanks.” He took my hand anyway, and proceeded to look at. Then caress. Then fondle it. No reading was going on. He started to breathe heavier. I felt…violated. I got off at the next stop, and made for the nearest soap dispenser. Tres unsettling.

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