As a new librarian, there are probably many things I will learn over the years. That’s one of the reasons I was motivated to take up the profession. I won’t automatically have all the right answers, nor the right books. I’ve made my peace with this. What they neglected to mention to me, however, is that I will meet some strange creatures that inhabit The Stacks.
Now, now, I know that fellow librarians out there will often remark about this or that patron. My library has “The Bible Lady” who likes to have people read passages to her, and Mr. “I’ll Take You to Court Over $.20” who shits a brick over his fines all the time. Yes, these “gems” make our jobs… worth it, and my personal favorite is a gentleman I have affectionately named: Peanut Butter Man.
Peanut Butter Man (or PBM) is a homeless guy who waits patiently outside our doors every morning to waltz in as soon as we slide the bolts back, and open our doors. He has his own little spot, back towards non-fiction, where he likes to sleep facing the wall with a hooded head, and a newspaper adorning his lap. This is how I have come to know him:
8:55 a.m. : I notice PBM (who at the time I thought of as “that dude”) looking at his laptop as he waits outside for the library to open.
9:00 a.m. : “That Dude” closes his laptop, selects a newspaper, and heads for a corner.
11:45 a.m. : I go to shelve a book and notice “That Dude” clipping his toenails.
11:46 a.m. I remind myself that I should be like the reed, and go with the wind… away from the epic grossness unfolding before my eyes, and say a silent prayer to the nice janitorial staff that will have to vacuum up his tiny, little, yellow bits of DNA.
12:00 p.m. : “That Dude” wakes from a long nap to eat peanut butter with his fingers.
12:01 p.m. : I silently scream as I watch him lap the peanut butter off his dirty fingers… that were previously touching is filthy feet, and curse the heavens that there are so many damn travel books to shelve.
12:16 p.m. : I shall name thee “Peanut Butter Man”
9:00 a.m. : He’s back, apparently he lives here, and I do believe I see a jar of peanut butter in his bag. Game. On. *Heave*
9:00 a.m. : Rinse, repeat, and add more Jiffy.
10:17 a.m. : I ask my supervisor if she knows that homeless people sleep in the corners of our library. She informs me that they have no where else to go. “It’s Florida,” she says, “t’s hotter than the fires of hell outside, and they can’t sleep at night or wild animals will eat their food. It’s sad.”
10:18 a.m. : Shit. Now I feel guilty.
10:19 a.m. : Why the fuck does he have a laptop?
The days have continued on as such: PBM comes everyday, and everyday he eats peanut butter. He will sometimes browse on his laptop, mostly he sleeps. PBM is a man of mystery. It did get me thinking though… Now, before you read on, I want to warn you. I am not always nice. I try to be, but… so stop now if you think you are going to find a happy ending where PBM gets a bath and a new home.
Everyday I find myself wondering who PBM is, and why he has no home, family, or even a shred personal hygiene. Are there places he can go? Does he like being homeless? Is that why he spent his shekels on a laptop and not a few clean shirts or a bed for the night? Why does he eat peanut butter all the time? Sure, it’s high in protein, but shit, throw some jelly in the mix. His priorities are way off.
Then I wonder about what my role, and our library’s role in this should be. Am I supposed to take the vagrants and vagabonds of this hot box we call home under my wing? The rules say that I should never talk to them, being as I am presently a page (an assistant), and only the librarians should converse with them, because they could be dangerous. O.K., I’m a year away from being a librarian. What do I do then? Ignore them? What if it was a mother and children? Just because it is a single, white male doesn’t make it any less disturbing that these people are lost, and that all I am expected to do is hand them a romance novel. That’s all anyone wants us to do…
So here I am, casting out my net to see if there is an answer. What should be done?