Posts Tagged ‘senior citizens’

Alive or Dead

Sometimes, we don’t really realize how much we care about our customers until something odd happens.

We have a fairly large senior population within walking distance of the branch. Many of them are regulars and I confess, there are a few who make us want to hide under the desk when we see them coming. Oh, they are sweet people; they just like to talk a librarian’s ear off. We understand their need intellectually. Many of these folks are lonely and really, it’s not that hard to just listen and be pleasant. We trade off the honors at the desk.

But there are also a few gruff ones as well as some elderly folks we have watched age before our eyes.

One gentleman, a retired professor, was rather curmudgeonly but in a funny way. He was well read and often had something interesting to share. However, over the last couple of years, he has lost his clarity of mind and as a result, his complaints have become more and more ridiculous and outrageous from lawn care people throwing grass clippings on him intentionally to a woman insulting him. He is quick to tell us to call the police.

Another older gentleman, Mr. Ralph, was one of our favorites and we were surprised he hadn’t been in to see us for a few weeks. One of the librarians did a little digging and asking and sure enough, she discovered he had passed away over the winter months. That was such a strange loss for us and somehow sad that we couldn’t express our sympathy to anyone or acknowledge his passing at the time it happened. He had been such sweet part of our lives. I remember once he came to the branch and brought small hand painted gifts for several of the staff. They weren’t particularly well done, but they were given with affection and I cherish that little thing even more now that he is gone.

Then, a few months ago, one of the circulation staff shared with the librarians at our stand up meeting that a particular patron had passed away. I didn’t know him, but one of the librarians remembered him well and said how sorry she was to see him go. It was only a few days later when she was working on the desk that she looked up to find him standing in front of her. She yelped and almost fell out of her chair! Not to worry, it was not the case of a customer risen from the dead, it was a case of mistaken identity. So, ok, we don’t always have the right names with the right faces.

And then last fall, there was one of our younger, homeless-type guys (I’ll call him Jason), who was known for spending every single day in the library, pretty much all day, playing online games. He was quiet enough and even helped us move chairs on occasion and generally, not a bad sort. One day, the staff observed him having a huge argument (in the library) with an older man from the community who has a bad reputation. The next day: no Jason. And not the next day or the day after that either. In fact, weeks passed and still no Jason. We were all getting concerned. Could he have come to some foul play? We started asking around and no one had heard from him. He stopped using his MySpace, his cell phone was dead, he hadn’t contacted anyone in days and weeks. We even asked the creepy guy and his answer was vague at best.

Honestly, we thought Jason was dead. But what can we really do? There was absolutely no evidence. It was just a bad feeling, a gut feeling. I mean, we’re not investigators, but we are curious librarians.

Fortunately, before we all made idiots of ourselves, Jason walked back in the library about 6 months later. He had quite the story to tell, about abduction and forced labor and much more. And yet, there was no police report or anything like that. What really happened? I don’t think we’ll ever know. So, I guess things are back to normal, daily library visits and online gaming and despite it all, we’re glad he’s back.