Choose Your Battles Wisely
Old-lady patrons add a unique flavor (and smell) to the library. For the most part, they're either warm and fuzzy or bitter and rude. Either way, it's fun to listen to their rambling theories about life, happiness, and why everyone should read Dick Francis. Libraries, however, wouldn't be quite right if there weren't at least one woman who was loud, crude, and sometimes a little drunk. For me there is Ms. Haskell. I can think of several older patrons I get a kick out of, but I knew Ms. Haskell was special the first day I met her; she asked for the dictionary ... on audiotape. Not an abridged version, or a "500 Power Words Everyone Should Know"—not even a collegiate dictionary would do. She had it all scribbled out on a stained napkin, which she proudly dangled in front of my eyes: "OED Dictionary on audiotape." When I said no, we did not have that, she said, "Well, compact disc will have to do then." That was my first encounter with her, and all the encounters that followed were also about audiotapes. One night, she came in loudly and spent 10 minutes at the circulation desk telling a helpless library clerk what she thought of each of the seven audio books she was returning. When the clerk explained that the library was closed and she would have to leave, she turned toward the audio books to make that night's selection. I saw where she was going and intercepted her. "The library is closed, Ms. Haskell—you'll have to come back tomorrow." She kept on coming, and said, "Out of my way, honey." She then shoved me out of her way. "I'll be just a second," she said. I think I was more surprised by her strength than the fact that she pushed me. "Did she just push you?" a page quietly asked. "I think she did," I admitted. "Dude, what are you going to do?" I didn't reply. I stared at Ms. Haskell, who had made her selection. "See, honey, that didn't take but a second." I could have forced her to come back and check out the next day, but she would have argued that idea longer than I cared to listen. In a public place like a library, you have to choose your battles wisely. Plus, I was kind of afraid she might push me again and I'd have to fill out an incident report saying a 70-year-old woman physically assaulted me.