------------------------------It's not incredibly strange to have an odd thing happen with a patron in the restroom, but to have two in a week...that kind of thing's worthy of an entire dispatch devoted to the bathroom.
On Saturday, I was minding my own business when a library clerk came to me and said there were complaints about a patron sleeping in the restroom. "Sleeping in the restroom?" I questioned, believing that somewhere in this short statement there had surely been a misunderstanding.
"Sleeping in the restroom," he assured me.
I hate being informed of such things, because this means I have to do something about it. I could handle the time I had to tell a man he needed to pull his pants up a little higher because he was exposing himself in such a way that it was offensive to patrons; I could handle telling patrons that they're not allowed to look for pornography on the library computers; I can even keep a straight face when someone asks if we have The Complete Idiot's Guide to Sex. But sleeping in the restroom—there was something sacred about the restroom that I hated to disturb.
I approached the restroom with a bit of weary caution. Man #1 was using the urinal; Man #2 was sleeping on the floor of stall one (our only stall) with his head resting against the toilet. I left the restroom and told the clerk that, yes, there was indeed a man sleeping on the restroom floor.
I knew what his follow-up question would be: "What should we do?" I shrugged, waited for Man #1 to leave the restroom, then entered the restroom once more and said, "Sir, are you okay?" It had not escaped me that Man #2 might have had some sort of freak restroom accident and was thus unconscious. "Yes," was Man #2's reply. I was really hoping he was unconscious and there was thus a reason for his odd behavior that was justifiable. Instead I had to reason that Man #2 was just plain nutty, and I hated having to reason such thoughts about patrons.
I thought quickly for what I could say. "You're not allowed to sleep in the restroom." There was nothing original about this, but it was fast thinking. "Okay," Man #2 said. I had expected some resistance and when none came a part of me was a little disappointed.
I left the restroom with that feeling of accomplishment you get when you kick a man out of the restroom for sleeping on the floor, then ran to the front of the library to get a good view of the man when he left the library (he had been behind the stall with the door shut and I could only make out his backside).
When Man #2 left, I was surprised to see that this was a regular patron, granted one that was sometimes a little off, but not exactly the type of person I'd take for sleeping on restroom floors.
Patron number two is the man who sang romantic Spanish tunes in the restroom. He came on an otherwise normal Thursday evening about an hour before closing. I was sitting at the information desk looking intently at a blank computer screen when a library page came to me and said, "There's a man in the bathroom who's been in there a really long time."
I shrugged and thought to myself that it was a little weird for the library page to be keeping track of how long patrons used the restroom. I said the patron was probably just having a rough go at it, and to let me know if he was still there in thirty minutes.
The page nodded and continued, "That's not all. He's singing in Spanish. He keeps flushing the toilet and then singing a new song every time he flushes it. He's flushed the toilet at least ten times since he went in."
I asked what songs he was singing. I don't know why I asked what he was singing; I don't think I would have treated the situation differently if he were singing disco or grunge. I suppose I was just curious.
The page said he didn't know because they were in Spanish, but they sounded romantic.
I nodded and told the page to follow me to the bathroom (it's always a good idea to approach a strange situation in the library with another person who can act as a witness should anything happen that requires police attention). I stood with the page at the restroom door for several minutes listening to the man sing in Spanish.
He had a nice voice, although he sang high notes a little off key. "What are you going to do?" the page finally asked me. I shrugged. I was preparing the encounter with the singing restroom man in my head; first I'd ask if everything was okay, then I'd tell him to wrap it up because we were closing the restroom in five minutes.
I hated restroom encounters with patrons—there was no way to make them less awkward. I started for the restroom door, but it opened before I went in. A tall Spanish man with a large sombrero on his head exited. He was wearing a Disneyland T-shirt and faded jeans, and he carried a ceramic cactus (the ones street vendors sell for haggled prices in Tijuana). "Everything okay?
The man smiled and nodded, "Sí." Then he left the library.
Odd Things Found in the Restroom Sink
Half-eaten Snickers bar
Bundles of hair