Saturday, November 25, 2017

Madman in the Library

It was mid October and the kids were elsewhere as I was running my Saturday errands.  It was a good time to pick up the books that my friendly librarian held for me.  I had no idea what I would find in the cluster of books that she recommended I read in pursuant of the research for my non fiction book proposal.  It's a tedious job but had to be done.
As I examined the books including "I Will Find You" by Joanna Connors and The "Complete Idiot's Guide to Private Investigating" by Steven Kerry Brown, there was a sudden sound you would never expect to hear in a public library where children are taught to keep their voices down and people go to get away from the many annoying sounds of society.  It was a man’s voice that propagated throughout.  He was clearly mad.  Was he a madman? 
I stood up to see what the commotion was.  At the checkout desk where the librarians congregate to help consumers there stood an older man, balding with grey hair, I am guessing in his early to mid 70’s, wearing a heavy winter coat yelling callously at the cluster of women librarians. “How can I read this paper if there is a staple in it!”  And, “You need to get this straightened out.  You people don’t know what you’re doing!”  But, it didn’t stop there.   He was clearly very angry.  He was angry enough to cause himself a great deal of embarrassment.  But, did he care about embarrassing himself?  Did he care what the patrons around him may have been feeling especially after the recent Las Vegas shooting on October 1st?  He continued to antagonize the innocent ladies behind the counter who appeared to not know what to do or how to handle this situation.
I grew angry for the verbal abuse and concerned for innocent bystanders, many of them males, who didn’t budge but sat in their chairs and kept their faces in their books and newspapers.  The managing librarian asked the old man to step out to the lobby.  He obliged but continued to yell with conviction.  He grew louder and louder.  He repeated himself many times about how upset he was that there was a staple in the newspaper he wanted to read.  I asked myself, “is it really all over a staple or is it something bigger than that?”  I approached the front desk and asked one of the ladies if they had called the Police.  She said “no”.  I requested they call the Police immediately.  She responded with “he is a regular but we have never seen him like this.  He is hard of hearing and is a loud talker.  But, he has never displayed anger towards us.”  I insisted she call the Police, but she didn’t budge.   I placed my books in front of her and kindly asked her if she would watch my books and then self-assuredly told her “I am going to take care of this myself.” 

I stepped away from the counter and into what could have been the line of fire.  Someone had to step in and help these gentle ladies including the manager who insisted that she could handle the situation without calling the Police, I believe, to keep the occurance on the down low and not bring attention to this public place.  Nobody was taking a firm hand with this old man.  He continued to belittle the managing librarian and anybody else who tried to calm him down.  The librarians used their inside voices asking him to stop yelling.  They asked him to leave with sweet sparkles of sugar in their voices.  He was not going to calm down.  He was growing more confrontational and provoking.  He started throwing his arms around and hit one of the librarians with the newspaper he was holding in his hand, the one he was complaining had a staple in it.

“Please leave now”, I firmly said as I held my hand out pointing to the door that was only a few steps away.  He got in my face and said, “I don’t care what you want me to do.”  I continued to tell him to leave.  He threw words in my face daring me to touch him.  I made a remark about how he will find himself behind bars if he does not do as he is told at this very moment and that he didn’t have a choice.  The choice would be made for him.  He continued to throw words in my face that I eventually ignored.  I did what I was trained to do in situations like this.  Despite feeling uneasy I stood my ground and remained poised.  I continued to use my somewhat large stature as a shield between the old man and the librarians and sort of guided him towards the door without touching him.  I continued to speak over him telling him to “please leave” shuffling him out the door.  He could have had a weapon in his pocket despite the sign NO GUNS ALLOWED posted on the front door. 

Everybody was safe.  The old man left and everybody returned to their original spaces.  The managing librarian called the Police and banned the old man from returning to the library.  They thanked me for my patronage but I didn’t know what to say.  I was more disappointed in the men who just sat back in their chairs acting as if they were minding their own business.  There was a scene, clearly.  We were loud and demanding.  Everybody in the library saw what was occurring.  It would have been nice if there was an off duty cop or military person or a man in the building rather than a mom of two young children stepping in to overrule a madman. 

I asked myself, was I was at the right place at the right time?  What would have happened had I not stepped in?  His anger was escalating with every syllable that came out of the managing librarians’ mouth.  He was clearly agitated, but over a staple?  I don’t think so.

What would you have done in this situation?  Despite my training I would have done the same thing because I witnessed my grandfather in a similar situation.  He took me and my siblings out for ice cream where there was a man violently holding a woman by her collar from across the ice cream counter.  My grandfather stepped in and saved the woman from whatever was to come. 

I felt I did the right thing.  I left the library feeling shaken and went on with my day. 

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