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.