There always seems to be one little old man that I really like. Just one at a time, at any given time in my career. He's in almost every day, making his regular library rounds. There's a touch of tragedy and pathos to it because he's always very old and frail. Often there's a walker involved. And, generally speaking, this sort of old man struggles to cope with nearly everything. But he's plucky too. And I worry about him a lot when I realize I haven't seen him for a week or two, especially since these guys tend to be more on the five-or-more-days-a-week side of things when it comes to library visiting. I've lost quite a few of these guys over the years. Sometimes I know what happened, sometimes I don't.
I haven't seen my current guy for a couple weeks, but D. said she saw him a few days ago. I don't think it's quite right to tell you his name, and I've tried to disguise him up a bit, but it doesn't matter, I don't think obscure bits of the internet like this are part of his life, and I mean not a bit of criticism here, and as to name, I've come to think of him as Mr. Magoo.
Mr Magoo was famous for his poor eyesight, his misunderstanding everything around him, his oblivious, cheerful persistence, and a kind of optimism in his confusion that always saw him through. This guy's eyesight is actually just fine, but he expresses those other qualities beautifully. He moves incredibly slowly with his intensely used cane. Interactions with him at the desk are almost theatrical in their turtle-like, bumbling pacing and take five times as long as the same thing with anyone else. He likes non fiction DVDs and cookbooks. The cookbooks always seem to be from the 80's and have to do with casseroles. He talks to me happily, with gusto. He would eat pasta everyday, and he tries to make these recipes, but they're difficult. His homebound older(!) sister doesn't like pasta as much as him. He doesn't hear what I have to say very well, so I mostly listen. Once he had to pay a fine and he slowly took out his wallet and paid with a cartoonish stack of hundred dollar bills. He all but handed me the thick, shedding wad in a take-what-you-need way. It wasn't like he was a mobster, just, he had the money, and working out the specifics of it was too much detail for him. The line forms up as he chats about pasta. When he does it sounds like a new kind of food he just discovered. I always feel bad when I have to gently pry him off the front desk and send him on his way. I don't think he really knows about the line behind him. His vision is so bent down and in front. He heads off to the DVDs. Sometimes I get a little stressed out watching him, seeing all the peril he doesn't seem to see himself, but his vibe is all truly everything will be fine. And I find his apparent lack of self-consciousness both alien and instructive. I don't know him at all, but I like him more every time I see him. And I always hope he'll be back.