Sunday, November 22, 2015
Mighty legends walk among us! One would not think such giants would roam my large but, let's admit it, fairly anonymous, almost urban library. And I doubt you would recognize them as legends anyway. But what is a legend? You AMERICA with your Presidents and Pop Stars and Unicorns and Barbies and Football Players and Lauded Movie Star Dogs such as Rin Tin Tin. I don't know those people (or dogs). They are no real part of my life. I can't tell Rin Tin Tin from any savagely barking German Shepherd on the other side of some chain link fence in my neighborhood. These myths of yours are too wispy. Give me my library legends, people who have earned it the hard way, without riches or happiness or notoriety or friends or anywhere else to go. To me these people are epic, mythical, for the ages. Who are they?
Now in his late seventies, maybe 80, bent, hobbled, but intrepid, Jerome has been coming here, mostly evenings, occasionally weekends, for as long as I've worked here. I'd say he is a steady three-times-a-week user. He is officious and blunt and looks like a banker from a Frank Capra movie. He is always in a hurry, something he still manages to convey a piece of even though he can no longer move quickly. My signature memory of him is from the days, fifteen years ago or more, when he used to come in to the library just before we closed and try and collect his requested items and get them checked out while the library closed around him. One day, five minutes after the library's closing time, he made a scooting run for the check out lanes and took a mighty, sprawling spill. A disaster. It was the only time I ever saw him embarrassed, but he shook it off pretty quick. Only age has taught him his hobbled walk.
Lee is older now too, and it's easiest to ascribe her qualities to age, but, honestly, she was always a bit like this. A five times a week user, here comes Lee to the one of the desks. Any desk will do. She has a question. Any question will do. I answered this question for you now 274 times, Lee. You want me to refresh your memory? Sure, Lee, for you are a legend.
Perhaps it's his gruffness and remove that sets him apart. He is weary of fame without having any fame. Oh Mr. Mueller is weary. But two or three times a week for decades he makes it to the library and conducts his grave interactions. What is the library to him. It is CDs and CDs alone. I have checked out thousands and thousands of his requested CDs, maybe even 10,000 CDs; that's a hundred CDs for every word we've exchanged.
That is enough legends for today, though there are dozens more. And though surely my facetiousness once again spills out of every crack of every sentence herein, I say this with frank honesty: My heart skips a beat every time I see one of these people roaming our building, they are all very famous to me, and with each accumulating drip of their monumental library story, some strange, beautiful chord of myth is sounded far down inside me.