Monday, August 1, 2016
This is a very important skill.
I wish I had it in my house when I was a child. I wish I had it in Junior High and in High School. I oddly had little need of it in College, but to this day it would be extremely useful to have in a wide array of the aspects of my general life. The only place I find I am reliably in possession of this skill is when I am working at the front desk of my public library. Perhaps that is only fair enough, as the front desk of my library is the place I developed this useful, possibly essential, skill.
Don't flinch. Show no fear. Stay unruffled.
You ask a patron for their library card. They present it to you in their right hand. Their fourth finger appears to be newly missing. The hand is wrapped in a collection of bloody bandanas. Blood drips thickly onto your counter.
There is no profit in creating a scene. This is not a war. This is not theater. This is not a horror movie. This is just a public library.
"On your way to the emergency room?" You ask quietly, as you deftly take the library card, careful to not bump the tender wound.
"Yep." The man grunts. "Just wanted to pick up a couple things to read on my way."
It makes perfect sense. Sort of. And what doesn't make much sense about it doesn't really come into play here. Move him through. Clean up the mess. Next.
A large family of exuberant new immigrants approaches your desk. A family of eight, though the exact number is a little hard to tell as the smaller ones are moving around so much. An anxious man, the Father?, approaches and speaks several urgent sentences at you. Among all he says there is not a single phrase, nay, not even a word or sound you understand in any way whatsoever.
Do you cry? Do you abandon hope? Do you hide under your desk? You do not. You look in his eyes and you say "I'm sorry. I did not quite catch all of that. One more time please?"
Just today an alarming looking, crudely tattooed man, in shredded clothes and vibrating with energy came to my desk, put his face 8 inches from mine and asked "What's your name?"
"Feldenstein." I replied.
"We have the same eyes." He said to me, though unlike my own hazel ones, his were sort of blue. They had flecks of yellow and green in them. I know, because his very eyeballs were only inches away from me. But then he added "We both have flecks of different colors and they change with light and mood." That was actually pretty accurate.
Through the good and bad I never recoiled. "What can I do for you today?" I merely inquired.
"Isn't there supposed to be a flower show here today or something?"
"Do you see all those potted plants you just walked through?" I said, pointing. "It's right over there."
He looked over and twitched wildly in surprise, like he'd been electrically jolted. "Well I'll be." He said. And then he headed off.