Saturday, December 7, 2019
There are always a few famous people at my library in any given time frame. These aren't simply the library patrons that visit nearly everyday, though they too can have a small measure of notoriety, but rather they are the ones who also interact heavily with the front desks or bring so many disruptive issues to the public space that they can't go unnoticed. One of these people, Bag Man, was a mainstay of this "famous" class for several years. He was a full time patron, meaning he generally managed to be in the library for all of our sixty some open hours a week. He ate noisily, had some problematic hygiene issues, and carried with him six plastic bags of possessions that, from a cursory look at them, appeared to be perilously close to simply being garbage. We saw him every day for years.
And then he was gone.
He stopped coming to the library.
Of course we discussed it, as a staff, because we discuss everything, but in the end there's not much to say about someone whose only new feature is, and continues to be, not being there. So we talked about him less and less. And when one gets to where the only thing to say about someone is "remember so and so" one is inclined to say it less and less often. And though I can't quite say he was forgotten, after all, I can still remember the phone lady, circa 1998, who used to have loud phone conversations with her imaginary boyfriend, he did start to rather fade away in all our minds.
But then last Wednesday he came back.
It was electric. I didn't even see him, but at least six different people told me about it within 45 minutes. Everyone was so excited. "Bagman is back!" Was the joyous cry that ran through the library. Everyone seemed so happy about it.
I kind of was too. Then I remembered.
"Hey," I asked. "Wasn't he a total asshole though?"
"Oh yeah." My co-workers said, subdued. "I guess he was."
He was recalcitrant, noisy, demanding, churlish, and took up a lot of space, usually taking over a study room or a suite of four chairs. He also demanded a breathtaking amount of hand sanitizer.
On my way to shelve I went to look for him anywhere in his usual haunts in the greater fiction section. I just wanted to see with my own eyes. Did he have shoes? Was he making loud noises that he refused to stop making? I don't know. He was already gone.
I heard a report that he waved at one of us staff members. This was something he never would have done in the past, and the real piece of good news in the whole thing. Maybe he got his life together. Maybe he stopped being an asshole. There's always hope.
We may never know. But perhaps that would be for the best. I think it's time for the library and him to move on with our lives.
It always was.