breda occasionally posts about her experiences at the reference desk at the library where she works...often involving the difficulties and frustrations involving dealing with the many homeless and vagrants who make the library their daytime home...this was my response to one of those recent posts...
breda, i saw a bunch of these guys in 30 years at the pawn counter...
they are typically alcoholics rather than druggies, at least semi-homeless, and to use your term, "crazy" to varying degrees.
they don't have regular jobs because that would jeopardize the ssi monthly "disability" check even though they can do a lot of jobs...so they often do odd jobs for stores like sweeping or cleaning the parking lot.
my pawn shop was adjacent to a convenience store, and i often let allen, who lived in a tent camp in the woods nearby, sweep or pick up trash, cigarettes, etc. and weed the patch of landscaping outside my front door. he was actually pretty smart; he could work on bikes and lawnmowers, he could read pretty well and had beautiful handwriting...when he didn't have the shakes. sometimes when he was weeding, he would lay down rather than have to bend over and fall on his face from hangover vertigo...and when he had worked long enough to get a couple of 40oz beers and a pack of cigs, and maybe a honeybun, he knocked off for the day, collected his ten bucks from me, and made a beeline for the c-store; these supplies would get him through tonight in the tent, and he would do it all again tomorrow...then on the first of the month when he gets "paid" he might book a couple nights in the flop motel, take a real shower and drink real booze at the "yogi bar" till the money's gone and it's back to the camp.
allen wouldn't hurt anyone, he had empathy for others, would even try to intervene when he saw someone being mistreated, if he didn't fall before he got there. he had perpetually red watery eyes, wore clothes from the salvation army down the street, and had a perpetual aroma of booze seeping out of his pores...but he had travelled all over the country by bicycle and getting a ride when he could, he took off one year with the carnival when they hit the summer circuit...he's even on an old episide of "cops" in albuquerque, the victim of bike theft while he was in a bar of course...that was always good for free beers whenever "his" episode rerun came on the bar tv.
so that could have been allen at your library today, breda...or one of the many who are just like him; he probably didn't know he was freaking you out and thought he was being charming and his version of normal. and besides, the taxpayers provide this great, warm, interesting place to pass six or eight hours of the day...and there are people there who have to talk to him and help him and they can't tell even him to get out!
or...your guy could have been like the bipolar, off his meds, homicidal, full blown psycho like the one who knifed a guy to death in a public restroom because he came in to pee.
how dare government extort money from me to provide that impressive edifice stocked with thousands of portals to knowledge and other worlds, pay educated people who love books and knowledge and stand ready to help inquiring minds find information and enlightenment, and then turn it into a mission harboring many weak, decent, pathetic souls like allen and a few demented, mental grenades waiting for some innocuous event or perceived slight or little voice to tell him to pull the pin...and then expect my wife and/or child to come enjoy what taxpayers have provided, and then whine and feign not understanding the reason why they don't...all the while providing public notice that no one in the building has the capacity to neutralize threats to their lives or safety, that constitution thing notwithstanding? who the fuck is running this monkey house anyway?
so breda; you did the only thing you could do...your guy might have thought he was being interesting and civilized, had an interest in everything elvis, and just liked you...or he might have wanted to slit your throat to see you bleed out in the quiet, private 900's...but i'll tell you what i would insist that my wife or daughter do if they worked in the capacity and circumstances that you do...they would be packing that little model 60 and take their purse with them whenever they left the desk, and they would know what to do if the one in a million worst should happen...and the rules be damned. and with that security in mind and hand, you would never have to try to profile the poor sap at your desk or worry about a trip with him to the back 9; and then, if that guy turned out to be just an allen, he gets treated with dignity, you could offer a bit of empathy, and you just might gain insight into a world that most of us could never imagine, but is real and human and enlightening nonetheless. jtc