When I was managing a library branch here in Salt Lake City, one of my major jobs was to swat unsavory characters away from our attractive female employees. Nowhere in my library job description did it say that I would need to act as the buffer between panting men of all ages and the female college students that were often hired to perform circulation duties, but I was compelled to do so because they were just so creepy and annoying.
Let me explain. One of my employees, whom I will call…hmm…let’s go with Morticia since it’s Halloween. Morticia was about 22 at the time, from a foreign country, very attractive, and had an accent that everyone liked to hear.They like it so much that when anyone actually got the courage to speak to her, they would try to extend the conversation by hundreds of minutes.
I would watch the males in the building begin to gather when she took her spot on the circulation desk. Young and old, tall and short, whatever–I could see the wheels turning as they racked their brains for questions they could ask her.
And they would all puff up their chests and turn the swagger way, way up. Did she notice? Not in a way they would appreciate. You see, this young woman did not enjoy being the nexus that their grubby satellites hovered around. It was as if she just wanted to do her job and not be eye-assaulted every second of her shift.
And so I would swat them away, particularly if they would lean on her desk, but especially if they were wearing gold chains. Or gave her gifts. Or when their eyes would start to water with tears of frustration when she wouldn’t go out with them (Yes, I saw this).
- Ma’am, is this the library? (pointing to the building with all the books in it)
- Ma’am, is this a book? (holding up a book)
- Ma’am, what would you say if a guy asked you to come watch Iron Eagle IV with him in his mom’s basement? Oh, I’m asking for a friend, it’s not me. I don’t really like Iron Eagle after part III
- Or the smoothest of all…”Ma’am, you know I’m your type. Why won’t you admit it?”
I could laugh at some of it, but my mom did her best to raise gentlemen. I’m not sure if she succeeded, but I know this: when a man is trying to bring the heat and win a lady over long after she has made it clear that he is about as appetizing as an outhouse sandwich, I have a hard time not stepping in. That I cannot laugh at.
One night it was really busy. A kid I knew (about 20 years old), and quite liked, had held her captive on the desk for about 15 minutes before I was able to intervene.
“This is not a single’s bar,” I said. “Morticia has work to do.”
He put his head down and walked away. I felt terrible. I really did. He had always been very polite to me and the pressures and nonsense of the day working at the library had gotten to me. We even had a little inside joke where we would punch each other in the arm. Delightful.
A few minutes later I was able to catch his eye and I waved him back up to the desk.”Hey,” I said, “I was a lot more abrupt with you than I meant to be. I’m sorry, okay? It’s not your fault, I just let things get to me.”
He nodded and smiled.
I reached out and hit him on the forearm. He screamed so loudly that the library was finally quiet for once in the aftermath. It was a cold October night and he was wearing a coat. He now proceeded to roll one sleeve up to show me the cast that encased his arm from wrist to elbow. The cast I had just pounded on with my fist.
Morticia was just as horrified as I was, but in an instant I saw him realize his opportunity. He was envisioning being nursed back to health by her on some island in the sun. He leaned on her desk. He smiled. His coat fell open and he was wearing a gold chain.
Well, that was the end of it.
“She still has work to do. It’s still not a single’s bar,” I said. He put his head down and wandered out into the night.
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