Freakbeat, December 2009
It's well-documented that I'm a freak magnet, both in my function as the first line of defense as a beleagured librarian at the downtown central library and (lucky me) in my off-duty role as freak-magnet-about-town. Here are some recent encounters of the freak kind.
Here's to You, Mrs. Robinson
Thursday, I walked down to the Lexington Market and passed an elderly man having an animated, one-sided argument with...a movie poster! He yelled, "Excuse me Mrs. Robinson, it's called a 'music club,' where they play 'music' and not this garbage they call music nowadays. I would like to play in the music club, Mrs. Robinson, is that alright with you, Mrs. Robinson!"
Sending a shout out to Mrs. Robinson
I looked around to see if there was someone next to him or in the building next to him, to no avail. He was talking to a action movie poster plastered to the side of the wall on scenic Lexington Street. The poster depicted some chick in Tomb Raider-looking fetish gear wielding a gun. Hmmmm, definitely cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs...
What Would Annoying Crazy Loudmouth Proselytizer Do? (WWACLPD?)
...further down at the Market, it was the usual pandemonium. Everybody was chattering, or more often shouting - like the vendors hawking their knit caps, club CDs, and Obama knick-knacks - boom boxes were blaring, people walking into traffic, and there across the street by the old bus station was The Annoying Crazy Loudmouth Proselytizer shouting to the World At Large, "GEEEEEEE-zuss will save you, only JEEEEE-zuss!" I had caught his act before, when he was working the corner outside The Basilica on Cathedral and Mulberry streets and again at Artscape (as shown below).
Inside the Market I went to my favorite Korean Soul Food stand and got enough collard greens to last me through the snowstorm forecasted for that weekend. As I was standing there, two numbskulls who looked like they'd have trouble figuring out how to open a door (and would probably need assistance navigating a revolving door) were so messed up they practically fell over me as I went to pay the cashier. I don't think it's too much to ask that our city's well-lubricated/medicated Bo Bo Bolinski's be able to stand on two feet while out in public, do you?
Spare Change We Can Believe In
On the way out a black guy approaches me and, pulling himself away from his cell phone, asks: "Excuse me sir, are you prejudiced?"
Wow, I think, what a question! I wonder if anybody other than a angry white supremacist skinhead would answer this man's query in the affirmative (not that a whole lot of Aryan nation folks hang out at the Lexington Market to begin with!).
"No," I stammer, caught off-guard by the socio-philosphical query and dreading what I am sure will be a follow-up request for spare change. It comes almost immediately.
"In that case, can you help a brother out with 40 cents for the bus?"
"Nope," I reply, "Sorry, don't have it." It's true, I just spent all my spare change on my afternoon cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee. But now I'm feeling stunned that a request for bus fare has become the new lithmus test for racial bias.
Brother, can you spare a hate crime?
I receive a mumbled "Have a blessed day" response as the guy walks on and stops another pedestrian.
But now I feel guilty, like I've been out-ed as a racist for not giving spare change to a person of color. And I wonder, does he suddenly seen me as nothing more than Bruce Willis walking through Harlem with that infamous sandwich board in Die Hard: With A Vengeance?
Upon reflection, I realise that in future a better answer to the "Are you prejudiced?" question would be, "No, I'm not prejudiced; I hate everybody!" (A variation on a button I have that reads "I'm liberal: fuck you too!") Later, a co-worker empathizes and tells me in future to tell pandhandlers, "Sorry, I'm suffering from Compassion Burn-out." Yes! In fact, I think I'll add "I'm late for my Compassion Burn-outs Anonymous meeting."
Coming back to work, a wack pack regular, a middle-aged drunk-cum-retard who likes to watch cartoons (go figure!) comes up to the reference desk and torments our part-timer with a request to print out all 293 episodes of Dragonball Z. As I look up from my computer I notice he's giving me the evil eye.
"I'm sorry, are you being helped sir?" I ask, uncomfortable with being glared at by someone standing mere inches away from my face. (Yes, I know - I'm so uptight!)
"Do I know you?" he asks me.
"I don't think so," I reply.
"I think I know you," he replies, mysteriously.
"Well, maybe so, I'm always here," I say.
He continues to stare at me until my co-worker intervenes to give him his list.
"Oh, so you are being helped," I comment.
"Yes, I lied," he counters. "What can I say, I'm a Baltimorean, ha ha ha ha ha!"
What a jokester!
I eye the clock, counting the minutes until 5 o'clock.
Serendipity! Who walks in but Bitter Bob, the retired art teacher who hates everything and everybody.
Unfortunately, I do know BB, and he knows me. BB likes plays, especially Shakespeare and Greek Tragedies. He also is somewhat of a provocateur who likes to use the library as a sounding board for outrageous statements that he hopes will make him seem witty or at the very minimum get a rise out of staff and othr patrons. In other words, he likes to yank our collective chains.
The Play's the Thing
Today Bitter Bob makes a seque from whining about how nobody's written a good play since Shakespeare and Euripedes to offering up his brilliant play idea.
"You know, I have a good idea for a play that would address all the problems affecting Baltimore's blacks," Bob starts.
Oh, no, I think. Where's this gonna lead?
"I wanna write a play about how a return to slavery will eradicate their problems with drugs, crime, and murder...I mean, a third of the men are in jail, another third are addicted, the rest are unemployed, and... (blah blah blah)," he goes on, waiting to see if his provocative rant has managed to make the veins in my forehead start throbbing with the onset of thrombosis. "So, what do you think?"
"I don't think that play would go over too well in Baltimore," I reply, keeping my cool and trying to ignore his call-to-argument. "I don't think it would ever come around to the Hippodrome."
What a coward. I'd like to see him make that comment out in the lobby. He'd be gang-tackled and stomped into meat tenderizer within minutes. Much easier to burden a skinny, bespectacled librarian who has to sit there and be civil in his guise as a "public servant" no matter how outrageous the provocation or ornery the clientele. And to what purpose?
Then I think to myself...hey, I do know at least one Baltimoron who would answer that prejudice question affirmatively.
I momentarily fantasize telling BB, Hey, Bob, I met a guy walking back from lunch who'd like to ask you a question...but think better of it.
Good old Bob, spreading that holiday cheer!
All in a day's work on the freak beat.
Can I go now?
Postscript Update (2:30 p.m.):
Two more incidents (geeze, will this day ever end?)...first the mentally challenged guy who rented Bridget Jones' Diary every week for two months until he moved on in obsessional devotion to Jennifer Hudson came in, asking the same question he asks every time he's in. Which is, "Can I buy your Jennifer Hudson CD?" See, someone told him that you could buy CDs for a buck at our year-end book sale. Every time he comes in we tell him the date of the book sale (which ended over two weeks ago) and that it's only once a year, but he keeps asking. We even show him the calendar and write down the date, but he just keeps repeating the question, hoping for a different answer. Which never comes. Maybe he'll go back to watching Bridget Jones...
Then, walking out of the computer room is an loud angry man (you heard it here first - loud angry people have been spotted at the library!) shouting "A stigma! A stigma! A stigma! A stigma! A stigma! A stigma!"
I can tell A-Stigmatism Man is just dying for someone to ask him what societal stigma he is raving about.
But no one's interested.