26 May 2011

the library // warts and all


as a rule, anybody who walks up the reference desk clutching the book body drama, and who then states, "wait, let me find the page," is going to have an interesting story.

case in point?

a middle age woman approached the desk with the book in question and, after finding the page she was looking for, whispered, "can you get me a book on genital warts?"

this request, though not an everyday occurrence, is hardly the most embarrassing question that's ever been shyly whispered to me. i quickly located a few books on sexually transmitted diseases and walked the patron to the correct section.

as i was skimming the index of one of the books, the worst possible thing that could happen happened: she. kept. talking.

now, there's nothing i enjoy more than a few minutes of idle chatting with customers as we locate titles (really, i do), but when you get somebody with a deeply personal request sequestered in the stacks, the odds of them sharing their life story are astronomically high. it's a phenomenon that deserves scholarly study, i tell you.

in the space of sixty seconds, i learned the following:

1) the patron contracted genital warts from her husband
2) at the time, she was pregnant
3) the, um, transmission was the worst anniversary gift she'd ever gotten ("secondhand to boot!" as her husband had been cheating on her)
4) the husband is now an ex-husband
5) she has had invasive surgery to fix the issue
6) the surgery did not work, apparently, because she's having another major outbreak
7) the patron does not know how this is possible as she hasn't had sex since 1999

i'm pretty sure i'm still blushing.


  1. Wow. That's a lot of information to share in a short amount of time. If it makes you feel any better, I, for some reason, have strangers tell me super personal stuff all the time and I've never understood why.


  2. it's awful, isn't it? i never know what to say. i think i told this lady, "good luck." good luck? we must just look like really nice people (which we are, of course!)

  3. you should write a book about people you encounter in a library. you have some really funny stories!

  4. that's why i orignally started writing down these crazy encounters as they happened - i didn't want to forget and i thought they'd offer an interesting glimpse into a seemingly boring career. i'd really love to see a mockumentary tv show about a library. it would be pure greatness.

  5. Hoo boy. That's a story and a half. I love reading these and agree, a book on them would be fantastic. :D