A man snores at one of our tables, today’s newspaper still clutched in his hands. At another table, a woman attempts to take a standardized test that we are proctoring for her. She is visibly uncomfortable, but politely ignores the sounds of snoring. It is my job to hold the test materials if she needs to use the ladies room. It is NOT my job to wake the sleeping man, but I do it anyway by gently (yet pointedly) pushing in a chair at his table. He has been here before, and this strategy usually works. He startles, and smiles at me. The snoring stops, and the woman gives me a grateful smile. As I walk away to help another patron find a book, however, the snoring starts up again. Not a good day for test takers.
Wandering around the stacks is a man I've mentally named “The Vet.” He wears the same green fatigue jacket every day, has a white crew cut, and always appears sun or wind burned, no matter what the season. There is an unlit cigarette dangling from his mouth, like a broken arm – he stares at me as he walks by the reference desk as if daring me to say something. On good days, he mumbles to himself continuously and takes random political books off of the shelf, carefully arranging them on a table in an artfully random display. On bad days, he begins to yell incoherently, sometimes slamming his fist on the table, raging against whatever demon soldiers are still fighting in his head.
And then there is the infamous Frenchie (called such - to his face, he likes it - due to his exaggerated French accent a la Pepe Le Pew). Frenchie is notorious for harassing anyone female who is under 60 years old. When I first started at this branch, he wouldn’t leave the side of the reference desk, regaling me with tales of his sick ex-wife and telling me how beautiful my eyes were. It was not flattering, nor was it welcome. It got to the point that the security guard banned Frenchie from the library, and he subsequently visited nearby branches (and was banned from them as well). A year and a half later, he started coming into our branch again. When he first tried to talk to me, I nipped it in the bud real quick, telling him that he could ask me library-related questions and that was it. However, the young part-time girls who work here are not so assertive, so he preys on their naive politeness. I once rescued one of the girls from a conversation with Frenchie, and he later called me "crazy."
This is the current scene. These are the regulars. It's the moment before the pot boils - calm, but simmering just below the surface. We'll see where the day takes us.