Many Problems To Address, Part 2

, , , , , | Right | November 2, 2020

It’s the Internet-free 1980s, which means reference librarians use a variety of resource books with state, federal, and local government agency addresses, addresses for celebrities — usually their agents or fan clubs, obviously not their home addresses — and Senate and Representative addresses, along with White Houses, Embassies, and various officials in foreign countries.

We had one patron who actually seemed quite normal, very pleasant, always unfailingly sweet and polite — and she could not speak a word of English beyond basic greetings, pleasantries, and, most important, “Address, please. Address.” She was always beautifully turned out, clean and, as I said, sweet and pleasant to a fault. We had no idea what we were dealing with.

On an almost daily basis, she would come in carrying articles from the daily newspaper. And she would point frantically to a name on the page, saying, “Address, please. Address.”

Sometimes the person named was a state senator or another government official whose address and phone number we could get for her. Sometimes it was a movie star and we could at least give her the fan mail address. But other times, it was just a fluff piece and she would be focused on two capitalized words that were the name of a store or a breed of chickens or a holiday ritual.

Naturally, we didn’t know what it was she was trying to accomplish contacting all these disparate people (and the occasional Rhode Island Red or Longhorn). In my neck of the woods, we had a large Hungarian community, but even my library colleagues with Hungarian family backgrounds had no clue what she was saying.

One time, she had underlined parts of two sentences and was insisting we get her the address of the following: “Daffodils. Lawnmowers are good for…” That was it. That was what she had underlined, and she kept pointing at it saying, “Address, please. Address.”

We tried every way to Sunday to make the woman understand that that was not a name of a person. We finally called the Hungarian Club in town and found a man who was willing to talk to her to figure out what the heck she wanted us to do.

We handed her the phone and she rattled on at this guy for several minutes. When she handed the phone back, the guy told my colleague, “Her kids have her power of attorney and she wants to have it back because she thinks she should be able to drive her car on the sidewalk if she wants. She is crazy as a loon and she thinks that every name she sees is someone who can help her. Please don’t ever call back here again.”

Eventually, someone knew someone who knew her family and was able to confirm the story. While it was clear that she did need someone to watch her — because she tried driving every chance she got and always had the same result — it seemed her kids were not keeping that great a watch on her.

She was still coming into the main library in the 2010s, although by then she was getting up there, but still, she was always in her neat little June Cleaver dresses, pillbox hats, and — many times — white gloves. I work at a different branch now, but I have heard stories from my colleagues that, thirty-some years later, she still makes the occasional appearance.

Related:
Many Problems To Address

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