I once worked over a grill to make ends look at each other with wistful detachment without really ever meeting. The place was a little dive just outside of campus that stayed open late. You have probably heard stand up comedians talk out these places, dark huddled houses of waffles and international pancakes serving the dregs of humanity and staffed by people just behind the drunks in the intoxication department.
I enjoyed the hell out of it.
See, the most fun about it was that we worked nights. Being a cook in an all night dive sucks, to be sure, but remember: You are the only one there. The owner is at home nestled in his bed. Any self respecting manager earned the right to see sunlight years ago. The inmates run the drive thru asylums, my friends.
And that part about intoxication I mentioned earlier? Did you know the market share for a couple of cigarettes is a basket of french fries, beer goes for a burger, and anything harder can be bartered with a combo number? On a slow night, I once watched a fellow cook spend an hour tripping out of his mind on LSD dropping the same basket of tater tots into the grease and demanding they “put the butter on their skin or else they get the grease again.” I had to rescue those tots by sacrificing some bacon lest the whole place burn down.
And therein lies the trouble. See, all this behavior builds a reputation with local law enforcement. Too many nights with fights in the parking lot, too many kids getting pulled over as the pulled out, and too many suspicious plants growing in the planters out back draw attention. Not to mention that the night manager (name withheld to protect... well, I really can’t remember his real name so let’s call him Steve) had a nasty habit of breaking down his cannabis on the prep station and throwing the stems and seeds behind the stove. Steve ran from the police after a raid one night and was never seen from again.
Yes, that is the truth. The police raided a restaurant not for any health violations (in fact they all ate there) but for drug related reasons. The reputation grew to even bigger proportions after the raid that after I would tell someone where I worked they would ask “Is it true if I order orange soda, y’all will sell me weed?” which is utter nonsense because if you ordered from the right person all you had to do was order weed.
So you ask, what does this have to do with the library? Well, after working at such an establishment I learned a few things. First, do not crap where you eat. That’s good advice both in real life and in metaphor. If you plan on living a life of ill repute, even for a few college years, keep that life away from where you make an honest living. To be sure, I cleaned up a long, long time ago but I will not do anything near anyone that can connect me with my place of business either personally or professionally. Have a good time with your friends, but save dancing on the table tops snorting lines of blow for the conventions.
Second, befriend the local deviants. I know, this seems to go against the first lesson, but it does not. Being in good with the local weirdo gives you extensive knowledge of when and where the bad things are going down without actually becoming party to said bad things. Tread lightly in areas of gossip and go forth and learn about your coworkers missteps. Do not judge them for those missteps unless they interfere with the working environment. As long as nobody’s doing cocaine on the circulation desk, who cares if Darling likes to experiment with bath salts on his off hours.
Finally, and most important, befriend the local authorities. Do you know why I did not have to run with Steve on the fateful night the police pulled in and had everyone step outside? Because a friend on the force that really liked chicken wings told me I might want to be off that night. They may have been targeting Steve and his orange soda operation, but no use getting caught in the crossfire, am I right?
So I have kept these basic tenants into my library career. I stay calm around patrons when I am out at the bar, I know to let Darling have that Monday to himself when he smells like cinnamon berry, and I listen to the phone call that tells me certain people might have been inquiring on getting a warrant to search my library.
Think all that time slinging hash was a waste?
Check out more articles on www.bannedlibrary.com Add us on, Facebook, Google+ and @bannedlibrary on Twitter!