Giving nicknames to problem patrons is one way to provide humor on the job. It also establishes handy covert-like code-names for people should problems persist. I have nicknamed many patrons over the years—the Red-Faced Man, Mumbles, the Mole, and Potty Mouth, just to name a few. Recently, I developed a new nickname for a patron: Jeffica. Jeffica has a long history with the library. About four years ago, there was a patron named Jeff. He fit perfectly into the she-male category of the human species (which is the category for a person whose appearance could easily be passed off as either male or female; it was made popular by SNL’s “It’s Pat” skit). Jeff would come to the library two or three times a week and spend hours at a table poring over books. He was usually quiet but would occasionally harass librarians over things like having only one book of poetry by John Donne. Then one day he stopped coming. I didn’t realize it immediately; it was several weeks until somebody said, “Say, I haven’t see that one guy in a while.” After a brief discussion on who “that one guy” was, I realized it was Jeff, and indeed it had been a while. I didn’t see Jeff for four years, but last week he started coming in again. There are some patrons you never forget—Jeff is one of them. He had the same routine: he would pore over books for hours at a time, and at one point he complained to me that we didn’t have a single book by Ben Jonson. Toward the end of the week, he applied for a new library card because his old one had expired due to lack of use. I was surprised when I read the application—under “Name” he wrote “Jessica.” It was odd; he had the chest of Jeff, the voice of Jeff, even the same dress shoes that Jeff used to wear. There was no mistaking it: Jeff was now Jessica.
April 8, 2005