There was nothing odd about a mentally challenged man having a borderline nervous breakdown in front of me screaming “Coffee!” The mentally challenged are frequent visitors to the library, and frequent visitors to these dispatches. When something unusual happens in this regard, I usually take a deep breath and find the patron’s life coach (they usually can be found in the back of the library on the Internet chatting with someone on the other side of the world). This day, however, the life coach was nowhere to be found, which made the man my problem.
I was able to gather from the screaming coffee man that he was frustrated that he could not get coffee to come from the vending machine near the entrance of the library. Coffee just didn’t seem like a good idea for someone who was on the verge of a breakdown, and I suggested he try water instead. I learned in that instance that mentally challenged people who don’t drink coffee can transform into Hulk-like figures; if you’ve ever witnessed a mentally challenged man hit something and utter something along the lines of “Hulk Mad” then you know it’s not a pretty sight—if you haven’t, then you’ll just have to take my word for it.
When people start flipping out in the library, a special thing happens—patrons get interested; suddenly the porn on their screen isn’t as interesting as the fight that may be taking place just a few feet away. They don’t leave their Internet terminals to help out because they’re afraid they’ll lose their time (libraries learned this months ago during a rather sizable earthquake, when patrons were more concerned about getting their Internet time back when the library was being evacuated, than whether or not the light panel dangling above their head might fall on top of them), they simply turn their chairs and stare.
From twenty feet away me and the now Hulk-like mentally challenged man, a patron on the Internet shouted, “Just give him the coffee.” Another patron from another corner agreed, “Yeah, just give him the coffee.” A library clerk at this point also questioned me, and agreed with the patrons’ suggestions. I realized that in this situation I was going to have to be the bad guy, and my mind raced trying to think of a way to settle the man down.
After a couple seconds of screaming I told the man to follow me—I had a plan. I went in the room with the vending machine, starred at it, and declared sadly, “Oh wow—looks like this machine is out of order.”
His head went down and the Hulk-like rage left him, “Out of order?” I nodded. I felt like both of us were looking at a fallen soldier, and I feared the next thing he’d want was to hug it out. (Note to reader: I do not like hugs.)
In retrospect, I wish a hug was all he wanted because as it turned out, he wanted more than that. His Hulk-like rage had now lit up with Hulk-like excitement as he stared at the soda machine next to the coffee machine. “Pepsi!” he screamed.
I shook my head and sadly said, “Out of order.” I then added hopefully, “Water?”
He didn’t believe it this time. The rage returned to him, his hand smacked against the glass of the soda machine. “Pepsi!” He demanded as he shoved two dollar bills into my hand.
I was being victimized by a mentally challenged man, and everyone else in the library seemed to be on his side. “Out of order.” I repeated.
“No.” He said smacking his hand harder against the glass.
Before I could speak again, a large woman came from behind, grabbed the money from my hand and started putting it into the machine, “Just give him the Pepsi, jerk.”
“Do you know if he’s taking any medicine that might have a negative reaction to Pepsi?” I asked.
“Who’s the ’tard here?” The woman said. “There’s no medicine that would do that!” The Pepsi popped out from the vending machine and she handed it to the man with a smile. “Here you go, sweetheart.”