You Never Know Who Your Patrons Were
January 14, 2009 at 3:18 pm Tyler Rousseau
We all have that patron… just slightly off psychotic, generally unkempt, possibly drunk and has a seemingly delusional story of grandeur. You know, the one who:
- Continually asks for books on advanced theoretical mathematics to disprove some Ivy League professor’s latest theory but has yet to figure out the equation “water + soap + body = less stinky”
- Claims they were once mayor of a town, possibly the one you work in, but was then run out by some unethical person of minority (take your pick and probably use the derogatory term for the chosen minority member)
- Plays chess in your library every single day and talks about how they once bested Bobby Fisher in a competition in Central Park
- Claims to be a former director of some popular videos, friends with former celebrities yet can’t seem to enter the library without making an enemy
And despite that little voice in the back of our heads saying “yeah right” we, as good public servants, listen to their story and smile, allowing them a chance to bask in memories that are, in all likelihood, probably false.
But what if, one day, that music-producer patron asks for help scanning pictures and it turns out his story isn’t complete BS?
This happened to me about a month ago.
One of our patrons, who I would love to but cannot name, comes in every single day and tells us stories of how he produced, directed or worked on videos for “many famous and successful bands.” He has always been very keen on name-dropping celebrities he used ‘hang out and party’ with. And every day, the staff smiled, nodded our heads at the appropriate times while taking very shallow breaths in order to help lighten the strength of his rather strong body odor and stale booze aroma.
So when this patron asked me to help them make a Myspace page of his former work, I took the challenge basically because I thought it would be neat to see just where the truth lies in his stories.
Imagine my surprise when he walked in with an entire photo album and film negatives of him with Jimmy Page, Gene Simmons, Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, Jon Bon Jovi, George Bush Sr., Hank Williams, Loverboy and Motley Crue.
How to respond? Well, I just started laughing and couldn’t stop. Each picture, musician, actor, political figure brought on another chuckle. It all seemed wholly unbelievable even though the pictures we arguably authentic. In fact, I laughed until the patron finally turned to me and said, in all seriousness, “What?! You thought I was always a drunk?!”
And then it hit me.
I thought of who my friends were in high school and then of who they are now, 15 years later. I watched a heavy drinker build his own Web-development company. I also watched one of my smartest friends trade all his potential for alcohol and pills. My best friend, who swore that children were ‘the most annoying thing on the planet’ kiss his baby on the head, tear up and say “This is awesome, I can’t believe I ever felt differently.”
And then I thought of myself and how life is most certainly different from what I thought it would be ten years ago.
Is it really all that crazy to think that we may have a former music and film director in our library? Is it unlikely that, surrounded by all the other influences that stem around the rock and roll lifestyle, that he might have succumbed to it and that today is the result of such vices?
How little we really know about the people we see day to day. How we only know who they are now, not who they were or who they will become.
Anyone else have a story they want to share?
Entry filed under: Customer Experience. Tags: patrons.