When you work with the public, especially when you work somewhere like the public library, you tend to meet a lot of weird people. People who are just kind of unforgettable in their dysfunction. For the most part, they're people who aren't really hurting anyone, but they make things just a little more interesting.
At the library (and I'm assuming in most places) our regulars get nicknames. It's something we do so we have something to call them when we talk amongst ourselves. Most are completely self-explanatory. There's "Pee Guy" who smells more like pee than pee does. "Bling Bling" with his gold necklaces to rival Mr. T. "Mr. Beefeater Gin" who used to sit in the back and pretend no one knew he was getting shitfaced. "Paper Friend" who would hoard all the newspapers. "Last Minute Larry" who always shows up ten minutes before we close and takes an armful of news papers to the other end of the building (oh yeah, that's not annoying...). And of course, "Mr. Balls".
Mr. Balls used to be known as "Stink and Stare". You'll never guess why. But that all changed one day when a co-worker decided that "Mr. Balls" was more fitting. This was all because of the duffel bag he toted with him everywhere. It was full of balls. All different kinds. He had everything from a small bowling ball to a squeezy stress ball.
He would go upstairs to the news papers, gab a handful, find a table and then it would begin. He's start by taking apart the newspapers. I don't believe I ever saw him read a word, but they were all pulled apart by the end of the day. And then he go for his bag.
Most of the time he'd take out a ball and rub it on his face. Honest, I can't make stuff like that up. Or he'd sit with the bowling ball pressed to his face. One I watched him squeeze the stress ball around in the air before sniffing wildly like it had released some beautiful perfume. It was his thing.
Although the thing I remember the best is the night a friend of mine and I were headed back downstairs and he was walking ahead of us. As he waddled along (he really did waddle) a bar of soap fell out of his pant leg. He didn't even pause. Just carried on with the used pant-soap laying on the floor behind him. I will always choose to believe he had a hole in his pocket.
Today I saw his obit in the paper. It was an odd feeling actually. To see his real name written out. A bit like in Fight Club when they're all chanting "His name is Robert Paulson" because in death, they've decided, you get your name back. It was weird too because, for as much as we never really knew the guy, we did know him in a way and he was just part of daily life here. One of those constants you get used to and then just come to expect.
Honestly, a lot of our patrons are elderly and many of them in not such great shape. A hard life tends to do that to people. So it's not something you don't expect or something that's never happened before. It's just odd.
Anyway, good-bye Mr. Balls. I hope where ever you are, it's like a giant McDonald's ball room.