Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Storytime!

We bought our house about 10 years ago off a lady that was throwing everything away and moving to Seattle on whim or a dare. She showed up to settlement with her last puff of smoke being breathed out of her nostrils, a fleece zippered Henley unzipped and displaying her less-than-impressive saggy bra and its contents, and a face covered in soft down reminiscent of a cover model for Weekly World News.

We said she looked like a more grizzled version of Neil Young.

After settlement, we rushed back to Our House, and immediately set about ripping out the kelly green carpeting that was wall-to-wall and top-to-bottom. We rolled rooms' worth of this musty, piss-stained, and smoke-redolent carpet and plopped it all in the living room. Then, we ordered cheesesteaks, fries, and sodas, and used the rolls of spent carpet as an impromptu dinette. The following day, we set about attacking the custom window treatments, discovering that years of smoking had turned the ecru swaths of fabric camel-y yellow. Still, by the end of the weekend, all carpeting and drapery were in the basement and we could move on to the next step: removing wallpaper from walls and ceilings. Oh what fun!

Over the next few weeks, we managed to repaint the entire house and refinish the downstairs floors and meet our neighbors. We also learned that our hunch about the former owner was correct - she was batshit crazy. One neighbor told us she'd accused him of peeping on her from across the street (he'd sit on his front porch and just watch the goings-on in the 'hood). Another told us she forbid any neighbor from visiting her. Another said she called the cops if she didn't like the way a car was parked along side the house. She was generally severely anti-social though if you happened to catch her at the right/wrong moment, she'd talk for hours about various conspiracies.

5 or 6 years ago, she moved back to Philadelphia. She apparently stopped by to complain to our next-door neighbor about how we'd removed her bushes from the front yard and how dare we put a deck on the back of her house! As diplomatically as possible, the neighbor told her to shove off. We didn't really react when we learned she was back. It didn't really matter to us one way or the other. Plus, it wasn't as if our paths would cross.

Fast-forward to just recently. I'm at my current work location. Who should come in (wearing the same Henley-zippered fleece, I think, even) but the lady that sold her house to us. She's going on about her DVD collection and demanding to know where all of her labels went and it takes me a few minutes to get her to calm down enough to fully explain just what the hell is her issue. And, it's a valid issue, albeit tinged with her brand of crazy: when her brother died, she donated his DVD collection to this particular branch. She bought labels to affix to each DVD and did so before donating them. She's now pissed that all of the DVDs she donated seem to have been repackaged and her $100 labels have been trashed and wasted. She demanded to know who would be so cruel as to dishonor her brother's memory and damn it, she'll just take all of the DVDs back since clearly we don't want them.

I do what I can to explain to her that some of the DVDs were repackaged for security reasons and that others, like the multiple disc series, were split apart so that each disc was in a security case. This upsets her more and she wants to know why she can't just have a Bat-Shit Crazy Lady's Brother Memorial DVD collection here.

So, whatever. We go around and back and forth like this for a few minutes, and then I confess that I know her and that triggers a different response from her entirely. She's convinced, momentarily, that I've been stalking her. How else would I know her name? Or where she used to live? I re-explain the connection and then something jogs her memory and she calms down a bit, only to then start asking kind of accusatory questions about what we've done to the house. I defer them by commenting with things like, "The house was in such good structural shape when we moved in," and "Everything was nice and clean" (if not covered in a thick film of years of living alone and smoking heavily). Eventually, she leaves, but with the promise to return to check on my progress. Uh. OK.

Today, she returns. She comes in with a clipboard and darts her eyes around the room, looking for people. I generally look up at everyone that comes in - it's a good practice, establishes non-verbal contact, and often makes patrons feel more comfortable approaching me - so it's not out of character for me to look up and, when I do so this afternoon, I see her. She moves quickly over to the DVD collection and starts making checkmarks on her clipboard, though she seems to just be using her finger and not any writing implement. I let her do her thing, not wanting to poke the bear, and knowing that she'll come over to me anyway before she leaves.

And she does come over, clutching the clipboard to her chest, and demands to know where the labels are and why the DVDs are not in their original cases. Again. Same as the last time. And I explain it all, again, same as the last time. She's not as frenzied this time and it only takes one round of explaining for her to seem to understand. I think we're done and she's walking away, and then she turns and says, "I don't believe what you told me last time I was here."

I look at her and ask her what she means. She proceeds to tell me that there's no way she left that house in any kind of good condition because the last two days she spent in it were the worst of her life and the movers packed her trashcan and I have no right to tell her such lies, even if they are well-intentioned, because she would have paid for a cleaning person to come in and clean the house if that's what I'm after, she'll give me a check right now for the cost of cleaning. I keep looking at her, hoping that these words coming out of her mouth and into my ears will start making some type of sense, but she continues on with this rambling rant for another 5 minutes. "I thought about what you said the last time and you're just wrong." And then she does what I imagine to be her best flounce and tromps out.

The End.

5 comments:

Naomi said...

Well, then. That'll teach you to, um, not be as nice and reassuring to crazy people who reappear in your life after ten years?

Robin said...

I so sorry you had to deal with nut-sy cuckoo woman! What are we????? Nut magnets???? It must be the squirrel within us that attracts these kooks. Listen to your mom next time.....don't talk to STRANGE/ers.

Bridget said...

Batshit crazy is being generous.

Miss Amy said...

You should have said, bitch, you want a check for your labels???

Jeff said...

Ah, The Life of the Public Librarian. How is it that no one believes this kind of interaction goes on all the time with BSC ladies and men, young and old, former home owners and not? Its too crazy not to be true.

Thanks for making us librarins look good in strange, unbelievable situations and thanks for the Storytime! :o)