Thursday, October 22, 2009

China Grove, NC

Yesterday, a woman walked into the library where I work. Several staff members interacted with her over the course of the next few hours. As we traded stories later, it was clear that she made an impression with everyone she came in contact with.

Her first order of business upon coming into the library was to introduce herself and ask to be put on a computer. She was dressed nicely and spoke politely to staff. She produced a driver’s license that verified her name was Marilyn Gibbs. Seeing the license myself later, I believe it was issued from Florida or California. Upon sitting down at the computer, Ms. Gibbs asked to use the library’s email account to contact somebody. A staff member informed her that the library does not have a generic email account that she could use, but that he would be willing to help her use her own or set one up for her. She said, “I told you I was computer illiterate!” Her demeanor changed so quickly, that it made the library staff member very uncomfortable.
Next, she asked another staff member to direct her to a bakery in Landis (a town next to us here in China Grove). Well, we happened to have a flyer in the back from Jandira’s Place, a bakery that had just opened, so she was given a copy of that. Little did we know but she had already been to this exact establishment earlier in the morning. Talk about a coincidence! The only reason we know this is that the staff member who gave her a copy of their flyer was concerned that she had gone there later and called to check on them. They had a story or two to tell about Ms. Gibbs involving a bagel and two bags of Sun Chips. Maybe they’ll post to this blog as well.

After a short time, Ms. Gibbs asked to use the copy machine. I was working the reference desk then and offered my assistance. “I want to make these pages into a two-sided copy,” she said as I walked her over to the machine. I told her we could do that but that it would be easier to use the machine back in the staff area which has a feature for making two sided copies. “No,” she said, “I can’t let these papers out of my sight.” I thought that was odd but shrugged it off. I set her up for making her copies and was walking away to give her the privacy I thought she’d want when she said, “Don’t go nowhere! Stand right here while it’s making the copies.” I didn’t really know what to say, but to keep the situation from escalating, I complied. After twenty copies of the first page were completed, I helped her get the next page ready to copy. Again, I tried to walk away and she told me even more emphatically to “Stay here!” She told me her next order of business was to collate all these papers. She asked if she could borrow my stapler and a highlighter. After giving her those items, I saw her highlighting the same phrase on each paper.
The next thing Ms. Gibbs asked me for was two trash bags. I had noticed that she carried some papers (and who knows what else) in a grocery bag already because she had used some of our tape to repair it. I thought she wanted two bags like that, so I gave her two of our ‘Thank You’ bags that we hand out for patrons to carry their books home in. “No,” she said, “I want two clear, garbage bags.” I had to explain that what I gave her was all I had. She then seemed to understand and expressed her thanks.

As I was helping someone in our computer lab, the branch manager saw Ms. Gibbs standing there at the counter shuffling her papers around. She asked her if she needed help and Ms. Gibbs told her no, that she was just getting organized.
She was still at the counter when I sat back down. Naturally, I was curious about what she was doing, but since we were busy, I soon forgot about the whole situation.
Later, as I was talking to the staff in the children’s area, they asked if I had been given some papers by that strange lady. I said I hadn’t, but I knew about her. I was getting ready to leave for a workshop so I asked them for the papers. The manager of the library had stepped out for lunch, so I left the papers and a note on her chair that said, “Ask me about these later.” As I drove off, I did think to look for her in the parking lot. I was afraid that maybe she was out there handing her papers to people coming to the library. But she was gone.

This morning when I got to work, I remembered Ms. Gibbs, and finally read through the writings she had left with us. Some parts of the document read rather clearly, but then trailed off into nonsense. Something is definitely off in her writing. Being a reference librarian, I thought I might try to find out some more about her. I googled the phrase “Marilyn Gibbs” and the word ‘Microwave’ came up attached to it. (In her writings, she talks about all the money she made and had stolen from her microwave technology 667.) I got several hits on Ms. Gibbs, but got no further than this blog which has kept library staff and myself mesmerized since.

I’m finding myself wishing I had asked her more about herself. I don’t have any idea how she left or where she was going, but after learning more about her through this blog, I imagine she asked someone for a ride and has continued her journey.

Godspeed, Ms. Gibbs. Everyone here feels privileged that we were able to be part of your story – at least for a little while. May you stay safe in your travels.

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