did you hear about the hurricane?

about [the hurricane]

I had a run-in with a character of sorts my freshman year of college — it was my first time in the University library and, being timid little college freshman me, I was a bit anxious (read: terrified) about my first visit. This was undoubtedly exacerbated by the fact that I had a paper (or a proposal or something of the sort) due the following day and I had yet to choose a topic, much less start the research or the actual writing. After comprehending the sheer magnitude that is a large university’s library, I realized that I was going to need a computer to search for a topic to search for books on that topic to complete my assignment. On the topic. With the books. I ventured down into the bottom floor of the library — the harbor of public computers — and I sat down in the first available seat.

Sidenote — I am way, way too nice. Keep that in mind.

A few minutes in, the person to my left shifts and hits their knee on a computer or something and makes a bit of a show about it, grabbing their leg and yelping aloud. I glance over, curious and concerned, and offer a consoling smile upon the realization that their injury is minor if at all existent. Bad, bad move. She took my concern as an invitation and she attempted to engage me in conversation. For the next 45 minutes, the most painful, traumatizing, and retrospectively hilarious interaction between myself and another human being took place.

First, she wanted to see my pen. It was a fairly standard ballpoint pen — beyond the branding of the college name down its length, it was nothing special. Confused, caught off guard, and preoccupied in my search for homework topics, I hand it to her and absentmindedly answer her questions about it.

“I received it from University College. Yea, it’s the college for undecided majors. Mmhmm.”
Type type type, lady, I’m not paying attention to you.

She informs me that she, too, is an undecided major. Also, she is 24 and living in the dorms beneath the stadium. She wants to know if I skateboard, and informs me that she doesn’t, herself, so much as she just lays down on the board and rides down the ramp. Her boyfriend won’t allow her to stand on a skateboard, anymore, because she almost broke her neck, once. I don’t think I mentioned — this woman is morbidly obese. Imagine the visual that was running through my head. Alright, lady. High five, that’s grand.

“What are you doing on the computer?”
“Researching some information for a paper I have to write for my Human and Animal Interrelationships Class.”
“WHOA I LIKE ANIMALS BUT I DON’T GET THAT.”
“Yea, I don’t really get it, either.”
“What are you going to write your paper about?”
“I haven’t decided yet.”
“OH, I KNOW. You should write your paper about the relationship between two pigeons. No, I’m telling you… pigeons are so full of life. Have you ever sat and watched pigeons? You can do that forever. Mind you, I did it for five minutes one day. Haha! You’re a sweetheart. I’m making you smile. Oh boy.”

I inform her that I don’t think that’s what my professor is looking for, exactly, hoping she’ll accept this and leave me alone. Alas, it was not my lucky night. She continues…

“Did you hear the story about me?”
“Errh… no, I didn’t.” (What? I don’t know you!)
“One time, I was at Safeway, and a bird flew in the door and got stuck behind the scale by the potatoes. I scooped it up and I helped it out. That was the first time I had ever touched a bird.”
“Ah. Wow.”
“Did you hear the other story about me?”
“Mmmmnope.”
“One time, I fell asleep on a bench in the park. When I woke up, my feet were bleeding. The pigeons had pecked my feet.”

I turn and stare in disbelief.

Who the fuck is this person.

Also, I’m laughing. She gets excited again because she’s “making me smile.” The questions continue, and at this point I feel a little stuck. I still need a computer, but a quick glance around tells me that there’s little chance that I’ll find another free one in a timely manner. The people in the general vicinity are completely unsympathetic to my pleading looks and are clearly irritated with me for not knowing better than to stop the exchange ages ago (you know… before it even started).

At some point during the conversation, she changes both her major

“Did you do something wrong?”
“Oh, no, I’m just trying to figure out why this search provided me with the results that it did.”
“Have you ever tried Yahoo?”
“Oh, uh… yes.”
“There’s another one you can try, too… Oh, I know how to navigate search engines. I had to with my major.”
“What major is that, again?”
“I’m a psychology major,”

and her place of residence

“My roommate just got a new dog. It is soooo cute. I want a dog really bad…”
“…I didn’t know you could have dogs in dorms?”
“We live in an apartment, so it doesn’t matter.”
“Oh…”

and she plays with my phone and the ringtones and she walks up behind me, puts her arms over my shoulders, and starts typing instant messages to my brother (1. “cutie,” 2. “silly bo” [SIC]) after which she would laugh hysterically and then suddenly get stone-faced and fearful and insist that I not tell him that it was she who wrote the messages. I was informed that she was in the lab to play free trials of a specific game and that she wished she had the full-version, but her mother had yet to buy it for her, so for the time being she had to jump from computer to computer in order to play.

She graced me with small but poisonous doses of TMI

“I hate pants with elastic in them. They make me itch. I hope I don’t have a rash. Sometimes if I itch in the same spot for a long time I wonder if I have a rash. I’ll go home and put some anti-itch cream on it, that’ll help…”

and made kinky-but-totally-and-completely-unwelcome threat…things

“Micahhhh YOU’RE BEING NAUGHTY WHY AREN’T YOU DOING YOUR WORK WHY ARE YOU TALKING TO YOUR BROTHER YOU SHOULD BE WORKING IF I WERE YOUR MOTHER, I’D GIVE YOU FIFTY SPANKINGS,”

and she shows me a message she is sending to a couple of marine biologists who live on the ocean and make updates via their personal website

“Send me pictures of dolphins. Michelle.”

and by this point, my amusement was far outweighed by how terrified I was for my life and I decided that it was beyond time to leave.

As I’m wrapping up my first visit to the library, she asks where I’m from, to which I respond with the state in which I was born (but I haven’t lived there in over 15 years) because it was the first thing to spring to mind.

“Louisiana.”
“Oh, you’re from Louisiana? Did you hear about the hurricane?

Although I did not clarify, I can only assume she was referring to Hurricane Katrina, as it had taken place about a year prior. I do the blank stare thing, again, gather my things, and start to leave. She offers me a ballpoint pen (apparently she was a fan of pens?) which I take without much thought (later it occured to me that, however unlikely, the pen could have been a tracking device and subsequently destroyed it), thank her, and start to walk off. She calls after me.

“Can we be friends? I’d love to meet your mother, I bet she’s beautiful.”
“Ehhh sure?”
“OH GREAT, how can I contact you?”
“Listen, are you down here often? I’m down here all the time. I’m sure we’ll run into each other again. I have to go now bye.”

I ran up the stairs and out of the library, deciding that I didn’t actually need books to write my assignment and vowing to never return to that computer lab ever, ever again.

The end.

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