The best thing about my job is meeting all sorts of different people when I’m out roving the premises or at the desk. I thought I met some strange and quirky individuals on World of Warcraft (case in point: my guildmates, whom I love dearly), but the dynamic is a different sort. I have no expectations of the patrons because, frankly, I don’t know what to expect! But they, in turn, have all sorts of expectations ofme since I have a job to do.
They expect me to be knowledgeable and adept at finding information, to know where certain books are, and— since this is a public library and I’m technically a public servant— to be courteous and kind. Being me, however, I like to find opportunities where I can be something unexpected, too: moments where I go beyond my job description and really surprise the patron, usually with a healthy dose of geekiness.
Yesterday, a little boy that I’d guess to be 8 or 9 came to the library with his mum to look for books on Greek mythology— school project or something like that. While I’m helping them pick out books from our kids’ nonfiction section, the boy suddenly begins confiding in me that he has, for starters, two best friends. One of them is a girl that he’s hopelessly in love with. (Hey… his words, not mine!) He also calls me “ma’am,” constantly. Then, as he and his mother are checking out their books, he asks me what the change machine was and how it worked.
What fascinated him about the change machine was the money ejection button. It’s a largish button and really does stick out; the only way they could make it more noticeable is if they made it red instead a shiny steely silver. He thought it was the button to a secret bomb hidden on the facility. Pretty sure his exact words were, “Whew, I thought if I kept pushing it, everything would go kablooey.”
Now, this little boy had already endeared himself to me with his inexplicable trust in me, confiding his secrets to me out of the blue. But he also revealed himself to be quite adept at imaginative play, which is a technical term for roleplaying. My nerdiness would not allow that to pass without adding to it.
So, with my brain fueled by years of saving the galaxy/world in some capacity or another, I told him how a team of specialists and I— ten in all, of course— had already defused the device a while back. Then I leaned in, conspiratorially whispered, “I’m actually a secret agent here to keep the library safe,” and winked. I resisted mentioning anything about assault rifles and Reapers, or Deathwing and Dragon Aspects; somehow I think his mom wouldn’t have approved of it.
His eyes widened a little at the news but hardly skipped a beat. He related that he, too, was a secret agent: a member of the SSO, which stands for “Secret Service Organization,” I think. The boy briefed me of his current mission to stop Doctor Death who was building a monster or device that would explode with acid and destroy the world! His face was dead serious the entire time.
I was genuinely impressed. While his mom shook her head and bemusedly facepalmed, I saluted him and said, “Glad you’re on the job. I don’t even think I’m qualified for such a task. Good luck!”
He saluted me back with a firm “Yes, ma’am!” and my heart melted. In the back of my mind, I could hear the collective voice of my RPG characters go “SQUEE!” with joy.
Perhaps I’ve become jaded with the amount of kids I see who are glued to a piece of tech or another and will complain of boredom when forced to part with them. Hell, I’m rarely away from a computer myself. But it’s still refreshing to see a kid who has his imagination intact. I can only imagine what would happen in several years after a childhood filled with high-flying sci-fi adventures, daring mythical quests, and the sort.
The thought makes me warm and happy, bolstering my resolve to foster the same spirit of imagination in my own daughter.