The Curious Incident of the Poop Log in the Toilet

Since I'm currently enmeshed in four different and equally engaging books, I don't have any reviews for you right now.  Instead, I thought I'd share a story from the front lines of librarianship.  Strangely, these situations are what make me really love my job, because seriously: where else but a library?

This whole situation should be prefaced by the fact that as a children's librarian, statistically, I'm going to deal with more poop, pee, and vomit than adult librarians (they generally have their own bodily fluids to deal with.  Brave souls).  I'm pretty used to it by now.

All of the full-time librarians at my library have to work one night a week, which I think is totally fair.  I work from 12-9 and take a "lunch" from 4-5 (because what is that, really?  It's a giant snack).  While on my break, a coworker stopped in and said I was missing all the fun.  Evidently an extremely loud and rude group of teens had just been kicked out of the library (this was a long time coming, let me tell you.  I've tried to engage them and they just walked away because they're so cool and I'm so lame.  I work with teens often and these kids were there just to aggravate us).  On the way out, they slammed into our automatic doors so hard that the doors flew off track.  I was seriously ticked and wondered why they didn't have more consequences for what they did.  But that's another story.

Everyone was just calming down after that when my nighttime regulars began to trickle in.  I also had a new family come in and get a library card.  They had a very small little dude--maybe two years old. He was adorable, but a wanderer.  Often, new patrons aren't aware of the 9-and-under supervision rule, so I guided (more like herded) him back to his adults and let them know that for his safety, he needed to be with them.

About every five minutes or so, I'd look up, and Little Dude would be around my desk and I'd have to take him back.  Finally, it seemed to settle down.

Just then, two more regulars came in.  They're actually really funny middle-school boys, and I don't ever have problems with them.  Their grandfather, who has some health issues, brings them, so he usually sits while they pick out books and movies and ask me questions like, "Do you have that movie where the guy gets kicked in the nuts?"

More time passed, and I was getting into my book-ordering groove when our circulation clerk came inching up to the desk, eyes wide.  I said, "Hey, what's up, Lou*?"  The following is an approximate transcript of the ensuing conversation.

Lou: "So, I was at the desk, and these two kids come up.  They tell me that one of 'em puked in the bathroom.  And I was like, 'What?  Puked?' dramatic pause

Me: "Mmm-hmmm.  Puke.  Did they leave? You need help?"

L: "No! So's I asked the one who puked what happened, and he said that they were in the two stalls in the men's bathroom, and the other kid was, uh, he was pooping, and the poop smelled so bad that the first kid puked."

M:  "Wow.  That's kind of impressive.  Are these kids about so-tall and with such-and-such colored hair?"

L:  "Yeah!  You know 'em?"

M:  "Yep.  They were just in here, so that was a lot to do in a short amount of time.  Do we need to do something in the bathroom?"

L:  "Well, that's just it: I asked 'em if there was a problem with the toilet and they said yes.  So's I went and got Emma and we went in together and there was this ... [holds hands about ten inches apart] LOG of poop in the toilet.  So I've been callin' everyone I can think of to come and clean it up.  I don't know what to do!  His poop was so big!"

M: "Um, did you tell their grandpa?"

L: "I didn't know they had someone here."

M:  "Don't worry, I'll get him.  You just do your thing."

Lou was totally shocked that I wasn't sympathy-barfing or something.  I will tell you that as a public librarian, you will see and do things that library school just doesn't prepare you for.  But they're valuable life skills.  I mean, if I ever have kids and one of them pukes or has a giant log of feces come out of his (obviously extremely flexible) intestines, I'll have to clean it up.  And this is ten times more likely to happen if you're a children's librarian.  You'll walk in the bathroom and be assaulted by the odor of a Toxic Diaper of Death.  Kids will just be walking and randomly spew (one just had too much chocolate milk).  Others will poop because they can't wait.  Kids need help from their grownups and if they don't get it, bodily functions will not wait.

I am now watching all the ex-wannabe librarians flee in terror.  Good.  You must be stalwart to do this job.  And you also need to be able to laugh at what happens.  A giant poop log is not the end of the world.  It is hilarious.  A vomit-inducing poop log is even funnier, because what else can you do?  I couldn't yell at the kid for having a bowel movement, because that's normal.  I couldn't yell at his cousin for puking, because that's also a normal reaction.  It's just ... life.

After poking around the library (we have a lot of pillars and randomly placed bookshelves that impede line of sight), I found Grandpa in the Teen Space.  I (rather nonchalantly, I thought), strolled in, straightened a few books, oh caught sight of him, and slipped over quietly.  I bent down and said, "Sir, did your grandsons tell you that one of them had been ill and vomited in the bathroom?"

Grandpa:  "No!  What happened?  They didn't say anything!"

Me:  "Well, I guess they informed the circulation desk that one of them had vomited because the other's fecal matter had a very strong odor.  I'm just worried that they might still be feeling ill and I don't want them to get any worse."

G:  "I'll go get them right away, thanks!" [pause]  "You know, we just ate KFC!"

Me:  "... alrighty then!"

As I was walking back into the children's area (our children's and teen spaces are separated by a room and a giant curvy wall), I saw one of the kids involved in the Poop and Puke walking with our Little Dude Wanderer from earlier.  I stopped and said, "What are you doing?"

Kid:  "Taking him to the bathroom."

Me:  "Do you ... know him?"

Kid:  "No, but his mom said I could take him."

Me:  "Oh, no.  He needs his mom."

Upon which the kid shoves the Little Dude into our bathroom and books it.  I head toward mom but she's already coming.  I dread going back into the bathroom, for yes.  Poor Little Dude couldn't get up on the toilet so he just peed everywhere.  By this time, the maintenance man had arrived and I asked if he could bring the mop into my section as well because the Holy Trifecta of children's librarianship had occurred: poop, puke, and now pee.  We just laughed and laughed and laughed.  Quickly, however, he soberly asked me how a kid could have that large of a poop.

I, too, wondered this.  The kid in question was relatively short.  Say, around four feet tall.  For a ten inch log of feces to come out of him means that said log was inside of him.  Wouldn't that look like a baby in the womb?  Is excess fecal matter stored in the limbs?  I couldn't wrap my head around it.  When checking the restrooms at night (I always think of how the siblings evaded detection in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by hiding in the stalls with their feet up, so I open every door), I've found some pretty massive cylinders of dung.  And I always marvel at how someone carried that excrement baby around until leaving it as a gift in our toilets.

I had a good laugh about it, but soberly agreed when another coworker pointed out that at least we didn't have the fourth P: porn.

*Names have been changed.  What kind of person do you think I am?


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