When you work in a public library long enough, you get used to a certain amount of crazy. Walking downtown in a major city (not Anchorage) and some companions were concerned about the homeless man yelling loudly at the air as we walked by. Please. I'm a public librarian, that doesn't even phase me. Bring on your best crazy. I've probably seen it before, if not worse.
But this week two events happened that are weird even by my jaded standards.
Unidentified white powder
There are few phrases in our modern era as scary as unidentified white powder. (Probably no cell phone service and the plane has minor mechanical issues are a close second and third.) I was in a meeting talking about spending grant money when my cell phone rang. Since it was the library, and my staff is extremely capable and only calls in emergency, I answered it. My youth services librarian explained that the women's restroom was a disaster zone (read: covered in diarrhea) and there was an unidentified white powder on the floor.
Everyone assumes different things for white powder. Most of the staff assumed drugs. Despite the fact that I had just finished drug awareness training that morning, I assumed anthrax. (Because I'm paranoid and watch too many news shows.) One staff member assumed rat poison. Regardless it wasn't safe for any staff member to get close enough to find out. Police department was called and the restroom locked. They determined it was talcum powder. Janitorial took care of the rest.
Despite the benign resolution, my staff handled it completely correctly. I'm not allowing any of my people to get close enough to smell the powder for fear that they would accidentally ingest some cocaine or rat powder or anthrax. Paranoia is the first step to safety.
After lunch today, my staff handed me an air mail envelope from Australia. That's fun. There was a koala on the stamp! The addressing seemed to be done by a younger person (judging by the handwriting and smiley faces) so my initial guess was a student looking for a pen pal. The envelope was rather squishy for just a letter.
Please note for future reference that squishy very rarely turns out to be anything good.
There was a short typed note expressing that the author had always wanted to visit our country and was saving up to do so. But until then she wanted to have a piece of herself in all 50 states and had decided to mail some of her hair* to various libraries. (I'm paraphrasing.)
*My sister pointed out I'm lucky all she sent was hair. My sister is smart and perhaps even more paranoid than I am.
Folded up in the note was a small tulle bag of hair. Some of the hair escaped the bag and was loose in the letter. The sender requested I place the hair under the tree or in the sunshine. She did not require an email or confirmation of any sort that I had done this. (Though she did provide a phone number, but no request for communication.)
The sad thing is I kinda get why she did this. It isn't that different than the Flat Stanley project. I've happily photographed four of those around town since moving to Alaska. It just requires no photos and is a bit creepier. And I'm completely unclear on how she chose my library to do this.
I decided against photographing the letter for the blog, though not against blogging it. I'm still undecided about placing the hair under a tree. I probably will because what could it hurt? (Unless she is using it to introduce some sort of foreign parasite to Alaska. I'm not sure how a two inch packet of hair would do that though.)
Perhaps the universe is just trying to see how far they can push me this week. Or make me laugh. Or something.