There’s never a nice way to say to a patron (or anyone, really), “Please don’t exhale. Or sigh. Or open your mouth in any way.” I usually don’t care too much and hold in my breath until they leave. Whew. But there have been several incidents this past week where I really, really, really wanted to say something.
1. Coughing: Germs is germs. Apparently some people didn’t go to Head Start, preschool, or day care because they never learned to cough into the crook of their elbow. Instead they cough openly and freely as they rummage through the DVD cart or just as they pass through the A/V room spreading their spittle and pieces of lung tissue into the air. Hey, lady — it’s okay to pause and cover your mouth when you feel like you have to cough. Gross is gross.
2. Halitosis. Drink some water, dude! People with death in their mouths talk the most. Maybe that’s why they have stinky breath. They chat and laugh and the mouth isn’t closed enough to salivate. (I’m not a scientist or expert on bad breath but I like to make up stories that seem like real answers.) Anyone can get halitosis, by the way. I understand that and maybe no one has told them about the odor. When I get a patron with halitosis (I try to keep track of who has what), I don’t breathe and only squeak out a mild “Thank you,” or “You’re welcome,” or force out a wheezy laugh if they make a joke as the oxygen levels in my lungs drop.
3. SIGH! Some folks have vigorous sighs. They BREATHE OUT WITH GUSTO! I believe they enjoy exhaling, having their breath — smelly or not — flip up my bangs, rustle papers on the desk, pushing the essence of their being into my personal bubble. It seems like such a rude thing to do: “SIIIIIIIGH” “WHOOOOSH.” Once in a while they really do have a reason for such powerful exhalations, but mostly it’s just habit. “I am alive and proving it by breathing forcefully on anything and everything once I stop moving. Here I go to the check out desk. Here I am at the desk.” *pause* “Whooooooosh!” These are the patrons who always take me by surprise.
To be fair, I have to admit that I once came to work with Cheerios breath. Yeah, you know what I mean! In the fifth grade, I accidentally grabbed a recorder that belonged to my best friend. She had cereal for breakfast, Cheerios, and hadn’t brushed her teeth. I breathed in and out the taste and odor of oat cereal mixed with milk mingled with eau de stale plastic. She almost got hit over the head with that stinkin’ faux flute. It ruined the simple pleasures of recorders and challenged our friendship. Then everything changed in sixth grade: we moved on to a real flute (her) and a clarinet (me). We parted ways by the end of that year.