As a library employee you become adept at navigating the mine field of funk/stank/generally stinky spots that sometimes crop up in the library. The range of odors is broad; and their ability to adhere to surfaces and the air is confounding. You may innocently be approaching a patron to assist them with whatever it is they need assisting with, and walk through a wall of stenchified air that is hanging in between you and the patron, unaware until your nostrils are on fire and you’re holding back obvious signs of disgust, while keeping you mouth firmly closed.
And then there is the whole-room funk. A funk from a source that is unknown. A funk that permeates all of the air molecules and turns them from dull lifeless (but unsmelling) air into toxic gas that could be bottled and sold to the military as a biological weapon. The funk that awaits you behind a closed backdoor to the children’s department as you stride along to find a book for young patrons. A funk that cannot be masked in your facial expressions. A funk so disgusting that it travels outward from the room and gets into the air ducts and tries to permeate the entire library.
When this happens, you do what anyone would do. You try to find the source and eradicate it. But you can’t. You search for dirty diapers in trash cans, holding your nostrils perilously above open cans, trying to not tempt fate to provide additional disgusting smells. You scan the patrons at computers for likely suspects – dirty nails, un-kept hair, sloppy appearance, teenage boys. But nothing.
Convinced of your defeat, you avoid the funky area like the plague. You bide your time until the program scheduled to take place in the children’s department in the afternoon, hoping, waiting, wishing, for the funk to dissipate or disappear. You make plans to put the program into the meeting room. You set up chairs.
You send patrons to look for their own books in the offending area.
And then, suddenly, quite without the warning the funk initially gave upon its arrival, the funk leaves.
And all you’re left with is the knowledge that the funk, was, in fact, emanating from a person. Human person? Maybe. But you’ll never know.