So… I have this great part-time job as a night “keyholder” at the new downtown St. Pete “Buns and Noodles” bookstore (apparently I’m not supposed to say “Barnes and Noble” in my blog- as part of the ultimate “Office Space” experience, they actually have a blogging policy… Oops.) and, from time to time, it offers general merriment.
I’m at the store and my mind is on my current deadline that has, once again, broken the sound barrier as it went whooshing by this afternoon. I see one of our staff, who I will call Cat because that is her name, standing with a cart of USF emblazened merchandise, looking mildly mortified and befuddled by the back door. I ask her what’s up.
“I just caught a woman touching herself,” she whispers. Perhaps, I suggest, she simply had an itch. Cat explains that the accompanying bobbing and… um… movement belies a simple itch. I can’t help it. I start to laugh. After all, who masturbates in a bookstore?
Well, apparently this woman. I won’t give her name because the last name is the same as a certain Tampa mayor, and I am certain they are not related. But Cat walked by the armchairs by the history section and, as she described it, saw a woman reading a Meg Cabot novel, her hand down the front of her pants moving in a rather distinctive motion (I’d like to mention that Cat is only recently 18 and exactly how the hell sophisticated HAVE teenagers gotten, anyway?) as she bobbed up and down and to and fro.
Is it possible, I ask again (because my mind simply doesn’t wrap around anything else- we’re a bookstore, for chrissakes, one of the last bastions of intellectualism, a place for debate and exploration, albeit a very different kind than this woman chose to pursue), that the woman simply had an itch? Cat graces me with a look that I equate with a response to the comment “Mommy and Daddy were just checking something..”, and I have the good grace to stop talking. I walk by the woman to check out the situation at hand (pun intended), as I am the one in charge (and those of you who know me should be afraid, very afraid, at that), and I can’t tell. But it isn’t normal reading behavior- unless you’re reading a three pack…
So I call campus police. I am NOT paid enough to go over to people and ask them to stop with their self-gratification. The dispatcher asks how he can help. I tell him who I am and add that there is a woman allegedly masturbating in the store and while I can’t tell, perhaps they can send an officer over to handle the situation (pun NOT intended).
A long pause. You know it’s a good day when you can make a police dispatcher speechless, if even for a brief moment.
“What does she look like?” he asks next.
Now, those of you who don’t know me may assume that some supreme respect for law enforcement on my part resulted in a simple description of what she was wearing, hair color, and the like. Those of you who DO know me, however, will not be shocked at what I said next.
“What, so you can figure out how many guys to send over?” I ask, and I swear the dispatcher chortles. You can’t make this shit up, folks.
He finishes laughing and explains that the officer needs a way to identify the alleged masturbator. As if the hand down the front of her pants ISN’T enough… I say the large woman with the bad dye job and figure if they can’t work it out from what the woman’s doing coupled with her lack of grooming in the hair dye department, they can’t really offer us much help.
As an afterthought, I ask if this is even illegal. I mean, really, she hasn’t exposed herself, so what, exactly, is the crime?
“I’m sure it must be,” the dispatcher answered through barely disguised laughter.
Long story short (too late…)? The officer (a woman) arrives and pulls the alleged masturbator out of the store. She questions her and trespasses her from USF (which includes the bookstore and, apparently, this woman’s hope of a way to a better station in life as a university student), but not before she gleans the following:
The AM (alleged masturbator) says that she had just shaved and had an intense, persistent itch that she was simply trying to scratch. The officer explained that the bathroom is a completely appropriate place for said scratching (or, hey, a clinic, huh?) and that no situation existed where that was permissible behavior in a bookstore or, for that matter, any public place.
Here’s the best part… the AM thanks the officer and extends her hand as if to shake.
The officer (and really, folks, these guys DO NOT make enough money) looks at her and says, “You can understand why I’m not going to shake your hand, right?”
It’s like a DaVinyl’s song on acid, it really is.