Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Two fights in one afternoon

This afternoon I'm on the desk at Downtown Library with a friend/coworker who is currently on crutches, so when we heard raised voices back in the 600s I went back to investigate while she called the security guard. I as relieved to see that everyone was sitting down, but as soon as I came in sight a short man said, "Ma'am, can you call security? This man won't leave me alone and keeps trying to touch my computer! I only said one thing to him!" A taller man was sitting in the chair next to him. I assured the first guy that the security guard was on his way and went to see if that was actually the case. I didn't see Seamus the boss of security, so I went back, figuring that I might be able to do something to keep the guys calm or at least be witness if anything happened. Unfortunately, when I came back, the tall guy was getting in the short guy's personal space and they'd started exchanging insults. The tall guy got up to walk away, but called the short guy a bitch as he did so, prompting the short guy to get up as though he were going to fight him, and they started doing the 'shadow shove' at each other, the way people often do before actually laying hands on one another in a fight.

At that point Seamus showed up and got the tall guy to leave relatively calmly. I went back to my desk, and Seamus went back to the 600s section, I assumed to talk to the man with the computer. Imagine my surprise when he came back with a different, even angrier man, who was shouting expletives and insults at him. Seamus put his hand on the guy's shoulder to steer him out, at which point the man got (somewhat justifiably, I think) way more upset, "Don't you lay your hands on me! You ain't got no right! You're just a rent-a-cop, not the police!" Then he splashed half a bottle of pop onto him and onto the floor of the library.

So, I witnessed two altercations within half an hour. The first one was less severe in outcome, but bothered me more because I was more involved in it. I realized I had no clue what I would do if the two men started fighting. Get between them? Shout at them to stop? Call 911? Stand there paralyzed with confusion because I have no plan for this situation? Probably the last one, which is sub-optimal. On the one hand, it's not in my job description to put myself at physical risk to stop fights in the library. My employer not only doesn't expect me to, their lawyer would probably be alarmed if I did. On the other hand, I still sort of feel like I should be getting actively involved, because violence isn't the answer, etc., and I don't think either of those men would have deliberately hurt a young woman who didn't do anything to offend them and was just trying to separate them.

Anyone else experience a fight at their workplace? How did you handle it, or wish you had handled it?


  1. Yes, just stand there and watch. Don't get in there--you could get hit by mistake (or on purpose).

  2. My employer, like most libraries, I think, tells us not to intervene, but just call security (or the police if it looks really bad)

    1. I just wish those authority figures would actually get there in time to do anything!

  3. I hate library fights, they make me so anxious