Shhh! My Not-So-Quiet Life as a Librarian with Tourette’s
After struggling for years with involuntary tics and outbursts, I found my calling in a job that involves no shortage of shushing.
Illustrations by Vinnie Neuberg
There’s a man, maybe fifty years old, wearing a denim jacket with a ratty sheepskin collar, sitting at a table at the library where I work. Every few seconds he has an outburst. Sometimes it’s a word, or several, like “Sorry sorry GOD!” or “Stop stop they don’t hey hey STOP!” Sometimes it’s just a noise, or a throat clearing.
As the librarian, it’s my job to shush people, so I walk over to him.
People usually notice when I walk towards them. I’m a giant 38-year-old oaf, 6’7” tall, 260 pounds. I participated in Highland Games (Scottish heavy athletics, like throwing stones and flipping over giant wooden poles) and was a performing strongman. Vaudeville stuff. My feet produce loud heel strikes when I make my library rounds. But my extreme case of Tourette Syndrome is what always makes me stand out.
In movies and comedy bits, Tourette’s makes people curse involuntarily. That’s a real condition called coprolalia, but it’s actually rare in people with Tourette’…