The smoker and the librarian
Oh, dear Jack, what a charming and sweet-spirited curmudgeon.
I first met Jack Teahen in 1994 when I joined Automotive News as the assistant librarian. My first real encounter with him was after work-hours one evening. The stench of cigarette smoke came wafting into the library. I sniffed my way through the all-but-abandoned building to come upon Jack, smoking at his desk in an office with framed playing cards hanging on the wall and an ungodly unsafe amount of paper stacked and strewn about him.
"Ah-ha!" I exclaimed, pointing at the offensive cigarette. With a quirky smile of guilt and either patience or exasperation -- I'm not sure which -- he snubbed out the cigarette in a glass ashtray. We never spoke of the incident again.
As it turned out, the symbiotic relationship between Jack and the library gave benefit to many. As often as Jack came into the library seeking historical numbers or background documentation to be gleaned out of microfilm, I would swing by Jack's desk to gain a little context that would aid in finding the answers to another patron's request. Sometimes we would determine that the patron was asking the wrong question to begin with.
While many heard Jack refer to "that abominable machine" (the computer), when he came into the library he'd amp up the charm and ask if I thought that "magic machine" of mine could spit out whatever it was he needed that day.
Sometime around Y2K, while Jack waited patiently for my magic machine to respond to his latest request, he noticed a Heineken coaster on my desk. Jack commented that Heineken was the best beer there was, and claimed he had one every night. The green packaging probably made it the closest thing to a vegetable he ever consumed.
Reporters, editors and interns come and go, and Automotive News keeps on going to press. The presses will continue now, just as Jack would want. But Jack will always hold a special place in the memories and hearts of everyone that knew him.
Corinne Young is the manager of the Crain Information Center.
You can reach Corinne Young at email@example.com.