For the most part, working in a bookstore is pretty cool. I mean, as a guy whose apartment is dominated by bookshelves overflowing with books, there’s really nothing I like more than grabbing a stack from the recovery cart and walking through any of the fiction or history sections reshelving. I like any of the fiction sections – Literature, Mystery/Thriller, Horror, Sci-Fi, yes, even Romance. Why? Well, with the exception of romance, I tend to like the subject matter. Primarily, though, because those sections (including Politics & History), tend to be pretty well ordered: alphabetically, by last name.
That’s not the rule in all sections. In travel, sections are ordered by region, country, state, city. Usually. Some exceptions may apply: like, biographies? Under the name of the person they’re about, not the author. Unless they are filed under the author’s name, which generally happens when people aren’t paying attention. The Kids Section is a wreck: that might be a Dr. Seuss book shoved into the rack between coloring books, but it could also be an unwrapped Playboy. Magazines? I can never find anything in there. I won’t comment on any of the other sections: Crafts, Cooking, Gardens, Science, Animals, Architecture, Art, Foreign Language, Religion, Metaphysical, etcetra, etcetra, ad naseum.
Sometimes I really hate the customers. You want a gift receipt? That’s nice: tell me before I finish the transaction. (With apologies to the customer who did request it before I finished, but then I forgot to key it, and it just turned into a gigantic clusterfuck). You need help? There are two information desks, one on each floor. Standing around waiting for someone to magically deduce that you need assistance, and then picking up the phone and paging, “I NEED HELP ON THE BOTTOM FLOOR!” is really no help. It’s a big bottom floor, and I was already assisting a customer, who I then had to abandon, because you are clearly Priority Number One. Also, do I really need to hear a five minute lecture about how you couldn’t find a copy of Newsweek because it was buried behind so many copies of The Economist? Come ON, there’s a line, move it!
I don’t hate the insane customers so much – they can’t help it, they’re insane. From the lady who flips out when asked if she’d like to sign up for a frequent shoppers card; to the one who told an African-American clerk that she hated all the non-whites who’d come to the country because they’d taken her job (except, of course, for African-Americans, because they hadn’t wanted to come); to the homeless guy with no teeth who constantly orders obscure policy books then refuses them when they come in and then blames the Jewish-Marxist conspiracy for never ordering them in the first place (except, of course, that they were ordered, and they did arrive, and he didn’t want them!) . I’ve never had to deal with the guy who seems to think we print all the Manga titles in-house: he is forever complaining about some obscure misprint and demanding that we correct the issue: employees have been known to drop stacks of books on the floor and scatter at first sight, and managers seem to come close to blows in determining who will have to listen to him. Woe is the day when I’m at the Music Information desk and I hear that “Mr. G.W. is on his way down”: I will spend the bulk of my time looking up music and movies that are out-of-print or have never been released, and then trying to find a creative explanation for why that is so. Because, clearly, as an $8.50 hourly employee clerking a desk, “Because the computer says so” is not a valid response.
Sometimes, I really hate my coworkers. Especially the manager who decided to subject us all to a thirty-second lecture on why we need to flush the employee toilet. See, the employee toilet doesn’t flush for whatever reason unless you lower the seat. I’m sure it’s got one of those sensor-things, which is possibly a bit high tech for our bathroom. It took me about ten seconds to figure out, on my first day. Apparently, someone either didn’t figure it out, couldn’t be bothered to figure it out, or forgot. In any case, the next person to use the bathroom was one of our managers, who, instead of chalking it up to forgetfulness, or just, y’know, flushing the toilet and forgetting about it, decided to get on the radio and take up valuable time imploring us to, please, flush. Have you ever tried to assist a customer with a straight face while in your earpiece you’re being lectured on bathroom etiquette? (Seriously, though, I need to get this manager to write up a notice that I can post on the stall doors at the Office Job).
They sold off all the Master Replica lightsaber stock we had: for a long time, they were collecting dust down in Music. A now departed coworker and I used to open them up and duel: they’re made of pretty sturdy stuff, and now, due to renovations of the building, we’ve got enough open floor space in that section that we could really have some fun (instead of running up and down a narrow aisle in Pop/Rock).
There’s a sense of impending doom over the entire bookstore: whispers of a post-Christmas fire-sale, and pink slips by January. I’m debating moving: on one hand, I don’t want to wait until these rumors because reality and I’ve got no more part-time check incoming every other Friday. For one thing, I’d have to compete against all my current coworkers for jobs. On the other hand, Black Friday, Christmas Eve, December 26th? Off. Off. And Off. I won’t get that moving somewhere now. I guess that it’s steady as I go, and why couldn’t I have been a bit more judicious in picking what bookshop to work at back in March?
I work all day Sunday. All day, every Sunday. Except next Sunday (I’ll be in New England). By the time we close, my feet are on fire. I’m staggering from section to section with the last of the recovery, groaning when I see stacks of magazines left by a careless customer in some remote section of business or dieting. By the time I get to the Metro, I’m about ready to cry if all the seats are taken. By the time I limp the block and a half to my apartment, I see my plans for the few free hours of my evening evaporate: Dinner? Nada. Laundry? As if. I wind up reclined on the couch, or the floor, music playing, a book open across my chest but too tired to lift it and read. Or the TV on, and too tired to change the station, so I keep watching the same news stories: over, and over, and over again.