Being Staff at the National Book Festival

One of the perks of working at the Bookstore (which is a Borders, which I know I sometime don’t mention, but have in the past, because sometimes what I write about the identity of the Bookstore can’t be hidden so I might as well just come out with it), is getting to staff events like the National Book Festival.

This is the third September the Festival has been held that I’ve been living in DC for it, yet this is the first time I’ve been able to attend, even as a staff member. We had a big sixteen thousand square foot tent, roughly divided into three sections: the book tables, the register and the lines, and a small, draped off section that we used as a combination break room/author signing room (authors stopped in to sign back stock).

Last year was apparently a bit of a mess: it was raining all day, there were only 16 registers, and at numerous times, entrance to the tent had to be stopped because it was too crowded. One in, one out. We had a total of 22 registers, and more Borders staff members than I’ve ever seen in my life, with stores from all over the district (and perhaps from other districts) sending us people.

Staff were assigned to four areas: Floor, Line, Registers, Book signing. I was tasked with Line, and it was our job to keep the line to the registers flowing smoothly. I don’t know that we did a great job, but while the line was unbelievably huge at a little before 11, it was practically gone by 1pm and never got back to that length.

As the day went on, I found myself actually standing at the exit (which was clearly marked with a huge red sign that read EXIT ONLY above it) directing people to the entrance. Some people were jerks and insisted on walking in this way: yeah, I said it, self-entitled jerks with a severe entitlement issue who couldn’t be bothered to walk an extra fifty feet. Cry me a fucking river, jerks.

Anyway, I found it was easier to actually stand outside the tent directing people to the entrance. Except, problem, I for some reason didn’t put on sunscreen, and my head was feeling kind of warm. I went back to the break room area and found an extra staff shirt which I wrapped around my head as a bandanna. I was told it upped my badass quotient by 500%.

(I don’t think the badass quotient is quite justified by the photo).

Things I enjoyed:

Jerks who didn’t know why they couldn’t enter the tent through the door with the EXIT ONLY sign out front. Folks, it says EXIT. Just go around to the right hand side and enter there, and stop with this “Oh, but I’m so hot.” It’s hotter in the tent than out. True story.

The ladies who got mad that they had to go to the entrance to enter — they were wearing sandals. The entrance was on the gravel pathway. People, have you seriously NEVER been to the National Mall before?

The dude — the apparently fit dude, holding a water bottle — who yelled at me for letting a dude in a wheelchair enter the register area from the end of the line and go directly to a register. Hi, sir, it’s called human decency and kindness, and you? Failed.

My favorite — my absolute favorite — part of the event was getting to go to lunch. Borders had arranged for us to eat in Pavilion A, which was set up for catering for guests and certain staff (I guess lo-schmoe staff had to go eat somewhere else). The tent itself was air conditioned, and the food? AMAZINGLY AWESOME. And who was sitting at next table? Ken Follett.

Oh, other things I like: people who yelled at us because Follett’s new book, Fall of Giants, wasn’t in stock. Yeah, that’s because it doesn’t get released until Tuesday. Take it up with the publisher, not the bookstore staff. Jackass.

3 thoughts on “Being Staff at the National Book Festival

  1. i was at the book festival last year, and it WAS a clusterf*. rainy, crowded, overcrowded in every tent (because it was out of the rain)… eesh. worth it to hear some of the talks, though!

  2. i went to the book festival in 2007 and adored it, but haven’t been back since. i’m a book nerd and love it. sounds like you had a crazy, albeit fun, time. and the badass quotient is lifted at a MINIMUM, 500% by the bandana.

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