Monday, November 4, 2013

Shh (I'm at the bookstore and I should be working but I'm writing this blog instead)

If a customer comes, just pretend I'm filling some invoice for books or whatever, got it? Or like I'm emailing potential authors so we can sell their books. (we're a used bookstore but our customers don't know that anyway, so just lie to them okay?, for this one time, okay? Okay?)

You have to use the time that is given to you because when one is not in college or getting an MFA the time that you have, the time that you were given on this Earth, the very reason, you believe, that you are alive, is so rare, so valuable, that when you get that opportunity, like the one that I've been given now at this bookstore, you must take it, even if it's to (no sir, we are a used bookstore. The prices are on the inside of the book, in pencil, yes the prices are so cheap because we are used, our books are used, do you understand now, do you understand?)

(Weren't you supposed to cover for me, okay, fine, that's cool, whatever.) It's strange to be working retail while teaching because in many ways they are direct opposites in that if a student ever talked to me the way some of these customers do I'd tell them, No, you can't talk to me that way, except for customers you can't do that, you have to apologize and say that we are used, damn it, we are used except you can't say damn it or show frustration (and yes you can use our bathroom, it's in the back, you can use it)

But in a certain way retail and teaching are just other forms of customer service and they have a lot in common but not really. I will not spend this blog making that comparison. Stop expecting me to.

(Sure I can look up that book for you no we don't have it.)

Sometimes, it's strange, but I fear customers and what they're going to ask me because I know exactly what they're going to ask me and I don't know when it is that I will finally snap.

There are really three questions that every used bookstore employee should know the answer to:

1. Where is the bathroom?
2. Why don't you have this book?
3. Why can't you order this book?

We are a Public Restroom that sells books. 
If you can answer these questions under the strain of repetition, you too can work at a used bookstore.

There's an art to used bookstores, isn't there? (Yes, we are used, yes, we don't have the book you are looking for.) The art is the search. The finding. If you come to a used bookstore with the intention of finding exactly what you are looking for, you will be disappointed. And that's sad, I am sad for you. Because if you look long enough, you will discover. Something. 

Like when I was looking for Native Son, I discovered Adolfo Bioy Casares. Or when I was looking for Margaret Atwood books, I found Catch 22 instead, and it was my favorite book ever. Or how I finally got to read White Teeth, because I wanted to find Flann O'Brien. These are books and authors that maybe I wouldn't have read if I knew that I should read them.

But no one wants to discover. There's no time. Everyone just knows. 

Except for where the bathroom is. (The bathroom is there. Where I am pointing. We are a used bookstore and I talk more about where the bathroom is then about books. Yes, we're a used bookstore. Yes.)