Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Just another manic Monday

Once upon a time I thought bookstores were like libraries, quiet and serene places where people did their thing in silence and the proprietors got to read the stock.


And again for good measure, HA, I say.

The only time we experience any relative quietness is when the store is empty, and then I’m tearing out my hair trying to figure out stuff for my coworkers to do while the candy store across from us blasts the latest teen queen movie soundtrack. Miss Duff starts sounding like a rabid, hyper chipmunk after the second repetition, which is unfortunate because they play the same CD all day long. I think that everyone who works there must be deaf. There is only so much Hillary Duff I can take before I start contemplating a call to Uncle Guido, or at least to my mother to find out if I have an Uncle Guido.

I wish I were deaf.

So to combat Hill screeching her little heart out we have to pump up the Bach for Booklovers, which in turn means we have to speak louder (as do the customers) to be heard over the cacophony. Serene? I think not. But hey, sooner or later it all settles down as a background noise in your mind because you’ve got bigger problems to deal with. Take yesterday for example:

At 9:15 (before we were even open) my boss received a phone call from a woman who either had a very heavy accent or a very bad connection.

Woman: Do you have any books by Scilibda Gregor.

Boss: Scilibda Gregor?

Woman: Yes.

My boss was stumped. Scilibda Gregor? It sounded like a cross between Scylla, one of the mythical creatures from the Odyssey, and a Russian gymnast. She couldn’t even think of how to spell it (the take on the name is my own), but she tried punching alternatives into the computer.

Boss: I’m sorry, but we don’t have any authors by that name.

The woman then hung up, leaving my boss with that “Whaaa?” feeling we all get when the request makes no sense. Later, after she had switched out with the person running the calendar store for the day, the customer actually came in and confronted my coworker who was running the counter.

Woman: I don’t know who you had working this morning, but she didn’t even bother checking her computer. You have a whole shelf of the author I was looking for.

Coworker: Who was the author?

Woman (holding up The Virgin’s Lover): Philippa Gregory.

Scilibda Gregor. Philippa Gregory. Maybe after several cups of coffee I could have seen that one immediately, but not at nine in the morning.

Perhaps Scilibda can be Philippa’s pseudonym if she ever writes early Greek historicals.

(The lesson in this? Always spell what you are asking for, and give an example of the title if possible.)

This little incident (customer confronting coworker) took place in the middle of our lunch rush while my coworker was attempting to receive a vendor order of a hundred books. Normally bookstores don’t allow receiving at the counter, but when you don’t have enough people on (or the hours to put enough people on) it’s the only place it can happen. That order? Three books over. He recounted a couple of times between ringing customers. And those extra books? Not even in our computer. Who knows where we’ll end up shelving them.

At one I came in, dodging the urban assault stroller (the ones with three monster wheels that look like they could double as a bobsled) parked at the front of our store. It was at just the right angle that anyone over a size four who tried to slide through the gap allowed would brush against the books on the display table, knocking them to the floor. I asked her if she would mind moving it, but she ignored me. Story of my life. I asked again, a bit louder, feeling very much like Garth at that concert in Wayne’s World. Still no response (the Da Vinci Code had sucked her into its vortex), so (without my stun gun to continue my Wayne’s World analogy) I was forced to tiptoe by.

The stroller, by the way, was empty. In fact, I’m not entirely convinced she even had a kid, but was instead using it as a barrier between her and the unwashed masses. I’ve pulled the same trick with a library cart and a stack of strips. Nothing says “stay out of my personal bubble” like a large hunk of metal on wheels.

Once in the backroom I clocked in and proceeded to play phone tag with FedEx. You see, last Friday instead of receiving three pallets of product, I received one, leaving me short more than seventy boxes. I was without half of my street dates for the 20th: Goodnight Nobody, The Anansi Boys, and others. You do not go into a release day without Weiner and Gaiman’s new books. Not in my town. The Chick-litters and the Fantasy Fans will murder you. Death by cardboard cuts would be quicker and more preferable.

Only FedEx doesn’t know where the pallets could possibly be, but they’ll “run a trace and get back to me.” My company also doesn’t have a clue where they could be hiding, and asked me to “let them know when they show up.” Southern California (see: a store in, not that whole part of the state) calls to let me know that they had one of our boxes, which they were sending up.

Great. One out of over seventy accounted for.

Meanwhile back at the ranch—er, counter, people were passing hundreds like they were a natural resource (and using them to purchase just one $7.99 book), my coworker was threatening to leave unless I give him something go do that “was not shelving,” I kept trying to place an order to get those street dates in on time from a local distributor, and one of my customers couldn’t figure out why her card was declined and demanded the phone to call her bank.

(She was using an expired card.)

End of lunch rush, six more hours to go.

To sum it up, let me list: customers, customers, shelving, change-outs, customers, customers, one extremely cute kid, customers, tourists from Scotland, customers, customers, shelving.

Highlights: the airline stewardess with Lufthansa looking for the book Around the World in a Bad Mood (those ladies of Lufthansa love it, so consider it my international pick of the week), the woman shopping for her daughter’s 21st birthday (she needed gift bags tall enough for bottles of alcohol), the customer I finessed into buying a bow for the present he got complimentary wrapped, the tourists from Scotland (they were such a cute, older couple), and the realization that it was 9 and we could close.

Not every day is as crazed, or filled with customers that make you want to cry. Many are the personification of sweetness and light, a joy to be around and help. Those people just don’t typically show up on Mondays.

And, hey, given a choice, neither would I.

Here’s hoping that today those pallets show up along with those street dates.

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