Monday, November 07, 2005

Worse than Meth: Robert Jordan, Christine Feehan, and McDonald’s fries.

Hello all you friends, romance readers, Aiken-ites who may still be lurking, Food porn aficionados, and those who randomly clicked on this because of the title!

According to Beth, it’s Smart Bitches Day once again which means all you have to do to participate is bitch, post, and notify her of said bitchiness. Or in my case, tell a random story that meanders on for pages until it finally gets to some equally random point that has little or no resemblance to the topic paragraph and call it good.

I can just feel your anticipation now, and since I’m a big believer in instant gratification (it’s what makes me an American), here we go!

We have a customer at my store we call the “No Fries” guy (I just can’t seem to remember his real one, not that he would want it plastered all over the internet anyway). Quite odd, I know, but his name stems from an incident years ago. He was a frequent customer even then, and we were do for a customer service review any day, so feeling hyper-vigilant I tried to get him to finally invest in our (former) company card because he really would have saved money (I’m not just saying this, he came in enough), and the walls had ears or eyes or whatever, and I was not going to get marked off for not trying. So try, I did, and try and try with him shooting me down at every point…and then my coworker at the time got into the act.

Me: It will save you ten percent off of all your purchases here.

Him: No.

Coworker: I don’t know, he looks like a tough sell.

Me: But if you buy just fifteen books a year that’s enough to pay for the card, and you do—

Him: No.

Coworker: Oooh, close one, but not quite. You’ve got to work harder. Harder! This is not a man who will be led around by his pocketbook.

And on it went with me saying something, him saying no, and the coworker throwing out pithy comments like she didn’t have anyone to wait on. His eyes kept bouncing back and forth between us, whether waiting for me to crack up or her to shut up I’m not sure, but he seemed pretty entertained. After I’d exhausted all possible avenues trying to get him to buy the card, or at least buy a chocolate to up my units per transaction, he launched into a speech: he didn’t hate us for having to say the card schpeel—he loved us, that’s why he shopped here—but he hated the corporate mentality that forced us to hawk cards, chocolates and our souls to make the bottom line, etc. As speeches go, it wasn’t the longest I’d hear, or the most virulent (those involve politics or religion), but it stuck in my head.

The whole incident made him pretty memorable as did the fact that when he came in the next week, he didn’t even wait for me to finish taking a breath before he said, “No, I don’t want the card, another book or a chocolate, and I don’t care if you’re having another sale. Thank you.”

“Okay, but how about fries?”

“Fries?” He looked confused.

“Do you want fries with that, sir? I think that’s the only option we haven’t covered.”

He laughed. “No, no fries with that.”

And thus the name was born. It’s become a store joke, something that I hadn’t anticipated, but not that surprising since we’ve all tried to upsell him on something and probably have all received the same lecture. He’s aware of it, too. Every time one of us passes him in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section, our inner smartass will kick in, and out comes, “Any fries today, sir?” or “We’re all out of fries, sir, hope you’re not disappointed,” or just “Hey, it’s the No Fries Guy!”

His reaction has been to rub his hands together, smile, and say, “Excellent, my reputation precedes me,” or to just start laughing. Other customers look at us like everyone involved must be nuts.

The other day I walked into work, and my boss waved me over to the counter.

“The No Fries Guy was in today.”

“He get anything besides a paperback?”

“He bought a hardback this time.”

“Really?” He never does this. Never. Sometimes when he wants to throw us a curveball he’ll get a chocolate with his mass market, but never if we mention the chocolates. I was intrigued. “Which one?”

“The new Robert Jordan.”

“Oh dear.”

According to the boss, this is how it all went down.

“No fries today, right?” she asked as he approached the counter.

“No, no fries.” He placed his book on the glass.

“Wow, Robert Jordan. You’re really going all out,” the Boss commented as she went to ring it through the computer.

“Yeah, Robert Jordan.”

“You don’t sound too happy about that.” And we hate it when someone doesn’t sound too happy about a sale because nine times out of ten they will return that book and the paperwork (though now streamlined) is a pain.

“It’s just…” He took a deep breath. “I don’t want you think that this is directed at you—It’s not directed at you. Just let me get it out of my system because I’ve got to talk to someone and I’m sure you’ve heard it all before so…”

And on he went. Not about our customer service or the guidelines our company makes us adhere to. Not about whether or not he wanted fries.

No, here was this short, well-groomed man with his khakis, tucked in polo shirt, and goatee, going off about Robert Jordan.

Yep, that’s right, Robert Jordan the author of the Wheel of Time series.

No Fry Guy was incensed, enraged! The man just kept writing books and books and not finishing the series and it hadn’t been any good since the fifth book, or at least that’s when No Fry Guy stopped caring, but he kept buying them because what if he didn’t buy them and they got better or the series actually got finished, he would never know and that would be horrible so he just kept buying them in hardback because he had to know and he’d never been good at waiting but it just continued to be a train wreck, a complete and total train wreck, but he KEPT READING! KEPT BUYING, DAMN IT! It was like a sickness, a disease. No! It was like a drug! Robert Jordan was meth and he was addicted even though he knew it was wrong for him, but he just couldn’t stop! Just like those meth users who kept telling you how wonderful the drug was even as their teeth were falling out and they were scratching at the open sores on their face and…

Wow, he felt a lot better having gotten that out of his system.

The Boss kept laughing as she told me this story. It is one that we’ve heard a lot from Jordan readers, a refrain repeated with each book sold. They don’t know why they are buying it, they’re just going to be disappointed, but they can’t help themselves!

I’d consider it a lack of willpower if I didn’t have first hand experience with issue. You see, my addiction of (non)choice is Christine Feehan (see, eventually this got around to romance).

The woman drives me nuts. Nuts! Her writing style, the way the Carpathians all sound EXACTLY alike, her sentence structure, the fact that some of the series are still going! You name it; it annoys the hell out of me. That she can take a perfectly wonderful plot and get it lost somewhere in the He-Man antics of her characters just makes me—

Argh!!!!!

And yet, whenever I open a box and see her newest book sitting on top, I can’t help myself. I must read it. I must read it now! Maybe it’s gotten better. Maybe I can just enjoy. Maybe the Carpathian version of manliness will not invade the Drake sister—whoops there she goes with Oceans of Fire! Swear to God, I spent the whole book expecting the Russian agent to be all, “My family is descended from a noble line from the Carpathian Mountains, baby.”

It would have been the Perfect. Freaking. Capper!

But I must derive some enjoyment because when the newest Ghostwalker book came out, Night Game, I stayed up until 1:30 in the morning reading. Of course, I kept reading because I expected there to be sex, gratuitous sex immediately and there wasn’t so I kept reading because, hello, shocking change up in writing style. Perhaps my reading all these years hasn’t been for naught. Perhaps this was the shining moment. The payoff for carrying on.

Perhaps it wasn’t like a drug after all!

Um, yeah. No.

Of course, if she is a drug, there’s always counseling, treatment centers, and other drugs, but like the bumper sticker said:

I’m no quitter.

So all I really have to say is this:

Dear Christine,

Can I call you Christine? I feel like we’ve been through a lot together with all those wacky Carpathians, the leopard people line that I thought you’d abandoned only to have you bring the Carpathians into it, the Ghostwalkers and the Drake Sisters (whom I love despite the inherent cheesiness in anyone trying to write spells, which is not your fault because I even laugh when Nora Roberts does it). We fundamentally disagree on your writing style (is it too much to ask for you to embrace a little lyricism?), your concept of manliness, and what makes characters different from one another (and no, I don’t think changing the name is enough of a difference), but despite all of this, I’m addicted to you.

Rather backhanded in the whole compliment arena, I know, but I own all of your books and it has caused me physical pain when I’ve had to sell some off to a used bookstore.

What I’m saying is if you keep writing, I’ll keep reading—buying the first day even—so maybe you can throw me a bone or two. You know, change up those male characteristics, give me some of the Drake Sisters as opposed to the Carpathians, slice and dice that sentence structure that you’re so in love with a little to give me some sentences that flow, anything! It doesn’t have to be big. You don’t have to do it throughout a whole book (unless it’s a character issue, then it has to be consistent). It’ll just be between the two of us, our secret. And I swear, if I see it, even catch a glimpse. It’s Bellinis on me, baby!

Unless, of course, writing vampires for so long has made you partial to Bloody Marys, in which case I’ll provide the jalapeño vodka!

Because this about growth: your growth as a writer, our growth together, the growth of my addiction, and I’ve got to believe it’s happening for some reason, any reason at all, because I’m afraid that tomorrow I’m going to find myself in the romance section with my teeth falling out and my face covered in sores as I handsell your book to the unsuspecting lover of the paranormal like a dealer on the corner. “C’mon, try it! You’ll never be the same…”

And that alone makes me deserving of a little love, right? Or at least an ARC of the next Drake book. Pathetic, I know, but I never claimed I couldn’t be bought.

Sincerely,

Your alcoholic book-meth addicted bookseller

12 comments:

Kerry said...

I so understand you.

I've avoided Jordan after the first three or four, but I have to admit guiltily to the same Feehan addiction. Maybe this time, this will be the one that captures the magic? Maybe? Won't it?

I discovered you blog recently and I'm thoroughly enjoying reading of your adventures.

Candy said...

OK, this? Is possibly one of the best SBD entries, ever ever ever. It's right up there with Beth's first SBD entry about sex in romance and your previous one about Harlequin Presents.

I gave up on Robert Jordan on book 7. The sad thing is, I've only PRETEND given-up. Once I find out the series has been finished for real, I'll buy the rest of the 7,852 books and read them in order.

I wonder what Robert Jordan methadone would be? Terry Brooks?

Kate R said...

Come on, what about Prachett and discworld? but I guess that doesn't count because there's no real hanging at the end of the book.

BSC, you made me write about food for SBD and now I feel bloated.

Candy said...

I'm not sure Pratchett counts because:

a) His Discworld books make sense, even if you read them out of order, and

b) He doesn't artificially prolong the SAME GODDAMN CONFLICT THAT STARTED IN BOOK ONE FOR 11 BOOKS AND COUNTING GRAAAAAAAAH

c) He's actually a pretty decent writer. Robert Jordan? I love his stories, but his writing, and I say this with love, sucks donkey balls, even though I found it eminently readable.

Although just as ANYTHING can become an addiction for somebody with an addictive personality, whether it's booze or drugs or cheap hookers or really, really spicy food or all four at once, any author can become an addiction to those of us.

Candy said...

...who are susceptible.

I couldn't leave that sentence fragment dangling, goddammit.

Beth said...

I totally understand No Fries Guy, because that's exactly what made me buy the latest Gabaldon. I always think "But I don't want to miss the scene when [XYZ] finally happens, I HAVE to see that, I am IN THIS, dammit, and omigod what if it's good again one day? What if??? And I MISS it?!! I CAN'T LET THAT HAPPEN."

But I'm pretty good at breaking my addictions. And it gets less difficult when I look at how many pages and hours I've spent and not enjoyed them, wasted them when I coulda maybe had entire days of not wanting to rip the book to shreds.

Anonymous said...

Your buddy anonymous #1 (can I just be A#1? Ha!) here. I swear I'm not illiterate, I have multiple degrees and all. But I don't know who you are talking about! I can relate to the addiction thing. Ok, so I like (love) (lust) (obsess) over that Aiken guy. But I can't stop watching American Idol. It's a train wreck, but what if I miss something that 30 million other people are watching? How will I keep up? It pains me. I can't let go of ER either.

I do read books now and then too. Very recently there was one about Olivia the cute little pig. And another pig who wanted a pancake. And maybe even Thomas the Tank Engine.

Oh, the days when I used to devour Asimov and other science fiction. As a working mom, I'm lucky if I got to read the latest Harry Potter.

p.s. I also commented again on your food porn. Can't get that one out of my mind.

Bookseller Chick said...

Kerry--Delurk anytime with questions, comments or whatever. There are times that I really believe that I'm the only one getting anything from this, so I'm glad that you are proof of another bibliophile out there. And yes, exactly! I just keep hoping! Maybe, hopefully, Dear God please... Until I'm at the end of the book, and then, then I start the process all over again. What is it about the woman?

Candy--Wow! High praise from a true smart bitch. I'm...I think this is giddy, I'm not sure what with the sleep deprivation. You're right, Brooks might possibly be a good Jordan methadone, at least he finishes stuff.

Kate--I agree with Candy. Prachett rates higher quality-wise than Jordan, and his books are self=contained (allowing one to bounce in and out of the series wherever they desire). Susceptibility has a lot to do with it though.

Beth--And yes, I'm susceptible girl who is very bad about cutting the addictions out of my life, hence the reading of Night Game.

A#1--(Your wish, my command and all that jazz.) Fear not the unfamiliarity with the authors mentioned, while they are not obscure they aren't known to absolutely everyone. Feehan is a romance author and Jordan a fantasy writer, both have their weakness...something not shared with a mouse who wanted a cookie and a pig in a cute red dress (both of whom are stupendous). I myself have quite the TV addiction when it comes to CSI and other procedurals, I do so love my routine. Reality TV, not so much, but I play the amature psychologist enough at work.

L

Anonymous said...

BSC, A#1 here. Maybe I'll get a real name someday ;-). Thank you for alleviating my fear. See, to a bookseller and bibliophile, I am the Enemy. I am an Engineer.

*GASP* Those years of studying at a high-end West Coast university fried my brain neurons such that I am no longer capable of advanced discussion about literature. Or maybe it was American Idol that did that?

The last real book I read was Learning To Sing, by Clay Aiken (surprise!) and I read it 3 times and listened to the audiobook numerous times. (I got my new Harry Potter and haven't had time to read it!) Not sure that qualifies as a bibliophile, but it's a lot better book than you might think. I laughed, I cried. And much to your chagrin, it's coming out in mass market paperback in just a few weeks. Too bad you didn't have that around for the Tall Elf to sign. It's a different picture on the cover. One of my faves, actually.

Bookseller Chick said...

A#1 (you can use your initials too)--Oh,no, I like mass markets. They are much easier to destroy--er, I mean handle. Definitely handle. It would have been nice to have him sign something though because anything I have to make my bookstore standout at the Christmas season means that I'll have a better chance of getting a bonus when we make plan. Good thing they are using another picture, the first one looked like it had been sanded instead of airburshed.

And oh, I miss my bonus.

Tall Elves and Engineers are not the enemies. I used to know and be friends with a lot of engineers. Of course I called physics creative writing and they seemed to get something out of it, but I believe that has something to do with the prof's teaching style and not my own ADD.

Don't worry about being literary in anyway either, I've only taken one lit class (well, one in english, I took some in spanish but that wasn't by choice) my entire life, and that was an intro lit class. I just read far too much, and happen to be very free with my opinions. Just wait until the gossip mags beside my cashwrap piss me off enough to cause the "these headlines are just indicative of the societal gender roles when it comes to relationships" rant. It's not pretty.

Anonymous said...

Heeeee, BSC, don't worry about me. I'm just having fun!! I'm actually reasonably literate. See, I wrote 3 words in a row that had at least 3 syllables!!

BTW, I realllly want to guess where you are and what mall you work at.

Not sure I can promise you a non-airbrushed picture on the mass market paperback. But I like it! You can prepare yourself by trying this link: pic from Amazon

Oh, and if I used my initials, I would no longer be anonymous!

p.s. I am enjoying your blog!

Bookseller Chick said...

Yay, for literacy! You're miles ahead of me because I lost my ability to even say three syllable words in a row sometime around 3 pm today.

Ah, the temptation to reveal my secret identity is strong, but then my company might find out I have a blog. And worse than that I have a blog that keeps sending people to Amazon! Oooh, it would all hit the fan then. I'm sure the truth will come out sooner or later because I'm just not that good at shutting up. For now, A#1, let us both embrace the anonymity we've chosen.

I'm glad you're enjoying my blog, it's only going to get more spastic as the Christmas season approaches. This is how I destress.

And that picture, muuuuch better than the last one that made him look like his head was floating (if I remember correctly, and it's entirely possible that I don't because oh dear god I'm tired).

Night!

L