Sunday, August 29, 2004

YPOTs Confound Me Some More

One of my twenty-something cow-workers called out sick today. She was "achy."* I think she's called out sick for more weekend shifts than she has actually worked. There was the weekend where she didn't show up for two shifts in a row and didn't bother to call anybody. This was followed by a tale of how she was threated by gang members and was afraid for her life. Apparently, she was so frightened by the gangstas that she forgot how to use the phone. That's some scary stuff! Um. Yeah. Whatever. She dates another YPOT cow-worker whom we call The Mullet. 'Nuff said.

And then there's the YPOT cow-worker whom I'll just call The Baby Seal, (as in, "I'd like to club her like a baby seal.") ** The Baby Seal fucks up everything she touches. She could fuck up a wet dream, as my friend Chris likes to say. It is actually a relief when the Baby Seal doesn't show up, because she creates more work for her colleagues and supervisors than she accomplishes.

I think the Baby Seal has Asperger's Syndrome, but I am not a psychologist, so I am pulling this diagnosis straight out of my ass. People with Asperger's Syndrome find it difficult to form social bonds, and have a hard time discerning and adhering to social norms. Here are some of the diagnostic criteria for Asperger's. Let's see if Baby Seal fits, OK? It'll be fun!

  • inability to interact with peers
  • lack of desire to interact with peers
  • lack of appreciation of social cues
  • socially and emotionally inappropriate behavior
  • clumsy/gauche body language
  • limited facial expression
  • inappropriate expression
  • peculiar, stiff gaze
Ding, ding, ding!!!

People say that I am mean to the YPOTs. They say that Ereshkigal is a bitch on the floor. They say that other booksellers are afraid of me. But, honestly. Can you blame me?

* Achy? I'll give you achy, you toy ass bitch! This week I put in 40 hours at the day job and another 24 at Big Bookstore, all while nursing a bad cold. Achy, my BIG FAT ASS.

** Please see Disclaimer in Sidebar.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Young People of Today

What the fuck is up with the Young People of Today?

Last night, a cow-worker walked into the store 20 minutes after her shift was supposed to start and informed the manager that she couldn't work for Big Bookstore anymore. She did not give two weeks notice. She didn't even stay to work her shift that night.

She told the manager that she worked 9 hours a day at her day job, and working at Big Bookstore was "just too much" and she was "too tired." She is in her early 20s.

She is not the first YPOT to do this at Big Bookstore - quit because it was just "too hard". Nor is she the first to quit with no notice. Again, I say:


See, this is why I don't bother to learn the names of the new people until they've been there for at least two months. Some people think I'm mean to the new kids, but I just don't have the brain cells to waste on that shit.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Equal Time

We are sold out of Unfit for Command. We have been sold out since the day it arrived in the store. Why? Because apparently Regnery Publishing*, a marginal publisher which verges on being a vanity press for the extreme right-wing, did a first print run of 5,000 copies. I'll let the reader infer the level of incompetence inherent in that decision. You don't have to be a publishing genius to know that something so controversial, about a candidate, in an election year for Christ's sake, is going to sell well.

Anyway, Big Bookstore doesn't have any copies of Unfit for Command, and the publisher and distributors are unable to confirm when we will be getting additional copies, although I hear there is a new print run of 550,000 copies in the works. Not only is Big Bookstore sold out, but so are Big Bookstore Corp's competitors, Rival Bookstore Corp and (Amazon says it will ship in 5 to 7 days, but Amazon will also sell you a book that isn't even due for publication for another year.)

Some people have come into my branch of Big Bookstore and accused us of refusing to sell Unfit for Command. As I've posted before, they think that Big Bookstore is part of a huge conspiracy to suppress the righteousness of the Right. In the hopes of forestalling this kind of unfounded criticism we put up a sign at our information desk and our registers which says something like this: "Unfit for Command is our #1 non-fiction bestseller, however we are sold out. We have ordered additional copies and are taking reserve requests."

Tonight, I had the following exchange with a customer, whom I shall call Shitty Old Man:

Shitty Old Man (pointing to the sign described above): You're promoting that anti-Kerry book. You are Bush-supporters.
Disgruntled Bookseller: No, sir. We're simply stating that we're sold out of the book.
Shitty Old Man (angrily): You're advertising for Bush.
DB: Actually, sir, we put the sign up because people were accusing us of just the opposite and saying that we were refusing to sell the book, when in fact we're just sold out and can't get our hands on more copies right now.
Shitty Old Man: You should have a sign up there advertising an anti-Bush book. Where are the anti-Bush books?
DB: Sir, the entire hardcover bestseller display and front table are covered in anti-Bush books. We have an entire display in the Political Science section which is mostly anti-Bush books. (Note: the display is not intentionally anti-Bush. It's just that most of the books being published right now happen to be anti-Bush. The few bestselling conservative titles that we have are on display too.)
Shitty Old Man: But you're advertising the anti-Kerry book up here.
DB: Sir, Big Bookstore has no political stance. We sell books.
Shitty Old Man (walking toward the door still angry): You need to provide equal time to anti-Bush books!

Lessons learned by Disgruntled Bookseller:

(1) We can't fucking win.
(2) There are totally bugfuck assholes on both sides of the electorate

*Recent titles published by Regnery: Absolute Power: The Legacy of Corruption in the Clinton-Reno Justice Department; At Any Cost: How Gore Tried to Steal the Election; The Bible Is History; and my favorite, Brighter than the Baghdad Sun: Saddam Hussein's Nuclear Threat to United States.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Unfit for Publication

There is a new book out called Unfit for Command. I'm not going to link to a description of it, or even dignify the authors by mentioning them. You've probably heard of it. It's a hatchet job of John Kerry's military service in Viet Nam, written by some men who claim to have served with him. These men, with the support of some very rich Bush backers (wait - "very rich Bush backers" is redundant, no?) have also produced a television commercial.

We've received a lot of calls about the book. I don't think the volume of calls reflects the popularity of the book so much as it does the scarcity. The original print run was relatively small, and most stores have sold out. And unlike the plethora of anti-Bush books out there (all selling satisfyingly well, thank you), this is really the first anti-Kerry book to hit the scene.

I admit it. I have a hard time maintaining my cheery demeanor when responding to requests for this book. When I think really hard about the issue of calling into question the service of man who actually went to Viet Nam, in the hopes of electing a man who can't even provide a satisfactory account of his whereabouts during his Guard stint - I get so fucking angry I think my head will explode. I come from a military family, and I remember my Dad leaving for his two tours in Viet Nam, so this shit means something to me.

At least once a week, someone will ask for a manager to complain about the anti-Bush books. They are convinced that Big Bookstore is promoting these books and placing them prominently on display as part of a liberal conspiracy to unseat Bush. I listened to one woman tell a manager that we were "revolting" and "repugnant" because of this issue. We try to explain, very nicely, that Big Bookstore could really not give a shit. I like to say that if there were a sudden resurgence of interest in Mein Kampf and it suddenly shot to the top of the bestseller list, Big Bookstore would immediately sticker it 30% off and make a huge front of store display. Then we'd try to figure out a way to have an author event.

Friday, August 13, 2004


If I were Queen of the World, I would require that all the people who read car magazines and all the people who read hairstyling magazines breed only with each other.

That is all.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Four Piles of...Something

People leave piles of books everywhere in the store. Under chairs, jammed into bookcases sideways, and of course, on tables in the Cafe. Some people hide their piles in corners or try to disguise them, just like the dog when he craps in the living room. I spend a lot of time picking up piles, and reshelving their constituent components.

Sometimes the piles are delightfully eclectic - a couple of new novels, a travel book, a news magazine or two. But most of the time, the piles are obsessively single-minded. Every single book in the store on how to write business letters, get into law school, become multiorgasmic, have the perfect wedding, raise tropical fish, or any one of hundreds of other topics. It's as if the person who creates the pile is searching for the book that has the magic answer. "If I just buy the right book, all my problems will be solved, and I will write the perfect letter/get into the best law school/have the most beautiful wedding/raise the healthiest fish/have the screamingest orgasms EVER."

Tonight, I picked up four separate piles from the Cafe. These piles were topical and almost angry. One pile on Zionism. One pile on reparations for slavery. One pile of Bush-hatred. One pile on Jihad. I wonder if the guys with the Zionism and Jihad books eyeballed each other across the Cafe.

Depending on my level of crankiness for the day, I may invoke a small curse on the depositor of the pile. I mutter under my breath as I bend down for the 50th time that night to pick up a pile: "I curse you to be rejected by every law school to which you apply." Or, "I curse your wedding to be a cascade of embarassing disasters." Like that. Very occasionally, the pile evokes a pity response, and I leave off the cursing, because it would feel wrong to curse the leaver of a pile of books on cancer recovery. Usually, however, the curses are dire. "I curse you never to have more than one orgasm at a time, and that one to be barely toe-curling."

It's not much, but it makes me feel a little better as I walk around the store, cleaning up the piles.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

How Nice for Me!

It was a busy Sunday afternoon, and the Cafe was packed. Customers with drinks and food were circling looking for a place to land. No dice. The Study Buddies had spread like a fungus to every table in the place.

It is time.

I make The Announcement. As is my habit, I walk slowly around the Cafe afterwards, eyeballing each offending table. I know that the Study Buddies will not immediately vacate the Cafe. It is a game we play. They will wait until I walk away before gathering their notebooks and backpacks and going next door to the neighboring restaurant where they will set up a satellite colony until it is safe to return to the Big Bookstore.

As I turn to leave the Cafe and return to making my rounds of the store, I am stopped by a woman. She is middle-aged, and has that sharp, pursed-mouth look of the perennially dissatisfied. For reasons that may become clear, let's just call her Cunty Cunterson.

Cunty: Excuse me.
Disgruntled Bookseller: Yes, ma'am?
Cunty: The announcement you just made -- where does that come from?
DB: Oh, we've been making similar announcements for years.
Cunty (sharply): That's not what I asked. Where does it come from?
DB: A manager requested that I make the announcement.
Cunty: I want you to know that your announcement is illegal. You can't tell people to leave here after an hour.
DB: Actually, ma'am, we can.
Cunty (voice rising in vehemence): That's against the law. This is a public place. You can't just tell people to leave if they've been here too long. Someone could sue you for that because it's illegal.
DB: Well, ma'am. I'm a lawyer, and I have to tell you that you're wrong about that. This is not a public place. It's a private establishment owned by Big Bookstore Corporation.
Cunty : It's a public place!
DB: No, ma'am. It's not a library. These are private premises, and it is well established that a proprietor can refuse service for any reason. Of course, Big Bookstore Corporation does operate in interstate commerce, and therefore the constitutional restriction against discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed, ethnicity, religion or national origin does apply, but so long as we apply the rule without discrimination we can certainly enforce our one hour seating limit.
Cunty (almost shouting now): You're wrong! I've been here with friends who are lawyers and they agree with me that you're wrong. You're going to get sued and you're going to lose.
DB: I don't think so, but reasonable legal minds could disagree.
Cunty: No! The law is the law!*
DB: Well, not really. That's why we have courts and judges. Let me give you an analogy, ma'am. Let's say you own a restaurant. A customer comes into your restaurant, buys one cup of coffee, pulls out a book and sits there for the next 12 hours until you close. There are other people waiting for tables, but you have to turn them away because you don't have any left. Do you think that's OK?
Cunty: That's a completely different situation! This is not a restaurant, it's a bookstore.
DB: No. It' s a restaurant within a bookstore, but it is a restaurant nonetheless.
Cunty (skeptically): You say you're a lawyer? What kind of law do you practice?
DB: It's really none of your business, ma'am, but I specialize in management of federal property.
Cunty: Well, I don't think you know anything about the law. You're a lawyer and you also work here?
DB: Yes, ma'am. I have a day job as a lawyer, and I've worked here as a part-time bookseller for seven years.
Cunty (sarcastically): How nice for you.

Now, you might be asking why I even engaged in such an inane conversation. I've been asking myself the same thing. I should have just handed her off to my manager, who would have told her, in so many words and very nicely, to fuck off somewhere else if she didn't like it. But I couldn't stand that someone was actually trying to tell me the law. God knows, I'm no Oliver Wendell Holmes. I'm not even Johnny Cochrane. I hate being a lawyer. I work at Big Bookstore so I can escape from being a lawyer. But non-discrimination in public accomodations is one of the few, tiny, little areas of legal expertise I have actually mastered, so I just could not back down.

I went back to the Cafe 10 minutes later, and a satisfyingly large swathe of tables had been liberated. Task accomplished.

*Does she not watch Court TV? If the "law was the law", we wouldn't need lawyers for Christ's sake.

Friday, August 06, 2004

The Announcement

So, I work in a bookstore.

It's a big bookstore. A really big bookstore. One of the biggest. A really big bookstore with, of course, a cafe. Because what kind of really big bookstore would it be without latte?

I hate the Cafe. We all hate the Cafe. The only people who like the Cafe are the what we like to call the "Study Buddies". The Study Buddies are men (mostly) who spend hours and hours, every single day, day in and day out, studying in the Cafe. They are studying for software certification exams, the United States Medical Licensing Exam, nursing exams. You name it, they are studying for it. And they are studying for it using our books, which they have not purchased. Sometimes they "borrow" pens and paper from us. Some of them bring their own food and drink, thus completing the trifecta of freeloading.

Occasionally, real customers want to sit down in the Cafe and browse a few books or magazines while having a cup of coffee and a bite to eat. But they can't. All the tables are occupied by Study Buddies. One Buddy to each table. Because a Study Buddy needs room to spread out his study materials.

When the Cafe reaches Study Buddy critical mass, we make The Announcement. The Announcement goes something like this:
"Good afternoon, Big Bookstore Customers. This is just a gentle reminder that seating in our Cafe is limited to one hour. This is so that all of our customers can get something to drink and a bite to eat and have a place to sit down and enjoy their refreshments. So if you are studying in the Cafe, and have been here for longer than an hour, we do ask that you gather your belongings and move elsewhere in the store. We thank you for your cooperation and understanding."
My cow-workers always like me to make The Announcement. Somehow, I am best able to convey the subtle subtext of the The Announcement, which is this: " Get the fuck out, you fucking freeloading scum. Yes, you! I am looking right at you while I'm saying this!"

To be Continued...