Saturday, October 02, 2004

The Sorting Cart Explained

I am a "closer". Big Bookstore has several shifts, and closing is one of them. As you might suspect, closers work until...the store closes. Big Bookstore is open until 11 p.m. six nights a week. For seven years I have been a closer. I never open. I never "mid". I close.

Every shift has its plusses and minuses. Being a closer -- and a big whiner -- I like to think that closing has more minuses than the other shifts. One of the bad things about closing is that closers are responsible for making sure that Big Bookstore is ready for the next day. This means reshelving all the books that have been left in piles about the store, and generally straightening all the displays and shelves. Often it also means completing all the tasks that the previous shifts couldn't manage to finish - merchandising projects, shelving projects, inventory projects, whatever. Closers are like the bookstore fairies. If you leave it for the closers, somehow it will magically get done. Or not.

Because I always close, and because I close more than any other employee, I am pretty picky about how things get done. OK. I'm beyond picky. I'm angrily obsessive about the closing tasks. After seven years of closing, I know what needs to be done, and I know the most efficient way to do it, goddammit.

This brings us to the Sorting Cart.

The Sorting Cart is a big rolling cart that sits behind the information desk. Throughout the day, books that are picked up or "swept" as we pass through the store are dumped on the Sorting Cart, where they remain until they are reshelved. There are lots of sorting carts in the stockroom, but the oldest and crankiest of the carts is the one we usually leave at info. This is Ornery Moe.

Now, I like Ornery Moe to be arranged just so. It's a very simple system in which books are placed on the cart according to where they are located in the store.

Top shelf left: Management, Reference, Science, Animals, Health, Cooking
Top shelf right: Fiction including Genre
2nd shelf left: History, Politics, Religion, the "-ologies" (archae-, soci-, myth-, psych-)
2nd shelf right: Arts, Design, Crafts, Gardening, Transportation, Travel
3rd shelf: Computers and Math
Bottom shelf: Kids including Parenting and Education

If the books are placed on the cart in the manner described above, any bookseller can grab a bunch of books from one part of the cart and head off to reshelve, secure in the knowledge that all the books she has grabbed go to the same part of the store. And if it's always done precisely the same way, every night, then life is that much easier. This seems efficient and logical to me. I try to indoctrinate the new kids as soon as they start on The Way of the Sorting Cart. I explain the system. I explain the logic. I explain the efficiency. But most importantly, I explain the potential for dire consequences should my will be thwarted in this matter.

And yet, it seems as if every night, someone comes up with a new way to confound me and Ornery Moe. I'm convinced that my cow-workers deliberately flout my system just to see if I will get pissed off.

But you know, pissing me off is not really a huge accomplishment. It's not like it requires a hell of a lot of effort. My baseline mood is set to "mildly irritated" when I clock in. It elevates to "irked and twitchy" after I pull my requisite one-hour register shift; and once I've made my first pass through the Vortex of Evil otherwise known as the Kids Section to assess the carnage, my mood shoots straight up to "angry and demented." At that point, fucking with the Sorting Cart to irritate me is waving a red flag in front of a bull, or better yet, trying to hand feed the lions through the bars in the zoo just to see what happens.*

This is what happens.

Please do not fuck with the sorting cart, People.

*Please see Disclaimer in Sidebar.


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