Saturday, November 20, 2004

My Big Fat Bookselling Family

I almost had a really bad night tonight. An ex dropped by the store and by the time he left, I was in tears. Not because I'm upset about the demise of the relationship (which occurred about six months ago and was pretty mutual), but because in typical fashion I was somehow made to feel responsible for his unhappiness.

My night was rescued by my cow-workers.

Calendar Boy, an incredibly hot, mature beyond his years, 18-year old supervisor, with whom everybody in the store, male and female is in love, saw that I was upset and came over to give me a big hug and let me vent, while Buns of Steel looked on and listened with sympathy and concern. Later, my girlfriends, Chick Magnet and Mimi, also listened while I expressed my anger and frustration at feeling so manipulated. And then, at the end of the night, my dear friend, Wife-In-Law, provided much needed ego boosting, cheer and distraction by discussing my new crush with me in optimistic terms.

These people turned the night around for me and reminded me of why, no matter how much I may earn at the day job, I will always work part-time for Big Bookstore.

I'm not being hyperbolic when I describe my Big Bookstore cow-workers as family. There are about 70 people on the payroll at my store, so it's a big family, but a family nonetheless. At the head are the General Manager and his Assistant Managers. The GM, Closeted Straight Guy, is the perfect pater familias - loving but firm, affectionate and friendly but demanding of hard work and loyalty. His co-parents are Queen of the Flying Monkeys, Foam Party, Gun Nut and the Tight Dude. The other managers and supervisors, including Calendar Boy, Dark Goddess, Wife-in-Law, and Holler, among others, are like the big kids - older siblings who help Mom and Dad keep the younger sibs in line, but occasionally act like kids themselves. Then there's the rest of us - booksellers, music sellers, barristas, shelvers, cashiers. We are the children - some of us are favorite children, and some of us (Baby Seal) are problem children - as in any overlarge family.

Not everyone at Big Bookstore is as invested emotionally in the Big Bookstore dynamic as I am. Some people just come to work and go home, and aren't really interested in having a personal relationship with their cow-workers. Others know they're only passing through - Big Bookstore is a pitstop on the way to grad school or a "better" job. But at the core are the people who stay despite the possibility of better paying jobs because they love books and they love the people they work with. We become friends with each other, we hang out together, we date each other, and sometimes we move in together or get married to each other. Over the course of the years, these relationships can get a bit tangled, and to outside eyes might even seem awkwardly incestuous. My ex, the Medieval One (who is not the ex mentioned above), and I lived and worked together on and off for four years. He's now married to another cow-worker which is why I jokingly call her "Wife-in-Law." We all work together quite happily and are the best of friends.

After the Medieval One and I broke up for the final time, I thought some space was needed so I moved to another, smaller branch of Big Bookstore. (In a Big Bookstore break-up, custody of the store always goes to the one who has been there longer. He had me by four months.) It was like being orphaned from a large Italian family and being adopted by a small clan of New England WASPs. They were nice people, but they weren't my people and I felt adrift in a place of strange customs and cold embraces. The store was too small to contain my sometimes overwhelming personality. I missed the boisterousness and drama of my old store, the tantrums and intrigues, and the sense of being enfolded by a place of belonging each time I walked in the door. It only lasted six months before I returned home.

New kids walking into this large, complicated and sometimes dysfunctional family are often confused by the thicket and tangle of old friendships and loyalties. But if they are destined to become "one of us", they quickly learn to fit right into the family rhythm and establish their niche in the sibling pecking order.

My cow-workers are my friends, my social life and my support network. (And I'm sort of hoping that one cow-worker in particular, with whom I am completely and utterly smitten, will eventually become my boyfriend.)

They are my big fat bookselling family.


Blogger meateater said...

Aw! that brings a little tear to my eye. I have to admit that I too feel we have a good group of people working at the store. I am glad that everyone was able to be there for you in your time of emotional need.

5:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful.
Just beautiful.
Beautifully written and beautiful sentiment behind it.

9:13 PM  
Blogger billygoat said...

I told you this already, but I *love* your Big Bookstore nicknames. Keep up the great writing! BTW, this is your Lil' Lenin. :)

6:25 PM  

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