Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Other Disgruntled Booksellers

I was on the North Shore of Long Island this past weekend for a friend's wedding. As I always do when traveling, I found an excuse to drop by the local outpost of Big Bookstore. I had just picked the bride up from the hair salon the morning of the wedding and dropped her off at home, and had a couple of hours to kill before the wedding. I thought I'd grab a copy of the New York Times, and perhaps my local paper, and have a leisurely brunch at a diner. Imagine my surprise to find that I could find neither. I circled the newsstand twice to be sure that I hadn't, somehow, missed the newspaper rack. Then, to confirm my suspicions, I checked the Cafe tables. Sure enough, I could see no newspapers (or parts thereof) scattered about the Cafe. Even the most well-maintained store would find it impossible to keep the Cafe free of newspapers on a weekend morning.

Instead, I grabbed a magazine, and headed for the registers. There was a line. There had been only one cashier when I walked in, a sullen, pouty, pimply boy, who had called for and received backup in the form of an openly hostile older woman named "Pat." I'd love to tell you what Sullen Pimple Boy's name was, but he wore no badge - one of the cardinal sins of Big Bookstore. There appeared to be no other booksellers in the store.

I waited patiently, observing the open hostility with which Pat treated those in front of me. She didn't really say anything objectionable, but the resentment and animus flowed off of her in visible waves, like stench rising from roadkill on a hot, hot day. There were no pleasantries - not even a "thank you." And everything, from closing her register drawer to returning change, was done with a little too much force, making it clear that she was not happy with having to serve the customers. She demanded three cents of the poor little girl (no more than 10) in front of me, who was purchasing something for $3.03. She didn't ask. She demanded and held out her hand. Because apparently, making change was more than Pat could bear.

When it was my turn, Sullen Pimple Boy was free. This was Pat's luck, because I was ready to tear her a new anus if she so much as looked cross-eyed at me. You see, as much as I hate the customers, I treat them with the utmost respect, because that is what Big Bookstore pays me to do. When I got to Sullen Pimple Boy's register I asked him whether they carried newspapers and said that I had looked but couldn't find them. He snapped in an accusatory tone, "we don't carry them anymore because people left them scattered around the store." I said, "Yes. They do. But you know, I work at a flagship Big Bookstore, and if we stopped carrying everything that people left strewn about the store, we wouldn't have anything left to sell, and then," I paused for effect, "we wouldn't have jobs."

So, if you are reading this, and you are a sullen, pimple-faced boy, or your name is Pat, and you are a hostile, old bitch, and you work at the Big Bookstore on Jericho Turnpike? You suck, and this post's for you.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

My Foot, Your Ass

I am going away this weekend to attend the wedding of one of my best friends, so I've got the weekend off from Big Bookstore. But before I go, I would like to make an announcement to those whose asses I will be sticking my foot up* and explain why I shall be doing said foot-up-ass-sticking upon my return. Most of the asses in question are newbie asses, but there are a few recalcitrant old-timers who could use the foot/ass treatment.**

1. If you leave the registers without announcing to your fellow cashiers where you are going, or when you plan to return, I will stick my foot up your ass. (I'm thinking of one cow-worker in particular whose gimpy and slightly creepy ass will feel my foot the next time he just walks away without saying a word.) TELL ME WHERE YOU'RE GOING. IT'S A FUCKING COURTESY, MAN. Or, as I say, my foot will be up your ass.

2. If you think your register shift is optional and/or of a freeform nature, I will stick my foot up your ass. (Good thing I can't stick my foot up my own ass, because I'm actually guilty of forgetting my register shift. However, I am: allowed. Why? Because I said so.) Register shifts start on the hour and end on the hour. Not five minutes after or five minutes before. Is that so hard? Next time you arrive late, you know the drill: foot_up_ass.macro.

3. If you dawdle over the giftwrapping, I will stick my foot up your ass. The giftwrapping does not need to be perfect. It does not need to be meticulous. It does not even have to be pretty. IT'S FREE FUCKING GIFTWRAP. If people want perfect, meticulous and pretty they can go to the fucking Hallmark and do it themselves. There is only one thing the giftwrapping must be and that is: fast. If you do not wrap faster -- my foot, your ass, 'nuff said.

4. If there is a line, and you leave the registers for any reason other than your scheduled meal break, I will most assuredly stick my foot up your ass. I don't care if your replacement has already arrived. Unless you are scheduled to clock out for lunch or dinner, you stay until the line is gone. Why? Because the customers, who are the only people who annoy me more than you, get restless when they are in line and they see cashiers leaving. If there is a coverage issue elsewhere, the supervisors will take care of it. (In theory.) Leave the registers before me, while there is a line, and my foot will be so far up your ass you will be able to read the size on the bottom of my shoe.

5. This is a short one: if I see you standing at info leaning on the counter with both elbows? My foot + your ass = so happy together.

I think that's enough for now. You'll be pleased to know that I just get a pedicure.

*For you grammar sluts out there, I know this construction is incorrect. However, I think you'll agree that "those whose asses up which I will be sticking my foot" just sounds silly.

** Please see Disclaimer in Sidebar.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, Part 2

The Holler has a nose for masturbators and porn stealers. He's vigilant about tracking down the "adult" periodicals that have gone missing from the news stand. At least once a shift, he'll find the empty plastic husk of the polybags that are used to keep the underaged from casually browsing, say, Freshman or Perfect 10. Later, the magazine will turn up somewhere in the store crammed in a bookshelf, or (as I once found) nestled between the pages of an appropriately sized copy of a Children's Illustrated Classic. The worst case scenario, however, is one that happens all too often - the magazine turns up in the men's bathroom, where it has obviously been...put to use. I don't think I need to tell you why the use was obvious, do I? If the Holler had 10 bucks for every time he's had to "glove up and go in" to retrieve one of these items - well, he'd have a nice bonus.

But the "personal massager" which he had just discovered outside the men's room? This was beyond the bounds of all customer masturbatory behavior heretofore experienced.

After I got over my initial reaction, and the Holler recovered from laughing at said reaction, we immediately headed over to the Sex and Erotica section. Because, you see, we knew exactly where this vibrator had come from. Sure enough, there on the top shelf, with the box flap open, was 52 Weeks of Passionate Sex.

(I remember when we first started carrying 52 Weeks of Passionate Sex. I think it was around Valentine's Day two years ago. I remember because Closeted Straight Man, our GM at the time, shared this new item of merchandise with everyone so we could all marvel at the depths to which we, as booksellers, had sunk. We were now purveying vibrators. Oh, sure, the boxed set also contained a book, but we all knew the book was just a pretext for the vibrator, the lube, and the blindfold.)

The Holler pulled the box down from the shelf and opened it, affirming our suspicions. The vibrator was missing. Not surprisingly, the Dildo* Thief found no use for the silk rose petals or the blindfold. (And can I just say, at this point: silk rose petals? Not a turn on in this or any parallel universe.)

So here's the scenario: Dildo Thief is browsing the sex instruction books. Maybe he's also been skimming some of the porn in the next section over. He comes across 52 Weeks of Passionate Sex. He is curious. What could be in such an intriguingly named box? He opens it and finds the vibrator. A lightbulb goes on. A really grimy, disgusting, lightbulb. He pockets the vibrator and heads for the men's room. The vibrator is put to use. I'm thinking anal stimulation, but hey, it could be anywhere, right? (Wide Eyed Newbie postulates the ear, but I'm skeptical.)

We're OK up to this point. I mean, Dildo Thief has violated some social norms by masturbating in a bookstore bathroom, sure. But nobody's been harmed so far except Big Bookstore which now has a Sex Box with no vibrator which it can't sell.

But this is where we go completely off the rails. Because after Dildo Thief uses the vibrator, what does he do? Does he throw the vibrator in the garbage? Does he wrap it in toilet paper and try to dispose of it surreptitiously? No. HE TAKES THE VIBRATOR BACK OUT OF THE MEN'S ROOM AND DEPOSITS IT ON THE EDGE OF THE CUBBYHOLE FOR US TO FIND.

Then Dildo Thief goes back to the Sex and Erotica section, picks up a different sex box, goes to my register, and pays for it. So that he can have a brand new, unused vibrator.

Ladies and gentlemen, bookselling does not get any better than this.

*I know that the vibrator in question is technically not a dildo, but Dildo Thief trips off the tongue in a way that Vibrator Thief does not.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, Part 1

I try not to judge people based on their purchases.

OK. That's complete bullshit. I totally judge people based on the ridiculous things they buy. But I do try not to let them know I'm judging them based on their purchases. That's worth something, right?

So when the tall, cleancut, not ugly, 30-something guy came up to my register with Anne Hooper's Sex Pack, I didn't think that it was lame or goofy or skeevy in any way. In fact, my thoughts ran more along the lines of "hey, here's a guy who's making an effort to make somebody's sex life a little more interesting even if it is a bit lightweight and vanilla." For a fleeting moment I wondered if I should offer to giftwrap the "Sex Pack" for him. It's the kind of thing a certain type of boyfriend might give a certain type of girlfriend. (Yes, I'm assuming heterosexuality because the "Sex Pack" is, as I say, kind of vanilla, and most self-respecting homos would find it a bit laughable - or at least those of my acquaintance would.)

In the end, I decided not to offer the giftwrap, but to bag the item as quickly as possible, because it is my experience that customers purchasing anything to do with sex - erotica books, nudie mags, and how-to guides - just want to get the hell out of there without making eye contact with me. Oh, and they always pay cash. Just in case, you know, Big Bookstore keeps track of who's naughty and who's nice. Because we really give a shit. So without ever having exchanged a word with me during the entire transaction, Mr. Sex Pack took his merchandise and left the store.

An hour later, the Holler approaches me and says: "You are not going to believe this. I can't even tell you what it is, I just have to show you. " He leads me over to the Big Bookstore public bathrooms, all the while saying things like, "I thought the chicken dinner in front of the toilet was bad, but this is worse," and "you are going to totally freak out."

The entrances to the bathrooms are set in an alcove. On the alcove wall, facing the bathroom doors, are cubby holes where we put all the local freebie periodicals. The logic here is manifold: we don't want the freebies cluttering up the front of the store, we don't want them using up valuable space for product that we can actually sell, and maybe, just maybe, people will take the freebies into the crapper with them rather than magazines from the news stand. Keith points to the cubbyholes and says, "Look."

And there it is. Perched on the edge of the cubbyhole, at a slight angle, as if casually set down by someone while perusing The City Paper. "It" is a "personal massage" device. A six-inch long, pink, plastic vibrator. The Holler is correct. All I can say is, "OH. MY. GOD." as I stand there and gawp at this thing.

To be continued...