Monday, December 31, 2007

Odd Lad, Syne?


A long time ago, when I first decided to document the goings-on of the Grunts at Booth and Noble, I made three promises to myself.

"Self," I said, "just because God, or Google, or Godoogle, has given you the power to put this stuff up online, does not give you the right to mock those less fortunate that you."

"Yes, but self," I replied, doesn't that mean I will have no fodder? Nothing to write about?"

"True, true, self," I responded. But perhaps we should lay down some ground rules.

And so were set in digital stone the following rules:
1) Booth and Noble would provide an equal opportunity mocking. No one is spared, therefore everyone is equal. Stupidity is not dependent on age, sex, gender, size, race, orientation, or hair color. However, there would be NO jokes about the Eskimo people. Not because they're offensive, but really, Eskimo's don't read the Internet too much. They're not too "Inuit."

2) That being said, I would refrain from deliberately mocking the following groups of people: children, the mentally handicapped people that come into the store and dance and sing, and the managerial staff.

And on this, the eve of a new year, I propose to break one of those rules.

So this kid walks into the music department yesterday. He's probably about thirteen or fourteen - that age when they know they are smarter than you. They also know that they are shorter than you, so they usually keep their mouths shut.

This boy did not. He brazenly walks over to me behind the counter. He hands me a DVD. He stands there, eying me like a bear mama eying those people between her and her cubs. I say, "did you want to get this?" And he still looks at me, the thick glasses over his eyes barely covering the scorn.

"Is this the movie?" he asks.

"Well, it's A movie," I say.

"But is is THE movie?"

"THE movie what? What movie are you looking for?"

"Is is The Golden Compass?"

"No, that's just a documentary about the book, and about the author Philip Pullman."

"What book?"

"The book that the movie was based on."

"I want the movie. There's no book."

"There is too a book - it's over here."

"No, that's based on the movie." He changes subject: "when does the movie come out on DVD?"

"Well," I reply, "that's hard to say. It's still in theatres, so they haven't told us when the DVD is due out."

"That's NOT TRUE!"

I am taken about at his loud voice. "Um...yes, it is."

"No, I saw on TV that they had released it on DVD."

"Well, what date did the 'TV' tell you?"

He shuffled, still scornful. "I don't remember."

"Ah." I look at him. He looks at me. I tilt my head, as if to say "tsk, tsk."

He opens his mouth again: "Do you know what movie it is where an alien comes back in time and takes over a person's body?"

I stop and think. "Are you thinking of Invasion of the Body Snatchers?"

"NO! This is part of a series of movies. An ALIEN, from the FUTURE." He speaks as though I'm either deaf, or foreign.

"Do you have any more information?"

"He smokes."

Ah! Of course! The smoking alien/human movie! Well, I am perplexed, so I start thinking:

"Ah!" I think I've got it. "Is it Terminator?"

"NO! God. It. Is. Not. TERMINATOR! He was a ROBOT in that. WHY WOULD A ROBOT SMOKE?" He laughs hysterically.

"But...but he..." Ok, I'm not getting into this argument with a boy whose voice is breaking. So I think...

"Is it The Matrix?"

"Oh. My. GOD! What do you know movies? It's a really old movie. Like, 1980 or something."

I'm about ready to kick this kid in the face. But instead I think, well, we've all been trying hard to think of things in the past, maybe he just needs help.

So I say, "just to clarify. There is an alien who goes back in time, inhabits a human, and smokes."

"No." He sighs. "The alien doesn't smoke. Why would an alien smoke? That would just be stupid." He straightens his glasses. "The alien has a person with him. An old man. He has an old man with him."

"So the alien has an old man who smokes with him?"


I am at a loss, so I do the next best thing:

"Maybe we can browse through the science-fiction section, and see if we can find it."

The kid turns to me, a look of pure disgust on his face. "What," he asks, "is 'science-fiction'?"

I sigh and turn around. The day had just begun.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Christmas Is a Time for Loving


I love the Christmas Season. People are always in such good moods. Let me give you a few examples for my most recent day at Booth and Noble. Happy Holidays!

1) We've just opened the store, so that means all those crazy people who line up outside in the snow and cold are let into the store. In a sane world, those people would be barred from entering; in Booth and Noble land, however, they are welcomed with open arms.

I'm standing at the information kiosk at the center of the store and I hear a loud voice yell from the front door:


I thought we were under attack.

Under attack from venture capitalist pirates.

But the voice kept coming closer.


Finally I looked up from behind the desk, where I had been cowering with a single cutlass and checkbook to protect me. A large woman waddled towards me with opened arms.


I found it for her and put it in her hands. Without a second's thought, she said, "Can I leave it here?" and dropped it on the desk in front of me.

She never came back to get it.

2. Later that day, an creaky old woman came up to me.

"Do you have A History of the Christmas Ornament from 1920 to 1930, third edition, by Richard St. Germaine?"

I looked it up on the computer, and for once, here was a customer who had the title of the book right. Unfortunately, we didn't have it in the store.

"Sorry Ma'am," I said, a pinched smile on my face, but we don't have any in the store."

"That is impossible." She looked at me like I had just told her that I dropped a cabinet on her cat...twice. She waited.

"Well, Ma'am, we can go check on the shelf, but it would be a fruitless effort. The computer says we don't have any." I gesture at the monitor in front of me.

"Let's do that then," she says, talking slowly to me as if I were one of her nasty, horrible children.

We walk over to the shelf, and lo and behold it is not there. I turn to her to explain that it wasn't there and she preempts me by saying:

"My nephew called the Barnes and Noble in Portland, Oregon and THEY have it. Why don't you?"

Sometimes, I just want to drop a book on someone's head.

"Ma'am," I carefully explain, talking slowly as if she were one of her nasty, horrible children, we are different stores. We have different books in each Booth and Noble."

Needless to say, she turned with a huff and left.

I return to the information kiosk, about ready to punch a small girl in the face. And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but another obese woman.

"Where are your teen books?" she snarfs at me.

"Actually, they're right behind you," I say, gesturing to the large shelf labeled "Teen." She walks over there and stops.

"Are these the teen books?"

"Yes, they are."

She browses for awhile in the "B's"

Then turns to me.

"How much is this?" She holds up a paperback book. I walk over to her, turn the book over in her hand, and point to the price pictured on the cover. "It's 7.95."

She thinks for a moment. I can tell, because I can smell burning.

"What about this one?" she says, and HANDS ME A DIFFERENT COPY OF THE SAME BOOK.

"That would be the same price, ma'am."

"Oh." She stops and moves over to the "H" shelf.

"Are these also teen books?" she asks.

"Yes," I respond through gritted teeth.

"How do you know?"

"Because there is a large sign right there that says 'teen'."

"Oh." She goes back to browsing.

Meanwhile, I head to the breakroom for a drink.

(Side note)
Booth and Noble central insists that we play Christmas music over our loudspeakers. As someone with a rather finally tuned sense of "taste," I am unhappy with this, but put up with it because, as a business, it is their right to play whatever music they wish.

However, as a rule, shouldn't Booth and Noble include some Hanukkah music? Some Kwanzaa music? What about non-religious music? If I have to hear about the baby Jesus saving the world one more time, I will not be pleased.

Also, one of the CDs they make us play is the new Josh "I can get as much nonagenarian ass as I want" Groban CD, which includes a voice that makes me want to drink wine until I puke. This comment is simply about how much I dislike that CD.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Made in China?


It's not often that I find myself at a loss for words, but just such an experience happened today at Booth and Noble.

See, we have this new book that just came out: YOU! You! has friends: both
YOU!, the first title in the thrill-a-minute series and
You! , which is like the Empire Strikes Back of the trilogy.

Well, a woman comes up to me and asks me for the "staying young" version of the book. Now, I'm not a cruel person, but I doubt that this book is that much of a miracle worker. When she said it, I wasn't so much thinking this as I was seeing this. There's only so much a book can do you for you, lady.

Anyway, as I handed her the book, she stopped me.

"What are these?" she asked, pointing to the two other books in the series, which we have helpfully stacked next to the bestseller.

"Those are the other YOU! books, I said.

"Hmm..." She actually audibly said "hmmm" here, too, which was unusual. She went on: "Which do you think I need?"

Now, I may not know what to say in many situation, but I usually come up with something. But what do you say to an old, chubby, close-enough-to-death-to-lick-it woman?

Thankfully, at that moment the phone rang and I was saved from making what could have been the last decision of my life.

Later in the day I was working in the children's department when an older couple came up to me:

"Excuse me, sir, do you work here?"

As any reader of this blog will note, this is probably the most asinine question we get at Booth and Noble. What you really mean to say is, "Can you help me," but people don't want to ask that, so they ask something else.

Anyway, I say I do work there and ask if I can help in any way. She says, with an exasperated voice, "do you HAVE any books not made in China?"

Again, I stop. I didn't know our books were made in China. I immediately open one and - yes it is! In fact, most of our books are actually made in China. How fascinating!

She, however, was not fascinated.

"I refuse to buy or use anything that was made in China," she says to me, with a contemptuous upturned nose.

"That must make shopping difficult," I say, thinking in my head that if she went ten minutes without using a product made in China I would be surprised.

She turns around. "I won't get anything made in China," she repeats. "And my grandson loves Winnie the Pooh. Do you have any non-Chinese Pooh here?"

I'm sorry, but let me repeat that for you.

"Do. You. Have. Any. Non-Chinese. Pooh. Here."

No ma'am, all our Pooh is American made. And proud of it!

Monday, October 29, 2007

When were you born?


I want to discuss with you my recent stint working in the children's department at Booth and Noble.

I don't work in Kids much. Maybe it's the constant smell of fetid old diapers. Maybe it's the general noise level that approaches the sounds of fifteen cats being spanked.

Or maybe it's the fact that I am generally repulsive to children.

Whatever the reason, I have not been in Kids much. That changed today when I made my way into the department to being my first shift in a long time.

I decided to take with me a stack of books that needed to be reshelved. Balancing those books and my PDT, and my phone, and my cup of coffee, was quite a lot to manage.

I was greeted by a woman who asked me if I worked there.

I stared at her, briefly considering my options. I could immediately run for the door, after throwing the stack of books at her face and leave, knowing that this, the beginning of the day, was probably the highlight.

Or, I could summon all the courage I could muster to look her in the face and say, "why yes, I do work here! How did you ever guess?"

She said, "I'm looking for the books that come before The Magic Tree House.

"Ma'am," I say, "The Magic Tree House books are themselves a series. There's no "prequel" like The Hobbit or Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

She looks at me like I just took off my pants and slapped her with a piece of cheesecake.

"I am a Librarian, Sir. I know that there is no "Prequel" to the books."

"Umm...Ok," I reply. "Then what are you looking for?"

"I am looking for a book that is EASIER than this one. For my grandson. He's going into second grade."

First of all, lady, it's almost November. Either he's in second grade or he's not. Or he's homeschooled. In any case, he should be reading more than Magic Treehouse books. Second of all, I don't know your grandson, nor does it appear that I want to. So pick your own books.

What I say is: "Well, ma'am, if you want to browse maybe something will come to you."

Later in the day, the Birthday Guy comes into the department. The Birthday Guy has some sort of savant ability - he will remember your birthday if you tell it to him. For example, if Birthday Guy comes up to "Sandy" and says, "What's your name," and she says "Sandy" and he asks "When's your birthday?" and she says "Feb 23," he will remember that and tell it to her every time he comes into the store.

Not the most amazing of superpowers, but interesting.

Anyway, he is also a creepy pedophile looking guy. So, of course, I'm keeping an eye on him in the Kids Department.

He wanders over to two women who have been sitting and chatting for a couple of hours together.

Let me repeat: there are two women, NOT WATCHING THEIR CHILDREN (who are incidentally making a mess of the Kids department, and I think one of them poo'ed his pants because it TOTALLY smelled like poo back there for HOURS afterwards), are Chatting IN THE KIDS DEPARTMENT on the tiny benches and table, which is kind of like a grown man trying to use a child-sized urinal.

Anyway, this Birthday Guy comes up to the two women and ask them what their names are and when their birthdays are. They are, of course, rather shocked by this. As a pickup it's just a bit creepy. As a "I want to steal your children," it's also just a bit creepy.

They rebuff him and he leaves. He walks over to another woman and asks the same questions. She says, "I don't want to tell you." He then responds with "If you tell me I will remember them for twenty years."

Now, I have to admit, he has never come up to me. Or, to think about it, to anyone like me.

Yes, he only talks to women. Which leads me to suspect that it's not a savant skill, but an amazing attempt to pick up someone. And although it hasn't worked so far...when it does...

That woman will get a birthday treat like none other.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I Want My Movie!


Many apologies for the near-month absence of a new blog post from the Internet , but I am ashamed to report that not much of interest has happened at Booth and Noble. The truth of the matter is, it's not people have been getting less annoying, but that they have been coming to the store less frequently than they had before.

I blame it on Ozzie Davis.

But, this is not to say that those that have been making appearances at the local Booth and Noble have not given us Grunts a reason to hold our heads in pain and anguish at the state of the human race.

One such case I call "movie-lady." Movie-lady calls up Booth and Noble and speaks with the person working at the information desk, one of whose responsibilities is the answering of phone:

"Thanks for calling Booth and Noble, how can I help you?"

"Where's my movie?"

A pause follows.

"Excuse me?"

"I want my movie! Where is it?"

Information Desk Working immediately felt that this was a situation that required the expert advice and opinion of one Grunt in particular.


She forwards the call to me, working in the Music and DVD department, and I immediately pick it.

"Thanks for calling movies and music. Can I help you?"

"Where's my movie?"

I immediately decide to go into Computer-Help-Desk-Help mode. "I would be happy to help you with that query this morning. I just need to get some information from you. What's your phone number?"

She gives it to me and I type it into the computer.

Her order comes up. The computer tells me that the movie has shipped from the warehouse and will be in the store in the next few days.

"Ma'am, I see that the movie has shipped from my warehouse and should get to me in the next few days. I'd be happy to call you as soon as it got here."

"What name is it under?" she asks, violently and with an exaggerated sense of importance.

I check. "Vic Harris," I respond.

"My name is Em Harris!" she snaps back.

"Well, as long as you give us your name when you get here, we'll give you your movie."

"What happens," she asks, "if Vic Harris comes in and wants to pick up the movie?"

"Do you know a Vic Harris?" I ask her.


I stop and think about this. "Ma'am, I'm pretty sure that this mythical Vic Harris won't come in and arbitrarily ask at the counter if we are holding Leprechaun 2. Besides, he probably doesn't even like horror movies."

She responds: "You know, I asked that someone change my name on this order, and they never did!"

I respond: "Actually, it's impossible to change an order once it's been placed, but if you order again, we can certainly use Em Harris instead of Vic."

"Good," she spits venomously back. "I don't want to be known as Vic Harris. Do I sound Hispanic to you?"

I stop and think. Is there anything I can say to this woman to ease her pain? To make her feel better about her sad life that for three full days she's been sitting at home wondering when Leprechaun 2 would come? To complete her one and true life goal?

I respond: "Oh, apologies. Usted película no está aquí, pero el Duende 2 son la mejor película hecha acerca de Duendes malos.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Mis amigos en Booth y Noble


You want to know something that occurs many times in Booth and Noble?

Something that is atrocious?

Something that epitomizes all that is wrong with our country?

It's old men.

Yes, it's true. See, what happens is that old men will be waiting for their wives to finish shopping, and they will come to me and say things that just aren't acceptable in today's culture.

For example, the other day I'm at work and a woman is searching the "pop standards" for the latest Micheal Buble release.

The husband comes into the music department.

"Can I help you, sir?" I ask, demurely.

"Yes, I'm looking for my ugly wife. I keep the pretty one at home so no one gets her."


Even if this were a funny joke, it is still wildly inappropriate to say. But since it's not funny, it's just stupid.

He follows this up, after his wife laughs at his "humor," with a:

"I can bring her here, but I can never lose her. " He leans in close to me: "They can always find ya!"

Don't insinuate me with your verging-on-felony humor! I wanted to turn to the woman and say, "lady, I know you're old and smelly, but you can still do better than that."

So they left and I went back to my desk to call some customers. The special orders had come in, and it was my job to make sure that the customers were informed that their copies of "The Secret" and "<Ski School" came in.

I call a number and get an answering machine. This is not uncommon - it's the middle of the day in a work week, and I'm sure that they had better things to do than wait for my call.

But for some reason, this person didn't seem to realize that everyone has answering machines now. They left incredibly detailed instructions as to how to leave a message:

"Hi. You've reached the phone number for the Michaelson's. We are not home right now, but you have reached our machine. It will record any message you leave and play it back for us. Please leave us a name and a phone number. Also, if you could leave a brief message that tells us what you were calling about, that would help us place your call. When I am done talking, there will be a beeping noise. You should leave that information -- your name, your number, and your message -- after you hear that beep."

And then, without missing a beat:

"And, just to be clear, there is NO ONE at this number who should be receiving ANY calls in SPANISH." BEEEEEEP.

I cannot tell you how tempted I was to leave a message: "Hola! Es Booth y Noble! Sus videoes son aqui!"

But I was too busy giggling to do anything.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Helping the Hoi


It comes as a bit of a shock to me, but it seems that there is a definite loss of awareness of irony in our culture. This is despite the cynical and rather argumentative claims of postmodernists and other cultural critics who see the world as degenerating into a formless, amorphous blob of subjective experience and loss of feeling. As any self-righteous cultural critic would state, the ennui and general unease felt in contemporary culture comes from, among other places, a sense of listlessness among the living and a general malaise in the everyday experience of people.

What this boils down to, at least for those consumers who enter Booth and Noble and attempt to make sense of the endless monotony of their lives, is that either a) they do not realize what asses they are being, or b) they realize and they just don't care.

My vote is for the first option.

As a case in point, the other day at Booth and Noble, I noticed a preponderance of Ironic Shopping. As you may know, when someone works in a retail book shop they must automatically be gifted with the inane trivialities of the minutiae of your life. In other words, all of us Grunts must be extremely well-versed in any knowledge that the customer requires. Am I an expert in coin collecting? Of course! Do I know everything there is to know about business/commercial real estates! I'm completely licensed, of course! Do I know what life is like for the Telugu culture? Why, I'm part of that culture, sir!

What do I mean by Ironic Shopping? What I mean is, for the first two hours that Booth and Noble was open, every single customer that approached me - male, female, tall, short, ignorant, butt-ignorant - asked me where the Self-Help section is.

Is this not Defeating the Very Purpose of the Self-Help Section?

What makes it worse is that these people all had specific titles. In order, these were the titles they were looking for (this is not a joke):

What is the key connection here?

Yes, it is confidence and thinking: the irony of which is that neither was attempted in searching for the book. Even a cursory glance around Booth and Noble will reveal the Self-Help section.

Of course, the irony here is not just that some people decide to not think and grow rich (or, as it is, not-think and grow Booth and Noble rich), but that even when they don't think, they are faced with the incredibly difficult task of becoming capable of handling their own life. To this end, a gentleman comes up to me at the desk and asks for a copy of "an introduction to economics." I lead him to the economics section and give him a book that would work for him. He responds with a disgusted snort and a derisive scorn:
"I'm not looking for a book ANY one can read. I want a TEXT book."

I tell him we don't sell textbooks, but I can order something for him. He declines and leaves.

Ten minutes later I'm called to the front of the store to help ring out the customers. I work the registers for a few minutes and then who should be next in line but economics gentleman. And what should he be buying but:
the book .

I was super polite to him, but I don't think he understood.

Of course, nothing beats man who called the store at the beginning of the day.

"Hello, Booth and Noble," I said into the phone.
"Do you know anything about stamps?" He asks with neither a "hello" or a "how ya doin'?"
I respond: "I do not, but we have books about stamps if you want to come in and browse."
"Well," he says, "do you know what this might be worth?" And he proceeds to read off a stamp to me.
"Sir, I don't know anything about stamps."
"But this has got to be worth something, right?" And here are the facts from the stamp he elucidated:

"So I've got this stamp from 1707. It's got a picture of John Adams on it, you know John Adams?"
"Not personally," I admit, "But I have heard of him."
"Ok, well, it's John Adams and it says '2 cents, United States' on it. That's gotta be worth something, right?"
I stop and think. Something here doesn't add up.
"Sir," I say, after realizing the problem. "Perhaps you'd like to take this up with your nearest Philatelist.

Of course, who am I to understand the workings of the consumer mind. I'm just a Grunt.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

A Gross of Gross at Booth and Noble


You know, it may occur to some people after reading this blog that there the American Educational System (AES) needs some major Overhaul (O). Yes, it is true: people come into Booth and Noble EVERYDAY and ask us where the "nonfiction" section is. And yes, people do come into the music department EVERYDAY and demand to know if we're ever going to stock Beta Max again. But these we know about. These are the people, the subjects of this blog, who make up the days of our lives.

But what of the other people?

If Booth and Noble fulfills its promise: to be a haven for your tired, your sick, your weary masses, then where are the gross?

Yes, for too long this blog has been about the customers at Booth and Noble who defy education, who eschew obfuscation, who demand nothing but bestseller crap and literary junk food.

It is time to change things. It is time to talk about the gross people that enter Booth and Noble.

There are three categories of gross people. For the sake of simplicity, I will label them,
1) Gross-lyte
2) Gross-Regular
3) Gross-Unique. (or, Grossnique).

Here is how I differentiate them. Gross-Lytes are those that come in once in awhile and do something that makes you think to yourself, wow, if I did that I would probably think less of myself. The Gross-Lytes are those people that curl their bare feet under their sweaty ass when they sit on the chairs. Yes, when you go to a bookstore, and you sit on the chairs, think about how many sweaty, nasty feet have been plunged into the stuffing of that chair. Think about how many pimply, pot marked, calloused backsides have sat, immobile, for hours on that very seat. Think about this: when you reach down to pick up the pen that fell between the cushion and the arm of the chair: someone has probably peed in that very seat. All but one of the chairs at Booth and Noble has been peed upon - and only two of them by me.

As a newer example of the Gross-Lyte, there was a woman yesterday who came into the store and had blood red cleavage. I mean, there were two large breasts and in between, where there should have been dark shadow, was a bright red area. It looked as though the skin had been peeled off her bosom and the lower layer of epidermis was peaking its way out like a groundhog on February 2nd. This was Gross-Lyte.

Gross-Regulars are those people that habitually come into the store. These people generally tend to get nicknames -- for instance, there's Manga-Girl, who last summer spent every single day from 9am until 10pm in the store reading Manga. (As there weren't that many Manga titles back then, that means she must've read each title approximate thirty-two times each.) There is the Family Skank, which should be self-explanatory. The Family Skank, obese mother, skinny, bedraggled father, and two obese children (singlehandedly, this family is keeping the American Obesity Epidemic in the double digits), come into the store occasionally. They like to sit on the floor, sprawled out in their muumuus and their funny plastic shoes and read Anne McCaffrey Dragon novels. They also smell like day old veal.

An example of a Gross-Regular is the guy I affectionately term, "Shitty-Guy." Shitty-Guy comes in and shits a couple times a day in our bathroom. Now, the Booth and Noble bathroom at the moment is, without a doubt, the most disgusting place on the planet. Some pipe somewhere has leaked and for some reason, no one has come to fix it. It smells, consistently, like the inside of an anus. I am not joking. It is vile. Imagine that every time you've gone to the bathroom in the past two weeks, but instead of flushing the toilet, you've decided to let it sit and "marinate" -- this is what the men's room at Booth and Noble is like.

Part of the reason for this extreme smell is because of Shitty-Guy. There have been times I have wanted to use the restroom, but Shitty-Guy has been in there, becoming eponymous. Somehow, Shitty-Guy must have lost his sense of smell, because he remains in the men's room for a long time. Most of us just head to the pet store next door, where it smells much nicer.

The third category I reserve for the indescribably gross. I call these, the Grossnique.

They are not regular customers, but they do something that makes the memory of them endure for years.

For example, yesterday, a woman comes up to me when I'm at the cash registers and she hands me...

A retainer.

A Used Retainer.

She sets it on the counter in front of me and says, "I think someone left this."

Oh really? Someone left their retainer? You mean it's not something we sell?

I walk to the cafe and grab a plate and a long stream of plastic wrap. I gingerly grasp it between two paper towels and thrust it onto the plate, all the while stopping my gag reflex. The dirt alone on the retainer made me rethink my position of euthanasia. Finally, it's on the plate and I wrap it in plastic. A neat and tidy present for an unsuspecting child.

Anyway, these are the three examples of Gross-ness at Booth and Noble. I'm sure more abound. I look forward to hearing about them, and sharing more grossities with you.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Return of the Tooth!


So I look at my blog and I see that it has been exactly one month since my last post. Some of you may be wondering what has been clogging up my output. I shall attempt to explain, in the simplest way I know how.

I was kidnapped by happy-go-lucky pirate children.

For three weeks I was forced into slave labor upon their schooner. It was actually not an entirely unpleasant experience, as they mostly just laughed in foreign tongues and danced around a great big vat of pudding.

But, after those three weeks I was deposited back on dry land with one lady's sandal and a small pony named Fred. I managed to make my way back to Booth and Noble, having only Fred for sustenance, and upon my arrival was immediately put back to work in the music department.

Yesterday, for example, was a typical day in the music department of Booth and Noble. Hours went by with nary a customer in sight, until The Man with One Tooth walked in.

Yes, one tooth.

He also has mutton chops and a hat.

For some reason, this gentleman focuses on me and decides that, in the world of lonely men, he is going to befriend me. Now, I had had some of this "befriending" when I was involved in the world of pirates, but at Booth and Noble, that would just be inappropriate, as well as smelly. But he wouldn't stop talking to me. For an hour this man talked to me.

Part of his diatribe was an inquiry about a film: Strategic Air Command. He wanted to know if we had it on DVD.

We did not.

In fact, according to our computers, it was not available in DVD. Period.

What was fascinating, though, was how a little bit of knowledge can ruin a perfectly good query. For, following this up, this Toothful gentleman decided to ask whether the movie was available in ANY FORMAT. And not all at once. No, he would wait until I had picked up my scanner and moved to a different part of the department, and then he would come back over to the desk, forcing me to come back to the desk, and ask:

"Is it on DVD?"

"No, it's only on VHS."

Then he would say, "Ok, I'll let you get back to work now" and walk away. I would once again leave the desk and go to a different section, and thirty seconds later he would turn around and come back to the desk, forcing me to walk back to the desk:

"Is it on HD-DVD?"

"No, it's only on VHS."

"Ok, I'll let you get back to work now." Thirty seconds later.

"Is it on Blu-Ray DVD."

"Sir, if it's not on DVD, it's not on Blu-Ray DVD."

"What about Beta-Max?"

"What? Do you even have a Beta-Max player?"

"Yes I do, right next to my Gramophone and Daguerreotype"

Anyway, this goes on for awhile until She walks in.

She must be eighty five years old. He sees her and cupid strikes him down.

See has, you see, a hole in her cheek. (Since it is difficult to find a picture of a hole in someone's cheek, I simply linked here to a funny picture that came up when I typed in "cheek"). This hole is about the size...get this...of a tooth! It's not just that they were made for each other, it's that they were physically, and sexually, compatible. He can cheek hump her with his tooth!

Anyway, they get to talking, which means he gets out of my hair. She's carrying a computer book and I overhear this interesting tidbit from her:

"I didn't know you had to know what kind of computer you have in order to get a book about a computer!"

And his reply: "Yes, that's how they getcha!"

As their conversation gets going, I start to work near them. Since we've had a rash of thieveries recently, I thought it best to keep an eye on them (two eyes, actually: one on the tooth and the other on the hole).

However, being so close, I can't help but overhear:

Hole: [Looking at the Cary Grant Collection] "Is Cary Grant the Gay one?"
Tooth: "No, no, you're thinking of the other one."
Hole: "Who am I thinking of?"
Tooth: "Hudson...Rock Hudson."
Hole: "Oh yes, I like him. I thought you were going to say Perry Mason."
Tooth: "No, Perry Mason isn't gay."
Hole: "Oh, I'm SO glad about about that. I just love him."

I didn't really have the heart to tell them that Perry Mason, is, in fact, a fictional character, and that Raymond Burr, the actor that played Perry Mason, was, in fact, a well known homosexual.

But I digress.

As these two lovebirds make their way out of the department, Tooth turns to the lady and asks, "So, is there a husband at home?"

She turns to him, teeth showing through the hole.

"Nope. Dead."

He grins a wide, uni-tooth-ular grin, and says, "I'm so, so sorry to hear that." He tips his hat to her and the walk out together, presumably to cheek hump all night long.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Adventurous Times in Music


And now, a short piece about life as a Grunt at Booth and Noble.

Your players:
- Me (the Grunt)
- Lady (the customer)

The setting:
- The music department at Booth and Noble at 2 pm.

[Lady walks into the department, anger flashing in her eyes and a bag swinging by her side. Glancing left and right, she spies Me and gallops over to the poor Grunt.]

Lady: ExCUSE me? Do you WORK here?

Me: [Me looks down at Me's nametag, at the PDA in his hand, and at the stack of CDs he is holding.] Yes, I do work here.

Lady: I need to complain.

Me: I need to sit down, but I don't see a chair emerging from my ass.

Lady: [Ignoring the obviously fake comment that Me did not actually say, because if Me said that, Me would be fired and on the street] I wish to complain about the CD I purchased.

[Lady holds up a copy of The Travelling Wilburys special deluxe album. Me knows exactly what is going to transpire, and is extremely happy to be in the know for once.]

Lady: The second CD won't play.

Me: [Fake looking concerned. Me wants to play this for all its worth.] Oh no! Tell me what happened.

Lady: I took it home and tried it in my CD player. Nothing. I came back and replaced it. It still wouldn't play! I got a THIRD one. And it wouldn't play either! [Lady is so mad, she slams her fist down on the counter. If there was a clown under there, that clown would be dead.]

Me: Did you think it was your CD player, maybe? [Me smiles inwardly. It's's coming..]

Lady: Of course! It plays all the other CDs just fine! [Lady gestures to the two other CDs in the 3 CD set.]

Me: May I see the CD?

[Lady hands Me the CD. Me looks it over, touches it, and pets it. He closes his eyes and sighs. His hands rub the CD case briskly, like he was wisking a delicious souffle. Suddenly, he opens his eyes.]

Me: The second CD is a DVD.

[Lady stands, mouth agape, eyes wide in shock.]


[Lady turns abruptly and leaves. Me goes back to scanning CDs.]


Sunday, July 22, 2007

Harry Potter and the Book Grunt


It now falls upon me, at this late hour, to detail the end of a dynasty. The world’s most popular fiction series was finished as of the 21st of July, and this particular Grunt had the particular pleasure of selling scores of copies to adoring fans. There were literally hundreds of obsessive and all-knowing fans flocking towards Booth and Noble, each and every one of them so anxious to get their copy that they were willing to eat puppies.

I am, of course, speaking of the release of the new Sylvia Browne book, So You Think You Can Speak to the Dead: Then Will You Please Tell Them to Turn Down the Music?

Ok, obviously I’m not. Obviously it is the much-anticipated release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that brought all of us to Booth and Noble until 3 in the morning. This particular Grunt arrived at 6 in the evening, armed with a small container of fried chicken, for the Grunt Pot Luck, and the cobbled costume of half-giant Hagrid.

My role was two-fold. From 6 pm until 10 pm I watched the music department, and made sure than tomfoolery and willy-nilly-ness did not happen. I had nothing to worry about. From the moment I wandered into the store, passing by the two hundred people lining up outside to get their much-coveted wristband, I was completely enthralled by the complete emptiness of the music department.

Part of the uncomfortable nature of Hagrid’s costume stemmed from the large, fake beard worn around the neck. The other discomfort came from the combination of flannel shirt, corduroy trousers, and bodice wrapped towel around my waist; a combination that made temperatures in my body reach towards the heliosphere.

It can be argued, I am sure, that the pleasure of working the Harry Potter Midnight Madness Party and Booth and Noble is seeing the children smile with eagerness at finally, after ten years, discovering the end of the series. Seeing their wide grins and wide-open eyes should be enough to open up one’s hearts and let the Good in.

And then you meet Fat-Kid-In-Red.

I will be the first to admit that my costume was not the most expensive or realistic as can be. I decided early on in the costuming process (i.e., four o’clock that day) that MY Hagrid would be more of a HOBO Hagrid. I wore an oversize pair of green trousers, a pair of too-small combat boots (no laces), and a brown and red lumberjack shirt. In addition, I stuffed my shirt with a towel, bunched into a working-man’s beer belly. And I wore a large black beard, spirit-gummed to my already hirsute upper lip. In addition, I stapled a stuffed dragon onto my collar and held a small plastic umbrella.

I may not have been J. K.’s Hagrid, but I was most definitely Hagrid -- as if he were born in a barn and lived on the rails.


Fat-Kid-In-Red walks up to me. He cannot be more than 11 years old, but looks as though he were practicing for a role as an short, obese 22 year old. He stops me, as many children do in Booth and Noble that night, to inquire about my costume.

“Who are you supposed to be,” he argumentatively asserts.

I stop. “Who are you supposed to be?”

“Are you Hagrid?”

“Yes, I am Rubeus Hagrid.”

He appraises me: “Your beard’s not long enough, your hair isn’t black enough, your shirt’s too small, your belt isn’t right, and your dragon is upside-down.”

I looked at him. Then he walks past me, to find another costumed person to knock down to size.

The rest of the “music” time was spent cleaning up various things: books fell down, CDs were disorganized, the D&D players on the ground lost a 12-sided die. At 11 I took my break and at 11:30 walked back onto the book floor.

A small crowd had gathered around a teenaged boy wearing a green shirt and a baseball cap. He looked like a string bean.

He was a Spoiler.

Yelling the secrets of the book that had been leaked online a few hours earlier, he made children cry and grown men want to start beating their chests and ripping out their hair. Our managers, unable to take the onslaught of public outcry, rushed forward and brutally thrust him out of the store, onto the pavement.

Spoiler-boy was no more.

Of those that celebrated the ousting, the school-girl sluts were perhaps the most appreciative. I don’t know which House at Hogwarts they belonged to: perhaps a mysterious fifth house that had the talent of sexifying and cock-rubbery as their magical talents. I say this because these young women decided that it would behoove them to dress like cheap hookers at a Britney Spears talent show. Their outfits, short skirts that barely covered their bulging backsides and stockings that ended mid-thigh in a ruffle, would make a French Maid sit up and say, “oui?” The school tie and woolen vest made all the difference, as we Grunts were comforted knowing the three girls would not freeze.

But, then at midnight, the “Magic” started.

I removed the paltry beard and oversized cloak (oh yeah, I had a cloak too) and prepared for the on slot. In back of me: thirty to forty boxes of the book. In front of me: 500 people, eager, tired and developing a very strong odor.

As the bell sounds at 12:01 am, the huddled masses in all their glorious pageantry rush forward. The surge tallies forth. The tills ring and the cash flies.

I have a glance at my register and notice that the credit card machine is broken. This is just wonderful. I pull out my wand and yell “Reparo!” unaware, I believe, that magic does not actually work and that I was left holding a stick in my hand.

However, I am able to type in manually the credit card numbers, and commence doing so. After a few customers pay with their cards, a cash customer walks up.

“One copy of Harry Potter please” she says, handing over the $20.40. I type in the amount and hit the CASH button…and the drawer swings open with a hollow bang. There is no money in my drawer, just the remnants of a discarded receipt and a small dead bug.

The powers-that-be had neglected, in the adrenaline rush of the night, to get me any money.

From that moment on I was unable to accept any cash transactions.

This did not stop people from attempting to buy the book with cash, despite my warnings of dire punishment. One man even lied and said that he had exact change. He did not. I wouldn’t have been able to help him even if he did.

Finally, my last customer: 1am. He walks up to me and hands me his gift card.

“Does this have less than $20.40 on it?” I ask.

“Nope, it’s full.”

“I just want to make sure: I CANNOT give you change.”

“It will be fine.”

I ring him up. The total: $20.40. The gift card: $18.93. My last sale was a bust. The guy moved to the next cashier (Snape, whose register worked like a charm). I turned to face the crowd, Hagrid once again:

“ARGH!” I yelled into the empty book hall. “Wrart! Brarabaragh!”

The others looked at me, but I just turned away and smiled, serene in the knowledge that I had finally vanquished my dementors.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Musical Experience


So as I'm sitting in the music department of Booth and Noble (well, not sitting exactly, as the Higher-Ups at Booth and Noble think that a "stool" would indicate to the customers a general laziness on the parts of the Grunts. We Grunts feel that the fact we often stand around the counter reading Entertainment Weekly is a much better indication of our laziness, and we would enjoy the chance to gaze longingly from the vantage point of the three-legged wonder spot.)

Anyway. I'm standing there, processing yet another check, I cannot help but think about what a colossal waste of natural resources most of these "customers" are. It's not just the general waste of space they take up, but perhaps the phenomenally large amount of food they eat, the unnecessary air they breathe (don't they know there are people suffocating in China today?), or the fantastically angry-looking faces. Because these people write checks, I have to look at their driver's licenses. Because they haven't yet learned that a check card is exactly like a check, but faster, less likely to make a mistake, and less likely to get you spit at, I have to look at their ugly mugs.

And all I can think is "this is the product when lonely, ugly people get drunk to meet people."

* * * * *

A woman comes up to the counter. She looks kind of like a small balloon on short stilts. Her red shirt unfolds like a parachute across her expansive bosom of death. I imagine her children nursing and curling up like the Wicked Witch of the East.

She can barely reach her face over the counter, but she looks at me and says, "I'm looking for a DVD for a child who is rather heavy." And she stops, about faces, and scans the department.

I am unsure what to do. Does she want an exercise DVD, to help the child lose the "heavy"? Or does she want me to find a congratulatory DVD? Or one that portrays obesity in a positive light? (Hairspray doesn't come out for another few weeks). Perhaps she wants a DVD of Israel Kamakowiwo'ole singing "I Want Candy."

Well, she wants the exercise DVD. As I hand it to her I give her my member card speech and she looks at me like I'm trying to sell her second-rate crystal meth. "Why would I want that?" she asks. "My wallet is too heavy as it is."

"Perhaps," I respond, "we can find it an exercise DVD as well."


A fifteen year old boy in a white, backwards baseball cap and an undershirt walks into the music department and comes up to me standing behind the counter.

"Emir," he says. And expectantly waits.

I think he's speaking another language to me. "Emir," I respond, bowing a little.

"Emir." He repeats himself and then folds his arms.

This can't be a greeting, I determine. So I look at him. "Do you want something?"


"Is that a DVD?"


"Is it a CD?"


I type it in. Nothing of note comes up.

"Can you spell that?"


OH! I exclaim and type it in. There's one CD and he scans it under our listening music station. The sound that emerges from the headphones sounds like what I imagine the death lament of a Transfomer would be. Or, perhaps, a thousand crying baby seals. Or the sound of one mime begetting another mime.

I'm all for mime-on-mime action.

Anyway, he listens to this music and, at 2:30 pm exactly, leaves the deparment.

"Now I'm totally pumped for my concert!" He exclaims into the air.

"Emir," I respond.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Grunts


It’s getting close to Harry Potter (Book 7) time at Booth and Noble, and things could not be any more hectic. Children are screaming; parents are fuming; Grunts are laughing at the funny looking people.

And I am once again astounded by the absurd reality in which we live.

For example, a pregnant woman walks up to the Information Kiosk with a determined look in her eye. And a baby inside her stomach (she was pregnant, but I also think she had eaten a child).

As she walks up, she slams her fist on the counter. “Is this where I order that Harry Potter?”

“Yes,” I say, typing the ISBN number quickly into the computer. “How many copies would you like?”

“Oh,” she laughs heartily, “just the one.” Then she rubs her stomach in a manner vaguely reminiscent of Gordon Ramsey rubbing spice into a hunk of red meat.

I order the book for her, she thanks me, and walks away. Then she stops, and turns, and heads back to the kiosk. “I have another question,” she says, basting her belly.

“Yes,” I sigh like a man on death row.

“I just want to make sure: is this the first edition?”

“I’m sorry?”

“The first edition of Harry Potter. Is the book I ordered a first edition?” The large gold medallions hung around her neck swing back and forth, hypnotizing me.

“You mean, the book that is being released around the world to fanfare and hundreds of thousands of eager adults and children?”


“The book that the world has literally been waiting ten years for? The one that answers all the question? The book that J. K. Rowling has put in her will in case she dies?”


“…Then yes, it is a first edition.”

But not everyone is super excited about Harry Potter. I was working in the music department when a woman walks up to me, her children leashed to her like it was the iditarod. A veritable cloud of cigar smoke curled around her sneered lips as she opened her craggy mouth with a creaking slurg.
“Ai’im lookin’ fur France-sis the Takin’ Moole.”

“Excuse me?”

“That Moole moo-vy. I want the France-sis Moole moo-vie.”

“Francis the Talking Mule?”

“Thaits what Ai sayd.”

I quickly look on the computer. “I see a couple of movies, here:” and I name them for her.

She gets a pained look on her face, like she was passing a watermelon. “Ees eet the moole moo-vy?”

I say, “Yes, it’s a Francis the Talking Mule Movie.”

“Ai want the woon with the Moole.”

“Yes, this is the one with the mule.”

“The woon wit the takin’ moole?’

“Yes, the one with the talking mule.”

“Are yu shoore?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

“The takin’ moole?”


“Ai want eet.”

“I can order that for you.” And then I ordered it for her. After it was ordered, she dragged her poor children around like deflated balloons.

I shook my head as she left, aware for not the first time that the very fate of human kind hung in the balance.

The next shift at the Information Kiosk found more people attempting to interact with me. The highlight of this interaction may have been the man who loudly informed the store that he would rather have a $40,000 guitar than work in a bookstore. I asked if they were mutually exclusive activities.

Turns out, guitars are different from bookstores. But I guess I didn’t need to tell you that.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Children, and the Experiment of Life at Booth and Noble


Apologies for the length of time between posts. Turns out -- I was on vacation last week! My affairs, however, are now in order and it is time to return to the wasteland that is Booth and Noble.

The past couple of times I've worked as a Grunt I've been surprised by the ineptitude of children. Turns out, they're not very intelligent. Or considerate. Or quiet.

See, it's "summer reading" time at Booth and Noble, which means that parents drag their grade school children and teenagers to the Booth and Noble to get them books -- people that have never cracked a book in their life are now "helping" their progeny find a book that they will never actually read. These illiterate children pick up the book like it's made of seaweed and wrinkle their noses like it smells like seaweed, and then hand the book to their parents to purchase, like seaweed. Perhaps we should ban them from entering the store.

I'm all for children's literacy. I think Harry Potter is really good. (I do, really!). I think it's great that children are reading, and that books have opened up their imagination and kept them inside and away from all the places I go, like bus stops, restaurants, and restrooms.

However, these children do come into Booth and Noble, so I guess I'm not completely free of them. They stand in the middle of the aisle, having not yet been taught by their parents (or any capable authority figure) the proper way to get out of the way.

In fact, this seems to be the problem here. Children themselves are lovely, cute, edible people. But when they aren't taught by adults to behave in an adult world, or when they are coddled to the point of lunacy, or when they are allowed to roam freely around screaming like they're on fire because the parents think that their precious little darling is more important than any other people in the store -- This is when the lovely, cute, edible people become denizens of the dark lord.

Anyway, what's been happening is that these children are running willy-nilly through the store, like they own the place.

The thing is, they do not. Booth and Noble own the place. Booth and Noble's policy is that I can kick kids in the face.

What this means is that I'm completely on edge, all the time, at work. When scores of kids run around because their parents let them act like douche bags, I become agitated. And I cannot give good customer service when I'm agitated.

So a father comes up to me yesterday and asks for some help, I am not as helpful as I could be.

He emerges from the test preparation books and asks, "I'm looking for a book that will help my daughter with Chemistry and Physics."

I ask, in reply, "Is she studying for a test? Do you want a test preparation book?" I thought to myself, perhaps he couldn't find the proper book in the test preparation books.

"No," he flatly says. "I want a book that will help her review concepts."

I decide to press this one step further, just to be sure.

"Many text preparation books have review in them. Are you sure it's not for a test?" I mean, it's July. Who buys a review book for the daughter after they've graduated?

"No, I need a review book." He is adamant.

So I take him to the science section -- all the way across the expanse of Booth and Noble. I hand him a good, solid review book of chemistry concepts, and a good, solid book of physics concepts. He looks at them and then turns to me.

"Will these help her study for the SAT?"

I looked at him like he had just dropped his trousers and shat on the floor.

"No, for that you'd want a TEST PREPARATION book." I lead him back to THE EXACT SAME SECTION as he had JUST LEFT and handed him the EXACT BOOK he had been looking at.

I'm not against children. Or against children reading. Maybe what I'm against are parents interfering with their children reading. Every day in the children's department at Booth and Noble we have parents telling their kids, "no, you don't want to read that." Or, "that book is too old for you." Or, worse yet, "you're not smart enough for that book." It's horrifying, knowing that our future is being told, at age 7, that they're too stupid for a book.

Maybe it's not children that should be banned from Booth and Noble, but parents.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Music Post II: The Return of George


Since it had been a week between my last two posts, I had accumulated sordid stories from across Booth and Noble. What follows is a small sampling of them:

"The Return of George"

Some of you may remember George. George is one of those customers that never seem to leave Booth and Noble. There are about five or six people who decide, for whatever reason, that Booth and Noble, a place of business, would be a fine place to spend their every waking hour. They arrive when the store opens, buy one small coffee (and numerous refills), and stay in the store until it approximately closes. We call these people "regulars," which is about as ironic a name as you can get, because they are anything but regular people. Those we Grunts like get called by their name. The ones we Grunts don't like get referred to by their identifying characteristics: "the professor," "smelly man with headphones," "euro-trash."

For some, however, we can't but help know their name.

For those of you that don't know George (not his real name, unfortunately), or don't know to whom I refer, I will illustrate with a quick recap of a previous post:

"A little while later, George walks in. Perhaps I should describe George for you so that you get an idea of what he looks like.

George is over six foot tall and large. I wouldn't call him obese, but he obviously enjoys a good OCB five or six times a week. He's in his late 40s, early 50s and he always wears a ridiculous trucker's hat. … He wears a bluetooth in his ear at all times, even though I have never seen (or heard -- importantly, you will see) him on the phone. He is permanently in need of a shave.

Also, George also cannot control the volume of his voice.

Some would call this tragic. Others would say, then George should watch what he says. However, neither of these would be appropriate for George. The first time I met him, he asked me (loudly) if I had any DOCUMENTARIES ABOUT SHARKS!

Anyway, yesterday he walks in and he screams (and I mean SCREAM - he's talking FULL VOLUME and can be heard ALL OVER THE STORE) "I'M LOOKING FOR MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR BY ELTON JOHN."

I say, "I think The Beatles did that."


Perhaps I'm unfamiliar with it, so I look it up. But I didn't find it. I tell him so.

George then remarks: "I WILL BROWSE NOW." The guy reminds me of Andre the Giant.

He wanders around Soul for a while until he comes back and screams, "DO YOU HAVE THE PONY SONG?"



"I'm not familiar with it. Do you have a title?"

"NO, BUT I CAN SING IT." And this is where he starts singing, top of his lungs, "RIDE....MY PONY! RIIIIIIIDDDDDDEEE! MY PONY!" And as if I didn't understand this, he then starts dancing.

His dance involves an oddly stilted undulation and a strict up and down movement, as if one was indeed riding a pony. He does, however, offer the occasional "smack" onto the pony's rear end...and then, yes, begins to sing again.


Although I’m familiar with the song, I never ever want to hear it again."

I wrote those words, back when this blog was an infant of blogs (a blogette). Since then, George has not come back into Booth and Noble -- at least, not when I was working.

At least, not until the other day.

George lumbers in, on a mission.


I look at him. "Ok, can I find anything for you?"


A quick check on the computer reveals that we do not. I tell him so, my voice quivering through the sheer inertia that his voice powers through the air.


"I'm sorry. Looks like you're..." and that's when it hits me. "...stuck here." I sigh, audibly. "How long until it's repaired?"

"THEY TELL ME AN HOUR." Inwardly, I cheer. Outwardly, I ... well ... cheer.

Later, however, George wanders back into the music department. He examines some DVDs and then his phone -- his bluetooth -- starts to ring off the hook (off the ear?).


That's not the most agitating thing about working in the music department, though. What really ends up being the turning point from a good day to a bad (and they all pretty much hinge on one or two customers) are the People that Assume Too Much (the PATM). The PATM assume that a) because I work in music I must know every single song on the radio at the moment and b) that I care what they think about music.

A) A gentleman comes into Booth and Noble with a request: do we have a particular song, by a particular artist? It is a normal enough question -- at least, normal enough for Booth and Noble, where our average customer is less-than-literate.

However, what is amazing is that this gentleman doesn't know 1) the artist or 2) the song title. He does, as he points out however, know how the song goes. And then he proceeds to sing it for me. Not with words, mind you -- that would be too easy. No, he sings it with "tra"s and "la"s and "fa"s, like a beautiful aria from Puccini.

Needless to say, I have no idea what he is singing. A random grouping of notes, sung off-tune by an obese man with a beard, does not a jukebox make.

B) A woman rushes into Booth and Noble's music department with an urgent -- URGENT -- request.

"I must have Nickelback's album," she practically screams at me. I lead her to the "Nickelback" area of the Pop Rock section, helpfully labeled "N" right after "M" and right before "O."

She grabs the album and races me back to the cash register. I saunter, because I don't care and I'm not in a rush.

She impatiently taps on the counter.

"Come on!"

I wind my way back behind the counter and ring up her order. I do not make polite chit-chat because 1) I don't care and 2) she is annoyingly too excited about Nickelback.

She, however, wants to be best friends with me. "Do you love Nickelback?" she asks me. "No," I honestly reply. "Why not?" she demands. "I don't know," I truthfully say. "I really wish I did though." That was a lie. A lie to make her feel better.

She then whips out her phone. "You know how much I love Nickelback?" I shook my head, afraid that she was about to call the lead singer of Nickelback to tell her she was horny for him.

She hit a button.

A song started playing.

A Nickelback song.

"That's how much." And she smiled a sweet smile, as if to say, "I love Nickelback more than anything in the world."

Because nothing says "love" like a ringtone.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Mean People in Music


Dare I apologize for the length of time between my posts recently? Dare I assume that my feeble excuse will suffice to excuse my lack of written record of the goings-on at Booth and Noble? Dare I feel bad about working too many long hours to post?

I dare.

On the plus side, I have been recording, for your edification and entertainment, incidents that have aroused feelings of pity for the entire future of the human race in me. I say this without hyperbole or exaggeration. The entire human race .

The past few days I have been stuck in the music department of Booth and Noble, because they are ashamed of me and want to keep me locked in the attic like a crazy aunt from a book. This has not stopped the hoi polloi from coming to visit, in waves and in masses.

A few days ago, a mumbling man arrived in our department and made a beeline for me, standing behind the counter. If any human being has come closer to looking like The Creature from Where the Wild Things Are, then I would be very surprised. This man might have had horns. His grizzled beard scratched against my eyes like a brillo on a steel sink. Fearing for my sight, I glanced down and couldn't help but be distracted by the tee shirt covering his enormous glut of a gut.

He wanders over to me and mumbles something. It sounds like rocks in a garbage disposal.

"Ghasght fasdb awef, fbts?"

"Excuse me," I reply, "Can you repeat yourself?"

"Ghasght fasdb awef, fbts?"

"I'm sorry, I can't understand you."

I imagine that not having had social contact for approximately his entire life would retard his speech development. So I start asking leading questions.

"Are you looking for something in this department?"


"Are you looking for a movie?"


Ok, this track wasn't work. I tried again.

"Can I help you find something specifically?"

Then I understood something:

"Befhanf jwekf SEASON 5 asdfb."

"Ah! You want Season 5 of a show! What show is it?"

And that's when I got everything:

"Auto Car Season 5 Soundtrack."

"Oh, you want...a soundtrack...for season five...of Auto Car. No problem, I can help you find that." Even though "that" doesn't actually exist.


"I am stunned. How can the only words this person know be "soundtrack" and "season five?" I continue to press him for information, but get very little. Eventually -- and this is literally ten minutes of arguing back and forth -- do I glean that what he actually wanted was

"The soundtrack to the fifth generation of Grand Theft Auto." Which we don't have. Which I told him, only to have him abruptly turn his bulk around and leave the department.

The next day, a woman who could quite possibly be the meanest woman in the world came to the music department with an adorable little girl. The girl couldn't have been more than ten, and obviously enjoyed reading. She would run out of the music department, search for another book, and run back in to her mother:

"Can I get this one?"

The mother would look at the book, sneer, and say

"Why do you want to read that?" Because we obviously don't want to encourage literacy in our children.

The epitome of the disaster that was this woman was when the daughter came bouncing up to her holding a copy of Number the Stars and she replies, upon seeing it, "You wouldn't even understand what was going on."

Anyway, the two of them browse for about 2 hours, and barely say one word to me. I am not upset. However, the words that she does say are mean and created in me the almost irresistible urge to smack her across the face and say, "shut up and get away from the religious music, you sadistic hypocrite!" Finally, however, she does have a question for me:

"Do you have the religious song about dancing and God?"

I don't quite know what to say, so I simply revert to my standard:

"I don't know, let me look it up for you."

We spend about five minutes searching and low and behold we find something for her. During those five minutes, I can feel her hot breath on my neck, like a dragon toasting a marshmallow made not from horses hooves, but from human hearts.

She gets the CD and brings it back to the counter. And then speaks the immortal words:

"If I hadn't found that song, I'd be in a bad mood."

Because she was in such a good mood before.

Well, dearies, I must depart and actually go to Booth and Noble. Later, I will post about the Return of George, and spelling woes.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Getting Familiar in Music


It's a strange fact of nature that people have varying degrees of closeness when they enter an establishment or a place of business. Any Grunt can tell you that they have experienced the unusual friendliness with various customers. Usually this happens to the women in Booth and Noble. For example, a fellow Grunt of mine has been harassed on more than one occasion by customers who feel that it is their life-long duty to compliment women on their various physical assets.

Occasionally they also like to touch these assets.

Thankfully, I have no such assets, or at least, not any worth touching.

At least, I thought so until yesterday at Booth and Noble.

I was helping a customer out (her: "Do you sell Bottlecaps?" Me: "You mean like, Bottlecaps? Or do you mean a book on Bottlecaps?" Her: "I mean Bottlecaps." Me: "Besides the fact this is a bookstore, you are also in the Music section. Why would we have Bottlecaps?" Her: "I thought you sold anything here." Me: "We do. Everything except Bottlecaps.") when an oldish woman came walking up to me at the counter.

There is perhaps nothing as disturbing as someone who interrupts another customer to ask another inane question.

The woman hobbled over, her knees like two popcorn kernels unfortunately revealed to the world thanks to her short shorts. She interrupts the poor Bottlecap woman to ask,
"Do you sell CDs here?"

I look around the Music department and inward die a little bit. "Yes, ma'am, we do. If you give me one moment I can help you find something."

She waits for exactly half of one moment and then opens her craggy mouth again.

"I'm just looking for Michael Buble."

"Aren't we all just looking for Michael Buble, ma'am. Please let me finish up with this customer first." I turn back to the other woman. "We have no Bottlecaps. Why don't you try this DVD of Casino Royale instead?" Finally, I turn back to the second lady.

"Michael Buble?" I ask. "Follow me." I lead her over to the Buble section, and as we're going, she leans into me and grabs my elbow.

"You certainly know your way around this department." At first I think this is a compliment. Then I realize that this is...something more. I quickly lead her to the Buble section (yes, we have an entire section of Buble at the moment) and extricate myself from the situation.

I literally have to peel my arm out of her clutch.

A few moments later she comes back over to the desk, noticeably not holding a CD. "Do you have Tony Bennett CDs?" she asks. Now, for those of you alphabetically confused, you may not realize that Bennett and Buble are surprisingly close together in the alphabet. It is nigh impossible to see the Michael Buble CDs without seeing the Tony Bennett CDs. This is mighty strange.

I take her back over to the exact same location. As we walk, her hand grabs my elbow again, but then slowly moves up to my triceps.

Now, I am not the most muscular man in the world -- far from it. However, I involuntarily flex a little when she grabs me, not because I'm trying to show off, but because I am so startled, my entire body started. I am not, by the way, proud of this fact.

She gives a little gasp. "Oo."

My eyes widen: "O - O"

I quickly retreat again.

A few moments later she comes back to the counter, this time holding a CD. "I'm ready to check out now," she says, looking me up and down. I take her CD and as I grab it, her fingers reach out and lightly brush the back of my hand.

I gulped and hurried through with the transaction, anxious to get her out of the department and out of my life.

She buys the CD and then starts to head away. I -- a horrible, horrible mistake -- leave the safety of the Music counter and start to continue a job I started before she had arrived. She sees me leave and decides it would be a great time to turn around. She reaches her hand out as I pass her and lays it on my shoulder. Her head turns ever so slightly, her lips pursed. I back away like she had just vomited on my face. Her eyes, opened, meet mine and I think I detect a brief wink. "You really know your way around...this department." Then she wanders out of the Music department.

This incident, thankfully, was not at the end of my shift, otherwise I would have been terrified that she would have broken into my car and been laying there, spread-eagled, waiting for my return.

They say that familiarity breeds contempt.

I would say that contempt is always present. Familiarity just brings it out.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Day of Rest?


Sundays, traditionally in the Judeo-Christian ideological base, exist as Days of Rest. When I was in Sunday School, seven of us children were picked to draw each of the days of creation. My randomly drawn day? Fuckin' Sunday. I drew an old man in a hammock.

See, it is on a Sunday that one is supposed to take it easy, to sleep in and eat French toast and pick daisies and kick toads.

So why do so many people ignore this cultural precept and come to Booth and Noble?

And why do they seem so upset to be in a bookstore?

Bookstores are supposed to be fun places. You go to one because you want to, not because you have to. If you're there because you have to get a present, why don't you just go to a Target, or a Wal-Mart, or a pet store? Why do you feel like you HAVE to come to Booth and Noble to get a gift? And, if it's such a hassle, why don't you just get a gift card, so that you don't have to bother people?

The point is, if you're mildly psychopathic, and you have questions for the Grunts on a Sunday morning, then be very careful what you ask for. For example, a man comes up to me yesterday with this glazed look in his eyes, like he just ate one too many fish fingers and he can kinda taste the breading coming back up in his throat. He coughs a little bit, and looks to his left and his right, as if he was being chased by the pie throwing fiends who got Bill Gates .

His obese jowls wobbled hypnotically when he opened his wet, slippery lips to reveal a mouth that would make a dentist quiver. Half his teeth are missing, and the other half look ready to follow their brothers into dental exile. His massive cheeks, like a cross between Dizzy Gillespie and a inflamed squirrel , part and a slight wind tunnel is created that shoots hot air into my face. He smells like peat moss.

"Do you have books for quarters?" he asks. This is not an unreasonable question. The books of which he speaks are in a less-traversed corner of the store, so I take him there.

"Do you want one with State Quarters, or one with the new Presidential Dollar coins coming out soon?" I ask, also, I feel, not unreasonably.

He looks at me like I just squashed his hamster, or at least served it as an appetizer .

"No." He looks me up and down. "I want one without quarters in it. Empty. I don't want Booth and Noble quarters."

I tilt my head quizzically and nod sympathetically. "Yes, sir. I'll make sure you get an empty case." Then I leave.

Later in the day, a customer yelled for me to come over to her. I was standing at the information desk, trying hard to look like I was busy, and she was on her mobile phone in the cookbooks section.

"Excuse me!" she yells, across the store.

I look around. She's talking to me? Ok, and I walk over.

"Can I help you?"

She's got one of those Nextel phone/walki-talki sucki phones that are really loud and annoying. She yells into it:

"The guy's here. What do you want?"

The phone answers: "::beep beep:: Tell him I want The Abs Diet for Women. ." Yes, if you want to get an Abs Diet book, the best way is to not get off your couch and send someone else for it. That's like working out by watching Soccer on TV, or learning by eating someone else's brain.

The woman in the store turns to me. "Do you have The Abs Diet for Women?"

I say, "If you'll let me get to a computer, I can go check for you." I head BACK to the information kiosk, where the computers are. I hear, from behind me, the woman say into the phone "::beep beep:: He's checking the computer."

I look it up and find it. It's directly behind her. I walk back to her, and pick the book up off the shelf, not a foot and a half from her behind. "Here it is, Ma'am."

She looks at me, at the book, and then at the phone. "::beep beep:: He's got it here."

Phone: "::beep beep:: Great! How much is it?"

I sigh, outwardly and with great gusto.

The woman looks at me. "How much is it?"

I turn the book around and look at the back. "$24.95"

"::beep beep:: It's $24.95."

":: beep beep:: Is it on discount?"

"Is it on discount?"

"Yes, it's 20 percent off. That's what this 20 percent off sticker means."

"::beep beep:: It's 20 percent off. There's a sticker."

"::beep beep:: I'll take it."

"We'll take it."

"I'm relieved," I say, as I walk back to the kiosk.

Moments later, I walk back to the section to see if anything's out of order, and I notice that the woman's cell phone is there. I think to myself, "Wow, that woman really irritated me, I should leave the phone here and make her leave and come back for it."

But I'm not going to turn into one of Booth and Noble's customers. So I head to the cash area, to give her phone back to her. She's standing in line.

"Ma'am, I think you left your phone." I hand it to her.

"Oh." She says. And looks at me. And turns away.

I stand there a moment, slightly aghast. No thank you? Not even an "I'm Sorry?" Or even a "::beep beep:: I'm Sorry?" All I get is an "Oh." ?

Sunday: A day when you rest...after work...with a scotch.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Music though the Ages


You know, I am not a vindictive person. When I'm a working as a Grunt at Booth and Noble, I don't normally have the desire to leave the store and follow the annoying brigade down the street. Occasionally, though -- and admittedly, this is only on the rarest of occasions; the ones that call for immediate action -- I want to follow my music customers out into the world. I am curious to see what happens when they leave our music department. Do they wander aimlessly through life, as they do through my department? Do they go into their car and sit for a few minutes, wondering why it isn't already running? Do they get that same quizzical look in their eye -- the one when they're asking me to look up George Lucas's film Schindler's List, and are just so surprised when I tell them that it doesn't exist -- when they look in the mirror? ("Hey, that looks just like me, and that looks just like my room! But backwards! Where is that strange, magical world? This is astounding! I should go tell the Grunt at Booth and Noble about this!")

I am curious about this, because I have no idea how some of these people function in their daily interactions in real life, outside Booth and Noble. On the one hand, I'm sure they have figured out a way -- much like a pianist with no hands can play with his/her feet, or a blind person uses a dog to help him/her see. They must have the ability to function in the real world, simply because they DO exist, and we DO close the store, so they MUST go somewhere outside of the hours of 9am and 10pm. On the other hand, I can conceive of no way that, using the same formula of interaction that they use with me, they can possibly have any sort of functional interaction outside in the real world.

For example, a customer calls me the other day. He asks what appears to be a pretty common-sense question, especially for someone calling on the phone:
"Do you have Atom Egoyan's film Exotica?"

I think that we do, and as I am out on the music floor anyway (and not behind the cage-like counter), I decide to go check. I walk over to the drama section and say,
"Just to confirm, you wanted Egoyan's Exotica?"
"No," he says, and I stop in my tracks. He continues: "I wanted Egoyan's Exotica."
"Yes," I respond, "Egoyan's Exotica."
"No, listen to me. Egoyan's Exotica. E-G-O-Y-A-N."
"YES, EGOYAN. Exotica."
"Do you have it?"
By this time I was at the drama section. We did have it, but I was getting so annoyed I nearly threw it out the window. "Yes, we have it," I sighed. "Do you want me to hold it for you?"

"No, thank you, I was just checking."

Checking? CHECKING? He is that curious in our stock count that he needs to check every so often. I imagine he calls up all the other stores in the area:
"Hello, Target? I was wondering if you had Green Towels?"
"Just to confirm, do you mean Green Towels?"
"NO, I mean GREEN Towels. G-R-E-E-N."

Sometimes, I'm immensely curious to see if people share the types of information they share with me when they go into other stores. Do you remember Who Wants to be a Millionaire? When they were going to answer a question, a contestant would often explain how they knew the answer. It might be a minute long story. Imagine that, only without the dramatic music of the show or the wackiness of Meredeth Vieira. Oh, and it's deathly dull.

For example, yesterday a woman comes up to me clutching in her hands a CD of Mozart music. She remarks as I scan the CD in that "I love Mozart. He is my favorite." I grunt. She continues:
"I think that Mozart is hot."
I want to ask...I want to ask so badly, but I also know that if I ask I will be stuck talking to this woman forever. So I don't.

Thankfully, I didn't have to ask. She continued:

"I am going to get a tattoo of Mozart next week. It won't match my other two tattoos, but it will still look good."

Still, I continue the transaction: "That will be $15.62."

But she ignores me and instead of paying, decides it would be a good idea to explain to me further about her decision to get a Mozart Tattoo:

"Well, I want to get it, but I will only get it if I get good news..." She pauses, expecting me to respond with the only appropriate response. I do not, and respond with the only possible response:

"That will be $15.62"

She is not fazed. "I mean, in a few days, they might be pulling the plug on my mother. We'll see about the tattoo then."

At this point, I really want her to pay. I want her to take her CD and leave. In fact, I am very insistent upon this. "$15.62," I repeat. What I want to ask, though, is which is the good news in that situation? Does she get the tattoo if her mother is off the machine? Or does she get the tattoo if they don't pull the plug? Is death or recovery the good news?

It are these questions that keep me up at night.

Other customers aren't quite as intriguing. One woman comes up to me carrying five Pop Standards CDs -- you know, the Michael Buble, the Tony Bennett, the Barbra Streisand. She comes up to the counter and says, "I found everything I wanted, except for one thing." Thinking she wants to order it, I open up the computer. "What can I find for you?"

"No," she says, "you have it, but I don't want a used CD."

Now, Booth and Noble doesn't sell used CDs. So I tell her this. She responds, "but the CD is open!"

We've had problems with shoplifting recently, so I am immediately concerned. Rarely, however, are our Pop Standards shoplifted (you don't find many 80 year old people looking for the five finger discount. Mainly they look for the bathroom). I ask her to show me. We walk over to the section and she points out the CD -- the plastic wrap is slightly peeling at the corner.

"You know this is still new, don't you? That the CD is fine, never been played? That this is just the wrapping?"

"Yes, but I don't want a used one. I want my own one."

I have learned by now not to argue, so I just nod and say, "alright." She watches me take the CD back to the counter, remove some scotch tape from the black dispenser at my side, and tape the slight rip. I set the CD aside and scan in her merchandise.

Like I said, what does she do when she leaves? Does she walk into her house, sit on her couch and stare at the blank television, unsure if she should turn it on, because if she does, she will be watching a TV show that (shock!) others have seen?

I wonder these things, and more.