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.