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.