As you may or may not realize, the Grunt's job at Booth and Noble is more than helping customers find the "Janet Evanovich" section, or letting people know that, no, we don't have a copy machine. In a bookstore.
No, part of our job is also to field questions from the telephone. The phone rings, and we, as Grunts, must answer the phone like this:
"Thank you for calling Booth and Noble. How can I help you today?"
However, some of our employees answer the phone differently:
If it's busy at the Information Kiosk when the phone rings, we're supposed to answer it as such:
"Thank you for calling Booth and Noble. Can you hold please?"
When it's not busy, we're supposed to help the person find whatever they're looking for. However, more often than not, the people that call have no idea what they want. And they want us to find it.
Case in point: the other day a man calls and I answer the phone:
"Thank you for calling Booth and Noble. How can I help you today?"
"Yeah," he rasps, "do you have that book Frankenstein?
"Sure, by Mary Shelly. Do you want me to hold a copy for you?"
"No, that's not it."
"Um...I'm pretty sure Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein."
"No, it's written by a dude."
"I'm pretty sure Frankenstein was written by a woman."
"NO! IT WASN'T!" he yells.
I look confused. Then a manager comes over, and I ask her opinion about what to do. She looks at me, shakes her head, and then goes to the fiction section. A few second later: This appears.
Damn you, Dean Koontz! Damn you for making me appear a fool!
In light of this, I decided to be less literate with the rest of my phone calls.
The phone rang later. I pick up:
"Hi, is this Booth and Noble?"
"huh." This one sounds more affirmative than the last.
"I was wondering if you could help me." It was a pleasant, feminine voice.
"Sure," I say, perking up. It's not often there is a pleasant voice on the other end of the line.
"I was wondering if you could help me find some magazines," she finished saying.
"Sure," I say, not knowing where this was going to lead.
"Ok, I'm not sure of the title, but I think it's something like Tattoo Life ."
As it happens, we had three copies of Tattoo life , or whatever it was, so I held them for her. She came in later that day to pick them up.
When she came in, she looked like a troll. Actually, she probably looked like a troll most of the time, not just when she came into my store. Like she just decided that day, "well, I'd better put on my bulbous and veinous nose today, time for a trip to Booth and Noble!"
Anyway, she picks up the copies of Tattoo Life and proceeds to come through my check out line (I was at this point working at the cash registers). She points to the cover.
"Do you know who this is?" the troll rasped.
The woman on the cover looked like a hooker with a bad GPA. She was, of course, covered in tattoos, but more so than that, looked like she'd been pulled off the street by a rich lawyer who needs an escort for functions and then will fall in love with her but only if she kisses him on the lips. That's what she looked like. Here is another example of the type of sex worker she resembled.
I responded: "no, I don't."
The old woman then leans in mischievously: "That's my daughter."
I hastily loll my tongue back into my mouth and respond with a choked: "eep. Really? I bet you're very proud!"
The woman responds: "I am as proud as a Mother can be." And then she touches the pentangle around her neck and looks at me lasciviously.
Later that day, another woman comes in. She is short and stocky and looks a little like Liza Minelli. As I ring up her sale she does that thing that all sales clerks hate beyond anything else:
She doesn't stop chatting.
Now, I'm really happy for her that
- her son is out of prison
- her father's heart attack isn't serious
- her life is better than it was a year ago
- she thinks Georgie Bush Jr. is the best president we've had since Jesus
- she hates high gas prices (even though it's actually cheap, comparatively .
- she finally found that book she was looking for
but I don't need to hear about it. Especially when it's near the end of the workday.
So she's mindlessly rattling off this stuff and I am not even pretending anymore . Usually I try and pretend to listen, to throw in some "uh-huhs" and "yeahs" and "amen!s" into the mix. But this time I was so annoyed I literally said nothing until we finished the transaction. At that point, I said:
"Thank you and have a nice night," to which she replied:
If this had been a "normal" interaction between two people, even something as odd as "danka schoen" coming out of a normally-English-speaking mouth wouldn't be completely out of the ordinary. But this is not "normal." This is Booth and Noble.
So, of course, she starts to sing.
"Danke Schoen, darling Danke Schoen.
Thank you for all the joy and pain.
Picture shows, second balcony, was the place we'd meet, second seat, go Dutch treat, you were sweet..."
and dancing in the front of the store. Meanwhile, I'm standing there like a fart in a bucket looking at her, holding her bag in my outstretched hand.
She finally stops and comes back. "Oh, I'm sorry!" she exclaims, "but I work at a community theatre..."
Side note: a statement which wins the "obvious statement of the year award"
"...and sometimes I just break into song!" Then she laughs, this horrible cackle of a laugh. Then she suddenly, and unexpectedly, stops.
She looks at me.
"I better stop. He gets mad at me if I sing a lot." She looks around. Leans in closer and nods her head in a particular direction: "If I don't stop, he'll hit me!"
I look around. Not a soul in sight...
She silently turns around and walks out, into the ether of the night. I close my eyes , take a deep breath, and say,
"Can I help the next person in line, please?"
Here is a new section of the blog, much requested - some shout outs. Various places I've gone, seen, or been mentioned on (selfish self-promotion notwithstanding).
Shout out to Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, a snarky, yet wildly intelligent blog written by sassy ladies about the latest romance novels. Good stuff. The other day at Booth and Noble I found a romance book (watch out - link to Amazon.com) about a supernatural hunk with a bi-penis. Or, rather, not one penis split into two, but two penises for the price of one! Amazing...
The Bugle by John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman, a podcast of exceptional wit and humour. (Note: this is the correct type of humour).
Oh, and I was asked for directions this week: well, sorta. Not directions, per se, but more confirmation: I was walking the dog when a man comes up to me. "We on fourth street?" he asks. "Yes," I affirm. He walks away without a second word. So perhaps it wasn't directions, so much as a friendly reminder: we, indeed, are on Fourth Street.