Encounters in Publishing


Encounters in a Bookstore #488: PUMPED UP CONVOS

Sometimes in the bookstore where I work we have side conversations with one another, as we’re also handling customers. This is generally frowned upon, but much of the time we can’t help it. Because we have started listening to Pandora streams instead of Muzak, music is commonly a topic of these conversations.

Recently Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” was bouncing over the speakers, and after I’d greeted the two people who’d appeared before my register, I turned briefly to my fellow Iowan, and also coworker, Aaron. X “Hey Aaron, do you know what this song is about?”

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Encounters in a Bookstore #136: It’s Only Money and It’s Not Mine

On a typical day at the bookstore where I work, I’ll touch at least $1500 during a shift. Perhaps double that, if we’re talking Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day. None of that matters, though, because none of that is money that I can take home with me.

But if there is money left unattended on, say, the floor, that cash is totally up for grabs. The person who rakes in most of it? Ken the maintenance man…though it’s likely the other maintenance dudes get their fair share.

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Encounters in a Bookstore #251: A Day for Crying

It was a day for crying. I’ll be honest: many days at the bookstore are days for crying, but let’s not dwell on that. No, a few Sundays back it was a day for the children to be crying, crying all over the bookstore.

The most intense one was a little girl with brown ringlets for hair, a velvet magenta dress on her body, white stockings to cover her legs, and smart patent black shoes on her feet. She came in crying. Her father came in with her. They disappeared to the basement, where the children’s section is housed.

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Encounters in a Bookstore #143: The Ability to Read

It’s a rare day when I take recommendations from customers. Maybe that’s pretentious of me, but to be honest, it’s also a rare day when I take recommendations from friends. Just ask how long it’s taking me to watch a friend-lended complete set of The Wire, or how many years I let go by before finally reading one of the best fantasy novels I have ever set eyes on.

Actually, better that you don’t ask.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t listen to customers as they’re recommending something. Thus, the man buying two copies of Pete Hamill’s Forever.

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Encounters in a Bookstore #86: Closing Time

There was a time in my life when I was excited at the prospect of “closing” a bar. I was in Virginia somewhere, the bars closed at 2am, we were there for last call, and then we were still there when the main lights flicked on. And then we left.

The bookstore where I work closes at 11pm. One night per week I am scheduled to work the closing shift, and closing time always seems slow to come. The hours stagger by, I lean against the cash register, someone else rearranges the bestseller wall, and the customers mosey about the store, leaving this book on that shelf and that magazine there on the floor. Maybe that plush toy gets left on this DVD rack. This cup of coffee gets spilled on those new nonfiction hardcovers.

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Encounters in a Bookstore #11: A Holiday Reflection

Several months ago there was an article in a New York-centric magazine detailing the idea that mutual dislike fosters stronger friendships. For those with a sunny disposition, I can understand how this article may be puzzling. Why would people who are in bad moods gravitate to other people in bad moods? Why ever would one grumpy person find comfort in another grump.

For the rest of you—us, rather—we can nod our heads. I’d like to use my part-time bookstore job as a prime example.

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