Encounters in Publishing

Encounters in a Bookstore #537: The Trifecta

On a rainy and surprisingly busy Sunday, one of the managers at the bookstore where I work completed a trifecta that no one ever really sets out to accomplish.

Around 12:30 a little girl and her father bought a few items, and as he was putting his wallet away, she started shrieking and moving in little jerky circles. All things considered, he seems to have responded much too calmly. Turns out she wet herself, and the floor. He rifled through the stroller a little bit, she cried a little, and he said, “Looks like we don’t have a change of clothes.”

Then he turned to me, said, “A potty-training setback,” shrugged, and they both left. The puddle of urine, of course, remained.


Encounters in a Bookstore #360: NOT BETWEEN THOSE PAGES

At the bookstore where I work, sometimes you can tell trouble just from seeing its face across the store.

This time, upon approaching my register, trouble was a fidgety man with shifty eyes. There was no line behind him; it was 10:15 on a Monday night. He had an incoherent way of suggesting he had a book on hold, but eventually revealed his reason to be at the cash register. Once I located his order on the shelf, I walked back to my register and simultaneously removed the hold slip, hoping the book would reveal an explanation for his awkwardness, or perhaps a reason to think him less so. The Elegant Universe, perhaps. Or A Brief History of Time. Even How to Win Friends and Influence People would have been acceptable.


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?”


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.


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.


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.