Saturday, August 30, 2008

speaking volumes

I work in retail. Not my life's pursuit. It is however, a pretty rich source of daily entertainment for me. People are amazing on so many levels. Some you want to hug. Some you want to kick. Some come in and spend more on three paintings than I make in a year. Some can't seem to live another moment without purchasing a greeting card. And all those in between.

Of course, no matter what the financial situation seems to be, few of them actually say the word please. In fact, out of the first 20 customers yesterday, only one said please. Disappointing. But on to the story.

Sometimes you can have short conversations with customers while they are waiting for their gifts to be wrapped or while they are browsing. One couple spent an hour picking a number of little gifts and chatting with me while it was relatively slow. The last item selected was, of course, a bookmark. We have a container of very cool inlaid Mitercraft wooden ones on the sales desk and they have the effect of causing all those who see them to empty out the container, line them all up and systematically eliminate those deemed unworthy until, at last, the mother of all bookmarks is found and proudly handed over to be placed, oh so carefully, into a plastic sleeve to safeguard this most wonderful of treasures against the cruel world of traveling home to CT. Or PA. Or NJ.

This is not meant to degrade the lowly bookmark. Indeed, I have at least 100 lingering in books from here to CO. And always buy more. You see, I have a problem. I love books. And I buy them. Lots of books. My husband calls the bookstore "the babysitter" and when we are out doing errands for him (lumber yard, building centers, etc.) he always kindly offers to drop me off at the babysitter while he's busy. I can be entertained in this way for hours. The library has the same effect on me. Currently I have three books going, a book on my iPod and an audio book in the car's CD player. Oh, there's a book in the car too just in case I get stuck somewhere. My parents keep blankets and flashlights in their car for when they get stuck. Weird.

Back to the couple. While making his final bookmark selection, the husband mentioned going to Tim's Used Books in Ptown. So I commented, "you can never have too many bookmarks. Tim's is one of my all-time favorite places." The husband grinned hugely and said "me too!" (Note: couple was not native to this area and not everyone knows about this hidden treasure of bookdom). The wife looked at me and said "you read?" Why yes, yes I do. It was a skill learned early in my education actually. The fact that I look like a librarian is clearly meant to deceive you into believing I am an ignoramus incapable of working outside of the retail arena. Let me go back to my monosyllabic existence under this rock with my B.A. and M.A. degrees. Ha! That will teach you to judge this book by it's cover.

I am quite sure these thoughts was clearly displayed on my face (it's been noted that I have a "glass face") because the husband started immediately chatting about books, and what he's read lately and that he has the same problem with books that I do. The wife just looked puzzled. Maybe she's the one that goes to the lumber yard while he's at the babysitters'?

Why should it surprise anyone that someone else can read? Is it that no one does anymore? Parents have no time to read bedtime stories. College students download textbooks onto their iPods - no more slogging to the library before exams. Even on the beach, the destination of many a clandestinely read trashy novel, books are few a far between. Whatever happened to the whole concept of books? They represent a part of our society that is deemed outdated and has now been electronically, and maybe genetically, engineered to fit into our lives while losing the flavor in the process.

Take a moment to read a book to a child and see what happens. Take 10 minutes for yourself and pick one up and read a chapter. You'll be surprised.

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