It’s been a long day. I have a headache. A very nice frequent loiterer comes in. The sort of nice that grates. I find myself smiling and chuckling so fake much that my headache is now an upper torso ache.
"What time is it?" He asks.
"Ten of nine." I say.
"Oh, you close soon, I don’t want to be that guy that comes in right before you close and make you stay late."
I smile. “I appreciate that, but we’re open until ten tonight.”
"Still." he says "I should leave. I have things to do."
"Okay." I smile.
A series of customers come through. I smile. I laugh. I can now feel my brain throbbing in my left pinky toe. At 9:50, I start to count the cash drawer. At 9:55, Too Nice Loiterer walks BACK into the store. “I guess I have some time to kill.” He says.
I feel like killing something, too. But it’s not time.
A guy walks into the store, bumble bee lines it to the porn section. A short while later, he was over by the new releases..”Hey, man, where did your GI Joe section go?” He asked.
"Sorry." I said. "People weren’t buying them off the shelves, so we only get enough for subscribers these days."
"Oh, man. I used to come in and read them every month." He said.
"Weird." I said. "We base our orders on sales. If you were buying one every month, we should still be getting them."
"Oh," he laughed, "I don’t buy comics. I just came in here and read them. Can you get new issues in for me?"
Really, dude? “If you buy them, yes. If you just want to read them and leave them on the shelf, no.”
He scrunches his eyes. “Then how am I supposed to read them?”
I smiled. “I guess you’ll have to take your non-business elsewhere.”
"For real, though, you’re ordering them, right?"
I continued to smile. “If you would like to subscribe to them, we’d be happy to put them aside for you to purchase them.”
"And if I don’t buy them..?" He asked.
"We cancel your subscription, and stop stocking them again."
He frowned, and walked out of the store. “I’ll be back next week.”
I’m certain he will be.
A very friendly family paws through the Giant Microbes box in our store.
"What should we get?" She asks her son. Then, to me, she says "It’s our fist time here."
"I think you should get the flu or the common cold." I say.
"But the chicken pox are so cute." She says.
"Yes." I reply,"but you can get the common cold and the flu over and over again. You can only get the chicken pox once."
And she has the nerve to look at me like I’m the strange one. I’m not the one buying viruses for my children.
I’m waiting for a burger, and a couple of students are passing a laptop back and forth. ”How do you even make a pdf?” One of them asks.
The other passes the laptop over him and says, “Look it up.”
First guy shrugs and starts typing. ”DUDE!” He says “What the fuck?”
"What?" Second guy asks.
"Why, when I type in ‘How do you make’ into Google does it suggest ‘How do you make your shit smell better’?"
I was laughing too hard to hear the answer. And then my food was ready.
When I got back to the store I typed “How do you” into Google. It suggested “How do you make french toast”. I don’t think our computers are on the same wavelength.
Near the end of a shift that started some time during the Adams administration (I can’t remember if it was John Adams or John Quincy Adams…it’s been that sort of day), the phone rings. I am standing on top of a ladder with the phone in my pocket because I’ve just got done inventorying the books in the window for my boss. “Store Name Redacted, how may I help you?”
"Greg?" says a familiar voice.
"Nope. Adam." I do not point out that there is no one here named Greg, and that he’s been calling one of my coworkers the wrong name for over a decade. Why do I not point this out? Because it’s Ask Me How Guy.
"Any books coming out this week?" He asks.
"Lots." I say. He likes to call every few days and ask about all the books I’ve read. He hasn’t bought a book here since the Bush administration (I can’t remember if it was George Walker Bush of Georger Herbert Walker Bush…it’s been that sort of lifetime), and I don’t feel like talking to him. "Is there a particular one you need to know about?"
"I’m sorry." he says. But he doesn’t mean it. "Long day?"
"Same amount of hours as every day." I say.
He laughs. “Do you like basketball?”
I know I’m going to regret answering this. “Yes.”
"It’s been an important day for basketball fans everywhere. Ask me why."
Damn. It. I do not ask why. I do not engage. I consider hanging up the phone.
"Because Dennis Rodman is in Korea. What do you think the short little slant eyes think of that?"
I now feel justified in hanging up the phone, so I do.
My coworker hears me let out a loud sigh. “Everything ok?”
I explain the conversation I just had. “All he had to say was ‘Did you hear Dennis Rodman is in North Korea? That’s crazy.’ and we’ve had an acceptable conversation, but he HAS to insert racism into everything.”
"Yea. That’s rough." She says. "Is there a reason you needed to have your last three conversations on a ladder?"
A smiling man* walks down the stairs, peers into the darkened windows of the copy place across the hall and turns to me to ask “What time do they open?”
"Monday." I say.
"Monday?" he asks. And now I can see him smiling.
"Monday." I say. "They’re closed Sunday."
"Well, you tell them they just lost a customer." He says, smiling.
"I can’t." I say. Also smiling.
"How come?" he asks.
"They’re closed." I say.
"You could tell them tomorrow." He suggests. Smiling.
"It’s my day off." I lie. "Besides, we have a strict policy, unless someone buys something from one of our stores, we can’t transfer each other’s messages."
He grimaces. “That’s a strange policy.”
"It helps weed out unnecessary negativity." I say. Smiling still.
"So, how do I leave them a message to let them know that I’m taking my business elsewhere?" And, I think, I really do think he’s kidding, to show off his knowledge that I am politely making fun of him.
"There’s a message service upstairs that can deliver your message." I lie. Smiling.
"Really now?" He says, also smiling.
"They charge $10 a message." I say. You know what my face is doing. "Or, you could buy a $3 comic, and I’ll throw in a message for free."
"Do you work on commission?" He asks.
"For that information, you have to buy, at least, this $1 Tintin button." I say. Anti-frowning.
"I would wish you a nice day," he says, the corners of his lips turned up in a manner indicating amusement. "but you seem to already be having one."
"It’s perpetual." I say, showing my teeth in a non-aggressive manner.
This day has been going on forever.
*- ok, I couldn’t see him smiling yet, but he walked like he was smiling
Ms. Floor Candy was in again tonight. She wandered in while A Perfectly Reasonable Customer was buying her books. She spent the first twenty minutes critiquing the woman’s choices and Casually Mentioning how she hitchhiked through England looking for Alan Moore. “He was really sweet.” She clearly lied. “Very down to Earth in a way most people can’t even comprehend.”
Reasonable Customer knew her from somewhere, and had about an hour-long conversation where she’d mention a book or a movie and Floor Candy would say “Oh God. I totally forgot to mention those in my novel. The main character in my novel. My novel. The novel I just finished. Do you want a copy of my novel? I just finished my novel. I should go back and put a reference into my novel. The themes of my novel. Ursula Le Guin was upset with the way they toyed with her novel, so I’m not letting anyone toy with my novel. Oh, I know. My novel. Do you want me to e-mail you a copy of my novel? My novel…”
While she droned on, a guy came in and asked “Do you have any books in Chinese?”
"No. Sorry." I said.
"Porn?" He asked.
I pointed to the Adult Section.
A smell overtook the store. A distinct Someone Shit Themselves smell. I couldn’t be certain it was Floor Candy but she seemed the most likely culprit.
While Porn Guy was flipping through Japanese porn, I overheard Floor Candy prattling on. “I don’t see movies based on books. They never do them justice, which is why I won’t let them film my novel. It’s not really finished finished. I haven’t edited my novel, but I wrote it from page one to page done. Hee hee. Do you want me to e-mail you a copy of it?”
"This is bullshit." Porn Guy says. "These are censored."
I shrugged but had grown mute.
"Do you have scrap paper?" Floor candy asked. The distinct odor of shit lingering around the counter.
"Post It Note, ok?" I asked.
"Pohst Eet Note?" She asked in a creepy falsetto with an accent.
I handed her some post it notes and a pen. She held on to the pen but ran her fingers over the pen case. “Black black black black black black.” She said in a completely different fake accent.
"Bullshit porn." Porn Guy said.
I gave Floor Candy a different black pen. I looked at the clock. She had been in the store since the Mesezoic Age.
"Spoilers spoilers spoilers." She said, in response to what I’m not sure. This time in a deep baritone. "I don’t want anyone to spoil my novel." And then she said "My novel!" in the creepy falsetto again.
Porn Guy left. “Let me nooooooooooooooote that.” Floor Candy woman said, in response to something I hadn’t paid attention to. And she reached over the counter for a purple marker. Her arm and hand covered in indecipherable text. Tattoos from a blind artist on acid.
"Froggy." She said in the creepy falsetto. This was not in response to anything that involved frogs. "Froggy. Froggy. Nippy rabbit. I deed. I deed."
"Did you read Bone?" Reasonable Customer asked.
"I read Princess Bride. I reference it in my novel." Floor Candy said.
"What about Bone?" Customer asked.
"I’m waiting until it’s done. It’s taking forever." Floor Candy said.
"It’s been finished for almost ten years." I said.
"No. It’s not done." she said in her normal voice. "Not done." in creepy falsetto.
"It is, actually." I said. "They recently put out a sequel series of novels. But those are done now, too. But the original series ended in 2004."
"Some of them are done but not all of them." she said in a baby voice.
"Nope." I said. "They’re all done."
"All done." she said in the creepy baby voice.
Another hour passed. A day. A week. A month. A unit of time that even stars can’t conceive of..
"That reminds me." she said in her normal voice. "There’s a scene in my nov—"
"I’m so sorry." I said. "I just noticed that we’re actually closed." Something that must have looked like the inbred child of a smile and anguish spread over my face.
"Yea, I haven’t even eaten dinner yet." normal voice. "Yay, dinner!" creepy falsetto. "What type of food do you like?" weird baritone.
"I’m sorry." I said. "You really need to go. I have to" come up with an obvious lie to get you the hell out of this store "close up." Ok, that was just the truth.
"Cloooooooooooooooooooosed." she said in the baby voice.
"Thanks for letting us hang out." Reasonable Customer With Terrible Taste In Conversation Partners said.
"Bye." I said, closing the smell of human fecal matter on the other side of the door.
As soon as they went outside, I locked the door to the building, and went into the hall to find out what Floor Candy had written on the Post It Note.
"Writer. Looking for serious artists for collaboration. No weirdos."