Monday, May 31, 2010

Customers 5

A man about in his 40's, clean shaven, wearing a polo shirt, with short, salt and pepper hair came up to the register.

"Best instrument in the world, the accordion."

"Is it?", I said.

"Best way to make friends is by playing the accordion."

Was he joking? Musician Weird Al Yankovic came to my mind. In an interview he'd joked that his parents wanted him to be popular, so when he was 11 they made him learn how to play the accordion. Weird Al has done pretty well with the accordion, it just doesn't seem like a great friend-making move, but that's just me.

I turned over the book the man brought up to the register and sure enough, it was Learn How to Play the Accordion.


So it's a week-end. Students are realizing that they have reports due maybe next week. Maybe Tuesday. So they need to find their research materials. On a Sunday. Of a holiday week-end. Not at a college bookstore (where their specific textbook might actually be in stock), or a library...Not weeks ago, where they might have had TIME to obtain their research materials and actually look at them...

"Do you have anything about England? My kid has to do a report." "Have you tried the library?", a co-worker asks. "Yeah, they don't have anything." (really? nothing about England???)

"Do you have Opposing Viewpoints? It's about economics." I search the system, see that there is a series of books called Opposing Viewpoints, each dealing with a separate topic. I tell the caller that there isn't one on economics that I can see. "Wait a minute", she says, "it's for my daughter. I'll have to get her to give you more information." Daughter gets on the phone (why doesn't daughter call in the first place? why don't parents let their almost grown children make these calls themselves? but I digress.). I tell daughter that there is a series and I'm not finding one on economics. She said that there is one. I read the list to her, "Capitalism: Opposing Viewpoints, Child Abuse: Opposing Viewpoints, Gun Control: Opposing Viewpoints, and so on. I list about 20 titles, none specifically about economics. I ask if there is an author. She sounds frustrated. "There are lots of authors, they all contributed. But that's not important." "I understand that there are a lot of contributors, but it might help me find the book for you if I had a name." "Never mind. You don't have it. Thanks anyway." She hangs up.

"Do you have Understanding Nutrition by Whitney?"
"No, we don't, that's a textbook, and we don't usually carry textbooks. I can order it for you, it would take about a week."
"Oh." disappointed. "I need it by tomorrow." (of course you do)
"Did you check your college bookstore?"
"No. I thought I'd try you first."


A large woman wearing a black blouse and a tan skirt came racing into the store. I was helping a family purchase their books. The woman came up to my register and said to me, "What's your name?" in a loud voice. Startled, I hesitated for a few seconds and answered her, giving my first name. She turned away and started walking further into the store. As she was walking, she said, "It wasn't a scary question." The mother of the family looked at me and said, "Well yeah, it kinda was." I agreed with her.

A minute later, one of my co-workers came up to the front of the store with the woman. She retrieved a book this woman had on hold and gave it to her. She came up to me at the register, still in a rush. She rustled through her wallet, looking for her credit card. Her hands were shaking. I asked her if she wanted to donate a book to foster children. She said she did not, she just wanted to get out of there. I finished her transaction and she left.

I asked my co-worker what was up with her, why was she asking for my name? She said that the woman found her as she was working in a section, and told her that I was paranoid. Somehow she got the idea that she needed to find the person she'd spoken with on the phone when she put the book on hold, which was why she was asking for my name. She didn't think she could retrieve her book without finding whoever she spoke to on the phone.

"I like the loopy ones," my co-worker said.

1 comment:

  1. This is so familiar! Working at a community college (and we just finished finals) I see some of those same (or very similar) students and talk to their parents on the phone. I call those calls the "mommy calls" and wonder WHY ISN'T the STUDENT on the PHONE? Funny stuff!
    As for the accordion, it made me think of our classmate in elementary school who actually had his "best instrument" in our 6th grade class photo.