Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Customers 23

A tall man, late 20's or early 30's, clean cut brown hair, blue t-shirt and jeans came in and asked to pick up a book that was on hold for him. The title:   SHOULD I STAY OR GO?: HOW CONTROLLED SEPARATION CAN SAVE YOUR MARRIAGE.

      Should I Stay Or Go? : How Controlled Separation (CS) Can Save Your Marriage

"My mom put it on hold for me."

(Um, your mom?)


Perhaps if I were a Hannah Montana fan...but then again, maybe not.

A girl in a purple shirt, messy dark hair, and her right arm in a sling ran over to the spinner next to the Information desk. She pushed all the buttons on all of the Hannah Montana singing pens that were there, making them all burst forth with a different Hannah Montana song. And then she ran away.

"Stop it," came a tired voice from a woman in jeans, magenta sweater and a black floppy hat, sitting on the floor looking at gardening books.

"Why?" the girl asked, running toward a table under which she'd stowed another Hannah Montana singing pen. She pushed the button and yet another Hannah Montana song was released. The girl sat under the table and pushed the button again.

"Stop it I said," the woman said, not looking up.

"No! I like it!", the girl said back. She ran over to the spinner again, pushing all the buttons on all the pens again, and she ran away.
She circled back to the pen under the table and pushed the button again.

"I said don't do that," the woman said.

"Why NOT?" the girl called out.

"It's annoying," she said.

"YOU'RE annoying," the girl told her.

The woman got up from the floor and the girl came toward her, then dashed over to the pens on the spinner again. Pushed the buttons.

"Come on, we're going," said the woman.



A couple came up to the register pushing a stroller. They brought up three books, two children's books and War and Peace.

ABC and 1,2,3: A Sesame Street Treasury of Words and Numbers (Sesame Street)     Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?     By Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace (Modern Library Classics)

"A few things for the baby?," I said, pointing at the two children's books.

"Well, actually, they are all for a baby, just not our baby. Friends are having a party for their baby who is turning one. They asked everyone to bring books. They specified to bring something a little beyond where the baby is now, so she can grow into it. So we decided that War and Peace is a little beyond where the baby is now. So it's going to the birthday party." They smiled.

"Oh, that's great," I said, laughing. "I love it!"

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Friday, May 20, 2011


I saw ANNABEL described on librarything.com and was intrigued. Unfortunately at that time, the book was not available in the U.S. sad. I wrote it down on my Books I Want List, where it stayed for months.

And then I saw it on a shelf at work! It looked just as interesting as it had when I first read the description. I bought it, read it, and was not disappointed.

       Annabel: A Novel

In a small, coastal Canadian town, Jacinta Blake gives birth to a baby with both female and male genitalia. Treadway, the baby's father, upon discovering this anomaly, decides that the baby is to be raised as a boy, Wayne. Thomasina, a neighbor who helped at the birth knows about the genitalia. Jacinta knows. Wayne does not know.

Treadway very much expects Wayne to be a boy. Jacinta mourns the loss of the daughter she might have had. Thomasina tries to help Wayne, in sometimes unwelcome ways, become aware of his situation.

As his parents struggle in their own ways with raising this child, Wayne knows that something is different about him, but doesn't have any idea what it is. Awareness of his complicated gender identity is a gradual realization for him.

I loved reading this, as a compelling exploration of gender and gender identity - how does gender shape us? How are we shaped by gender?

Fascinating questions, these, and I loved that this book explored this issue. More than that, however, I was captivated by the writing. Lush and rich, I was enveloped by Winter's storytelling from the very beginning.

There will be comparisons made to MIDDLESEX by Jeffrey Eugenides, as both deal with hermaphrodites, but that is where the similarity ends. ANNABEL is a much more intimate novel than MIDDLESEX.

While the ending was perhaps quieter than I might have liked, I loved the story and the writing. Stunning and luminous, this book will stick with me for a long time.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Customers 22

At the store we have our regular customers. Some of them are wonderful to work with. Others can be a little challenging.

There's the doctor. We know he is one because he tells us every time he calls or puts something on hold. He looks to be in his late 60's, is about six feet tall, has white hair and a full grey beard. He buys a lot of books, all first edition hardcovers, usually new releases of thrillers or mysteries. He calls or comes in regularly to order books or see what we've got in. A recent phone conversation I had with him went like this...

Me (answering the phone): Hello, thanks for calling, how can I help you?

The Doctor: This is Dr. Johnson. What have you got that's new?

Me (trying to think fast, knowing he likes thrillers and mysteries): Well, there's a new Lee Child book out...

The Doctor: (interrupting) I've already got that one.

Me: Vince Flynn has a new one...

The Doctor: I just finished reading that one, it's right here on my lap. I read it in an hour and a half.

Me: Okaaaay, let me head over to the new release bay and see what's there.
(I read off about a dozen titles. After each title I mention, he tells me he's already gotten and read it.)

The Doctor: I guess you don't have anything I haven't read.

Me: It doesn't look that way. I can go to the computer and see what else might be coming out soon.

The Doctor: No, never mind. I'll be in in a few days and look around.

Me: All right, well thank you for calling. (exhausted)


And then there's Nora Gibson. She is elderly, calls on the phone regularly to have books sent to her home. I know she's elderly because of her very quavery voice which is hard to understand. She's very sweet and is patient with us when we have to ask her to repeat things because we can't understand her.

My first call with her, before I knew who she was...

Me: Hello, thanks for calling, how can I help you?

NG: This is Nora Gibson. I've moved.

Me: Okay...(?)

NG: Would you like to write down the numbers? I have my member card number too. (ah! she's a regular!)

Me: Sure, let me get a pen. All right, what's your new address?

NG: I just moved. I didn't want to move. But I'm trying to let everyone know. It's been very frustrating. I didn't want to move. So. It's 1-1-(mumble)-6-(mumble) (quavery mumble)-gate Avenue.

Me: 1-1-(guessing) 2?...

NG: No. 1-1-(mumble)-6-(mumble).

Me: 1-1-(guessing again) 3?...

NG: (laughing) 1-1-(enunciating and saying loudly) 4-6-(mumble).

Me: 1-1-4-6-(guessing)8?

NG: No, no, no. 1-1-4-6-(enunciating and saying loudly) 9.

Me: Ah. 1-1-4-6-9 (guessing) Northgate (?) Avenue.

NG: 1-1-4-6-9 (mumble)-gate Avenue.

Me: So that's N-O-R-T-H-gate?

NG: No, it's (slowly and quavery) H-O-L-G-A-T-E Avenue.

Me: Ah (relieved). 1-1-4-6-9 Holgate Avenue.

NG: She laughs. Yes, that's it.

She gives me her new phone number as well and I have to ask her to repeat those numbers several times as well. THEN she says...

NG: I'd like to order some books. I like Alton Brown. I'd like his first two books, I don't have those.

I know that Alton Brown has quite a few books, and I don't know which ones came first. Sometimes it's hard to determine original publication dates because books get reprinted and show up in our system with the new publication dates. I look up Alton Brown, and try to ascertain which ones she wants.

NG: I already have (mumble) and Gear, so I don't need those. I want his first two books.

Me: All right, you have Gear for Your Kitchen and...what was the other one?

NG: (quavery, enunciating) Asphalt. I have those. I want his first two books.

Me: All right, So is it Good Eats: The Early Years? And Good Eats 2: The Middle Years?

NG: Yes.

Me: Okay, I'll get those ordered for you. (I take her credit card information, which again is a long, slow process, and finish taking the order). All right, they should arrive at your house within the week.

NG: Thank you so much!

A week or so later I find out that she's called because the books haven't arrived. Evidently we had the wrong address for her (!). Whoever talked to her that time got her correct address (hopefully) and corrected the order.

One evening E. came up and looked a little flustered. "There's someone on the phone, I can't really understand what she said, except when I answered the phone she said, 'I'm panicking!'"

Me: Did she say her name?

E: I think so, but I couldn't understand it. Her voice was really shaky.

Me: Was it Nora Gibson?

E: It might have been...

Me: Want me to take the call?

E: That would be great. (relieved)

I got on the phone and talked with her. Evidently she'd lost her credit card and was worried (very worried) about it. I talked with her for a while and she found it while I was on the phone with her.


Note: No one's real name has been used. Except Alton Brown's.
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Friday, May 13, 2011

First Call of the Day

First phone call of the day…

Me: Thanks for calling, how can I help you?

Customer: I used to come in there and order books but now I’ve moved away. Can I order a few books and have them sent to me here?

Me: Sure. Let me look up the books and make sure they are available.
Customer: The first one is called The Parents’ Guide to Preventing (mumblemumble).

Me: Okay, the title is: The Parents’ Guide to Preventing…what was that last word?

Customer: (a little louder) (Mumble).

Me: I’m sorry, I’m not hearing you very well. Can you say that last word again?
Customer: (louder) (MUMBLE).

Me: I’m sorry, could you spell that for me?

Customer: Spell it?

Me: Yes, please.

Customer: h-o-m-s-e-x-u-a-l-i-t-y

Me: Ah. Got it. So it’s The Parents’ Guide to Preventing Homosexuality?

Customer: Yes. and I have another title. You can send them here? We moved to a retirement community up here. The next title is Can Homosexuality Be Cured? by MacNutt.

Me: Yes, both of those titles are available to order.

I finish processing the order and get his payment information. After I ring the order into the register, he says…

What email address do you have?

I tell him (again) what email address I have and he says…

Oh, that’s not the right email address. This is the right one.

And he gives me a new email address. I tell him I’ll send the receipt to him and hang up. Because I’d already rung the order through, I had to call our customer service line to get the email address changed. And I had to call them three times because they hadn’t received the order yet, so couldn’t change it in the system.

Therapist said that when he told me the second title I should have said, “Actually, I know the answer to that. You don’t even need a book for that.” But I didn’t. Instead I provided excellent customer service to a man buying books I absolutely disagree with.

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Friday, May 6, 2011

Hospital Reading

Hospital reading is of a different sort than regular reading. Not that the books are different, necessarily, but the reading itself is different. There is a lot of waiting when someone is in the hospital - waiting for tests, waiting for results, waiting for the doctor to come by, waiting for meals, etc. And then there is picking up where one has left off after the results have come. And with the waitee's heightened emotional state of waiting for results or doctors for a loved one's condition...well, I've found it harder to concentrate when reading at the hospital.

When my mom had her stroke 8 years ago, my brother and I flew down and I brought Bill Bryson's (then) new book, A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING. He hadn't brought a book, so we shared it. The deal was, whoever was at the hospital got to have the book. We tag teamed it, with staying at the hospital, running errands, taking care of the house, and reading the book.

This time there is another stroke. A different family member. Different books. I'm reading NEEDFUL THINGS by Stephen King. Recommended by a co-worker - it's his selection for the 100 handsell challenge book.

What I like about Stephen King is that he sets up a lot of characters and their individual situations and keeps them all going really well.

Therapist said she thought it was one of King's creepier ones. I'm about halfway through the book, and it's getting bad. It seems like the situation is always getting bad with Stephen King. And I have a feeling it's going to get worse, way worse, in Castle Rock.

It's a good book to take to the hospital, and this time I don't have to share!

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"I Want to Read What Abraham Lincoln Read"

Sometimes life experience comes in handy.

T. came up to me, looking for a staff member who might know more about Bibles than he did. A customer was asking about which Bible Abraham Lincoln would have read. Formerly (a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away) I was married to a pastor, which gave me more than a passing familiarity with Bibles. I volunteered to see if I could help the customer.

The customer, a man in maybe his late 30's or early 40's, graying hair, beard, slight build, had an armful of books. He was standing by the Bibles. He knew that Abraham Lincoln read a lot, and he wanted to read the Bible that he would have read. There are so many different versions, he was feeling overwhelmed and not sure at all which to even look at.

I told him that Abraham Lincoln probably would have read the King James version, since that was the only English translation of the Bible at that time. All of these other translations, Revised Standard Version (RSV, which is what I grew up reading), New Living Version (NLV), The Good News Bible, etc., were released quite a bit after Abraham Lincoln was alive.

"What about the Catholic Bibles?", he asked.

"The Catholic Bibles (again, good old life experience comes in handy. I used to teach in a Catholic school) have more 'books' in them. The Protestant bible has 66 books. There were many who wrote about the Jewish faith (Old Testament), and about Jesus and his life and his teachings, both while he was alive and after, over time, there was much debate about which of those writings would be included in The Bible. It's still being debated, but the Catholics decided that more books, or more of the writings, should be included as part of the Bible than the Protestants, so the Catholic Bible includes more 'books' than the Protestant Bibles.

"Oh, I didn't know that," he said. "Abraham Lincoln read a lot, and I want to read what he read as much as I can.

"I know Lincoln wasn't Catholic (though at the time I didn't remember to what church he belonged - I just looked it up, he was raised Baptist and attended a Presbyterian Church as an adult), so my guess is that he read a non-Catholic King James version of the Bible," I told him. "The thing is, the King James version has pretty flowery language. It's kind of like reading Shakespeare. It's not always the easiest to understand, not always the most accessible for modern readers. There are LOTS more recent translations, all of which are trying to help the reader understand better AND be an accurate reflection of the original text. I grew up with the Revised Standard Version, and now there's the NEW Revised Standard Version, both of which are a lot less flowery than the King James version."

"Oh, wow," he said. "I didn't realize there were so many versions. So it might not help me to read the King James version if I want to read what Lincoln read?"

"Well, reading the King James version will give you a sense of what he read, certainly the kind of language with which he was familiar. It just may not be the most easy to understand version of the Bible for YOU."

"Ah. Right. Hmm. Well, I'll have to look some of these over and decide, I guess. Thank you so much for your help."

When I left him, he looked a bit less confused, though maybe more overwhelmed.

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