Monday, September 12, 2011

The Last Day

The first book i ever bought with my own money was a copy of The Lord of the Rings at a yard sale for a nickel. Late 60's paperback edition. The edges were yellowed, and the book had been living in the room of an old man who had died just a couple of weeks before i bought it. I went home and read it, i was in fourth grade and it took me about a week. I can remember my mother haranguing me to bring wood in instead of reading. I didn't watch television (except for the Cosby Show and Family Ties and Saturday morning cartoons, natch) That week, i just read. The strange and exciting watercolor world that Tolkien made felt so real to me. Middle Earth might as well have been a previous epoch, sometime between cave men and the Knights of the round table. A time we'd forgotten, but Tolkien remembered. I remember staring at the color photo of him on the back, and when i read the book i could swear i could smell the pipe smoke and the dampness of his tweed jacket. For some reason it seemed to me there was never sunshine in middle earth, except for when Gandalf needed to vanquish trolls, so i always called cloudy days "hobbit days" and I'd go outside, find the longest stick i could, and imagine adventures, and just as likely non-adventures as that seemed the hobbity thing to do. I would find a secluded chunk of roadside wood, find one of the endless supply of boulders the ice age had left for me, sit down and ponder the details. What would my hobbit holes doors look like? What kind of teapot would I have.What are the Titles of books i'd have lining my hobbit shelves. Because as of then, as of the moment i gave my nickel over, books were going to be as much a part of me as my heart.

We had a small chain of bookstores near me called Mr. Paperback, they may still be around, I'm not sure. But they always left me feeling sort of ... sanitary. And that wasn't something i wanted from books. My public library was a place of astonishing beauty. The gilded age was kind to the Bangor Public library, miles of marble stairs, nooks and corners, dark turned and carved wood everywhere. As soon as i was old enough to be trusted "in town" alone, i would find my way there, I would lay under one of the giant oaken tables and read until my mom showed up to take me home. Of course that was another thing puberty ruined, suddenly being under a table was "creepy". But by that age i had my own card and would take out a book for a day or two and go sit by the Kenduskeag stream as it flowed under main street in Bangor and read. Heinlen, Asimov, Burroughs, I was a big fan of a young readers series called "Not Quite Human" about an android boy and his non android father and sister. I believe Alan Thicke had something to do with some bastardization of it disney barfed out. The first in an almost endless string of disappointing movie adaptations of beloved books (Demi Moore, you are no Hester Prynne). Then when i got a job, i began haunting the local used book shop, Pro Libris . For Christmas when i was 14 i asked for money and a trip there to go shopping. Buying "The Last Unicorn" for 75 cents and having a conversation with the hippy guy who ran the place about it...a real conversation...about books. Someone else peered into the world of literature and talked about it like it was real. Like the characters were in real peril. Like the outcome, had consequences for all of us. Like the writer knew something we didn't, and desperately needed to tell us. Over the years i developed my palate at that bookstore. Where Mr. Paperback was kind of clean and clinical, The library was classical and ancient and learned, and Pro Libris was hidden and clever, and far far too interesting to be tidy. Every time i went into these two building, which couldn't have been more different, i found new rooms to explore, new types of books that demanded my attention. I spent an entire rainy afternoon reading a 1910's anatomy book and marvelling at the detail in the plate illustrations. The weight of the book on my lap, the smell of the elder pages, the Ah-Ha-ian touchability of the illustrations had me at "this book is property of the Bangor Public Library, Reference, not for Circulation". Years later i bought it at a book sale. It saddens me that some young boy or girl won't be sitting on the ledge of the 8 foot tall window looking out onto the rainy Bangor streets with it in their lap, but then...if i didn't buy it, it may have ended up being prints on a doctors office wall somewhere. Lame!

So heres the thing- when your bookish in a small town, it doesn't make you friends. I can't honestly say i was disliked by a lot of people, but i had my share of bullies. I'm fortunate that it never came to blows, largely because since i was born in November i had a good 10 months of development on my classmates, so i was bigger than they were until 9th grade, and by then honestly...who cares. Back then being a nerd wasn't just putting on glasses and a retro t-shirt and finding something you like a bunch. Back then being a nerd or a geek was a stigma. Especially in small town Maine. People weren't tripping over themselves to be friends with the kid who wrote (a really awful) Doctor Who Fan Fiction in the 5th grade as his read aloud story project. In my home town if you were more interested in Hobbits than Hoops, or snow monsters than snowmobiles, you were treated as capital O, Other. I remember getting assigned to read To Kill A Mockingbird and I raised my hand to request another assignment as i had already read it, my teacher...My English Fucking TEACHER, actually said to me,

"Drew (thats my last name...well, not the quotation marks, despite what various reporters may think) Why have you already read this? Why don't you just stop being such a nerd".

This particular teacher happened to be the basketball coach in my school as well. My town won a lot of basketball. State champs a lot. I wish I could have been proud of it at the time, because i am now. The AP English teacher wouldn't let me take the AP English class because she didn't think i could "hack it" which i think was just her way of telling me she didn't like it in our other classes when i challenged her. I took the AP exam anyway which at the time was graded on a scale of 1 to 5, i had one of two 5's in my school that year. See when you were a kid then, a bookish, nerdy, becoming overweight, nonathletic, kid you were making a stand for intellect and creativity whether you wanted to or not. You were on the front lines of a war that,I have to say with some mixed emotion and surprise, we won. Big Bang Theory anyone? Some day, maybe at a highschool reunion i want to ask Shorty McAngry (one of the aforementioned bullies) 1.) if he's in recovery yet cuz i'm sure it's comign, and 2.) how much he liked Thor this summer. Fucker.

My point in all this is that when you go out into the world with a love of books, when you've fought the battle of nerdsdeep (when you get that joke), when your most vivid memories of your childhood have words printed on them. You cannot do anything grander than sell books. Books to me are something i endured great ridicule for, because they gave me great pleasure. Books as a thing, more than any single thing, have made me Cory Drew. My heart has pages, my soul is a dust jacket, my mind an index. When this is who you are, being a bookseller is not a job but a privilege.

Today was my last day as a bookseller, for now. An old colleague of mine came in, and I hand sold her a book for thirty-three cents. She was looking at the table and said in her most beautiful Iranian accent, "is there anything here worth buying?" to which I looked around and found her a copy of a book I knew she'd like. The loris lurked about me threatening to shout me down with some of the "punishment tasks" she'd arranged for me as i stuck up recently for my friends and neighbors in the face of her nit-picky face out derangement. But i'll be damned if on my last day, in a company that in some small way I HELPED BUILD i was going to go my last day and not recommend something. In the end I will not succumb to the melancholy witchcraft of liquidation. I do this job because i love what it is. I do this job for the little awkward nerdy boy and girl out there who need to find their Lord of the Rings, their 1910's anatomy book. I do it because, to not do it is an empty book, blank and without the promise of a pen. Liquidation may take my job, but it hasn't taken the words that are me, and it never will.

I am privileged to have worked with all these people who, like me, have given their hearts over to letters. We book people are inextinguishable fires burning in the dark and stormy night of a world too busy and too electrical to find boulders in a secluded chunk of wood and consider teapots. And when we fires gather there is a brilliance that creates angels and sages, devils and the dumbstruck. We are heat and light and God and the Laws of Physics declare that to be a thing eternal. Perhaps we scatter, perhaps we dim, but time and idea and Hobbits will bring us together again in new forms; we will burn as brightly, and with new colors.

I will miss it, I will miss you all. All things though, must end in order to begin.

So I'll end, where I began...

"The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began,
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many path and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say" -JRR Tolkien

Okay, Lets see where this goes...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

September 11th

This day to me is my television. Less like a window letting me see, it was really a glass wall keeping me out. That is still how i feel. Throughout the events of September 11th and the days that followed, I felt like I was trapped in a fishbowl looking out onto a world I couldn't interact with. No matter how many news broadcasters told me how the ash felt, I couldn't feel it. No matter how many wives and husbands told me how it felt to have family in the world trade center, i couldn't hold their hands or hug them. As the stories of what happened on flight 93 emerged I just... heard... them. I felt like i was being restrained from getting into the midst of it and experiencing it with all those horrified brave people.

From my two room apartment above a farm house in Vermont I watched the world unravel, and felt entirely separate from it and helpless. I had no "9/11" connection even though it seemed like every news cast was trying to convince me I did,and that somehow if i did it made my personal tragedy greater. I didn't know a fire fighter. I didn't know a first responder. I gave blood in some sort of half-assed attempt to feel like I was helping. I put a flag in my car window. I cried a lot. I cried when George W. Bush gave a speech from the rubble. Two weeks before that I was hoping he'd be impeached for general sucking. There was a moment when no one was around that I sat on my floor hugging my couch cushion like it was a loved one, and just openly wept. Anguished weeping. The kind you do, i would learn in coming years, when your dear friend, or your nephew, or your grandmother-in-law dies before you're ready to deal with it. Which is always.

Ten years later, I'm grateful I was separated by time and space from this, the stories of those who lived through it tax the limits of my imagination. I don't know if I would be a strong enough person to live with it. But wanting to be there is such a human response. Its so human to want to be there for people who are in agony. It's so human to just want to help weeping ash covered new yorkers get to clean water, safety, family. It's so human to want to catch those poor falling people. Its one of those things that I think decries evolution. It's hardly in anyone's self interest to reach into the midst of chaos and grip on to someone who needs it. I know I'm not the only person who felt this way.

Human beings, so many of them, died and were injured that day. And for a moment we perceived the world as humans. Not as Americans, or Christians, or Muslims, or Canadians, or Republicans or Democrats, but as Humans. Just wanting to reach out and hold our brothers and sisters despite the danger it would put us in. There is no gain in that. Sadly that moment was all to brief. Within days all the various stake holders, which means all of us, flew to our corners and began to apportion the guilt, the pain, the responsibility. and as human self interest has taught us we protected our slice of this terrible pie and began to find ways to profit from it, perhaps not with money, but with power...or emotional leverage. In that all too human way we began using the acts of hateful men to further push away those who are different than we are, racially, religiously, politically.

For me the legacy of September 11th will always be that singular moment, when the worst that could happen brought out the best in humanity. Men and women sacrificed their lives that day for other men and women. Every person who could be, like me, was pressed against the glass of their television trying desperately to get in there and help. The heroism of first responders and ordinary people elevated us far higher than any tower can ever be built. Jews, Muslims, Christians, Atheists, Bhuddist, all looked the same covered in ash or rubble, holding each other up, helping each other down the stairs of a collapsing building. These people didn't do this for profit, they did it because there was a human being trapped in a swirling hellstorm, and they could help them. So they did. This wasn't a Religious moment or a nationalist moment. It was a human moment. One we would do well to try and recapture.

Stay safe. Remember those who gave or lost their lives that day. Say thank you to someone. Help someone because you can and because they need it. And lets hope it doesn't take a tragedy of unfathomable proportions to remind us how powerful being human is.

I love you guys. Thanks for reading.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Day 50, 51, and 52

Woah. What a whirlwind of days.

Day 50 was my day off. I spent a disproportionately large amount of it trimming my beard in preparation for my interview at a major national organic grocery chain. I also spent almost the whole day thinking it was Wednesday, and not Tuesday, so if one of my co-workers hadn't corrected me, i very well could have showed up to my interview 24 hours early. So...thats the kind of week it's been.

Day 51, well the horror started before I even left my house. Borders was kind enough to send out a message to it's facebook fans letting people know when the closing date of all of the stores were. Heres the funny bit though, they hadn't told US yet. So lo and behold my surprise to see that we were expected to be closing in 5 days. Wha? No....that can't be right? So i called My GM and spoke to her, she spoke to the loris, and it turns out that it is in fact not true. We will not be closing on Monday it's another Jedi Mind Trick to get people to panic and come out and spend money.

That was until about 9:00 that night. When the Loris asked to speak to me in private. I followed her to the cash office and she said to me.

"We just heard that Monday IS going to be the last day for this store." She seemed genuinely surprised.


"Your Gm has asked you not to tell anyone until tomorrow, because she would like to."

As well she should. This is still her store, even though it's unrecognizeable, it's still her staff, and there are still people here who deserve to find out from their GM and our GM deserves the opportunity to tell these long serving people in her own way. This is a matter of closure both literally and figuratively. So i basically went into media shutdown mode for about the next 12 hours.

But honestly, what scumbags. Ultimately i suppose it's the liquidators who make this call, but according to the Loris, who i'm not entirely sure I believe, they always give 7 to 10 days notice. Well if they gave that notice to the home office, they sat pretty tightly on it. And sent it out to the customers first via facebook. Which, I'm sorry home office you know i love you, makes them enormous assholes. 5 days? Really? I've worked for this company over 8 years, and i get 5 days? I get informed by facebook? This is peoples lives here. It's bad enough we are being forced to sell off our floor tile, but honestly, no one in this organization or theirs has enough respect for us to make sure the lines of communication for at least this ONE issue, are clear! This is not how you close stores. Every bit of goodwill a company has garnered can be undone by what is either stupid drop-the-ball shenanigans or a blatant disregard for the hundreds of years of service we field workers have. I have to believe this is the result of liquidator malfeasance because i cannot believe that anyone whose ever cashed a grey paycheck from ann arbor would be this thoughtless, i won't believe it.

But no, no, by all means give Mike Edwards and Jim Friering $125K. They totes deserve it.

An interesting side note here, The Loris said to Moonshine, that i was so angry she though i was going to strangle her. Ha! I would never strangle someone. I've seen Dexter, waaaay too much evidence if you strangle someone.

Day 52 brought with it my much anticipated interview at the National Organic Grocery Store (henceforth called NOGS). First of all, my beard looked perfect, my doc martens instantly make me a tall guy, and my braces kept my pants exactly where they should be. I was instantly comfortable in the interview. I traded fun stories, talked about my back ground, watched as the committee of three kept looking back and forth, trying to be subtle about their approval of me...or maybe not, three really genuine people, so maybe they weren't about the political nonsense of an interview. Either way, i shook all three of their hands, showed myself out and 2 hours later got a call with an offer. The offer didn't exactly live up to my hopes financially, but i really want to work for NOGS, i like everything about it, and guess what...they still give raises, remember those. So yeah, I am now the new Coffee Bar supervisor at NOGS. I start toward the end of september, so i even get a little vacation out of the deal.

Now I'm in this weird place where quite literally the only thing keeping me going to work for the next 5 days is my fidelity to my co-workers, and a little extra money. Also, i want to see this through to the end. I've said from the beginning i want to be there on the last day, as the key gets turned. I couldn't be at borders for the beginning when it was glorious, so i'll settle for being there at the end when its...not. And I'll help some arrogant jerk take their crap away in the early morning hours. And I'll work with my co-workers one last time. And then I'll wait for that last grey paycheck from Ann Arbor, and I'll cash it. And I'll try not to let the last few days ruin 40 plus years of good, hard, work.

I'll try.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Day 48 &49

Day 48 was my day off. Luckily one of my Borders kin who had gone away to grad school came back for the weekend and we got together last night at a local watering hole and had a few drinks and more fried potato-y things than is appropriate for mixed company. Of course it was during that day off that something really dramatic happened. All of our product from the back of our store, moved to the front, leaving the back half an empty shell of a bookstore.

I wasn't prepared for that when I came in this morning. Whole sections of walls are missing their shelves. I pondered for a minute how they stayed up without their shelves to hold them, I was so confused. Of course I only had a minute to ponder because as I walked into the office our CSWizard says to me "I know you don't even have your headset on but the Russian Mafia wants to buy our refrigerators, and some lady wants to make espresso or something...I don't know." And then of course my co-supervisor for the morning tells me that we have a catastrophic LP issue (which wasn't but you know...with the Loris lurking on every branch, little things become big) and that I need to verify the safe and the Deposit. Eventually though I went up and I dragged our stores Wacky Den Mother up to the fixture zone with me, she was indispensable. We managed to deal with the Russian Mobsters, the espresso lady, and some Mennonites too. It was so busy.

It never got better, as far as the sheer demands on my time went. The day was a sort of absurdist experimental film. I began thinking it would be so neat if I could slice of pieces of my personality and have them fully form versions of me. Okay, this customer gets my patience, this customer gets the "wheeler and dealer", this customer gets the hard-ass, this customer gets the jokester. There is a joke about the different versions of Cory, they all have numbers and each one has a different personality. When Cory #2 comes out, you're getting the "I'm all business now, don't trifle with me" cory. He's an infrequent guest, truth be told, but it's evident. I truly felt for a while today like I needed to find a way to manufacture all these extra me's. And its so far beyond christmas busy at this point. You know what though, as laborious as this labor day was it was kind of an okay day. I kept finding these little glimmers of serenity and happiness and they were called, my co-workers.

Those who know me would say I have a coffee...habit, but those who really know me understand that while most people are 80% water, i am only about 40% water, I'm 30% coffee, and 10% Doctor Who. It's not my fault, I come by it honestly. My mother was Juan Valedez's first stop when he came down off the Columbian mountains. My baby bottle's were stained brown from coffee! Seriously...I like coffee. Somehow Artsy Blogstar could tell I'd yet to have my daily cuppa (or 12) and out of no where he was like "so...I'm making a run out, would you like me to get you a coffee?" Like offering a dying man water, Like throwing a life preserver to someone bobbing in the ocean. I might have weeped for the sheer excitement of getting a hit...i mean a sip of coffee. Especially since LP, the Russian mob, some lady with an espresso jones, a Menonite family, and the Loris all consumed the time I'd normally use to brew a pot in the break room. He might as well have shouted "Here I come to save the Day" in deep baritone and swooshed by all red cape and yellow t-shirt. Seriously...I like coffee.

The next little glimmer of hope that helped was while I was making a call to a mostly pleasant, though demanding, woman about some shelves that we had double sold on her (oops.) As she was starting to get loud with me and was beginning to get all pointed and blamey with her conversation (as well as telling me I was wrong about the state of the shelves when she bought them) I heard a familiar sound off in the distance. I sort of stopped paying attention to her incessant repetition of what she perceived of as the facts, and started trying to ferret out what I was hearing. It was the gnarled and dirty voice of one Mr. Tom Waits. Instantly I was some place happy. I was wandering through piles of old books and phonograph records with Tom, looking for those secrets, those moments, those things that just holler at you from the past and say "look here, I'm something amazing that you would have missed if you weren't right here, right now". Tom and I are old friends. He's a hard man to be friends with, his voice is kind of the porcupine of voices, but his stories...his stories just bring me to some other world. Some other place and time where magic lives in an old pair of shoes, an ex girlfriends sad letters. We don't get a lot of Tom in the overhead, since most people here his more current stuff, cover their ears, and run for the exits. So that particular moment made that particular moment not only bearable but enjoyable, and it fixed my brain. I realized that she was talking about the shelves she bought in the kids department, and I thought i had sold her the majority of the shelves in the art department. Only one shelf was mis-sold. I laughed when I got back on the phone, "Oh...sorry, no- most of your shelves are safe it's just this one, I'll give you your money back" and we parted ways amicably. And I wandered over toward young adult to listen more clearly to what Tom had to say. Oh and I whispered a prayer of thanks to the Delicate Flower, as he was the bookseller responsible for bringing me this moment of serenity.

There was a moment where I was so deeply in the weeds I couldn't see daylight any more. I had people circling me while I walked around, and then they'd follow me back to the "fixture zone" and then they'd start forming some weird kind of faux line all the while trying to get eye contact with me without regard to where they stood in the "line". It was like they were trying to cover their bases for when they got screwed from their position. Weird. Anyway, so I get on the headset and I make a plaintive cry to anyone who hears me. It was an APB, and an SOS all in one. No one answered and when they did it was more or less, "Sorry Cory" and then out of nowhere our CSWizard shows up! And she just starts Expeliarmus-ing and expectopatronus-ing like a defense against the dark arts professor. She started clearing up all the smaller purchases while I was working with someone who was concerned about a blender or something and then another person with a hand truck packed up to about 5 feet with random office supplies. We took care of business though, let me tell you. In about 20 minutes we took care of easily an hour and a halfs work. She was a superstar today.

So you know how the Loris has been going on for the last week about how we are 2 weeks behind? And how we don't know what in the name of Kal-El she's talking about? Well Today Moonshine dropped some learnin' on her.

I have to say something about this whole process, I don't know how it feels in other stores, but in our store i feel like we as a management team have been incredibly deferential to The Loris. We more or less treat her like she is a DM in our store. Probably more than we should. But we don't really understand this relationship. It doesn't really compute. So we put up with her bossing us around and them blaming us when things aren't how she wants them. What are you going to do? The two managers in the store hate her, with a burning fury, and the 2 supervisors, just kind of deal with her as best we can and then complain.

I spent no time with her today, none. I had done over 4000 in fixtures (at half price no less) by lunch so I didn't have time, but as I was getting ready to go for my break and sat down and had a little pow-wow with moonshine. Turns out the Loris said to her in her "everything thats wrong here is your fault" tone i'm sure, We're so far behind. Moonshine had reached her tolerance for that nonsense so she just flat out told her that she had no idea what she was talking about. That she hadn't laid out any plan, or given any instruction as to what was to be done when, what the store should look like week one, week two, week three, and no timelines or ideas as to who was supposed to do what. The Loris just said "well thats just not true-" I'm paraphrasing here, It's how it sounds in my head and I wish I could figure out a way to get her Kansas City Missouri accent down in HTML but...,"I showed you pictures of how it should look."

So I picture Moonshine taking her glasses off,breathing on them, wiping them on her shirt ala Rupert Giles of Buffy fame, and then taking a deep breath and smacking her across the face with her open palm. It didn't happen that way, but I dearly wish it did. I'm sure Moonshine does too. She did however have the presence of mind to say something like "I saw the pictures of the empty store, I know what empty looks like, and I know what full looks like, but I don't know the steps I'm supposed to take to bridge the apparently vast distance between. We've never done this before, we aren't he Liquidation experts, you are, you need to tell us whats up." Apparently the Loris just kind of stared at her and did the weird smiling thing (which I have dubbed showing her teeth) she does and went away. I think she wasn't yet pickin' up what Moonshine was layin' down.

You've no idea how happy that whole interchange makes me. I didn't see it, I didn't hear it, but just to know it happened thrills me to no end. I've told her on several occasions during specific incidences that she needed to be more precise. I've seen my GM say pretty much the same thing to her by saying "if you tell us what to do we'll do it". But as far as I know this is the first time it was addressed in a general kind of "you know why this place looks like hell according to you, because of you" manner. Frankly I think it might have been anyone of us, even some of the booksellers, who eventually snapped and said it to her. The fact that it was a senior member of management, and the fact that it was one of the hardest working people in our store, had to give the Loris pause. In fact, from the details of the story, it sounds like it literally did. It's funny because it really only could have been Moonshine that said it to her. I'm sure everything the GM says to her the Loris just assumes she's being bitter and feels like she's having her toes stepped on (which I couldn't blame her if that was true, but it isn't) and I'm fixture Maven (her words, not mine) so I don't think she trusts me because I play for the wrong team now, and the Inventory supervisor is just trying to bide her time and get out with as few scratches as possible and I can't blame her for that. So it really had to be Moonshine. And it was. And it made my friggin' day!

You know whole months, even years, will go by where I never take the time to thank my co-workers for being there for me. I assume that the only thanks they ever need or want is payment. I and maybe We assume that doing a job well is expected, and that only going well above and beyond is worth recognition. At some point in Borders past they decided that the only things that were worthy of praise were things that could be measured, and they abandoned concern or care for the things that we do for each other every day. Not every bookseller is awesome. We know it's true. We all work with people maybe we'd rather not, but in this circumstance saying it is just a waste of time and energy. I think though, for the people who make our days liveable in this inhospitable morass, for the awesome booksellers, Its so important to take a second to thank the people around us for the things they do that they may not expect any thanks for. So Wacky Den Mother, Artsy Blogstar, Delicate Flower, CSWizard, and Moonshine...thanks, you guys made this day happen.

But boy am I glad it's over! :)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Day 47

There is no way I can possibly describe how profoundly sucksational today was.

So I'm not going to bother.

You guys know this blows, and today didn't blow in any new and exciting way. And, truthfully, the weight of this process is becoming palpable, and for today, just too much of a burden. So instead I'm going to discuss an idea that seems to have become something of a thread in the tapestry of the blog. The idea of honesty and integrity, and how this process proves to me, if anything ever could, that maximizing profit and maintaining integrity cannot co-exist.

Today I was asked to hang signs. Three of them Boldly and garishly proclaiming that we are in our FINAL 10 DAYS! These signs are a lie. We are not in our final 10 days. We are in our final 30 days, maybe final 25 days, but not our final 10. That is a lie. flat out. It is intended to "drive sales" this weekend. In other words, to panic people with the idea that the time to get an awesome deal is coming to a close, so you better push those other bottom feeders out of the way so that you can get yours!

It's just a lie. Like Sears and Roebuck calling a spool of thread and a needle a sewing machine. Or Bill Clinton proclaiming he "Did not Have Sexual Relations with that woman." Except...well...there is a germ of truth in both of those things depending on your perspective. There is no perspective whereby our store closing in 10 days is true. Unless of course the Loris is lying too.

I think...or rather i wonder if...this is something intrinsic in the people lying, or the people being lied to. There is a single truth to capitalism, where all else is debatable, and that truth is that A method to drive profitability only works, if someone supports it. Or conversely it doesn't matter how cheaply you sell, say a Kobo, If no one is buying it. A good capitalist repeats actions that create results. And they expand the scope of those actions until such point that they stop being profitable.

Sissella Bok details something called "The Principle of Veracity". In Short, we benefit by living in a world where we can trust that what seems to be, is. We benefit by knowing that if we walk into fire, we will burn. We all live that principle every day, whether know it or not. But there are many people who hide in the wee cracks and crevices of this principle, and exploit our intrinsic acceptance that things are, what they say they are. They do this through a serious of interrelated complicated obfuscations, or through a simple smile and a wink. Sometimes they let you in on it, but they omit the entire scope of their duplicity, so you suddenly see the truthiness (Thanks Stephen Colbert) of what they are saying, and you buy in, only to be swindled by the bits they omitted. Whats interesting is that when money is involved we absolve these tricksters by invoking one of the other things about capitalism that is not debatable: Caveat Emtptor, "Let the Buyer be ware".

So then whose fault is that you get swindled? The snake oil salesman, or the buyer? If we accept that things are as they seem then why do also accept that people who exploit that basic tenet of reality, when money (or power) is involved, get off like Mister Miracle (Jack Kirby Reference, Dig it if ya can!)? And more importantly why do we support the activity with what could be arguably the only vote that matters, our money. If collectively we've decided, almost before we had words as a species, that trust is the singular greatest commodity humanity trades, why do we allow, and in many cases encourage, the people who violate that trust to benefit from the violation?

It's not just Liquidation companies or Banks or the hundreds of retailers who lie by omission about the truth of the manufacture of their goods, or the waitress who tells you the coffee is "fresh". It's politicians too, and religious figures. Why do we line up to be lied to.

In politics it's even more evident, and I won't delve too deeply here because it don't think it's necessary, but take the tea party. They are lying to their constituents. They can no more create the Randian wet dream they sell to their frothing supporters in America than Barack Obama can create the left-moderate "socialist" utopia that he campaigned on. Dennis Kuccinich and Ron Paul have 2 things in common, they are selling an idea, and that idea is foolishly impossible. You cannot rewrite the setting of this story. Unless a single concept regardless of political stripe passes a tipping point, we cannot hope to achieve what these politicians say is possible if you just give them your vote(money). The Result of such polarised distraction is that we rip the fabric of what we have to bits because the status quo is always going to fight change. Leftist will always fight rightists and they are boxing; a zero sum game.

Okay, maybe this is democracy and bit by bit we can hope to affect change one way or the other, but thats not What politicians campaign on. Thats not what we vote for. Tea Partiers don't vote for a politician to nudge, they vote for them to bombard. And perhaps in ten years we'll be saying the same thing about the New Populists, or Socialist for America, or some other party. My point is that we, as a buying public, eat this bullshit up! We get super frothy for a complete fiction that supports our idea of what is awesome. If someone tells us that what seems, isn't, and it's an isn't we like...then we abandon the principle of Veracity for the emotional spike of confirmation. And then we reward them. And then they do it again. The bell rings, the dog froths. God loves you as he loves Jacob. 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42. An endless cycle that grows and spins and consumes the consumer.

I wish Dickens were alive today.

Nothing examines this idea more plainly and more practically than Borders ill fated Borders Rewards program. Man people were all over the map on this one. The Principle of Veracity was used both as an offence and a defence. For starters, I'm sorry Borders I love you and I know it seems like I don't but I complain because i care, it was a stupid idea. They fixed it a bit with the plus card by offering a general discount. But the principle benefit of the card being coupons that expired in 10 minutes that were sent via email that most people were too stupid to fix their spam filter to allow in, this was such a flawed notion. Basically, the concept found cracks in veracity and jack hammered them deeper to make them more cozy. From that point on it was a race to out exploit one another.

Borders manipulated the system by the aforementioned short lifespans and limited distribution system. It's like inviting people to your wedding, you know only 1 out of 5 people you invite is coming, but the rest will send a check because you invited them. They would print "40% off" real big and "if your name has an x in it and you're birthday is on Blurnsday in the year 2642" and "one item only" in super tiny print that peoples printers or iphones were somehow incapable of seeing. They created all these labyrinthine twists and turns so as to not overextend the discount, but also to create a "product" that had "value" in the form of a "rewards" membership. They gave people "Borders bucks" that were harder to catch than Santa Claus. Apparently the only way we could afford this program was by hoping vast numbers of it's members got lost, and only the sharpest came out with a prize. Not surprising since we gave the bottom line away with almost every coupon. These methods are all lies in their own right. Okay, they put the information there, but Why make it smaller than the exciting 40% off bit, if not to down play it? Down playing is a lie.

Customers, oh...customers, the creativity with which they attempted to exploit the program was BOUNDLESS. These people were Van Goghs of exploitation. Jackson Pollacks of sheer mendacity, it was astonishing! How many times did someone print up 6 40% off coupons when it clearly states on the coupon (and by clearly i mean orders of magnitude smaller than the 40% off part) that the program offers one coupon per membership? How many times then did you hear back "well i'll just do it as separate transactions then."? How many times did you see a mom or dad dole out one to each of her children and have them stand in line and shout their email address out to their tiny accomplices. That right there, is a lesson at a young age in the profitability of dishonesty.

"Can't you just give me the coupon? I printed it up at home but forgot it."


So many ways to "screw us over" with that program. And vice versa. We engaged the customer in battle and the pawns in this sad little downwards spiral chess match, were the booksellers and supervisors who had to get in the face of the customer and cede the square to them, or stand their ground. What an awful position to put us in. Why should I have to go to some lady and get into a shouting match with her because we created a crappy program that relies on people using their unreliable home printers to create a document that makes promises? For the longest time I didn't understand why Borders wouldn't just computerize the whole deal. "Hey congrats infinity percent off a book, just swipe your card" Boom, just like the grocery stores. No questions, no muss no fuss, when the discount was used on that membership...poof...gone. We have the technology for this even with our Nixon Era registers. But I think I figured it out. In my opinion they were hoping that people would fall through the cracks and not take advantage of a reward. This allowed us to offer ludicrously large discounts (considering our negligible profit margin) to vast numbers of people so it expanded Borders value message. I still don't know who was wrong in this scenario, but i know someone was, most likely we all were.

Don't even get me started on the Return policy."Oh you're returning the Rough Guide to Cancun because you got one as a gift from someone as well- and i suppose you ordered that Senior Frogs, Spring Break 2011 t-shirt on line...Stay Classy." I love too, how every time we pushed back suddenly it was for the children, or it was a gift, or something meant to make us feel guilty. And you know, those of you who had to allow such things or not, that you let some complete malarky go through. You know that you did. I was one of the "soft touch" managers, I know I was. I used to be pretty hard core about the return policy, but eventually I just got tired of being shouted at for Borders hourly rate, so I began to be more liberal. And you know what, every bloody person I let steam roll me for a return outside of the policy only increased the problem. They were profitable, so guess what: they did it again. I'm not going to go into how Borders was instrumental in creating the idea that returning a book to a bookstore was an okay notion. All the bookstores before the big box store emerged had a pretty strict no returns policy. Not to mention a "we're not a library, buy it if you want to read it" policy, and a "weirdo please stop rubbing one out on our couch to some creepy manga" policy. In this putting the genie back in the bottle was an unlikely scenario.

I'm not an economist, I'm not a philosopher but I am an observer. And what i've seen over the years is a slow and steady degradation of the value of product and people who provide it. There is some notion that retailers are the "middle men" between the buyer and the maker, and as such they need to be eliminated. As if processing and merchandising product and making it accessible and desirable and doing it with a polite demeanour and a knowledgeable staff able to introduce you to further product that may enrich your life, has NO value. This idea that the retailers are the enemy is such a common idea that both local and national news have regular segments on getting the biggest bang for your buck, and recommend going to independent businesses and offering them a dollar amount for a product and dickering with them. As if a price for something is arrived at by some magical notion, not a simple equation that tells you how much you have to take out of a building to keep it's lights on and feed yourself. As the gulf between wholesale and retail increases, further opportunities exist for exploiting this gulf. Walmart can sell me a pair of jeans for 7.49 and still make a profit because those jeans cost .74 cents to purchase. Which means they can sell a copy of Mocking Jay for 6.74 cents less than it's cost, and still make a profit of a penny! So if you figure Mocking jay probably cost them about 10 bucks they can charge a little over 3 dollars for that book and make a penny. Obviously nobody wants to make a penny for profit, but nobody is expecting a copy of Mocking Jay for a little over 3 dollars either. So the "a little over 8 dollars" they sell it for, while not profitable on that book when combined with the sweatshop jeans creates a tidy little bucket o' cash for them. Win win, right, good for everyone. This increased gulf means that walmart can advertise low low prices and that customers begin having new expectations of what something should cost. And those expectations get lower and lower every day. And as such...we demand less and less from our employers for pay. It's cool, I undertand I can't get a raise this year that I have plainly earned, I can get a lovely plasma tv for $299 though, so all is not lost. I can have the affectations of a middle class life on the income of the impoverished, so all is well, and what I can't afford...I'll buy on CREDIT!

Yeah that kind of thinking has worked out well.

Now I don't have the information or the inclination to begin an argument about globalisation and the free markets, we've benefited in profound ways from capitalism around the world, and it's done profound harms. For Every Warren Buffet there are roughly one Billion not Warren Buffets. But what I can say, with no qualms, is that lies are our biggest mark-up. Lies pad our profit margins, and liars, make the most profits. And that, True Believer (Stan Lee has finally made a cameo in my blog, he can stop texting me now) is something we should all find troubling.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Day 45&46

"The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don't alter their views to fit the facts. They alter the facts to fit their views. Which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering." -The Doctor (as portrayed by Tom Baker)

Today the Loris and I had a bit of a stand off.

So for the last 2 days the Loris has been absolutely frenzied. No one seems to know why, but she is moving about frenetically, barking commands seemingly at random to anyone that appears bipedal enough to carry them out. Sometimes she will give you a command and follow it up with another and then another stacking one atop the other like assy flap jacks. At some point it becomes impossible to rewind and complete the initial task she gave you so you're just always doing the most recent command, waiting for the next interruption and new direction.

It's sort of Borders history crammed into a 2 day window, isn't it. How many initiatives trickled down (or hammered down during the *marshall years) from the Home Office only to be abandoned and replaced by another. I never really understood why the people making the decisions didn't understand that micromanaging from the mid-west was never really going to work. Centralised control became less and less about trusting the people beneath you that had been groomed and mentored, and more and more about defining a series of task and, ultimately specific language, that needed to be done. As though we were computers from the 1980's and all you needed to do was write the correct command line and we'd spit out the numbers you were looking for. I don't know if this conversation ever happened. but in my head I imagine a cadre of people who think of books as products sitting in a darkened chamber, fingers tented, saying "Eventually if we pay less and less and we hire people who are willing to work for that wage eventually we will get a collection of unwashed mouth-breathers dying to simply follow orders for a meager pay check, and then ladies and gentleman of the Cabal, we will live like kings!" Hah! The joke was on them. The allure of books and music and working around smart engaging people was enough to keep a quality person applying and being hired. Don't you realize bookish people sort of intrinsically have low self-worth, if you tell me I'm only worth a dollar more than minimum wage to shelve books, I'm going to believe you, because ...I Get to shelve books! Everytime they realized Initiative A was a failure, largely i think because they didn't respect their staffs or our buying public, they would chill out for about three months and switch to Initiative B. And then when that failed, Initiative C. It was a constant stream of "now do this" from Ann Arbor. I also picture one of the Wizards walking into the offices with a bullhorn declaring the new initiatives, and demanding all the poor people who had lifted Borders up for all those years and who eventually ended up in co-ordinator-y style positions at the home office to make it happen, and then sighs of "are you effin' kidding me?" begin a train of verbal dominoes. Anyway the Loris was like that in the last 2 days, only really really concentrated.

She blamed me for 5 things before I even had my headset on. I just sort of stared at her as she performed her version of reading the riot act. I asked questions in an attempt to make her see reason, or try to trick her using logic. Suddenly, I heard Lewis Carroll pointing and laughing at me from some place in the past. She simply wouldn't come to the logical conclusions my questions should have lead her to. Then I realized that my facts weren't relevant because she didn't like them. Reality and fact have become, or perhaps they always were to her, entirely subjective. Objectivity and logic is a quaint old religion, like being a Jedi or Bridge clubs.

Nevermind that the last 16 hours of my week at borders had seen me doing record amounts of work. Yesterday the first 4 hours of my day were the fastest 4 hours I can remember experiencing that didn't involve nudity or liquor. It was just, blink, and they were over. I was in a constant flurry of dragging stuff (that I would call "trash", but apparently are now called "fixtures") out onto the floor trying to make some kind of cohesive sense out of a random assortment of stuff we just don't want to use any more. The latter part of my day, largely, if I'm being honest, became a wash. I just kind of bumbled about not really sure what I needed to do but I still worked, just not real efficiently. By the way, those hard hours...that was for liquidators. Just sit with that a minute.

And it wasn't just me, she gave my GM 24 hours to pack up every relevant document that needed to be retained and send them out. Borders wanted them by the 7th, apparently she wanted them out of her hair yesterday. And guess what, IT GOT DONE! Because that is how we Borders Folk Roll. You give us a challenge we meet it. Its not our fault historically they've given us stupid challenges.

Today was a morass of paperwork and being a sales person, and supervising deconstruction, and correcting an error which should have been caught 3 weeks ago when I told you what I was doing. OH right, 3 weeks ago it wasn't an error, it was okay. But now...because the loris didn't know what she was doing, it is my fault.

Right, the standoff.

So as I'm walking through the door she hits me with "You got my message that EVERYTHING with the Invoices is ALL WRONG"

Mind you, I'm sipping a diet soda waving to a co-worker at the time, I had just acknowledged her, which apparently is all the impetus she needs to leap!

"Uh..that isn't how it was communicated to me, i know there are a few errors, but -"

"No it's all wrong, you have to redo everyone of them by this afternoon. Why didn't you do it yesterday when i left the Message that you never returned?"

So...let me get this correct, you call say "call me back" I don't, then you speak with MY BOSS and tell her what you need done, which she processes to ME, you know, cuz she's my boss and she gets to tell me what to do. And after that I STILL need to call you? Really? That makes no sense in anyway. My boss is your pipeline to me. Thats how it works, if you have the opportunity to say something directly to me then, by all means do, but if time and telephone don't allow it I assure you that my General Manager is more than capable of giving me a directive and seeing it done. Jeez, control freak much?

Thats what i said on the inside, I verbalized the following "My Gm told me what to do, i just didn't have time to do it as they decided to sell all the fixtures for half price and raise the discount on the merchandise while simultaneously cutting our hours so i know, selling things, much too busy to fix a few errors."

"well it all needs to be fixed"

"All what, you need to be precise, because What my GM told me to do doesn't seem like so large a task i couldn't accomplish it in a couple of hours"

"Well it's your first priority today"

Ha, loser, my first priority is verifying the deposit. Suck it, Loss Prevention comes first, yo!

Now what apparently triggered her descent into the panic room was that the documents were not filled out entirely.

Quoth the Loris three weeks ago: "You really just need to get the phone number, the rest isn't that important".

Oh but you see, thats not how it "happend". Apparently I misheard her, and so did $$$ because she was there and she was doing the same thing. About 25% of the documents were missing the information that we didn't NEED but had to have anyway. So i had to work with our corporate magician to get the project done. IN AN HOUR.

"oh you're all done, oh you all are just fabulous."I know thats why you shouldn't panic. Psycho.

So two things have happened in the last two days that seem important. The first is that i'm done. Physically and emotionally done. Yesterday morning i walked up to some of my friends working and i said to them. "I hope these cheap bastards buy every damn cd dvd book and fixture we have in here today, because I'm done. I'm sick of it. I want to close." Now the feeling is not that weird, and it's totally understandable. But the fact that i broke the seal and said it is a momentous thing. I have tried to carve a path through this as the person who helped sustain the energy and enthusiasm of my friends when I'm working. I am seen goofing off, because i feel like goofing off is an important step in living through this misery. I try to arrange after work gatherings. I try to be generally up beat and not negative. But yesterday i just kind of...puked that sentiment up. I was genuinely kind of surprised I said it. But man it felt good to say it. And frankly I think it was a sentiment everyone could agree with. I'm just done. Whats left of my store doesn't resemble what i know, what i care about. Today i sat and watched...and even helped, as someone pulled vast fields of slatwall of the wall in the kids room and left it naked and bruised with it's original carpenters math showing. Poor naked wall. It was so strange. I used to build these stores as a trainer. Helping to tear them apart has never sat well with me. But today i was kind of glad to do it, because that meant I was four pieces of slatwall closer to getting the hell out. I will, without a doubt in my heart, miss the everliving damn out of everyone I work with. But i cannot take this ...degradation...any longer. So i just breathe deep and think of England.

The second thing was that the Loris lost my trust. Up until now I really felt she was going to make this a smooth orderly transition, that she was the pragmatic and composed piece of the liquidator puzzle (The fighting Eagle...being neither of those things). But it turns out, no. She is just as slippery as any viper. As soon as she feels behind or out of control she just begins rewriting truth to fit her narrative. I'm sorry but my understanding of management is that if something is wrong, it's your job to catch it. 3 weeks of doing something should have noticed it and corrected it at 3 days. But again, it wasn't wrong then...oh no it what is it? Are you lying or incompetent? Pick one please so we know how to respond. Somehow our store is 2 weeks behind, behind what we still don't know. But whose fault is that? The legion of hard working, ethical, well intentioned and mostly happy booksellers who bust their collective asses every day to help you help us out the door, or you of the thousand directions? You who are the scarecrows third option, going both ways at all times? And you who are, you might have forgotten, in charge. That doesn't mean you just get to tell people what to do, it also means you are responsible for it being done...or not. The second she began forging history i lost the respect i had for her, and worse, I stopped trusting her. She went from being an adversary to being a nemesis. Adversaries play the same game with the same rules, they don't just switch the rules in the middle when they start losing.

We've all encountered this before. But when it's someone who is basically giving you your last rites with an organisation you don't have any compulsion to work through it, no motivation to smooth it over. Every boss you've ever had has done this to you, i'd almost be positive of it. But you need to have a relationship with them, and human relationships are complicated and sometimes very ugly things happen and you just ...get over it...and move on. Because you have to to show up at work the next day and not start kicking the holy shite out of someone. All of us make compromises to be able to be near the people we want to or need to. You can say that becoming a professional should mean that you check your feelings at the door, but it doesn't. If anything it heightens them because this your money! But it's the connections you make to folk who work next to you just trying to pay their bills or raise their children or save up money for a vacation that make work work. And when you take that connection out of the equation you do not have the need to forgive an insult of any magnitude, let alone one where you ostensibly call someone illiterate, incapable, lazy and a liar, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. It's only made more hideous by the fact that the mistake was yours. And now you just lie about it.

There is a lightness to all this dark though. The feeling of being over it, of having taken almost all you can from a job, and just waiting to be cut free is freeing in it's own right. There is now an excitement in me for the end of days. I know I'll still see my co-workers, I'll make the effort, and many of them will too. It's kind of like the end of the breakfast club, detention is over, but Judd Nelson and his weird nostrils still get to fist pump at the end. I feel like, as with all quests, i have entered the darkness and i'll have to come out eventually, as a meta-observer of my own life, I know the darkness clears soon. I mean that , both professionally and personally. A change is coming, i can feel it, and I'm excited for it. The end of this means a new beginning for something. I hope for all of us it's something more positive, but even if it brings hardship, just treading water through this hardship to get to that one is kind of...lame. So lets get it done, already.

If I were capable I'd insert a sports metaphor here, but...I'm not. So instead ...uh...Go team Borders!

Crush the Liquidators!

U-G-L-Y you aint got no alibi, you Ugly! You Ugly.

Nerds rule. Soulless money sucking corporate scavengers drool!Etc.

* this wasn't a type-o, henceforth I refuse to capitalize that persons name. He doesn't deserve the correct case I can't begin to take from him what he took from all of us, but I can take his capital M.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day 44

Day off y'all.

For me that meant my annual Cinna-bon. Once a year, because those suckers find ways to hide calories in places you didn't even know existed!

Oh...and today I got an interview for a job i desperately want! Next Thursday at 10 am. Heres hoping!

See you on day 45 (45!!!!!)


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Day 43

"we have a lot to do, we are probably...two weeks behind in this store" -The Loris.

Today the Loris made a point to show me stills of a store that was closed and what it looked like. I understand why she was doing it, she was attempting to illustrate to me what we needed to do to get to the point that the store looked that way. I'll admit to it working, in general, i'm a pretty easily managed person. It's pretty easy to light a fire under my ass, to get me to see where you going and try to help you get there, unless of course i think what you're aiming for is stupid or I don't understand why you're having me do thing a. when thing b. would be infinitely more efficient. I'll admit to being difficult to manage under those circumstance. Today the Loris was on a tear to get us to some point in her mind that she has never bothered to communicate with anyone. And if she has communicated that to anyone they've kept it to themselves.

So you can color me surprised when she says that we are so far behind. I can't imagine what we are behind on. Our store is still fairly full of product, although it is slowly moving toward the front of the store. And of course when she says anything she has this tone that leads you to believe that she thinks its your fault. She also spends a lot of time telling me that i'm working too hard and i should get my bonus. I don't care about the bonus, i made that clear at the beginning. I mean, if money were a massive motivator for me i wouldn't be working at Borders, now would I? But I do care about mixed signals because they usually indicate lying and i am sick to my teeth of getting them.

Listen, I fully understand what they are here to do, and how they need to get it done. I understand that when they close up they need to make every penny count. They need optimize every moment of sales because they are only here for 2 months. Oh, guess what though...I don't give a fuck! I really don't care. I know it's unclear because i still try to do what i'm asked and i still try to do it professionally and politely, but thats because i care about professionalism and politeness, not about making this a success. This also makes it entirely impossible for you to try manipulate me into doing a better job by trying to make me feel like I'm doing my job poorly, equally impossible is you trying to get me to do a better job by encouraging me and saying I'm doing a great job. Like a small child who just wants one more Yo Gabba Gabba dance number (which by the way, for a moment, have you watched that's oddly brilliant. One of the characters appears to be a marital aid, and the main guy is pretty much an African American version of the Asian dude from Deee-Lite. If that doesn't make you want to watch it no amount of toddler centric marketing will) I've gone boneless. You cant pick me up because I'm all slippery dead weight. You can't move me left or right. Herding cats, holding water. These are things that are similarly difficult. So, why the hell won't you stop.

Why can't they just be honest with us. Why can't it go like this: "Listen, I'm here because your company completely screwed you. I am not the bad guy, but ... I work for the bad guy. I clean up his messes. You, unfortunately for you, are his messes. This will not be fun for you. I expect you to show up, do your jobs as I define them, and be polite to the customers. All I have to offer you is more hours at this store, and in the end, perhaps an opportunity to be on unemployment and have a second to catch your breath before you move on to the next thing. I have a job to do, you can help me do it, or you can go home right now." I would respect that approach so much more. But they can't do that. They can't take the chance that we might all say "okay, peace out." and head out the door. They have to manipulate us because they need us there. For now. As time passes they will need us less and they'll begin to tolerate our shenanigans less and less velvet glove and more iron fist will the the lay of the land.

A man came in tonight, and his height isn't relevant to anything but the visuals, but he was tall. Not just the kind of tall thats tall to me because I'm profoundly and precisely average heighted for a man, but the kind of tall that makes you wonder...what is it like to see from that vantage point. He was also very Cool. He had tattoos and longish hair and he was very handsome and he was opening a food truck and he had a baby, and later when he came back without the baby he drove his chopper. Normally I'd hate this guy I find the overly and overtly cool tiresome. But my defences were down. So I decided to chat with the guy about the fixtures he wanted and I found him a plain dealer and completely lacking in bullshit. He looked up prices for things on his I phone (of course) and said "this is only going for this much newly refurbished, these ones are just used". He wasn't trying to low ball me on prices, he just wanted to know what stuff was worth. He went around came up with some numbers that he liked and I took those number to the Fighting Eagle. The Fighting Eagle didn't like those numbers (he did however like the misfits song playing on the overhead, see...he's a pretty neat guy just...wholly unfocused) so he came back with more. I introduced them as, frankly, i didn't want to wheel and deal with this guy. Eventually they came to a reasonable arrangement and the guy got a good deal and we sold some fixtures.

No bull shit. No hurt feelings. No one got screwed. Why can't this whole experience be like that one transaction.

So many little lies. Its like my whole day is little lies. Some days it's like walking into a whirlwind with razor blades sprinkled in for good measure. Lies to customers, lies from customers. Lies to staff, lies from staff. Lies to myself. Small fictions to help us get by. Stories to assuage a customers righteous indignation at the thought of a "buyers premium". Smiles and curiosity at lorises when I really just want to drop what I'm doing and walk away. Contentment at finishing a project. Lies of Omission when selling to customers. So much untruth that it's becoming cumbersome. Lies from Lorises.

An honest days pay from an honest days work...

Monday, August 29, 2011

day 42

Let me get this straight: You know nothing of how our business works, yet you get to make the most profit from it that it has ever seen?

Yeah, thats fair.

It's just so frustrating that with almost no exception, the liquidators prove on a daily basis that the very basics of what we do is an ages old mystery not worth solving to them. Simple steps of logic escape them. For instance the old ditty about rectangles and squares. All squares being rectangles but not all rectangles being squares. Yes, all Sci-Fi mystery and romance are fiction, but not all fiction is sci-fi mystery and romance. A simple theorem, really. Something even a child understands.

Let me step away for a minute and deluge you with my personal manifesto re: genre. I personally believe that most literary genre is just a marketing ploy. Genres make it easier to sell books. There is no such thing as literary taxonomy. And all efforts to create or observe a literary taxonomy just create (and allow you to observe) annoying people who parse the difference between Science Fiction and Space Opera. Heres the difference: you've decided your tastes are exceptional and since you don't like it must be something wholly other. I can remember as a small child watching He-Man on television and finding it really annoying that even though he-man had a magical sword and a sorceress who created him, he also used lazer beams and flew around in spaceships. I liked fantasy, I didn't like science fiction. I didn't want chocolate with my peanut butter. I still am not a huge fan of hamfisted efforts to jam them together. Anyhow, that was (and remains) a very juvenille point of view. All it does is create easily shoppable ghettos and encourage schlock mills like James Patterson to keep pumping out easily branded product. You wouldn't dare put Dan Brown (whose books I enjoyed immensely but I also like jolly ranchers, I just wouldn't recommend them for dinner) in the same category, and thus court comparisons to, the likes of ...oh...Umberto Eco, who is a far superior writer by any objective measure, except perhaps the measure of sheer enjoyability, which is ...well subjective. And you create authors who have a distaste for setting up shop in those self same ghettos for fear of being deemed low brow, or one trick ponies (See Also: Margaret Atwood) Anyhow, my point is that I'm not, in the above paragraph, advocating for a strict adherence to some kind of literary eugenics, I'm just saying that as book purveyors and members of the buying public we divide and conquer. -Fin

So when a customer asks you “where is the non-fiction” section, it's a hard question to answer, right. Because you don't want to appear to be a punch line for a John Hodgman bit on the Daily Show. But really, how do you answer that question (no really, comment please) because there is no answer to my way of thinking that doesn't make the person asking you seem like they didn't graduate the 6th grade. At least, though, they ask you. Unlike the AI cyborgs who write up the draft copies of the emails we send out and don't bother to check them. If you are offering an additional 15% off of All Fiction in the store, that can be a couple of things. It could mean all prose that isn't true and it could mean all The books categorized as Fiction/Lit (another distinction I have a manifesto on) . Fine, if you say in the small print “all books in the Official Fiction/Lit category” which is how it was programmed into the register. All general Fiction/Lit books were coming up an additional percentage off. However, If you then begin listing authors on your email that are comfortable and even become incredibly wealthy, in their low rent districts you then create what I like to call “chaos”. Rick Riordian is an author primarily associated with titles for children. James Patterson is mostly a mystery author, though he has books all over. Unless you want me to stand at the register for my ENTIRE SHIFT and manually over ride the prices, this isn't going to work. Oh...that is...what you want me do? Really? That seems messy. I'd think a simple phone call to whereever to change the coding on the discounts in the computer so we could update them would have been easier.

It's just so astonishingly head/desky. And not to mention frustrating as hell. I mean, these guys stand to make in 2 or 3 months what our Gms make in a year. As a corporation, or series of corporations they bought us for nickels on the dollar. Even at 50% off on books they are making money.
It may be fair, but it isn't right.

When you marry that with the sheer boredom, the increasing idiocy of the customer base, the madness that is selling fixtures, it borders on impossible to keep your chin up.

Our store is suffering, all throughout. Everyone is pissy, sad, angry, bored, frustrated and scared and it shows. Our interactions with one another, when once upon a time they might have been fun and affirming, are becoming so baleful. It seems like every conversation I'm having these days is about how much it sucks, how rude customers are, how they don't care about what we're going through. Some of us are becoming down right unpleasant. This is the part of liquidation that, so far anyway, bums me out the most. Because for the most of us, we're a fun loving group. And I think a number of us have been over customer interactions for years, but most of us don't mind it. It is unusual for me to find a way out of helping a customer with what they need or to think that the customer is either heavily medicated or just a moron. I try to be helpful and cheery without being saccharine, but that is becoming nigh impossible.

The worst part is I feel incapable of improving it for everyone, they are entitled to feel however they want, and I feel that way too. The last thing I want is to be standing near the bow of a ship, looking at a hurricane sweeping over the seas and saying “allright me mateys, lets sing us a happy sea shanty! Yar.” (cory as pirate).

I worry that the only sustenance we have to consume is our good cheer with each other. For a while I believed we had the doldrums and the meanies licked, but no...turns out no, we just delayed it for a while. I'm not sure how to feel about that, and I'm not sure if we come back from it. All I am sure of is that what made this company is it's people. Watching all of us as we slowly get ground down is something I am unprepared to witness. I'm writing this as a clarion call to ask everyone to keep their chins up, accentuate the positive, you tunes stuff. But it's so hard. The gallows humor is just starting to mire us down. The boredom and constant busy work with no real end result, no net positive for anyone but a handful of people who I could care less about, is like a pencil pressed against my thorax and slowly being pushed into me one layer of skin and viscera at a time. How do you keep your chin up during that.

I don't want my last work memory of some of these wonderful people to be, “what a grouchy snot”. But how do we pull out of this dive? How do we energize the boredom, how do we strip the gallows from the humor? How do we have fair humor in unfair times? Do we bother? It seems to me the least this experience can be is a fun work environment. It seems to me that what they cannot sell out from us is our good humor and our friendship and the honor of doing a job well for each other and being kindly to one another.

Forgive Shakespeare his sexism for a moment:

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
 For he today that sheds his blood with me
 Shall be my brother; be he never so vile,
 This day shall gentle his condition;
 And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
  Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
  And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
 That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

This is our Saint Crispin's day. Alas I am not King Henry...

of course he died of dysentery.

Day 41

had the day off. Had no power. so my post is a day late... Storm 1, Cory 0.

Irene was horrible. 20 people died in the US and land from Vermont to the Bahamas looks ravaged and water logged.

Also six years ago Katrina landed and devastated the gulf coast.

The small talk about the weather needs to get big in a hurry. If we can't stop we need to learn how to cope better.

Hopefully by the time this up all of my co-workers will have power again and be able to leave their houses.

At least we are all safe, if perhaps bored and a little smelly.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Day 40

Hello Irene. Nice to meet you.

People had a panicked look in their eyes this morning. I know a major meteorological event is happening and that the whole east coast is about to lose power, be soaking wet and blown all over the place, but really? Really. What about this scenario says to you: Come out, buy a book and a pet pillow, and a bookshelf...and...drain cleaner? How will all of this help your survival?

Is this darwinism at work? Will these people all be sent adrift to the oceans making the indigenous breeding stock heartier and more well prepared for inclement weather? Probably not. I can't imagine ever having the thought: I should be preparing my home for the wet and windy fury of god, but instead I'm going to get into a slap fight with somebody over the last blu-ray copy of Avatar. Who are these people?

They are like Sims, not people. They do a certain action over and over again because it's a part of their base code. Even if there is something happening that would say to any rational people. Go home, be with your family, secure your pets. Move the stuff on your basement floor up 4 feet so you don't lose 25 years of book collecting...(maybe thats just me). But they just perform the same movements over and over again until whatever event catches up with them and they cease to be. Or it doesn't and they move on, having learned nothing from the encounter.

I have a particular loathing for people who shop in inclement weather. I have always lived in the North East, as a result i've seen many many snowy days where the roads just aren't safe to travel. I mean, you are taking your life into your hands driving in some of these conditions. Worse, if you drive your SUV out into the world to go shopping in a snow storm just because you can, you are taking MY life into your hands. Because Borders is going to be open for your browsing pleasure if they think you're coming in. You will not find a district manager alive who will shut down the store unless it is truly catastrophic and once you've hit that point you're all ready well into the danger zone. I've been standing at info on days that the state had declared nobody but emergency personnel should be on the roads. They don't just say that shit for fun! It's because potentially it is DEADLY out there. At least, it's horribly inconvenient and terrifying. Once upon a time I drove home at 11 oclock at night north over an unplowed interstate 91 in Vermont...through mountains, because ...well those 15 people who purchased something between 6pm and 11pm were somehow important. I'm all for winter hardiness, but c'mon now.

Heres the formula: If snowstorm=Sales, then open, if Snow storm doesn't= sales then not open. It makes sense, we're a business. But to the customers who come out and give our district managers the idea that we are losing business if we close rather than put our staff at risk I say, you are big dumb jerk heads.

The way we do business is so skewed sometimes. Not just, and not particularly, Borders but everyone. Barnes & Noble wasn't any better. I remember telling a driver at Dominoes Pizza i wouldn't allow him to deliver during a snowstorm because his car would go off the road. As his manager I delivered it in my 4wd vehicle and got a 2 dollar tip. Yeah, some asshole thought it would be a great idea to ask me to drive a pizza to his house in the middle of a blizzard and I had to, because it was my job. If I had refused, I'd be the one penalised, because, Hey, you accept having to do this when you sign on. Well that answer is crap.

It's as if because you've accepted to do something in exchange for money, nothing else...not your safety, not your health, not your happiness matters. Because Money makes feelings irrelevant. Its cut and dry. It's math. A simple equation, i pay you, you do this. There are no variables. I was listening to an interesting story about A&P the other night on the radio. Turns out they paved the way for walmart style retail and faded into quaintness themselves. I had no idea. I just thought they were adorable small grocery stores. Turns out once upon a time they were ground breaking in the way they treated employees. They expected a lot from them, but they treated them well too. Over time that has faded. While i would undoubtedly lose any argument about now being better than 1921 (also i wouldn't really make that argument) I would say we have certainly lost some things that we should try to get back. They needn't be a trade off.

Borders treated us better than many, many employers of the same size once upon a time. This is where the wisenheimers chime in "and look where it got them". Our labor expenditures might have been crazy, and perhaps we needed streamlining, and work reduction,but If your ship is taking on water, you don't start poking holes in boards, you shore them up. You have to wonder if borders had spent less money on Ron Marshalls and more money on say, giving decades long employees the cost of living and merit increases they needed and deserved, if perhaps we would have experienced more buy-in from the staff. Maybe, if I weren't making almost the same money now as I was making in 2000, I would have tried to buoy our sales a bit more, because you see that little equation, (You pay me, i do this), it works both ways. You don't pay me, you don't give my well being consideration over a few hundred dollars sales and your precious "open when you want us to be" philosophy, you get what you get.

And to people running out to buy non essentials, I hope you are safe and well during this hurricane, I hope your pets and family come to no harm. I hope you have minimal property destruction and that your pet pillows are comfortable. But I am a bit bored and peckish...maybe for a nominal fee you'd bring me a dvd and a bite to eat...No? but why not?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Day 39

Another day off.

The response to my post about Bob has been very heart warming. He was a great friend and his remembrance long overdue. Thanks for taking the time to read about him.

Well i'm off to get some sleep before the Hurricane swings by.

See you all on day 40.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day 38

I miss Bob.

Bob was a good friend of mine way back when I first became a bookseller. Subsequently he became kind of a pain in my butt once I became a manager, I guess thats how it's supposed to work, I guess it means we were both doing our jobs right. Bob was older than me, significantly. Maybe into his 60's. He was Kind. He was Strange. He was wise, and completely naive. He cared so much about people who didn't give a damn about him. It used to make me so angry. He had a lot to offer, but frequently it wasn't noticed by people around him.

It was the late 90's and a caustic form of irony had eaten away a piece of America. For some reason it was so passe to truly be enthusiastic about anything at that time. As if enthusiasm indicated a lack of sophistication. A lack of sophistication was the social Scarlet Letter of the day. Bob was anything but sophisticated and he was spectacularly enthusiastic. If he was involved in a conversation with you, it had his full attention. He engaged you with his eyes. He listened and he thought, and he responded, usually quickly because he had life experiences that you were having right now, 40 years ago. He would check on you the next time he saw you, and ask you specifics about what you did in relation to the conversation. Bob worked in education, I think he was a teacher or guidance counsellor, I don't entirely remember.

He and I would squirrel away minutes to spend time talking with each other. He was a comic fan, like I was but he was late Golden Age and Early Silver Age. I was thoroughly modern age, but we agreed that when Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess got together it was ageless. Bob created me musically as much as anyone except my former wife, and a pair of friends of mine Chris and Abby. Bob educated me on Bob Dylan. Not just played it for me, but educated me. He schooled me, yo. He gave me the gift of John Prine. He expanded my beatlemania. He Taught me Buddy Holly and I thought I brought it with Patsy Cline, ha! He saw my Patsy Cline and raised me a Billie Holiday. A week didn't go by where he didn't bring me a mix tape. Yup Tape. From Records. "Cd's are okay if you don't like hearing the music."

We passed so many hours talking. Product assessment he called it. If we were leaning on the counter he called it "construction quality assurance". Bob was missing his middle finger just below the knuckle. If a manager called us to task on our product assessment, he'd flip them the bird, and just smile..."what theres nothing there!". The story of how he lost the finger was never the same twice. My favorite days with bob were the snowy ones. Being in Connecticut we didn't get a ton of snow, but we got it. If it snowed no one came into the store but Bob and I always seemed to be stuck there. We'd put Blonde on Blonde on the overhead and turn it up too loudly for regular days and sit at info, he would actually sit on info. sometimes if all the shelving was caught up and sections were flushed, we'd just start reading. Sitting there quietly sharing the funny bits or the ridiculous bits. Okay, I know there are some of my managers reading this past and current...and other managers, and since the company is dead anyway, just admit love days like that too.

There was never a boring day with Bob, he didn't entertain...he was just ...Bob. Having him there was going to be something..perhaps irritating, perhaps funny, for me it was like having a store dad. But it was never Boring. Which is why I miss him so much now. Because my sweet lord i am BORED! we all are. So bored. There is nothing engaging happening at borders now. We can't interact with the customers anymore because finding them anything is a virtual impossibility and they all want to talk about how bad they feel the store is closing. yawn. The work is dull. It's just moving product, from table a to table b. Clear off shelves, replace stuff on the shelves. Move signs. Make Signs. Fill displays. Unfill displays. There isn't even any new stuff coming in. I have no idea what books are out. I know what I hear on NPR, and thats it. IF terry gross doesn't have them on Fresh Air, I got nothing. You can't spend time with your co-workers because they are stuck at the registers or you're stuck in the "fixture area" haggling over the price of stained steaming pitchers. yawn and yawn.

So. Friggin. Bored. Bob could have fixed that, maybe not while he was on payroll, but he'd drop by just to check in. To catch up. To give me a mix tape. To flick my GM the finger and a raspberry noise. and then a big laugh that exploded out from his tightly cropped white beard. There were people who didn't like Bob, but nobody could be angry at him.

It's so easy to move from job to job and forget the people you worked with. To let them float away into the recesses of your memory never to see the light of day, fill your time with new faces, new names, new music. But I make connections with people and I carry them with me. Not everywhere and not everyone, but Borders it seems like so much of what i'll miss is the people.

Bob died while I was on vacation. He left behind an estranged wife and a wonderful little boy who was going to have an amazing father. He left behind a school of children who had for years counted him as counsellor and protector. He left me behind. Even now, I can't hear "Angel from Montgomery" without getting misty eyed. His funeral was a procession of people standing up to say nice things about him. I tried...but I couldn't, I thought what does a co-worker from his part time job have to offer. And I was angry, so angry, at all the people who had never appreciated him for what he was, anything that was going to be said was going to reflect that. After all these years I'm still angry.

Bob happened at Borders. He was a part of this company and I want more than just the handful of people he worked with at a southern New England store to know he was there. Borders isn't just a company, it's people, individuals. Bob was one of them, and I thought you all should know.

I miss Bob.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day 37

"I'm half the naked distance between hell and heaven's ceiling, and it's almost pulled me under."-The Indigo Girls.

Ah to be the fixture manager. Thats a cute title by the way, fixture manager. As if I in any way make decisions about this nonsense. Okay for those who don't know what this means, i'd refer you to day 15, in which your faithful blogger answers the question "are you agressive?" spoilers, the answer was no.

Anyway apparently my karma needs an enema, because somehow I became stuck with this foolishness. To say the culture of liquidation is different than Borders is sort of a lie. Liquidation doesn't seem to have a culture, and if it does its one of mutual distrust and contempt. Especially between the two "consultants" assigned to my store.

OH i haven't really discussed him, have i? Okay, each store gets a "Liquidation Consultant" and a "Fixture Consultant". This consultant tag is the most orwellian title i've every come across as consultants are people you go to with questions in your business. Then, you judge the merits of their information and choose to use it or not. In the liquidation business they just tell you what to do and are your boss. So, words...not so much the strong suit of the liquidation people. Perhaps at a previous job they liquidated the meaning of "consultant", i don't know. Anyhow, the Liquidation consultant is in charge of selling off all the Merchandise and closing down the store effectively. The Fixture consultant is in charge of maximising the profit from the sale of everything that can be removed from the store without the land lord suing you after the fact. The fixture managers, thats me and $$$ are the people in the store in charge of making sure the fixture consultant can achieve his goals. And to do that we are given a sizeable bonus, sizeable if you think less than i make in a full day is sizeable. I think they also liquidated the definition of "incentive" as well. Even borders, who sucked at that, did a better job. These guys apparently work on commission, you'd think they would understand that you don't incentivize people by offering them an insult. Considering they bought the company for a song, i think they could have spared a few notes.

Anyway, the FC and LC do not "work at crossed purposes". It's cute they believe that. Our stores is one of the "best" in the "company" top 50, actually. Our store is also lagging behind in fixture sales. I would think, any person capable of discerning information from data would look at that and see a logical correllation. If you are busy selling merchandise you don't have the time to sell fixtures. Makes sense right? People come in and look around and it's chaos because of all the shopping, their not really going to whip out their tape measures and start dickering over the price of 3 chairs versus 4, are they? Seems to me to be logical, but apparently not to the cabal of Stonecutters who judge these glorified grave robbers. So the pressures on to get fixture sales up up up! And of course the Loris, and the FC who i will call "The Fighting Eagle" have radically different responses to pressure.

So the fighting eagle is a nice guy, If I weren't biologically incapable of liking him, I probably would. He likes the ramones, he wears doc martens with an expensive suit, he lives in Europe a good part of the year. Whats not to like? oh right, he eats cadavers for sustenance. He also appears to have a massive coc....acola habit. He is wired for sound all the time. He compulsively repeats himself at least 3 or 4 times, like some kind of Austin Powers villain. He is constantly talking on his headset to ...everyone it seems. I will say this for him, regardless of who he's got in his ear, the second he sees me he gives me his attention. He says what he wants but in incredibly vague ways. When I clarify and ask for precision, he squirms and equivocates. But he's pleasant so it doesn't really annoy me. I just kind of take that to mean he trusts me to do what I think I should. Problem is his bosses don't trust him because we are lagging behind on his responsibilities (the fact that it makes perfect sense to anyone who has ever read a us hist report doesn't matter to them). The other day he came to our store 2 days in a row. He's kind of fun so thats okay. But we don't really accomplish anything we wouldn't accomplish if he wasn't there, and just gave us the instruction. Hes so scatter shot and he gets so distracted by the smallest thing. The other day he abandoned a hand truck full of shelving in the middle of the store to walk into the vestibule and look at the 8th grade science fair picture board of fixtures we have stationed there. Just walked away, left it there. I came up behind him grabbed it brought it to the cafe or as he calls it the "fixture area" and left it. 2 and a half hours later he came to me and asked me if I'd seen it.

Later that afternoon He told me and $$$ we would be cold calling people out of the phone book and telling them we got shit to sell. "So are you comfortable with that?" He asked at the end. to which i replied "no, not at all. But I'll do it because it's my job. I've spent my whole career avoiding that, i've never been and never wanted to be a telemarketer or sales person, and I certainly don't want to start now. But if you tell me you want me to call 40 people a day, I will because I'm a professional, and its my job." I mean, truth is they have me by the short and curlies and they know it, so asking me questions about my comfort level are a niceness that means nothing. Thats a Loris move, The Fighting Eagle, not cool. To his credit he thanked us, and sincerely so, and made a point to ask the Loris if she would spare someone else to do the calling as well, someone more suited to it. So, he didn't have to do that and that was cool.

Unfortunately a lot of the communication from him comes through the Loris, which is tiresome. She is incredibly impatient, when she says something in a way that sounds vague and off in that future middle distance she really means right now. If you suggest that you will do something, she means now. Giving a moment to consider the smartest way to tackle something is anathema to her. Frankly borders had started moving in that direction recently. I'm sorry, but I'm dyed in the wool old school, I have quaint middle 90's corp speak etched on my soul. I will always work smarter, not harder, so that means everything I am asked to do will get due consideration, and tackled in what I deem the most efficient means possible. If you don't think I'm efficient, thats something we can discuss, but efficiency and immediacy aren't the same thing. If you interfere with that purpose you are micromanaging me. Too many fantastic bosses have put too much time into me and into my learning how to be GOOD at what I do, for you to show up and decide you're going to question my judgement on something as trivial as when a sign gets put up. I got this, back off.

Also she is constantly teetering on the brink of this strange panic, like she just saw someone breaking into her car and she doesn't know what to do. and she interrupts you all the time. Let me finish a fucking sentence and you able to relax for a second. Today when i came into work, it took me about 45 minutes to get around to seeing her. I decided i'd talk shop for a few second.

"So we did pretty well with fixture sa-"

"We need to get all that stuff from in back out here."

"Out ba-"

"The office."

"Be precise, what stuff."

"The fixtures."

"specificially which fixtures."

"The plastic one-"

"Because the fighting eagle told me just to put one of each one in the fixture area as an example and replace them as we sell them, are you telling me to do something else, because i will i just want to be sure"


Yeah, Oh. Listen for 10 damn seconds and you might get some info. I know...shocking.

"Well you need to call The Fighting Eagle."

"okay i will do that." So i did. and he confirmed everything he had told me the day before.

Then of course apparently while me and $$$ were at lunch she had a panic attack/cranky pants fit about both fixture people being out of the building at the same time and our sales manager having to field a series of questions about prices. Okay first of all, it had better not be a question of capability because our sales manager, you remember her...Moonshine, is on IT. I would trust her to remove a kidney from me with nothing more than a box cutter, a few appropriate medical flash cards, and some whiskey. Seriously i don't know many people more capable of just dealing with shit. She is one of the gravitational forces that keeps our store from flying into the sun. So I think it was just the idea of one of her merchandise people being forced to sully themselves in the fixture slum. Like The Fighting Eagle was taking time away from her because i happen to be scheduled that day. I honestly don't know if she thinks that I'm some kind of strange time anomaly and I just exist at every second of the day to sell people old syrup pumps. I only work 36 hours a week. We only have 48 hours scheduled for fixture time, thats about half my schedule. And fixture time is supposed to be hard core, devoted to fixtures, calling people selling to people, stickering everything not moving in the store. Not fixing sections until i'm called up to do a fixture sale. So there will be more time when i'm not a fixture guy than when i am. So she needs to relax and cope. Eat some berries and chill out on your branch little mammal, all will be fine.

So another affront to me is that they don't appreciate the imposition they are putting me and $$$ through. I never asked to do this. I was never ASKED it was just assumed. And it's too late to pass on it, who does it go to? My GM? Moonshine? no, I'm not having that. I won't do that to them. For some reason, some part of me, feels like this is something I should shoulder. I feel like,the person who should take that bullet. I can't explain it. Maybe someone else can, but I can't. At no point does the Loris acknowledge that I'm doing them a massive favor for almost no extra money. And worse they act like I have some real responsibility here. No, I'm need to examine your reality here. I have no job when this is done, I don't care if you make your numbers. I don't care AT ALL. I will never care. Don't mistake my good humor and willingness to make the best of a shit situation for buy in. None of this is on me. I do it because someone has to. I do it because I probably have the best working knowledge of about a third of the product I'll be selling. I do it because it guarantees me employment until I don't care to have it any more, or it runs out, whichever comes first. But you will never convince me that somehow my success is tied up in yours. It isn't. Check yo self. Because you are about to wreck yo self.

Sometimes I sit down on a chair from the "fixture department" and I look at my emptying kitchen and I try to summon positive thoughts of rebirth. That my ice machine is going to make some small business bigger. But i know the reality of the situation is that 5 out of 6 independent businesses fail. So I sit there contemplating what has become of my life. How did I become the guy wheeling and dealing trying to get top dollar for stuff I know isn't worth it, but has an intrinsic value that far outstrips what we're asking. How did I become the guy responsible for committing this commercial war crime? I'm a profiteer and freedom fighter all at the same time.

Today I gave honest thought to whether or not I would be here to lock the door at the end. This place has become so dark, for me. What joy I thought I'd take from being there until all was said and done and all my friends and family had moved on is being spent selling their bones before they are dead. I've become a pawn to the prince of darkness. I'm the friend who gets turned into a vampire and needs to get staked before the end of the movie. I'm Satipo dropping Indiana Joneses whip and running off with idol saying only "adios Senor".

Worst of all though is that team:liquidate doesn't even acknowledge how it's killing me to do this. Every time someone tries to haggle with me over the price of something and they say stuff like "it's 10 years old, or i can get that for almost new" or as was the case tonight "the customer if always right". A little fire burns inside of me and consumes something. I don't know what yet, but i have to think it's something good, because I feel its loss like it's my breath. My GM sees it, she's told me so. But the liquidators just seem only too happy to liquidate that part of me as well.