Thank you to all of the people who commented and passed along this blog to friends. I'm very moved to know that there are so many people who care about the observations of a soon to be unemployed bookseller, and who are there to lend support.
If even half of the days of the previous year had been like today, I can assure you liquidation would be the furthest thing from the minds of the powers that put us there. Today was a chaotic eruption of walkers-in and walkers around. There wasn't a moment where the cash register was silent. There was never a person standing in line without a person behind them. When our computer system went down, which was apparently intentional, I thought briefly, I was witnessing the entrance of a new predatory species to a here-to-fore balanced eco-system, as the pack gathered, licking their teeth, just waiting for their chance to pounce. People were out to buy books today, they were going to buy books today , and gods and goddesses help you should you get in their way.
Or were they? It was a lot of new faces today and old gift cards. People were wandering our store as though they had never been there. Mostly, they hadn't.
This was every other phone call i answered : "okay, Where is your store?"
"Route 38, next to Ruby Tuesdays"
"okay so what exit is that?". The phone was wringing almost non-stop.
So what brought all these new patrons out? These new deep pockets that could have blown wind into our sales over the past years? I'm going to go ahead and call them "Rubber Neckers" I believe these rubber neckers were no more there to buy books than they were to measure my feet for shoes. I believe they were here because it was news. It was a grim economic freakshow that they all had tickets to. They could wander the store and cluck their tounges in disapproval at how our society could so casually cast aside such a shrine to intellect and creativity. They could approach us and mourn our passing while at the same time verifying whats to come. I don't think those people cared about deals, because the liquidation hasn't started yet. I think they cared about the spectacle of it all. The opportunity to participate in the last days of something. Like funeral lurkers, who didn't really know the person who died, but can't wait to sidle up to someone and say "oh it was such a beautiful service, and she lived a beautiful life." only to later turn to a mutual acquaintance and say "I can't believe they served Brie en-croute at the wake...we're supposed to be mourning for petes sake" Like my fictional funeral lurker I'm sure many of these rubber neckers went home and had conversations like "well no wonder they went out of business, they don't have any staff to help you and their computers don't work and they don't have the Jaycee Duggard book anyway."
Never will it occur to that person that we went out of business because they only came out when there was a news item on the television about us. Nor will it occur to them that they don't have an independent book store to shop at now for the same exact reason. These audience members aren't there to support us, they are there to point and gasp, and the fact that they buy is largely an accident of convenience.
Which is why i am doubly saddened for our regulars. I looked out today and saw Mr. Smith (more to come on him, i'm sure) looking about as though he'd accidentally stepped into to traffic.The really pretty brown haired woman (whose name i don't know because I secretly harbor a crush on her and i'm too bashful to approach), she held her books to her chest as she walked through the store like a first year student on her first day of highschool. Her look of confusion seemed to say "which way to the computer lab." Their last days, in their Borders, (even though regulars get a bad rap sometimes, it's their store too) Marred by rubber neckers. Despite the chaos and the confusion, and the pinball motion of the booksellers, Mr. Smith still took a moment to come up to me, offer a letter of recommendation, put his hand on my shoulder and say "I'm really sorry". He meant it...and it made, for a second, all of those rubber neckers disappeare and suddenly it was a quiet Wednesday morning and i was talking to a kind old gentleman over coffee.