I feel bad for our liquidator. He seems like a nice man. It must be tough to go from location to location living in the cheapest hotel you can get, working at a place for anything from 3 days to 3 months, never being able to make a connection with the people you work with. That must be why he thinks anything he has to say can in anyway make this situation better for us. Its probably also why he says incredibly insensitive things with no regard for its impact.
He called at 830 this morning and made us aware of his presence, i didn't answer the phone so i've no idea what he actually said, but it was translated to me as "Cory, the liquidator is here he's going to be at our door in seconds". I was immediately reminded of an old episode of G.I.Joe whose drama hung on the impending arrival of the Viper. At the end the viper arrives but he's just a kindly old man from eastern europe who cleans windows for a living, "I'm the viper, i come to vipe the vindows". Digression.
When the viper showed up i ran out to meet him, exchanged pleasantries, shook hands. He asked me how i was doing, I gave him a Mumbly Mumblesons answer that would basically be read by anyone with any social acuity at all as "well...you know, closing my store, looking forward to unemployment...and yourself?" He told me his name asked me about wifi and asked me the same question again. My second answer was a little more concise. "as good as can be expected."
Then, completely unsolicited and with almost no seque, he told me "I get paid very well." The context was about getting a hotel room that he had to pay for himself but not to worry...(see above).
Today was the last day that the Borders-that-was existed. Tomorrow is officially the beginning of the reign of the liquidators. I felt, as the last bits of the ships stern sink into the ocean, i needed to recognize it, to acknowledge that a 40 year old company that once upon a time tried and tried hard to be generous and responsible was vanishing to be replaced by an empty borders shaped husk. Over the intercom, before we open i made an announcement, that today was the last day, that it was a fine company that had brought many people together, and that we were great damn booksellers and we weren't here because of anything we did but because of decisions those without our interests made on our behalf. I ended with what i thought was quite a positive "lets not be any different today than we have been any other day" message. The viper didn't like it. He searched the store to find me, walked outside with me as i unlocked the doors and said "while technically it's true, we still consider this borders for the next X weeks. It's just a different regime (his word) thats all, everything is the same." To which i replied "no it isn't, it's the end of an era and i needed to acknowledge that" .
Later i heard him talking about getting new flooring installed in his house and i heard him say he isn't the enemy and he again made a point to let me know he gets paid well. I do have to remind you that he is actually a nice man. I can only sum it up this way: when one of my co-workers asked me if he was as "douchey as he seems" i gave it a moments thought and said "well...on an atomic level, yes. But within that considered he's actually very nice". Which is to say what he is, is unapologeticaly vulgar, He can't help that, he's a carrion feeder. It's because of that i think when he tells me he has to pay his own way, but he gets paid very well...he thinks i'm actually concerned for him. I can't be, and it's not because he's unpleasant, but it's because at his core what he is professionally is a feeding off of my decay. Perhaps it's good for the eco-system but it's bad for me.
And i feel bad for him because working at a borders is all about connection. Most book store employees are nerds or geeks or other denizens of the island of misfit toys. We are, many of us, a tiny bit socially awkward, or suffer from self esteem issues. We can be bashful, or occasionally seem judgemental and rude because we find making that connection difficult. Its so difficult for many of us to find a place where we can be comfortable, let alone excel and make friends with people who share many of our same values. It's almost impossible to find a place where your knowledge of obscura is helpful to your job and appreciated by your peers. For many of us books and music and coffee are the doorway to that connection. In my store that connection is a big deal. I feel bad that the Liquidator will not ever know that from us, because he rolls in with bs liquidator feelgoodspeak instead of honesty. I feel bad because being one of us is a fantastic feeling. Instead he's just going to blunder about talking about home improvement projects and hotel stays when many of us are concerned about being able to eat past October.