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.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Day 36

"Argue for your limitations and, sure enough, they're yours". Richard Bach, Illusions

I've made no secret of the fact that I'm a college drop out. Often times I skirt the issue avoiding the topic entirely. People, especially...and I might say entirely, people with degrees begin to swim in assumption once they find out. There is the "oh you couldn't hack it" assumption. Theres the "oh you're a quitter" assumption. Then there is the "oh you're not college material" assumption. Then we start getting into classism, and I'm not going to go there. I hate to call it discrimination because there are other more profound and vulgar kinds of discrimination and i don't want to compare them, but it's the only word I can really muster at the moment, and because i've experienced it i've become shy about being honest with people when I discuss my educational past. Truth is if I don't tell someone that I bailed on higher education they assume I have a degree. I'm comfortable letting them assume that. For this blog though, that lie of omission felt blatant and like something I wanted out of the way, because I knew I was going to talk about this subject.

I am not, and I have to stress this, I am NOT a hater of college. I think college is amazing. I hope I can go eventually. But I do weep for what college has become, how it's marketed to kids, what people do when they are there, and what value it has when they leave. The hard and true fact is that I have managed Doctors because we don't value a doctorate in Philosophy or History or Womens Studies. We value the degree, for purpose of using a progressive sieve to eliminate people from contention for jobs. We value the degree but not the information. Once the information loses it's value, the degree isn't far behind. I know many people walking around right now with a piece of paper I would like to have, waiting to hear from RiteAid or Target for a job. How did we get here?

When I was young I had people encouraging me to attend college, "just get in" they said, "you'll find the money" well, they were wrong. I did get in, to a bunch of colleges....good colleges, actually great colleges, and the money never materialised. My mother and I were incapable of taking on decades of debt for the purpose of getting me a document declaring that I do, in fact, have a brain. Eventually, because I was a late admission, I ended up at the the local university attending what was called the "university college" not declaring a major . My circumstance and my ego were headed for a major collision there, but there was a third player rounding the corner to the crash; pressure to get a job. You have to get a degree to get a good job. You will never amount to anything without a degree to get a good job. Oh and PS there are no jobs in what you want to learn about so pick something else, something practical. Ahhhhh, crash smash, bang boom. kapow. I was out of college.

All I wanted to do was sit at the feet of people who knew more than me, and learn. I didn't want to learn so I could get a job, I wanted to learn because I wanted to KNOW. The "University College" felt like an insult to me. I wanted to declare a major, I wanted to tell people "i'm double majoring in philosophy and 20th century literature with a concentration on creative writing"...or something. My ego was telling me the University College was remedial. I was better than that. I was wrong, on both counts, and stupid for making that decision. A decision I knew was wrong the morning I made it and accepted a job at a local drug store. I was instantly angry and a particle of a chip appeared on my shoulder.

That particle grew overtime, particle man became triangle man, and triangle man became person man. I was wholly absorbed into the persona of somone who couldn't/wouldn't/didn't get a degree. Who didn't join the military, or get a job at a mill (a dying profession even then). I didn't want to be a laborer. I wasn't the kind of clever with my hands that my brother was. I didn't have a family like my sister did. I was just kind of floating knowing what I wanted to be but couldn't do. Bouncing from retail job to retail job and from food service job to food service job. The one thing I had in my favor was that I was a demon of a worker. I was in a constant upward trajectory pay and responsibility-wise. It was just a slow ascent.

Then I landed at Barnes & Noble. Barnes & Noble, is like...if Jane Austen had a dinner party and invited Oscar Wilde (time travel between literary luminaries is a known fact). It's perhaps a bit naughty but it's still very proper. Its well pressed and tidy. Every person I worked with practically was a teacher at some point. I loved it there at first. I worked in the cafe and it was great fun. But my chip was getting heavier. I had never been to a borders. So one day for fun I went. If Barnes & Noble is Jane Austen with a drive by from Oscar Wilde, then Borders is Jack Kerouac, Richard Feynman, Tom Wolfe, and Carole King having a picnic. I was hired in weeks, and my chip while never decreasing in mass, floated nicely above my shoulder.

Borders became my college. Finally I was surrounded by people who could teach me. And did. I remembering reading "Feudal Society" by Mark Bloch on the recommendation of that Doctor of history I mentioned earlier. Instantly it became one of my favorites. I listened to Woody Allen's Clarinet and Woody Guthries tales of America. and Watched throat singers perform. I read R.Crumb. It was when I became the Religion/Social Sciences bookseller that I began my "three at a time" habit. It's a habit I got into of reading three books simultaneously. One in the morning, one at night, and one at lunch. I remember it started with Moses: A Life by Kirsch, Feminine Mystique by Friedan, and The Subtle Knife by phillip Pullman, all to a Soundtrack of Ani Difranco, Wilco, and Belle and Sebastian. Over time i began reading computer books and as CRC made friends in the Linux community (the fine people who provided me with an operating system to write this blog. Linux 4 Life!). I remember sitting down for an hour with a lady from La Leche League to learn all about the benefits of breast feeding just so she could set up a meeting at our store. I went to Exhibit openings at museums and met major recording artists with the CRC's in my region. I discovered veganism and quickly decided it wasn't for me. I read cook books, and foreign language books. I frequently would use my two book borrows for a book of history or fiction and then a travel book that was relevant to the topic. I did this, almost religiously from 1997 until 2002. At the time I didn't need to download music because my coworkers were always so willing to share. One day i sat down to estimate how many books i've read since working for borders. I can't.

I remember hours spent in my cafe talking with a gentleman from Syria. He told me so much about Islam, about being a non-American in America, about Damascus and history. He moved back after he finished his medical degree here. Tonight while coming home I was listening to a news article on NPR about the Syrian protests and a protester was talking to the reporter, and mid report he bolted away and stood between a member of the Syrian Military and a protester who was getting beaten. Apparently dozens of people did the same thing. I don't know if he was there, probably not it's a big country, but I felt like I had a stake in what was happening. I felt like I knew this man who is in all likelihood being impacted by this event. I'm made to care, because someone I haven't spoken to in over a decade, who may or may not be there, was kind to me, and gave me the benefit of his experience, and was enthusiastic about the time he had to give a westerner his Point of view.

Earlier this week a coworker said in the midst of a group conversation "it's just a job, we'll find other jobs." It was a sentiment I felt had to be said at the moment. Sometimes the weight of losing Borders begins to shift onto the pragmatic, and while philosophically, losing this company is something earth shattering to me and many others, on the practical front it's just a job, I'll find another. But at my heart I don't believe that it's just a job. It's not for me, any way. For Me Borders was my college. It was my window into the world. It was my access to things out of my reach. I'm always going to owe it something for that. Of course what it owes me, well...thats another post.

The chip is still there, but it's different now. I feel capable and inadequate at the same time. It's an awful feeling, but it's not unique to me. The woman who cleans our bathrooms has one of the best educations in film preservation you can get. I frequently go for long meandering walks through a field of regrets. One thing I don't regret though, is that I spent time LEARNING. Not because it got me a job, not because I was paying for it, Not because it was expected of me, but because I could.

And that is all I ever wanted.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Day 35

Is a day off, but allow me to present to you:

The Bookseller Without Borders drinking game!

So get a beer or coke zero or 2 and some friends. Pull up ye old blog and begin reading.

Every time i begin a sentence with "So," take a drink.

Every time I have a parenthetical aside (you know, like this) take a drink.

Every time i say, "you know" take a drink.

Any time I combine 2 words into one the person reading has to take a drink. If it's hyphenate take 2, if i use an apostrophe (y'know, like that) take 3 drinks If it seems like it was an accident everyone drinks.

Every time you encounter a lower case i that should be an upper case I, everyone starts drinking until you get to the next properly capitalised I.

Every time i use a british spelling for something, y'know just to add colour, every one stands, places a hand over their heart and sings "God save the queen, Yeah yeah yeah" to the tune of
god save the queen, switching to "she loves you, yeah yeah yeah" by the beatles at the appropriate point. Then Finish your beverage.

The last person to finish has to recite the day number of every post that mentions Anne Kubek, if they do so successfully they get to make a rule.

Have fun, don't drink and drive, tip your waitress, i'll be here all month.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Day 34

Okay, fine, i got a little freaked out.
I got a really positive response from Day 31. I like that, as some commenters said, i'd broadened the scope of what I could talk about. Thing is though, when i wrote it, I didn't think about that it's just what came out. Suddenly what I wanted to write about the next day just seemed like I was...being a punk.

And it freaked me out. I had a hard time pulling together something to write about that was worthy of that previous post. How do I top the WPA, for goodness sake? Lest it seem terribly emo and in my head, I have to say that I actually think about this stuff a lot, and very little at the same time. Most of the entries have been fairly organic and just sort of came out. A few have been pre-meditated in that I encountered things throughout the day and figured, oh this is blogworthy, I should remember this. But I do think about things like, Not making it just the lame customer/lame liquidator/lame circumstance post of the day. Becoming I Can Haz Horrifying Experience is not my goal. Folks I work with will confirm i've done some hand wringing over some stuff (go ahead guys, i'll wait...confirm Okay, fine do it in the comment sections!). So, yeah. I was concerned that the post I wanted to do, just wasn't...up to snuff. So I stopped for a couple of days to get some distance and a bearing and remind myself why I'm doing this and why it's important to me. And having done that I decided that the post I wanted to do was just right, and here is why.

If you ask me for books that make you look like ass, I'm going to think you're an ass, but I'm going to take you to your book anyway.

Its a simple rule. It's the booksellers code, the social contract. I don't want to seem like I judge everyone who comes up to me and asks for a book. I don't. Hardly anyone. But I have to admit there are a few titles that, while they don't give me pause, exactly. They do make me wonder, and usually concoct stories about you in my head. Sometimes the combination of titles a customer is purchasing tells a fantastic story. Sometimes i don't like to give it too much thought though, because it troubles me. But 99.9999 percent of the time i take you to your book, i take it off the shelf, i show it to you and I place it in your hand, just like the training video hosted by Anne Kubek told me to do.

These days though, I'm getting a bit...selective. I cherry pick the customers who I'm going to give that level of service to because I think they need it, or they are nice to me so they deserve it, or they are looking for something I want to get a chance to discuss with them. There are a wide variety of reasons why I choose a customer to spend time with. There are also a wide variety of reasons I don't. My job description has collapsed around my ears, so suddenly there is wiggle room. Enough wiggle room to make me a bit uncomfortable.

The liquidation has forced me to be selective. I'm sorry, but it was unlikely I was going to find the super rare single, short, and ultra thin copy of an NCLEX exam book specifically for treating leprechauns on the best of days., it's not happening. I'm sorry. Look in nursing reference, and may god have mercy on your soul. Cooking? Ha! Computer? Ha! Teachers Reference? Ha and Ha! Those folks get some combination of point, verbal description of what to look for, and/or empathetic facial expression. Not always all three. The liquidators have told us that our customers are needy, we know! that's why we hire smart people, to help fulfil that need. Well, that's not our standard any more. Trying to live up to the former Borders customer service standard is just going to make us overworked and crazy and most of the people shopping with us don't really care any how. It's the same with a lot of things we used to do. Recovery, for instance. That was fun once. 3 people though, cannot recover a store that has gone through what we go through on a day. It's not possible not in the 30 minutes from the last customer to walking out the front door. We've just had to adjust our standards.

I've mentioned how I'm kind of a fiend for customer service. I love it. I love being good at it. I love knowing that sometimes the best customer service you can give, is giving up. It's true, sometimes you just have to stop and tell the person you're helping you can't help them. Because continuing to do so is giving bad customer service to dozens of other people you could be helping in the interim. Being good at customer service isn't just a knack it's a skill and a disposition, it's like playing an instrument, it's an art. And it never involves Judgement and is always neutral, well mostly never and usually always.

I've only had one book in my whole history of being a bookseller that i refused to sell. Someone once told me that was censorship, to them I say: buy a dictionary and develop your understanding of context. While it is my job to be neutral and take people to books, in the case of this one book, i won't do it. I'll tell them the location, but i am going to exercise MY freedom of speech and not take them to it. The social contract a bookseller signs with their customer is one of neutral customer service, but every contract has its provisos. This one is mine. Why this book? I don't want my hand to pass this piece of literary excrement to someone. I don't tell them they can't have it, I just tell them I won't take them to it, i've only been asked for it once in all my years of book selling, and that was enough., I'm not going to say what the title is, because whenever I do people say "but such-and-such book advocates this, and this book is all about that" and it always ends up with Hitler, in much the same way I don't believe that what is right is always fair, I also don't believe that consistency is a much of a moral directive. I don't like this book, it more than skeeves me, and if you ask me for it, you skeeve me. My hand will never touch it, which means it will never pass from my hand to yours. If that is me censoring or exploiting my power over you (again, I'd ask you learn to understand context...after I was done laughing at you ofcourse) then I am comfortable with that level of corruption on my part. We are, all of us, corrupt in some small way. I didn't speed and take someones life into my hands to get to work today. Did they? If you look hard enough you will find we are all hypocrites. I am comfortable with my hypocrisies, at least this one.

Anyway, today, two young men, incoming first years if the crispness of their new college gear is any indicator, rocking that Bieber-esque windblown look in their sun bleached hair, approached me and asked "Do you have Tucker Max's I hope they Serve Beer in Hell"? Immediately, when asked for that book, i think of the person who wants it, as an ass. That book is practically an instructive primer on misogyny. It advocates things I find to be detestable. It also smears anyone who doesn't think his special breed of "charm", shall we say, is anything but humorous and wicked awesome. Whatevs. There are people out there who are professional Haters of Mucker Tax, I'll let them do it, they are better at it than I am anyhow. But you know what, every time someone asked me for that book in the past, I took them to it, I showed it to them, and I placed it in their hand, all the while thinking "this guys an ass", but i remained neutral. Today for the first time i didn't have to smile and walk the customer over to it and hand it to them. So ... "over there" I said and waved vaguely.

It. felt. GLORIOUS. Before liquidation the only thing that would keep me from doing my sacred duty as a purveyor of the written word is a feeling of nausea at the thought of a title, a feeling entirely specific to me. I mean, the book I won't sell, "it that shall not be named", I have a MORAL imperative not to involve myself in it. It's a wired part of my physiology. It's like, "I won't kick a puppy", or "I won't give cigarettes to 5 year olds". I've sold Tucker Max dozens of times over the years and felt admittedly dirty each time, but would balance it out by selling more positive titles to people, when and where I could. Not that I use book selling as a personal pulpit, but when I find someone is interested in a vegetarian cookbook, I might show them "The Omnivores Dilemma" Or if I find someone is interested in "The Omnivores Dilemma" I might show them, "Animal Vegetable Miracle". You know, book selling. But I have to admit on days when i've sold books I find yucky, my book selling goes into a bit of overdrive.

Suddenly I'm free of the sacred duty bit. My 10 point code of honour (GURPS reference, dig it), just isn't relevant any more. The liquidators tore up the social contract. I can sneer and wave off Mucker Tax if I feel like it, or Shel Silverstein for that matter. It shouldn't be confused with a new kind of absolute neutrality however, it should be understood to be ambivalence.

As anyone who gives a damn about what they do for a living knows, ambivalence sucks.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

day 31

There is nothing more quintessentially American than hitting the open road on a sunshiney day, zero humidity, a nice breeze blowing. Being on roads you don't know, and blasting music you do is one of life's more ephemeral pleasures, and it something as intrinsic to the national character, as much a part of national mythology, as Sears & Roebuck or any painting by Norman Rockwell. As Chandler Bing might have once mused, Could it BE more American?

Yes, it could. Heres how.

Along the way you pass billboards extolling the virtues of returning to a religious life and also for Pfizer. You pass acres and acres of farm land with adorable humble looking farm stands sitting at their frontiers and count the dozens of migrants working the field, they can't be making too much the blueberries are 2 pints for 3 dollars. You pass furniture stores, Hardware stores, gas stations, and car dealerships that used to exist and are now just signs reminding you of what was until they are swept away in the tides of progress. You drive on roads with signs about how your tax payers dollars funded the beautiful thick rich black as night asphalt (is it asphalt any more? I have no idea someone once tried to tell me it was all used tires now, that seems unlikely) just so you'll take a moment to think, okay good, my government did something for me. You pass hundreds of places to buy a burger, 2 of them are unique. All this while on a mission to replace a stolen spinner rack from the store that you work at that is going out of business by taking one from another store that is... going out of business.

Clearly, for most people, this recession, or contraction, or double dip or hour glass or whatever the heck people who get paid to come up with names for bad things have decided to call it, is not quite as dire as the Great Depression. But i can't help but see paralells. Driving past an abandoned farm stand will do that to you. Driving through the parts of jersey that still largely look like they did then, with the exception of Cellphone towers and the aforementioned asphalt, will do that to you. And when i was getting this impression of the depression during the recession i began to think of the WPA and the CCC and FWP and i got wondering when we will get our acronyms? When will this generation create something during this time of need that is as enduring as the climbing trails in Acadia National Park or Richard Wright? Are we doing it now? Am i doing it?

For those of you who don't know the CCC is the civilian conservation corp, during the depression it put people to work building trails and cabins and roads to make the American wilderness more accessible to Americans. It was the beginning of our car culture, in a way, because suddenly you could drive to Yosemite. You could shower at a bath house in Crystal Lake state park in Vermont. For those of us not intrinsically horrified at the idea of government, it was one of our countries shining moments, for the rest well...i guess it wasn't. I'm not entirely sure the CCC was a branch of the WPA, the Works Progress Administration a government run agency designed to create jobs for out of work Americans, many of them doing things you would never think of a government employee doing. But what was a part of the WPA was the Federal Writers Project, or FWP. These folks, including many black writers who wouldn't really be given much of a chance elsewhere, traveled the country writing about what they saw. Imagine that, a country documenting life at that moment in time. One of the gloomiest periods of our history. One of the amazing things to come out of the FWP were slave narratives collected from all around the nation from people who were alive during slavery and lived to see it eradicated in it's original form (who also lived through reconstruction and Jim Crow) without the FWP we would be missing vital and intense detail of the lives of property-humans who built this country. Maybe someone in the publishing world would have said, "you know what? Slave narratives would make hot selling books" because you know...early 20th century affluent book buying Americans loved to think about slavery.

I don't bother getting into "role of government" arguments with people whose politics and mine don't converge, because frankly some bridges are bridges too far. But i for one am quite proud of this little moment in government history. Although i don't think it needed to be the government who did it, i think it was only going to be the government. Unlike now.

We live in a country so polarized about the role of government that i can't ever see a CCC or WPA coming out of washington. So what i began to think about is, is anyone filling that role? And immediately I thought of myself. And immediately after that i thought, you cocky bastard. Did you just put yourself in the same category as Zora Neale Hurston? You're eyes are watching sweaty people from LA fitness buy knockoff cologne and greeting cards(BTW i think a bookstore centered blog is the only place i could use that joke)! But we both are documenting something. We both see a moment, and declare it to exist. And i guess in that respect, and in that respect alone, we have a commonality. I am participating in my very own FWP. I'm not trying to be conceited, it's just true. Its not my fault FDR employed some of the greatest writers of the 20th century to do what I'm trying to do not a fraction as well and for free. Langston Hughes, Andy Kaufman, Richard Feynman and Ho Chi Minh were all Busboys just like me too. well not just like me...anyway, you see where i'm going. Maybe you don't, If Richard Wright were writing this blog you'd get it.

Anyhow, the Middle point of my American Journey (tm) was the store where i was picking up the new spinner rack. For starters, the name of the shopping center adjacent to the Borders was Consumer Square, I'm not kidding you. I mean talk about calling a spade a spade. The parking lot was packed to the street with people. I struggled to find a spot. I walked in and it was a crowded mess. I mean it looked like they were trying to keep up on the merch, but they didn't have the Loris hovering about as much as we did beautifying the place. And they had bumper to bumper people. And these people looked ravenous. They were just pouring over the place, looking through every cd, blue ray, pillow pet and calendar. You couldn't move 10 feet without tripping over someone sitting on the floor as someone above them scanned the spines of books. Before i entered the store i noticed a man sitting on a park bench outside, his hands holding his head, his elbows resting on his knees, a cigarette burning between his index and middle finger...just smoldering. He was clearly a staff member, and letting it smolder, as any smoker knows, is how you get just a few more minutes of time out of a cigarette break.

The staff was rude. They were just plain unpleasant. Even to me. And I'm one of them. But you know what, i cannot blame them. Not for a second. I wouldn't, even if I could muster the tired "you must always be professional" mantra that the managers of the world expect of their workers. Myself included. We had some trouble sorting out the initial requirements of transferring a spinner rack. Turns our there arent any, because i'm pretty sure no one has ever done it before. Huzzah an American First! Anyhow, when i got outside i got to talk to one of the angry booksellers and she apologized, something i promised her was entirely unnecessary. But she told me all about the chaos and the loading bay filled with a dozen pallets of merchandise, and how moving perfume and scented soy candles was making her ill. She told me about the sheer volume of business they are doing, and the lack of staff. She told me about how hard she was working and still getting nothing done. She wasn't angry, she was heart broken. She just wanted to do her job, and do it well. Thats something i feel like is being lost in all of this. We want, something i think is another great American tradition, to be good at what we do for a living and to EARN our money.

I think the thing that we all lose in this is that desire to be good at what we do from the start of our shift, until it's end. Most of us just sort of wander in now, do what we need, and go home. That feeling of pride in a multimedia section well kept has transformed to anger over a multimedia section ransacked and rejiggered into something completely nonsensical, and ultimately into apathy. Some people let go of that sooner than others. I think at my store, we have a pretty good sense of humor. I think we're handling this well, and i think it shows. But i think our store we have kind of collectively agreed without ever saying officially, We're over it. We are going to do what we're told, do our jobs, and go home. Spend time with one another. What that means is, for the most part, our customers have no idea how pissed off we are that our sections have disappeared and that we have a dozen palettes of godknowswhat in the back. Our customers, with just a few exceptions, are all treated just as kindly as they were 6 months ago, or 6 years, they are just given less. THEY have to earn a bit of it now. This other store i traveled to, they aren't there yet. They may never get there. They may end their days with this fine old eccentric lady angry and stretched to the limit. All they want is to be good at what they do. To earn their money. To get their job done. But this circumstance doesn't allow for that.

That right there, is an American tragedy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Day 30

"your blog is a comfort to us, but it is painful too"

Today I recieved a letter from a reader of this blog. It completely railroaded what i was going to write about tonight. Thank you.

But first, The Tennessee Distribution center closed today, according to facebook. That DC had become the heart of the east coast, without it and more importantly without the people who staffed it, we wouldn't be able to sell a book to anyone. When the Pennsylvania DC closed i felt like, it just kind of pffted out of existence. Well that sucks. Good Bye fine people of the distribution center, you made any success we could ever have had, possible, and I never took the time to thank you properly. You will be missed.

I'm directing this to you now, the two of you, who wrote me that letter. I don't want to say who you are without getting your permission's late. So i probably wouldn't and i want to write this. Every comment means so much to me. Every nod of approval, every response to a facebook post, every comment on the blog. Every time it's posted on a random website and someone takes the time to give me a shout out. It all means so much to me. I can't...i don't have words, to explain the connection i feel to people who understand where i am coming from. But a letter (note: i'm not calling it an email or a message, because i feel like those things have become so ubiquitous and noisy that they have lost any power to move, but a letter, that still sings of feeling and thought put to paper with intention, so a letter it is), the time spent to thank me for writing this, when it is me who should be thanking you for reading it, it lifts me up. It's magical. And it was entirely unexpected.

In the letter you said "your willingness to put it all out there is making a difference". I believe i have something to add to the discussion, thats why i began this. I believe that i have experienced and lived the full spectrum of what Borders has given and done to us, and i think that is what compels me to write this every night. But i never, for a moment, thought that anyone beyond a handful of people i know personally would read this. The fact that i'm over 15,000 views now blows me away, but nothing so much as i am blown away by hearing that i am making a difference for you. It wasn't my intent because i believed it was more than i could hope for.

Thank you so much, to all of you who read and take the time to have this conversation with me. You all have transformed me.You have transformed this experience for me. The inevitable awfulness of the end, while it can never be less inevitable, is without a doubt, less awful thanks to all of you folk reading this right now.

True Story.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Day 29

All Math used below is the product of a caffeine addled mind that never passed a single algebra class without having to take a make up exam at the end of the year (thanks Mrs. Collins), at 1:30 in the morning. In other words, it's entirely accurate and precise.

The collective IQ of the average Borders customer has dropped easily 15 points since liquidation began.

How do i know this? Well, i don't. It's just a guess. But it is based on some things that i've been seeing and hearing, and some things that, alone, would mean nothing, but when you take them in concert they seem to tell a story. And that story is that bargain shoppers are stupid assholes.

Now I know that seems harsh, and...well I guess it is. I don't mean people that are looking for a good deal, but i mean "bargain shoppers" people who only want to buy something because they got it more cheaply than the person before them. Those people are why the economy went cygnus x-1 back in 2008. They get this wide eyed berserker rage whenever prices/interest rates/derivatives become super cheap and then turn green and rip their purple pants to shreds, except for the bits that protect their modesty. They want to smash their competition into tiny bits and the cudgel they use is progressive discounting.

So anyway, i've seen some stuff. and i've heard some stuff. Lets get into that.

I have seen so many mixed martial arts enthusiasts in the last three weeks its insane. I mean, a lot. I know this because they wear t-shirts proclaiming their love for various local and national MMA organisations. Tap Out is practically the uniform of a good 15 percent of the male visitors to the store. Now, i don't intrinsically have an issue with MMA, i think its fun as hell to watch until they just start cradling each others heads with each others crotches. I suppose for the super MMA fan that's when it gets exciting, but I frankly just want to watch one guy feed another guy his toes. I've gone on about borders clientele before, and I wouldn't generalise about MMA fans and say they don't like to read, I'm sure there are hundreds of titles we sell that would appeal to even the most myopic lover of the Octagon, but the sudden influx of them is questionable to me. Why are they in this concentration all of a sudden? Where was this Octagon Army 6 weeks ago? 6 months? Its a bizarre phenomenon, and one that i think in conjunction with several other things points to something strange happening to our demographic.

Rich people. OMYGOD. RICH. PEOPLE. If pluto isn't a planet anymore (or is, i dunno who can keep up) then it must have lost it's spot to the enormous diamond on the hand of a woman i held the door for today. I'm not a fashionista, but i've done my time with project runway. I know my Hermes from My Coach. well...not mine, none of it's mine, first of all I just wouldn't, and second of all, I couldn't. Anyhow, my point is while I couldn't label couture walking down the street I can tell when i've encountered something out of my price range by a career or two. That happened on my way back from dinner this evening. This woman was holding the hand of her daughter whose shoes cost more than the college i dropped out of. I held the door for them, noticed the remnant from the last ice age on her hand and then stepped back as the enormous brick wall of a man who accompanied her stepped through the door. I thought, well there's an attractive couple, and wealthy too. They must have been saints in a past life to be reincarnated into this one. But then it got weird. They walked over to a Rolls Royce (the second one i've encountered in our parking lot since we began liquidation, the second one i've ever encountered in our parking lot) He opened the door for the lady and the little girl and they got into the back seat. He got into the front and drove them away. This is not the first time i've spotted evidence of ludicrously wealthy people in our store. We are in a fairly affluent area, major military contractors being based mere feet from our location, but its not a chauffeur and body guard kind of affluent. It's a lacrosse and "The City" (meaning NY) on weekends kind of affluent. But the sheer amount of luxury SUV's and small dogs in purses, and alcohol on the breath at 3 in the afternoon, occurrences are making me wonder...what the hell do these people need to save money for?

Then there is the trail of peppers. Yeah, peppers. Tiny little green peppers. A trail of them leading out of the mens room onto the floor. What? Like some strange chile-head hansel and gretl leaving a trail so they don't get lost. first of all, who carries peppers in their pockets? did they have a bag of peppers that leaked? Occams razor is too limited to deal with this conundrum(obviously that's hyperbole, don't you dare comment on how that's wrong)!

And of course there is the time that someone stole a spinner rack. Hows that you say? I have no idea but I do know that one Thursday I sold the spinner rack to a gentleman and that said gentleman travelled with $$$ to the spinner rack to deposit his sold sticker on it. I know that because I witnessed it. So either someone just popped open our cafe door when no one was looking and wheeled it via a hand truck to their vehicle, or he or she removed the sold sticker and purchased it and took it. Either way when the gentleman I sold it to and $$$ stickered it for showed up to claim it, it was gone. So happy times for a co-worker, i'm code naming Moonshine, who got to be yelled at by the irate guy. Who does that? Who steal fixtures who then comes in to find a stolen fixture and instead of trying to ferret out the mystery yells at Moonshine, a person who had nothing to do with it?

And the puke, can't forget the puke. I'm drunk since mardi gras so i puked in multiple locations in your store so i know which spots are mine.

This little nugget:

"Sir you haven't signed your bank card do you have id?"

"Its for 4 dollars."

"Right but I need to know this is your card."

"For 4 dollars? No wonder you guys are going out of business."

"For trying to protect you from identity theft?"

Yes Doctor Salk, we are going out of business because we care too much about the sanctity of your credit worthiness. What. a. jack. hole.

"What do you mean you don't have Yummy? It's a summer reading title?"

One wonders why parents think I'm going to believe them or pick their side when they throw their kid under the bus and say to me "of course he doesn't try to get his summer reading books until now." Really, was your 3rd grader supposed to drive here, whip out her wad o cash from the lucrative pokemon trades she's been working, and buy her list of 17 books? Oh right, that would be absurd. Don't give me that working parent I don't have time bullshit, either. You just didn't give a damn or lost track of time. My mother was a single mother going to college all week and working all weekend playing music in gin joints and eagles clubs all over New England to raise money to support me. I had every book I needed to read, when I needed to read it. I had shoes and clothes and notebooks and pencils and trapper keepers with awesome robots on them. So please, spare me. MY mom didn't even have Amazon. If you drove here, if My store is your go to spot for your kids books, if its the first stop and you didn't give any consideration to...oh i don't know, a library, then your child being without his school supplies is your fault, not your kids, not Barack Obamas, not NO Child left behind. Yours. And if you can't afford them, that's what libraries are for. you know...libraries big buildings where everything is FREE (for the end user). I should note that this particular beast emerges from hibernation every late august, but the complete lack of comprehension that we are going out of business from this years brood, and their profound vilification and calumny of me and my company puts them in a new class in my humble opinion.

I guess what this says to me is that the "Bargain Shopper" cuts a wider swath across the cultural fabric of our nation than perhaps the audio/biblio/cine/cafe-o phile does. So, when your message is "buy here cheap" instead of "buy funky/smart/fun/yummy here" you get just a wider representation of everyone. Now when you pair that with the quadrupling of feet in our store at any given time, you then get a bigger number of that wider representation. So while you may normally have 3 percent of your shoppers be of the unrelateably rich variety, suddenly that 3 percent becomes 6 percent (because you get an increased number of that representation) and then when 3 percent might have been 6 actual individuals, you now have that 6 percent equalling 48 individuals. A number that means your probably going to bump into them. That's just math.

What it also says to me is that idiot/jerk concentration of our customers is growing in conjunction with the discount. I guess that makes sense and isn't a surprise to anyone. I guess what saddens me, is that the good customers don't seem to be balancing that out. You'd think that concentration would increase too, but it seems like instead of increasing it's just boiling off. The good customers are being squeezed out, at least in so far as the amount of attention we can pay them, by the increased concentrations of assholes.

I feel like I'm in some post modern play where all of the customers have "the squeaky wheel gets the grease" written in lipstick on their foreheads and once ever 3 minutes they begin quoting Ayn Rand in unison. I feel like some play-write from cold war USSR is writing my story at gun point as a part of some grand Kremlin inspired propaganda initiative about the evils of capitalism. At the end of the play the stage will go dark and a single actor-cum-gulag slave will cross to center stage and say "we have played the game of vipers and we've been poisoned, Not even Marx can save us now. Lay the hammer and sickle down and close your eyes. Wait silently for winter" The stage goes dark. A single gunshot is heard. The sound of siberian denim being dragged across the floor, and outside comrade usher begins changing the "starring" credit on the marquis.

I don't want to be a Soviet era morality tale.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Day 28

I'm quite proud of this blog, which is really annoying.

Today I had an interview with a local chain of coffee shops. I don't exactly know what they were interviewing me for, but I got the feeling it was as a kind of marketing person for their brand, which I am so down for. I also got a feeling it might be as a shift manager for one of their shops, which I'm not. My experience and skills outpace me for that job, and I'm not going to tie up 40 hours a week doing something that I'm overqualified for unless it pays REEEEdikulously well and I don't think schlepping coffee is going to do that. Nope if you want me, you have to challenge me and pay me. I just spent almost 2 years managing a cafe for a company that basically turned that art into an algorithm. It wasn't good. It wasn't good for me, I wasn't performing to my skill level, and I was bitter whenever I crossed from the carpet to the tile. I hate to admit that, but...i've had this conversation with my GM so at least she isn't reading this going "Whaaaa?"

I made the conscious choice to go to the interview in business casual. That is an unusual move for me. I'm a shirt and tie interview kind of guy. I believe you dress for the job you want, not the job you're interviewing for. For this one though, I kind of wanted to send a message. That this was a conversation not an interview. And that I was as much interviewing them as they were me. I think I mostly wanted to send this message to myself, because the one thing that keeps me from ripping my hair out and sitting on my dining room table singing Yankee doodle in a diaper is the idea that I should be able to segue this into something better. Something that moves me forward. I need to believe I have value, because...well...I do. I may have forgotten over the last 3 years mostly because of personal reasons (another blog, another time perhaps) but Professionally, I'm a catch. When I put my mind to it I'm remarkably capable. I just...forgot that for a while. #cockyrantover

The interview was with an owner and a manager, both of whom I would love to work with. they seem so nice, even if there were moments where I thought the owner was going to take a nap ( I should state that he is obviously a very busy man and the fact that he would give me 45 minutes of his time, is something I really do appreciate, I know when I interview it's like, 20 minutes...ooops time to go, I'm service manager now, so owning three locations its gotta be intense but truly, i thought he was sleeping for a second there.), the Manager was cool as cats. I enjoyed the conversation a great deal. Toward the end the Manager asked me a question:

"So outside of work what do you like to do, what hobbies do you have, what are you proud of?"

MY BLOG! came instantly to my mind, and then on the exhale I realized, I want prospective employers to know I blog? Is it a good idea to let them see a time when i've yelled at a customer, okay fine he yelled at me first, but am I putting a good face forward here? How would I feel if I were a business owner and I was interviewing someone who would publish the decline of my business? So I just said writing. I mentioned comic books and music and reading in general. And of course coffee.

I've made the informed decision to keep as many people as I can in this blog unidentified except myself. I also decided to start it after the company was officially going to liquidate. And I don't divulge any numbers or trade secrets. I've tried very hard to be informative but also professional. I'm just not sure a prospective employer would care. I just wonder if I'm sewing the seeds of distrust by this very act?

Something about me which might be or might not be obvious,is that I'm an open book. I will tell anyone anything about myself no matter how personal or how private, if they ask me (and I feel we have a connection that merits the information). I have deeply personal conversations with friends. Acquaintances, I'll be honest with my opinions. Not Dick-move-radical-honesty type stuff, I try to be mindful of peoples feelings and responses, but I don't tend to pull punches, I do try to soften them into handshakes though. I'm also almost embarrassingly self aware. Perhaps this is some kind of narcissism, I don't know. I have tried throughout my life to teach me the skills of not lying to myself, sometimes i've failed, or learned the hard way, but its always been an important trait that i've tried to cultivate whenever possible. I think this explains some lack of success i've had in some areas of my life as most people are precisely the opposite, and I probably make them uncomfortable. I'm unguarded and open, and most people are profoundly not that. I can see why I'd give them the wiggins. And employers are DEFINITELY not that, so I'm left to wonder, am I a risk?

It's this bizarre thing, because I think in another context I would absolutely scream out "BLOG" but in this context i'm not sure I should. Its annoying.

I'm really encouraging conversation here. I want to crowdsource these questions, because i don't have the answers. I need the help, so please, please please, comment below and give me your feed back.

Borders is a weird thing. It's a hard thing to walk away from, yet...people do. They've gotten tired of it's nonsense over the years, they've been forced out from the myriad of restructuring we've had in the last half decade, they've been one incident away from being terminated and leave while they can still be friendly with their supervisors. But I think something about it makes people want to come back to it. I did. I was gone from borders for about 4 or 5 years, but I came back. I remember during that 5 years I said to many a person, well if I fall on hard times there is always borders, I should be able to walk into that place and just start working. I'm sure a lot of people have said that who are reading this. Its so comfortable, it's like a dysfunctional relationship, well it might not be the best for me but it works. It can be a trap, i've seen it. But now that it's gone, It's strange. I'm going out into the field without a net. It's intimidating and liberating all at once. I see people who work with me going out and finding places that are better for them, either because they'll get a discount on pet food to feed their ravenous critters, or because it's a school that will nurture their particular brand of creativity, or because it's a retailer that will fill in that missing bit of info that will bridge their time from Borders, to being self employed. There are moments when I think this is a good thing.

There are moments when I think maybe, 11,000 people are getting a chance Borders could never give them until now.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Day 27

Two big things, one i have breezed past 100 followers! So i'm going to celebrate that by giving you all the gift of my beautiful doggie cadi. You remember her? She was the much commented after pooch from day 18. Feel free to re-read. Her full name is Acadia Blueridge Drew, but she eschews formality whenever possible. Also if you look real close at the picture you will see both my knee and ...thats right...heaven.

Thing two: Day off. that feels nice to type.

oh and by the way:
These people are still awesome.

Spend 20 minutes here today, i promise you it will be worth it.

oh a 3rd thing, now that i have 107 followers i thought i should show my face.

See you guys on day 28.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Day 26

I'm the magical man from happy land who lives in a gumdrop house on Lollipop Lane!

Words spoken with immense reverence and honesty by one Homer J. Simpson about making people happy. Like Sir Paul McCartney, I find I frequently put my trust in the wisdom nuggets Homer Simpson accidentally drops. Like king Henry VIII's favorite fool Will Sommers, he finds a way to impart truth with humor, and skate past your privilege and defenses with a smile and a vibrant slightly mocking "woo hoo!".

Today was a good day, but in 10 minutes it can all turn around. Around 2 pm, a mere hour before my departure i am called to the front of store to "help" a customer. I get my game face on, i square my shoulders, i get right with my god and i dive in.

"On the 10th of july you sold me a plus card"

"I did?"

"No. one of your people"

"Okay, I'm sorry."

"So now I don't get anything for my money?"

"No, I'm sorry"

"Well maybe you should go out of business if it's your practice to be dishonest."

ahhhhhh okay. You see I was ready to be conciliatory and apologetic and express my sadness that she wasn't able to utilize the program before we closed down. But in that moment I realized I was bringing a Balloon Dachsund to a machete fight.

"No maam, you're wrong. we were not dishonest, we didn't know we were closing until 2 days before liquidation began, and that was around the 22nd."

"well you knew you were in trouble? right?"

"That was public knowledge maam. We filed bankruptcy in February thats public information."

"I didn't know that!"

"Caveat Emptor, i'm afraid."


"Buyer beware."

"I didn't even get a card, did i get a card, wheres my card?"

"You don't buy the card, you buy the membership, but thats another issue. would a useless piece of plastic make you happy?"

"So what you're saying is you took my money and i get nothing for that."

"I have never interacted with you before today, to the best of my knowledge and you had almost a full month of additional discounting, so thats not nothing, it's just not enough to make you happy."

"No it isnt."

I've mastered the art of the kind of silent stare where when i blink once, you can practically hear the cartoon blinky noise.

"So You took my money and i get nothing."

"I can't make you happy ma'am. If it makes you feel any better the people who are responsible for telling us to continue this program throughout bankruptcy and 11,000 other people have all lost their jobs."

"It does."

"Then we're done here."

Of course within minutes i'm called back to this:

"Just because you're going out of business doesn't mean you have an excuse to be rude."

"i think it does make a pretty good excuse, it's just doesn't make it okay."

"is that what you think?"

"Who was rude to you ma'am?"


"you mean Herr Lager?"

"That one, who is standing right behind you listening to us..."

I turn around it is indeed Herr Lager.

"Okay. you feel he was rude to you? how was he rude to you?"

"he was rude!"

"right but how?"

"He was rude, and thats not right." Recalls her daughter after banishing her to the corner so she apparently wouldn't hear the wicked tongue lashing I was about to get.

"Whats his name?"

"Herr Lager."

"And yours?"


"There is no excuse for the two of you being rude."

We're in a bookstore, surrounded by words and apprently this lady only knows 6.

I have to say, I was in no way rude. I was professional and pleasant but i wasn't effervescent and subservient, apparently she perceives that as rude. So she wrapped her arms around her daughter as if i was going to try to steal her and put her to work spinning gold from straw, and bounded out.

It should be noted that Herr Lager is occasionally "rude". He doesn't mean to be, but he is fairly intolerant of what he perceives of as stupidity. But its the type of rude that is more aptly described as curt or short or lacking tact and the ability to pretend you don't have your head up your ass when you clearly do. When he explained the situation to me, and i've never known him to be dishonest, it was plain to me that she had actually been rude to him, pretty much from jump street, largely because she was rude to me from jump street. I was there to make her happy after all. At any rate the most impolite i've ever seen him be to customers is the type that only an incredibly tightly wound self-important dictator would take offense to. I've never had to talk to him about it. He was an incredibly polite and upstanding customer for years before he began working there and he was one of our best BR+ sales people, so now there is some perspective.

And lets get this straight? You demand to speak to me to complain about, that whatsisnameguy can't remember it even after I told it to you, and can't be bothered to read my name badge to learn my name. And we're rude? Oh i see, you wanted me to kiss your suburbanly royal behind. I guess it's not enough that you get to climb into a brand new bmw and go home with an armful of books that you got for almost nothing, but you also have to make a point that you weren't treated as a visiting dignitary during your brief parasitic stay. Oh a thousands pardons oh empress of the Nile, let me gather a dozen nubian princes to bare you upon their backs to your luxurious conveyence, lest your pristine feet graze the fibers of this carpet we lowly have tread upon! Mayhaps i could slaughter a virgin for you, and you could drink a javanilla shake from it's pure untouched skull. There must be a virgin in here, quick check the sex books!

That, is how to be rude, lady.

Anyway shortly after this exercise in the futility of trying to make someone happy who clearly doesn't want to be I wandered over to the law, philosophy, gender studies section and I began facing out titles. We have so few that now its a matter of making the bottom 2 shelves of the bay spine outs, and the rest all single copies faced out. Well I took a few moments and i faced out all the best feminist and gay positive titles I could find. I actually made it look like Borders had a gay studies section. I stepped away feeling happy that I had done a good job at a simple task. I walked back over there to begin facing out the sex books (holy daunting task batman) and there were 2 women looking through the books I faced out.

"I had no idea they had these books here!"

"I know this is amazing, my mother told me I had to read Women who run with the wolves!"

"And look" She pulled a book off the shelf, a small book with a single flower on the cover with a name I'm not comfortable typing. It's like Aunt, but with a different first letter. She held it with both hands at chest height and did a weird dancey kind of motion. "I read about this on line just yesterday, this is so exciting. I wish I had known they had this extensive a section." I Wish you did to. And i wish we didn't live in a world where you felt this was extensive.

I looked around for a video camera to see if any was filming a training video circa 1994.

Later a young man grabbed a copy of "It gets Better" and just sat down reading it. I don't care if he bought it, thats good enough for me.

I also was talking with one of my housemates (it's like the real world up in here, but with less hot tubs) who spent the day dressed as a dog for an event and I began thinking of my happy days as what ever creature I got that month to be. I remembered a specific Arthur event where I was breathing in the musty air inside the arthur head and a child was so happy to see me he ran up to me and punched me in the cartoon nuts. It was a weird response to be sure but he was giggling and laughing and I had enough padding and he was small enough that there was no real concern for injury. You weren't supposed to talk in those costumes but I couldn't help laughing out loud at how happy this kid was.

So okay, i couldn't make those 2 people happy, but i have a pretty good track record i think. From now on when dementors attack I'll just summon my patronus to take care of it, and 2 happy feminists, a young man just learning whats okay, and a little boy laughing at his favorite aardvark, and i hope scores of other customers i've made happy in the ways that i could, will show up all bedecked in spectral silver and usher you away to whatever dank and smokey level of hell you came from. Then I'll retire to my gumdrop house on lollipop lane and continue making comically disproportionate balloon doggies.