Day 48 was my day off. Luckily one of my Borders kin who had gone away to grad school came back for the weekend and we got together last night at a local watering hole and had a few drinks and more fried potato-y things than is appropriate for mixed company. Of course it was during that day off that something really dramatic happened. All of our product from the back of our store, moved to the front, leaving the back half an empty shell of a bookstore.
I wasn't prepared for that when I came in this morning. Whole sections of walls are missing their shelves. I pondered for a minute how they stayed up without their shelves to hold them, I was so confused. Of course I only had a minute to ponder because as I walked into the office our CSWizard says to me "I know you don't even have your headset on but the Russian Mafia wants to buy our refrigerators, and some lady wants to make espresso or something...I don't know." And then of course my co-supervisor for the morning tells me that we have a catastrophic LP issue (which wasn't but you know...with the Loris lurking on every branch, little things become big) and that I need to verify the safe and the Deposit. Eventually though I went up and I dragged our stores Wacky Den Mother up to the fixture zone with me, she was indispensable. We managed to deal with the Russian Mobsters, the espresso lady, and some Mennonites too. It was so busy.
It never got better, as far as the sheer demands on my time went. The day was a sort of absurdist experimental film. I began thinking it would be so neat if I could slice of pieces of my personality and have them fully form versions of me. Okay, this customer gets my patience, this customer gets the "wheeler and dealer", this customer gets the hard-ass, this customer gets the jokester. There is a joke about the different versions of Cory, they all have numbers and each one has a different personality. When Cory #2 comes out, you're getting the "I'm all business now, don't trifle with me" cory. He's an infrequent guest, truth be told, but it's evident. I truly felt for a while today like I needed to find a way to manufacture all these extra me's. And its so far beyond christmas busy at this point. You know what though, as laborious as this labor day was it was kind of an okay day. I kept finding these little glimmers of serenity and happiness and they were called, my co-workers.
Those who know me would say I have a coffee...habit, but those who really know me understand that while most people are 80% water, i am only about 40% water, I'm 30% coffee, and 10% Doctor Who. It's not my fault, I come by it honestly. My mother was Juan Valedez's first stop when he came down off the Columbian mountains. My baby bottle's were stained brown from coffee! Seriously...I like coffee. Somehow Artsy Blogstar could tell I'd yet to have my daily cuppa (or 12) and out of no where he was like "so...I'm making a run out, would you like me to get you a coffee?" Like offering a dying man water, Like throwing a life preserver to someone bobbing in the ocean. I might have weeped for the sheer excitement of getting a hit...i mean a sip of coffee. Especially since LP, the Russian mob, some lady with an espresso jones, a Menonite family, and the Loris all consumed the time I'd normally use to brew a pot in the break room. He might as well have shouted "Here I come to save the Day" in deep baritone and swooshed by all red cape and yellow t-shirt. Seriously...I like coffee.
The next little glimmer of hope that helped was while I was making a call to a mostly pleasant, though demanding, woman about some shelves that we had double sold on her (oops.) As she was starting to get loud with me and was beginning to get all pointed and blamey with her conversation (as well as telling me I was wrong about the state of the shelves when she bought them) I heard a familiar sound off in the distance. I sort of stopped paying attention to her incessant repetition of what she perceived of as the facts, and started trying to ferret out what I was hearing. It was the gnarled and dirty voice of one Mr. Tom Waits. Instantly I was some place happy. I was wandering through piles of old books and phonograph records with Tom, looking for those secrets, those moments, those things that just holler at you from the past and say "look here, I'm something amazing that you would have missed if you weren't right here, right now". Tom and I are old friends. He's a hard man to be friends with, his voice is kind of the porcupine of voices, but his stories...his stories just bring me to some other world. Some other place and time where magic lives in an old pair of shoes, an ex girlfriends sad letters. We don't get a lot of Tom in the overhead, since most people here his more current stuff, cover their ears, and run for the exits. So that particular moment made that particular moment not only bearable but enjoyable, and it fixed my brain. I realized that she was talking about the shelves she bought in the kids department, and I thought i had sold her the majority of the shelves in the art department. Only one shelf was mis-sold. I laughed when I got back on the phone, "Oh...sorry, no- most of your shelves are safe it's just this one, I'll give you your money back" and we parted ways amicably. And I wandered over toward young adult to listen more clearly to what Tom had to say. Oh and I whispered a prayer of thanks to the Delicate Flower, as he was the bookseller responsible for bringing me this moment of serenity.
There was a moment where I was so deeply in the weeds I couldn't see daylight any more. I had people circling me while I walked around, and then they'd follow me back to the "fixture zone" and then they'd start forming some weird kind of faux line all the while trying to get eye contact with me without regard to where they stood in the "line". It was like they were trying to cover their bases for when they got screwed from their position. Weird. Anyway, so I get on the headset and I make a plaintive cry to anyone who hears me. It was an APB, and an SOS all in one. No one answered and when they did it was more or less, "Sorry Cory" and then out of nowhere our CSWizard shows up! And she just starts Expeliarmus-ing and expectopatronus-ing like a defense against the dark arts professor. She started clearing up all the smaller purchases while I was working with someone who was concerned about a blender or something and then another person with a hand truck packed up to about 5 feet with random office supplies. We took care of business though, let me tell you. In about 20 minutes we took care of easily an hour and a halfs work. She was a superstar today.
So you know how the Loris has been going on for the last week about how we are 2 weeks behind? And how we don't know what in the name of Kal-El she's talking about? Well Today Moonshine dropped some learnin' on her.
I have to say something about this whole process, I don't know how it feels in other stores, but in our store i feel like we as a management team have been incredibly deferential to The Loris. We more or less treat her like she is a DM in our store. Probably more than we should. But we don't really understand this relationship. It doesn't really compute. So we put up with her bossing us around and them blaming us when things aren't how she wants them. What are you going to do? The two managers in the store hate her, with a burning fury, and the 2 supervisors, just kind of deal with her as best we can and then complain.
I spent no time with her today, none. I had done over 4000 in fixtures (at half price no less) by lunch so I didn't have time, but as I was getting ready to go for my break and sat down and had a little pow-wow with moonshine. Turns out the Loris said to her in her "everything thats wrong here is your fault" tone i'm sure, We're so far behind. Moonshine had reached her tolerance for that nonsense so she just flat out told her that she had no idea what she was talking about. That she hadn't laid out any plan, or given any instruction as to what was to be done when, what the store should look like week one, week two, week three, and no timelines or ideas as to who was supposed to do what. The Loris just said "well thats just not true-" I'm paraphrasing here, It's how it sounds in my head and I wish I could figure out a way to get her Kansas City Missouri accent down in HTML but...,"I showed you pictures of how it should look."
So I picture Moonshine taking her glasses off,breathing on them, wiping them on her shirt ala Rupert Giles of Buffy fame, and then taking a deep breath and smacking her across the face with her open palm. It didn't happen that way, but I dearly wish it did. I'm sure Moonshine does too. She did however have the presence of mind to say something like "I saw the pictures of the empty store, I know what empty looks like, and I know what full looks like, but I don't know the steps I'm supposed to take to bridge the apparently vast distance between. We've never done this before, we aren't he Liquidation experts, you are, you need to tell us whats up." Apparently the Loris just kind of stared at her and did the weird smiling thing (which I have dubbed showing her teeth) she does and went away. I think she wasn't yet pickin' up what Moonshine was layin' down.
You've no idea how happy that whole interchange makes me. I didn't see it, I didn't hear it, but just to know it happened thrills me to no end. I've told her on several occasions during specific incidences that she needed to be more precise. I've seen my GM say pretty much the same thing to her by saying "if you tell us what to do we'll do it". But as far as I know this is the first time it was addressed in a general kind of "you know why this place looks like hell according to you, because of you" manner. Frankly I think it might have been anyone of us, even some of the booksellers, who eventually snapped and said it to her. The fact that it was a senior member of management, and the fact that it was one of the hardest working people in our store, had to give the Loris pause. In fact, from the details of the story, it sounds like it literally did. It's funny because it really only could have been Moonshine that said it to her. I'm sure everything the GM says to her the Loris just assumes she's being bitter and feels like she's having her toes stepped on (which I couldn't blame her if that was true, but it isn't) and I'm fixture Maven (her words, not mine) so I don't think she trusts me because I play for the wrong team now, and the Inventory supervisor is just trying to bide her time and get out with as few scratches as possible and I can't blame her for that. So it really had to be Moonshine. And it was. And it made my friggin' day!
You know whole months, even years, will go by where I never take the time to thank my co-workers for being there for me. I assume that the only thanks they ever need or want is payment. I and maybe We assume that doing a job well is expected, and that only going well above and beyond is worth recognition. At some point in Borders past they decided that the only things that were worthy of praise were things that could be measured, and they abandoned concern or care for the things that we do for each other every day. Not every bookseller is awesome. We know it's true. We all work with people maybe we'd rather not, but in this circumstance saying it is just a waste of time and energy. I think though, for the people who make our days liveable in this inhospitable morass, for the awesome booksellers, Its so important to take a second to thank the people around us for the things they do that they may not expect any thanks for. So Wacky Den Mother, Artsy Blogstar, Delicate Flower, CSWizard, and Moonshine...thanks, you guys made this day happen.
But boy am I glad it's over! :)