I used to work at a bookstore – a fairly large, former Fortune 500 company which closed its doors three years ago to be exact. Some of the customers I was able to meet were wonderful, many jokes were had with co-workers, and, as one who loves to read, being surrounded by books and all you can learn and experience from them was fantastic.
Of course, I was around for the hey-day of Harry Potter. I worked the midnight release parties of books four through six (found a new job before seven came out, but I picked up my copy at that party). Let me tell you, it was a blast. But one of my favorite memories of the series came from a regular customer who taught me the wand game – read the Harry Potter books and replace all instances of the word “wand” with the word “wang.” Hilarity ensues (especially with the “Weighing of the Wands” chapter in book four). Yet my absolute favorite memory of Harry Potter does, in fact, come from the morning following one of the release parties. I was manning the table where those who pre-ordered could pick up their copy. An elderly gentleman came up and asked if he could just take a look at one. I let him and he proceeded to read the description on the inside jacket. I don’t have a copy to transcribe here, but it does mention how Harry would like to perhaps do more than just dream about Cho Chang. Well, right in the middle of the store this guy says (very loudly), “Let’s sign this Potter up for the Pacific fleet; he can get all the Chang he wants down there.” The looks from the nearby parents were priceless.
Another instance of a customer being loud and funny came from one of my favorite regulars, an older man named Carl. He was usually there Friday and Saturday nights and I was most always scheduled as the closing manager both nights. I would walk the store, picking up left behind books, cds, magazines, etc. Carl had the headphones on at one of our music listening stations and he clearly had the volume turned up. As I was passing by him for the third time he yells, “YOU SHOULD GET A PEDOMETER…” That’s as far as he got because the look on my face indicated to him that his volume exceeded the customary norm for a retail environment. He took off the headphones and repeated and completed his statement at about 70 fewer decibels. (Our music department was at the back of the store and our cashier up front heard him very clearly.) I never got the pedometer – but the hearing aid sure came in handy afterwards.
Yet it was the books that made be apply to the store in the first place. And, man, did we have a huge variety of books. Like the time a customer was looking for a gardening book for her niece. I took her back to the children’s section and found a few books on gardening geared towards kids. The one which caught my eye was Gardening with Pooh – with a great picture of Winnie the Pooh on the front. My response, “Well, it’d make a good fertilizer.” Sure, it was a cute and clever comment at the time, but the amount of laughter which came after was a little unnerving. It wasn’t THAT funny, lady.
Perhaps my all-time favorite memory came when I was manning our main information desk. The conversation went as follows…
Man, “Do you have any picture books?”
Me, “Do you mean children’s picture books?”
“Nah, just books with pictures.”
“Well, sir, you’d probably find most of them in our photography section but, depending on the subject matter, you could find them in any of our sections throughout the store. Books on trains would be in our transportation section, some great picture/coffee-table type books on regions are in travel. What kind are you looking for?”
“Okay, we can check our photography section on the right wall, or our fashion and appearance section in front of our cafe.”
…..”That would be in our magazine section, sir.”
Okay, not a book. More importantly, faces are, at best, secondary to the “reader” of Penthouse. Good times.