As I mentioned last week, things at work have been interesting, to say the least, since school started. Now that the election is heating up, it’s getting even better. There aren’t many people who really go crazy about these things, but the ones who do are doozies.
The Obama fans count the McCain books and wonder why we have more of them, even if they’re just looking in the wrong place (hello, we live in Virginia…it’s pretty conservative and southern here….) and the McCain fans find Obama’s books on tables and displays and turn them all face down or hide them behind other books. I’ve yet to catch someone in the act, but just wait. The wrath of The Book Lady is strong when customers get crazy. This brings me to part 1 of this week’s Adventures in Bookselling (and traveling).
A Redneck Walks Into a Bookstore
This past Saturday, tropical storm Hanna treated Richmond to driving rain and heavy winds, and if you’ve ever worked in retail, then you know that inclement weather = squirrelly customers. I don’t know why, but that’s how it is. I was standing at the front of the store with Elizabeth Emerson Hancock during her book signing, when three men in ripped jeans and Nascar hats approached to ask me where to find a book about potty training. I must have looked at them a little funny—it’s not really the norm to see three men who look like they belong on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour come in together looking for such a book—and one of them said, “Betcha don’t see rednecks in the bookstore too often!”
(note: I generally do not use or endorse derogatory nicknames, but since the guy called himself and his buddies a redneck, I think it’s fair game here.)
I told him where the potty training books are and watched as, instead of walking toward the back of the store, he sauntered over to our bestsellers and noticed this book:
He picked it up, disgusted, turned it around so the cover wasn’t showing, and informed me that Obama was stupid and we shouldn’t carry this book.
Then I informed him that perhaps he should look more closely because this, in fact, is an anti-Obama book. The title is a play on the word “abomination.”
(insert look of sudden understanding here) “Ohhhhhh.”
“Well then, you sold it!” he exclaimed. “Now you really think I’m a redneck, huh?”
Oh sir, if you only knew.
That thong tha thong thong thong…
About a month ago, a young woman approached the Info desk and asked for a book called Flaming Panties. One of our best booksellers (the same one who solved the Emily/MLA mystery from a few weeks ago) dutifully typed “Flaming Panties” into our system and got nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. No record of a book called Flaming Panties.
Not one to be outdone by a customer with incorrect title information, the bookseller tried several other search terms (she has a pretty amazing ability to find just about anything, no matter how confused the customer is) and, after about ten minutes, found this book:
If you ask me, that’s the real abomination.
Things I Overheard While Traveling with Myself
My apologies to Alan Alda for the bastardization of his title.
So, I’m sitting in the airport on the Friday before Labor Day weekend. My bag is stocked with books I’m stoked about reading, and I’m fresh off of Why We Hate Us, so I’m extra sensitive to the jackassery (one of my husband’s oh-so-useful neologisms) taking place around me. The guy sitting next to me at the gate is listening to his iPod just loudly enough for me to hear the percussion, which is annoying but kind of okay because it’s not enough to distract me from my book.
Fifteen minutes later, another guy, who looked to be in his early 30s, walked into the waiting area listening to his iPod so loudly that everyone nearby could hear the words. Clearly. Ugh. He was kind of dancing and rocking out, moving his lips as he imagined singing along—it looked like what I do when I’m listening to great music while I’m cooking or driving, when no one other than my husband and dog can see me—and it was hilarious. He sat down in his seat and proceeded to bop around, nod his head rhythmically, and boogie down (as much as one can boogie down while seated in a tiny airport chair) for the remainder of our time at the gate. Entertaining? Yes. Socially appropriate? No.
Just as I thought, “man, Dick Meyer would love to see this,” I heard what can only be described as angsty frat boy rock coming from a nearby radio. At first, I thought it was the piped in music from the airport, but then I realized that I was hearing that music, too. Confused, I started looking around for the source. And then I saw him. Angsty frat boy himself, whom, up to this point, I had not seen but only smelled because when he sat down with his back to mine, I detected more than a little Abercrombie cologne. How original. And how thoughtful, since he was going to be in confined spaces with several hundred strangers for a few hours.
Mr. Frat Boy is holding an mp3 player/phone device that is the source of the music I (and everyone else in a 20-foot radius) am hearing because he’s decided that he wants to listen to his music, but he either doesn’t have earbuds or would prefer not to use them. So he’s just sitting there, holding his phone, blasting his music, nodding along in blissful ignorance as I (and I’m sure, some of my fellow travelers) have an extensive internal conversation with myself about whether or not to say something to him. If that’s not obnoxious, I don’t know what is.
I think I’m going to start taking an extra copy of Why We Hate Us with me every time I fly, so I’ll always have one to give to the person who seems to need it the most.
Just as I resigned myself to pull out my own iPod and try to drown out yet another Linkin Park song, the gate agent announced that our flight into Dallas was going to be delayed one hour because all flights into and out of Dallas were on a one hour delay due to air traffic and weather issues. It’s a three hour flight from Richmond to Dallas, but since you go back one time zone, the ticket shows your arrival time as only 2 hours later than your departure because arrivals are given in local time. I think most people understand this.
Then I overheard the people across from me having this conversation:
Woman: “So, if we’re an hour ahead of Dallas anyway, why don’t we just leave now, and we’ll still be there an hour….oh, wait, I don’t get it.”
Man: “How long is the flight?”
Woman: “Well, we leave at noon, and it says we get there at 2pm. Is that our time or Dallas time?”
Man: “I think that’s Dallas time.”
Woman: “Well, since we’re an hour ahead of Dallas, that means the flight is only one hour long. That’s not bad. But I still don’t understand why we just leave now because then we’ll still be there an hour later.”
Man (looking confused and/or exasperated): “I don’t know…but if everything’s delayed, our connection will be delayed also, and as long as we make that flight, I don’t really care.”
Woman: “Hrmph…I wonder. Hang on, wait a minute.” (approaches the gate agent’s desk) “So, if we’re traveling back in time an hour, why don’t we just leave now? We’ll still get there when we’re supposed to, right?”
At this point, I had to look away so I didn’t start laughing. I’m sure airline employees get this kind of stuff all the time (I’d love to see one of their blogs), but it was so crazy—a grown woman, who sounded somewhat educated in the rest of her conversations (I’m a serial eavesdropper/people watcher in airports) actually just asked that question. And she wasn’t asking ironically. Wow. I hope no one told her about the Hadron Collider experiment today.