I get a lot of comments on my lunches, or lack thereof. I’m not sure what happens that makes it so difficult to eat lunch at lunchtime when you work at a bookstore. I think it’s the timing of the book deliveries, or just that things get busy, or could be that I’m just too lazy to eat if it means breaking up my day.
Every store has a natural rhythm to its day. For us, from 10 to noon we get organized and shelve what didn’t get done the day before. Often this can mean being greeted by massive stacks on Tuesdays when the new books can find their rightful home on the shelf and not the back counter. The morning is also a good time to make phone calls. Also, because the mornings tend to be quieter than the afternoon, projects get worked on during this time. Emails get written as follow-ups to author event requests, school visits get organized, etc. The only thing that accompanies me on this is an iced double shot skim latte. I have this every day unless it’s 10 degrees or colder out. This drink is also known as a Josie at Village Wine and Coffee. And every day they draw my name of the cup in ever-increasing fanciful ways that make me smile.
Noontime rolls around and often I’m not hungry yet, so I just keep working. Then something bad happens around 2:30. I start to get a tiny bit cranky, just a bit, but enough that cold callers should be wary. Most of my ad reps know this about me and have smartly tend to come to the store in the morning. Frustration creeps in with small things, like damaged books caused by poor packing. The hassle of dealing with these on an almost daily basis (is it me, or are these happening more and more?) can seem far more irritating when my stomach starts letting me know it’s been far too long between meals. Around this time, I start foraging the back room for anything that constitutes food. We usually have nuts tucked around and in a pinch, they’ll do. I’ll sneak a peek in the fridge in the vain hope that the weak iced coffee I never drank has mysteriously thrown itself away. Sometimes, there’s cheese. Sometimes, that cheese is too nasty to even contemplate eating, let alone throw out (why we can leave office fridges in such states is beyond me, but I’m guilty of the closing the door and just hoping someone else throws it all away.)
Then around 3:30 or 4:00 the serious need for food has set in. I know now that if I don’t actually eat something with protein, bad things will happen. I remember a joke from Paul Reiser who said that he got a headache because he was too stupid to eat. I do this weekly. Finally, I sit down long enough to realize that I’m desperate for real food. Since the cafe next door closed, I now have to get in the car to get something. But because it’s so late, I get something small because dinner seems like it’s just around the corner. Often, I will find one or more of my staff hunched over a sandwich at three in the afternoon. They are usually standing at the desk or the counter, eating while they keep working. I’m sure this is against OSHA, but more booksellers don’t like to stop.
Sure, I could pack a lunch. But I just don’t cook any more. It’s time-consuming and annoying to cook for one, so I just don’t it much. Consequently, I have very little I can pack for a lunch. If I bring a yogurt in it’s a good day. Customers will sometimes bring food over. One customer owns a diner and every time she comes in I tease her about not bringing me a grilled cheese with tomato and bacon. Twice now, she’s brought me one and that has just made my day.
Booksellers, I’m very curious: how do you feed yourselves during the day?