Strangest Question, Ever

Josie Leavitt -- June 22nd, 2015

All bookstore staffers get asked a lot of questions every day. They range from simple to complicated. Often we are asked if we carry certain books. These are usually straightforward questions about where a book might be in the store. Occasionally, we get asked questions that just stop us in our tracks, and leave us scratching our heads to wonder what’s happening at a customer’s house. I know everyone has a hobby or two, and there is the expectation that bookstores should reflect all of them. I have learned after 19 years of owning a bookstore that there are some hobbies we just don’t even think about. Sure, I have knitting books, cookbooks, books on how to build treehouses, gardening, even stamp collecting, but I found out last week I have a gap in the collection.

I was working with Laura when a man and his teenaged daughter came up to the counter. The father looked at me and asked quite seriously, “Do you have any books on how to clean a skull?”category3_family_227

My first thought was no. My second thought was why does this family need to clean a skull? I couldn’t look at Laura because I knew I’d start laughing, more from nervousness than anything else. I looked on our database for any books on taxidermy and found we didn’t have any. Our nonfiction section definitely reflects what our customers have expressed interest in and in nearly 20 years not one customer has asked about this particular art. I asked the man, “What kind of skull?” My relief was palpable when he said it was actually an old turtle shell and not a human skull. I looked through a few of the “how to live outdoors” books we have and none of them had a section on how to clean skulls.

I did some poking on my books in print database and found no books just on cleaning skulls. I offered to look up, and print out, directions from the internet but he clearly seemed to want the book, now. I thought the better of saying, “What’s the rush?” He and his daughter left the store disappointed. I guess when you’ve thought that you can spend the whole day cleaning a skull nothing else will do. I directed them to the local library and wished them good luck,

So, what’s the strangest question you’ve been asked at your bookstore or library?

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