A Goofy First Day Back

Josie Leavitt - January 12, 2016

Every year we close the bookstore for a week after New Year’s Eve. Yesterday was my first full day of work since this annual break. And what a day it was. I was reminded almost immediately that a bookseller’s day is largely determined by who walks in the door. All of us have the best ideas of how our day will go and then projects get derailed by odd questions, customer unhappiness, and strange happenings.
Within minutes of opening a nice man walked in carrying a large plastic bag. My first thought was he was returning some holiday books. This notion was quickly dismissed when he asked, “Are you the owner?” I really don’t like this question because it’s often the beginning of a conversation that I don’t want to have with a vendor who is cold-calling me. This was no different. This man took a lumbar support out of his bag and proceeded to tell me about all of its virtues. “All readers sit without enough lumbar support.” I thought about my reading habits and had to conclude that while he might be right, I tend to read while lying on the couch where my back is perfectly supported. But I let him continue his speech. It was a good speech, I have to give him that. But when I asked for a card and his website, I was told he had neither. My confidence in him and his product plummeted. He was a hard sell and I was up for the challenge. I told him that I needed to confer with my co-owner before I took these large products in my small store. He left dejected and I went back to finish my coffee.
The phone calls we got yesterday were actually funny and equally odd. The first was from a woman in Alaska who called and asked, “Elizabeth recommended a book before Christmas when I was visiting about a bear and some ducks.” Laura and I scratched our heads. Then the customer added, “It probably had a blue cover.” Oddly, all covers are blue with this kind of question. And in this instance, that was perfect information. Elizabeth was off, so we couldn’t get hold of her, but knowing the cover was blue gave me a flash of the book. I hopped up to the shelf and pulled out Mother Bruce. That was the book! But since the customer was in Alaska, she was going to get it there.
Another call was from a woman in Texas who had shopped at the store in July. She apparently bought a large stack of books and had just started reading one of them, Far From the Tree, which is 962 pages long. Her book was missing 32 pages. We puzzled over what to do. She rejected my first off-the-cuff idea, of just reading those pages from a copy from the library and then continuing reading with her book. She didn’t want to deal with contacting the publisher for a replacement book, so she’s mailing the book to us to return and we will mail her a replacement copy.
Lastly, we all kept hearing a weird electronic beep coming from the bathroom. We are all somewhat convinced that there is a bookstore ghost because recently, Elizabeth and David were closing up and a wind-up flower pen started whirring all by itself as if it had just been wound up, but no one had. So the noise was at first attributed to our new ghost, until Laura figured out it was the battery pack for our touchless sink. We still have no idea about the pen, but it was good to know the source of this particular noise.
It was a strange day, full of the unusual that reminded me again that anything can, and often does, happen at the bookstore.

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