Ten Things Before Elevensies

Cynthia Compton -- March 4th, 2020

It’s Tuesday morning at the shop, and our weekly “Stories and Snacks” program begins at 10:30. I picked up the muffins on the way in this morning, but forgot to get napkins, so I text a staffer to stop at the grocery store on her way to work. Normally, we’d have lots of extras, but we hosted an author event with cupcakes last weekend, and the napkin situation is now dire. (Note: cupcakes require WAY more napkins than frosted cookies. Plan more cookie events, and put napkin inventory on the Friday task list.)

There’s a post-it note from yesterday’s closing crew on the register, reminding me that we have fewer than ten $1 bills, so a trip to the bank is in order first thing today. Sadly, they open at nine, the same time that we do, so I have to wait for a staffer to show up before I can cross the parking lot to get change. While I’m there, I need to drop off the deposit and talk to the manager about the rash of counterfeit $20’s that I heard about at the Chamber of Commerce meeting. Surely we don’t need to start using the marker for every cash transaction, do we?

The stack of phone messages from late yesterday is piled in front of the wrapping paper. Two calls were from vendors needing a new credit card number, because ours was compromised (again) at Toy Fair. Three calls are from credit card processors “who have a manager in our area,” and two more from authors looking for shelf space for their self-published books in our store. There’s a couple of calls from the advertising manager of the local weekly community newspaper, and an offer to sponsor a bowling team is waiting for my review. Bowling team? Yes, really. I’m tempted to request team stats and indulge in a brief fantasy about bowling shirts with our store name in script, but decide to wait until I have had some coffee to return the call. Where, by the way, IS my coffee?

A memo from the staff member in charge of receiving yesterday reads as follows: Cynthia, this is the list of damages from yesterday’s shipments. Some of these need to be called in, some need to be emailed, and most of the second pile needs pictures to be sent to customer service. Make sure that you include the batch number printed on the outside of the boxes, which are broken down but stacked in the stock room. I’m sorry I didn’t get to them earlier, but it was after 5 pm when UPS arrived, so they need to be handled today.

This note from a customer is next in the stack: Dear Cynthia, Thanks so much for the recommendations for our book club! The members loved all the ideas. If we order any of these titles from you, do you price match or offer book club discounts? Here’s a list of current Amazon prices which I researched for you. Now I really want that coffee, darn it. I know that I made a pot at home, and poured it in my travel mug, but it’s just nowhere to be found.

There’s a pile of shiny foil envelopes (ARCs) and cardboard mailers (maybe ARCs, maybe single titles that were back ordered, maybe just swag) which get swept into a store shopping basket and carried back to the stock room to be opened in the afternoon. All of these require heavy shears, a case cutter, and a sense of fearlessness to accomplish that I just don’t possess this early in the day (especially without coffee.)

There’s a school book order form for an upcoming author visit to be proofread (No, the author will not personally sign the children. She will personally sign THE BOOKS) and then copied on bright yellow paper and delivered this afternoon with the sample copies for teachers to promote in their classrooms. I throw some bookmarks into the box with the newly printed forms and carry it out to my car, using the trip to grab my forgotten coffee (AHA!) and the doll clothes that went home to be washed last night. Naked dolls at the play center are quickly restored to clothed status, and the coffee goes back into the microwave for the first (but not final) time.

It’s now nearly 10 am, and customers with preschoolers have begun to arrive. Just as a good-sized gaggle has circled the play table, a fully outfitted firefighter appears at our door. Shrieks from the toddlers ensue as he enters in all his heavy duty gear, including mask and helmet, looking more like a deep sea diver than a friendly fireman. The construction workers down the block had accidentally cut into the gas line, and the crew is out checking on all the neighboring businesses while the situation is addressed by the gas company. Never one to miss a good programming opportunity, we invite the officer inside to visit, where he takes off his helmet and passes it around for the kids to try on (it’s really heavy) and demonstrates his heat sensing device used to locate people and animals in a dark building. Story time is going to be a little late today, but no one minds, and the multiple fire trucks are blocking exit from our parking lot, anyway.

The phone is ringing, and a rep needs our final order BY NOON if we are going to take advantage of the free shipping special, and also a new credit reference form attached to the order, because the vendor was just bought by another company, and all the accounts need to reapply for terms. Also, do I have time to meet next week to see the new lines? The rep has Monday morning available, but is then traveling to Michigan and won’t be back this month.

The FedEx driver pulls up to the front of the store and makes the “SO BIG” sign with his hands, indicating that someone needs to go open the back door for him to unload. Sadly, the restaurant next door is getting its produce delivery, so no one can access our alley right now, and he’ll just have to bring the boxes into the front in multiple trips. I grab a couple of story time muffins and wrap them in a (newly purchased) napkin to hand him as a peace offering, but am distracted by a customer with a stack of items that she wants wrapped surreptitiously while her kids are playing in the store.

Our staffer who leads Tuesday story time arrives, drops her coat and purse behind the counter and begins to shepherd kids and parents back to the event room. “So,” she says over her shoulder, “Has it been pretty quiet today? I bet you love the peaceful first hour in the bookstore, before it gets busy. I should really come in earlier, just to enjoy the alone time.”

“Yup,” I say as I carry that coffee back to the microwave for the second time. “That first hour is really special. Just me and my coffee.”

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About Cynthia Compton

Cynthia is the mom of 4 kids, a rescuer of English Bulldogs, and the owner of 4 Kids Books & Toys in Zionsville, Indiana. The 2600 sq. ft. childrens store was founded in 2003, and hosts daily story times and events, birthday parties, book clubs and a large summer reading program. She just completed her term on the board of the American Specialty Toy Retailers Assn, is a past president of the Great Lakes Bookseller Association, and her store was honored with the Pannell Award in 2013.

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