Daily Life at Barnes and Noble or, Ding Ding Round One!

On a normal day at Barnes and Noble, I get at least two or three dumb questions. When I say "dumb", I mean things like this:

"Do you have that one book with a black cover and red lettering?"

Like that doesn't describe every other book in our inventory. Every once in a while us booksellers will know what they're talking about. In this case, the person wanted Black Hawk Down.

"Do you have the new Oprah book?" is also a favorite question. Yes. We at Barnes and Noble keep up-to-date on Oprah's picks when we're not here. This is not the Superbowl. Thank God she's done with that garbage (but I hear that she's going to start again). But now every talk show and their mom is trying to copy her. It gets people to read and I respect that, but come on, it's usually some lame crap. Kelly Ripa recommended "The Bachelor", some cheesy romance novel. I've always said that romance novels are glorified porn.

Another good one is the pot smoker that comes in and asks if we have any books on growing marijuana. Right, that's something we usually carry. Seriously. We have a book called The Cannabible. It's in gardening. The author of these particular books, Ed Rosenthal, recently got busted for, yeah, you guessed it, growin' weed. He got like 85 years or something. He won't be selling books for a while, methinks.

I've also had people complain that we don't have something when they obviously haven't looked hard enough

"You people have everything except books on how to jack off!"

"Sir, have you looked in our sexuality section?"

I've had people tell me, "No, I'll wait here. You can go look for it." when I'm helping them find a book. I am not your personal shopper. If I were, you'd owe me $18 an hour instead of my $8.50.

They like to rip apart entire sections and lay all over the floor with the books. If a bookseller walks by and asks if they're finished, this is the response: "No, that's okay, you can take it."

Aw, gee, could I? I am not your maid.

People like to call and hope we're psychic. They want to know if we know what they're looking for. The conversation will usually go something like this:

Me: Hellobarnesandnoblegreenfieldthissiskellyhowcanihelpyou?

Him: Yeah, uh, I'm looking for a biography, but I don't know how to pronounce or spell his name but I know he was an NAACP leader. It might be.uh...Kuwazy Embunee?

Me: (thinking he's got a speech impediment) Okay. I'm going to try "NAACP bio" and see what comes up... Sir, there's 612 matches for that.

Him: Well, I saw it at another Barnes and Noble, but I don't remember which. Can you try "Quasi Embunee"? Don't you know what the other stores have?

Me: Sir, our systems aren't connected, and there are four different stores you could have seen it at.

Him: Well, don't you know what you have?

Me: (about ready to hang up on him) Sir, there are 40,000 books in this store. No, I don't know what we have.

Him: Oh. Well, I think his name starts with a "k".

If he's not careful, I'm going to jump through the phone and strangle the ignorant bastard. I type in "Kwe bio" instead, and Bingo!

Me: Sir, is his name Kweisi Mfume?

Him: Yeah! That's it. Can you hold it for me?

Me: It's not something we usually carry, but I can order it for you.

Him: No that's okay, I'll keep looking.

Jackass! Made me do all that for nothing!

Then there are people who don't believe me when I say we don't have something.

"Are you sure?"

"Ma'am, it says we have zero on hand. Do you want me to order it for you?"

"How can you not have this book? What kind of store is this anyway?"

Like I'm going to lie to people or something. The book is usually something ridiculous too, like How to Raise Chickens.

We've also got some pretty whack regulars. They all have names. For instance, there's Ol' Crazy Chinese Man. He likes to read The New York Times in the cafe and have a conversation with it. He never buys anything, and totally ignores the sign that asks people to buy the newspaper before reading it.

Next is Multiple Personality Man. He also likes to have conversations with himself, except it's creepy because he'll ask himself a question in English and then answer himself in a totally different language. We've heard him speak German and Spanish. He never buys anything either.

Another guy is about 40ish, chunky, wears raggedy clothes, and has that "I haven't bathed in a week or two" smell. He harasses female customers, asking them to pose for his website. We just call him "Ol' Nasty Guy."

Then there's the 30ish bicycle messenger. We have to forcibly remove him at the end of the night. We make closing announcements at 10:45 and 11:00pm. At 11, if you're not on your way out, you will be removed. Scott, a particularly scary looking bookseller, had to wake him up and ask him to leave. It took him a few minutes to realize he was in a public place. Then he decides to go to the bathroom. Scott followed him and told him to leave. The guy had the audacity to snap at Scott, something to the effect of "Can't I go to the bathroom?" No, dammit, cuz we want you out.

The best ones by far are The Exhibitionists. Two kids, probably around 15 or 16, were in the middle of some heavy petting in plain sight along the main aisle. We received a few complaints and one of the employees walked over to break it up. They get up, but instead of being normal and leaving, they take it someplace else. They chose the entryway. The same employee knocks on the glass separating us from them. This time they leave.

About three days later, they come back and are at it again. This earns them the name "The Exhibitionists." You can mention The Exhibitionists and everyone will know who you're talking about.

This time, our head cashier (the woman with the loudest mouth and who doesn't care what she says or around whom she says it) tells the kids to break it up or leave. They ignore her. She gets reinforcements from Bartender/Bookseller Lynn, who parades past them with a few pregnancy books.

They take the hint.

It's not just kids we've caught "en flagrante" either. A man was seen with his penis hanging out of his pants, and there was a woman who had her hands down her pants.

I love when people use our store like a damn library. We've seen people use books as foot rests, coasters, chairs, tables, and toilet paper. Yes, toilet paper.

A while back, some guy called from the bathroom on his cell phone. He said there was no toilet paper and could we please get him some. Okay, no problem. One of the male employees goes in there and helps him. On the way out, the employee spots a book in the garbage. He leaves it alone. An hour or so later, we get a call from apparently the same man saying that since there was no toilet paper, he had to use a book, but that didn't work too well. He had to throw the book away and call for help.

"So that's what that book was doing in the garbage!"

Speaking of bathrooms, we've had people, usually women, totally miss the toilet. This has happened at least once every month. Think finger- painting.

And that's all I'm going to say on that.