Thursday, July 24, 2008
Shopgirl Skills 2
So, that's a picture of me trying to keep the hordes of hysterically desperate Summer Reading customers out of the bookstore after closing ("PLEASE let me in! Now LOOK, my child is going to FAIL OUT of English if we can't get in and get our books! He's going to fail and it will be YOUR FAULT!"). No, it isn't a picture of Lillian Gish in The Wind (1927). People are always telling me I look like Lillian Gish--must be my stunningly expressive eyes...you know people, I can't help it if every candid of me ends up looking like some amazing silent film capture, okay? I mean, that's not even the point, anyway.
So, SUMMER READING, everyone! Overall, I loved Summer Reading, but I was a dork like that. Well, a GLAMOROUS DORK, but you know what I mean. I loved nothing better than to zip through some titles and then whip up a few overwrought and unnecessarily long responses to assigned questions with the addendum, 'Please explain your answer using textual evidence.' I know! That doesn't seem like me AT ALL! Well, time changes you, people...
I do realize that not everyone is all YAY READING, but it seems like kids are so ANTI-READING now. I mean, excuse me if it alarms me when kids are looking at Of Mice and Men, which is, like, EIGHT PAGES LONG and freaking out about not having enough time to read it or when the parents come in and complain about some of the books having unreadable "old time-y language" (actual description used by a customer). Perhaps many of you agree with me, dear readers, so it seems only fair to document my most tragicomic summer reading customer encounters from back when I was a glamorous shopgirl. We'll begin with a summer reader--a rising sophomore in high school--who was having trouble remembering the title of the book she needed:
Girl: Hi, I'm looking for a book for summer reading.
Me: What book?
Girl: Well, I don't know the title.
Me: Do you know the author?
Me: Okay, do you know what it was about?
Girl: Uh, yeah, it was about, like, grain, or something...
Me: ...Grain...is it The Catcher in the Rye?
Girl: YES! That's it! Oh my God, thanks!
Me: No problem.
Also, I would just like to use this opportunity to express my abject hatred for The Catcher in the Rye. I mean, no offense to anyone who hearts this book, but I can't say that I am at all jazzed about getting into the head of some whiny and annoying 16-year-old boy, much less being FORCED to do it by teachers who are always going on and on about how incredible this book is. Maybe having brothers kind of killed Catcher for me, but we'll probably never know. ANYWAY, people, next up in our Parade of Airheads is a parent who was confused about why they have to use such BIG and FOREIGN words in summer reading titles.
Parent: I am looking for a play for my daughter who is a junior, but I can't remember the name of it. It has some weird name that starts with a 'P.'
[After about a week of summer reading, you practically memorize the names of the books, and there was only one play on the list that started with 'P.']
Parent: Yes, that's it! Why do they call it such a weird name?
Me: Well, ma'am, there is an ancient Greek myth about a man called Pygmalion, and this play was based on that myth. The play is the basis for the musical My Fair Lady.
Parent: [scoffs] Well, WHY couldn't they just call it 'My Fair Lady'?
Wouldn't it be LOVERLY if people could grasp the concept of TIME AND SPACE? I mean, I didn't end up answering her because her cell phone rang, but seriously, people. How was I supposed to even touch that without making her look like a moron? Then again, maybe she wouldn't have noticed. Our next encounter is unfortunately with another parent looking for a copy of Animal Farm and getting lost in the George Orwell section. She called me over to her and she had this book in her hand:
Parent: Hi there, can you help me?
Me: Sure. What are you looking for?
Parent: I'm looking for Animal Farm by George Orwell.
Me: It should be right there where you found that one [gesturing to the book already in her hand].
Parent: [finds Animal Farm and pulls it off the shelf] Oh, there it is! I am so blind sometimes! I thought it was this one [holding up the copy of 1984 pictured above], but I don't know WHAT this one is--it doesn't even have a title on it! Thanks for your help! [puts the copy of 1984 back on the shelf and walks to the front of the store to check out]
So, I guess she thought '1984' was some kind of publication date and it was the new IN thing to put it on the front cover next to the author's name. Well, at least she put it back and didn't just toss it onto a random shelf like some customers would have. Still, pretty frightening overall, I'd say... Our last encounter is not my own, actually, but the experience of one of my coworkers at the same bookstore. A parent walks in with the school summer reading list in hand and reads out loud slowly:
"Hi, how are you guys doing? Let's see, I need...The Twel... Twelfth Night by...Will-ee-am Shake...spear-ay... Do you carry that?"
Well, madam, it just so happens that we have an entire SHELF devoted to Will-ee-am Shakespeare-ay--his stuff is SO HOT right now! Allow me to lead you thither...
That summer, we also had a junior in high school come in and say, as he was buying HIS copy of Twelfth Night, that he had never heard of Shakespeare in his entire life. Cross my heart and hope to die. For REAL, y'all. I know--TERRIFYING. I weep for the future, as does poor Will Shakespeare-ay, as illustrated by that last visual aid, which gives us all a rare glimpse into his REAL THOUGHTS.