It’s February…

…and the cats are bored.

They express this in inimitable feline fashion, sitting with their backs to us, staring out the balcony doors. Stymied not only by multiple snowdrifts – hey, even wet paws are acceptable if you’re desperate enough for quality prowling time – but by the glittering green shards of Perrier bottles sticking up out of the grimy whiteness.

After a recent trip to Costco, you see, Shoemom obeyed received wisdom and stuck her six-pack out there to keep it nicely cool. Forgetting, in her enthusiasm, that other wisdom she’d received about carbonated
beverages and sub-zero temperatures. In February, apparently, even fizzy water is too exciting for the universe to handle.

So the cats sit and stare. Except that every now and then they glance back and give one of those mews that indicates all-encompassing bewilderment with the state of their existence, and more pertinently, human inability to fix it. “No,” we patiently explain, “in the three minutes since the last time you asked, spring has not arrived.”
Patiently explaining things to life-forms who routinely drink out of the toilet is another standard feature of February.

But it isn’t enough, eventually, because we are members of a higher race, and thus it is our duty to keep our brain cells from their ongoing attempts to hibernate. So we open the paper.

News item: ‘The Santa Barbara International Film Festival to present Leonardo DiCaprio with lifetime achievement award”.

Quick check of the IMDb. Yes, Leonardo is still thirty. He still is the star of Growing Pains, and Critters 3. And he still has that mouth that looks like a particularly spoiled sixteen-year-old-girl’s.

We glance at the paper. The cats glance around, and mew. We glance at the paper again. Then back at the cats.

“Move over.”

February wins for another year.


As a former book superstore employee I can testify to the incredibly common practice of parents dropping the small kids off in the children’s section, saying something dumb like “OK, now, Mommy’s going
to look in the grown-up books, you stay there,” and heading off to an entirely different section of the store – completely out of eye- or even ear-range – without a backwards glance. It took a rash of incidents involving pedophiles in our chain for ‘concerned caregivers’ to get the message.

Some other $tupid Bookstore Customer Tricks (which of course nobody reading this would ever stoop to):

Being very certain you want a particular book, but having literally no more information than “My Aunt Jane read it last week, and it was really great and romantic, she says all the stores have it…” Variant: “It’s the one with the red cover, with, ummmm, flowers…I think it should be in the romance section.” (In fact, if you’re ever wandering around in a bookstore and hear the clerks giggling about ‘yeah, and I bet it has a red cover’, consider that code for ‘Whoaboy, we got a live one here folks…’)

Bringing up a book with, say, one page corner turned down and demanding a discount.

Monopolizing a bookseller for an hour, having them pull out and compare every single book in a section, then announcing brightly that “Well, at least now I know what to look for when I go to the library!”

Responding – in a non-used bookstore – to “No sir, sorry, that’s out of stock and the publisher says it’s out of print,” with “Oh…so you don’t have it, then?” (Variant: “Oh…so I guess they wouldn’t be interested in running off just one copy, would they? I mean, I’d be willing to pay extra…” Really. I swear to God.)

Six words: “Excuse me, where’s your non-fiction section?”. (The truly scary part comes when you say ‘Er, what subject would you be looking for?’ and they look at you funny and say, ‘You know, the section with
the real-life stories!’)

And – my personal favourite – being serenely and unshakeably convinced that selling books automatically places clerks at the centre of all things literary. “But you must know the title – it was on TV last week!” or “I know it was reviewed somewhere…no, I don’t remember the name of the paper. You mean you didn’t see it?”

At the height of Oprah’s popularity, we could in fact tell exactly what she was featuring based on the calls we got immediately after her show ended. I’m talking twenty or thirty requests for one book in the space
of twenty minutes. What made it especially poignant was the genuine amazement expressed by the twentieth caller when we finished the title for them – they honestly had no idea that in trying to ‘liberate their
inner selves’ they were actually dumping whatever little individuality they possessed.

Bestselling business tome Who Moved [Took, Stole, Ate, Found, Broke] My Cheese? is the current bane of bad customer memory. Other recent problems have been caused by The Celestine [Celestial, Celebrated, Electric, Selective, ‘That Book Where the Guy Goes to Peru and Finds God’] Prophecy and The Zone, which can be Entered or Mastered or Eaten or Played or whatever else catches your fancy.

And then there’s the lady who got upset – I swear – because we didn’t sell film (as in Kodak) in the Film section. Even after it was gently explained to her what we did sell, she was still insisting that the sign was misleading customers.

In closing, I’d like to recount an absolutely true encounter with what appeared to be a college student in her early twenties. Bear in mind while reading that she’s standing at the front desk of what is literally named The World’s Biggest Bookstore – 100,000 titles and counting:

Student: Uh, hi…I’m looking for a book?

Me: (grinning appreciatively at the ‘irony’) Great! What did you have in mind?

Her: Uh…I dunno…just something to read.

Me: (pause to reorganize sense of humour) Oh, OK…so…what subject did you want?

Her: (Shrugs, turns to boyfriend, who mutters something unintelligible, turns back) Well, you know, a good story. You know, like my grandma reads.

Me: (noticing a line forming behind her) Right-oh! Fiction! So, let’s see…(anxiously scanning her face for a reaction) we’ve got romance, horror, sci-fi, comedy…(blank face)…uh, Canadiana, historical…(even blanker face)

Her: I dunno – just a good story. I’m going on a trip and I need something to read. (starting to look really annoyed) Can’t you just recommend something?

Me: (gushing a little with relief) No, but I know who can. (picks up pager) Fiction staff to the front desk, please…

(Later I asked the poor Fiction guy who rescued me how it went. “I dunno,” he shrugged. “Every book I showed her, she just shook her head and said she wanted a good story…”)


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. rj_anderson
    Feb 03, 2005 @ 22:21:53

    In February, apparently, even fizzy water is too exciting for the universe to handle.

    This and the line about explaining things to life forms who drink out of the toilet had me LOFL.

    Also, those are some truly harrowing bookstore stories, and make a nice compliment to the truly harrowing librarian stories that I get from other LJ friends like . Oh, and I mustn’t forget ‘s harrowing bakery stories. Makes me awfully glad I’m out of the workforce these days, really…

  2. stmarysalice
    Feb 07, 2005 @ 13:14:42

    Heh. Stories like these remind me how grateful I am I don’t work with the public anymore. They do make for good journal material though.

  3. rj_anderson
    Feb 09, 2005 @ 16:09:30

    Also, will answer your e-mail soon, but in the meantime, you really must read this essay in ‘s journal. It fits in so well with what we were discussing about a certain review…

  4. nia_starr
    Feb 10, 2006 @ 03:22:22

    News item: ‘The Santa Barbara International Film Festival to present Leonardo DiCaprio with lifetime achievement award”.
    Quick check of the IMDb. Yes, Leonardo is still thirty. He still is the star of Growing Pains, and Critters 3. And he still has that mouth that looks like a particularly spoiled sixteen-year-old-girl’s.

    You mean just like this? Spoiled girly-mouth aside, he has some pretty admirable performances in his filmography that I definitely consider worthy: This Boy’s Life, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Basketball Diaries, Total Eclipse, Marvin’s Room, Romeo & Juliet, The Beach, Gangs of New York… Uh, can you tell I’m somewhat of a fan? So much so that I completely forgive him the crime that was The Man in the Iron Mask! *grin* What can I say, I like boys with girly-mouths.

  5. shoebox2
    Feb 11, 2006 @ 20:13:30

    [grins back] Say…that photo isn’t bad, all told.

    Yeah, I come fully prepared to concede that the boyo can act (incidentally, I notice you don’t mention The Aviator? Any particular reason?). It was just the inevitable juxtaposition of a California film festival giving a thirty-year-old a Lifetime Achievement Award that struck my sense of ludicrous sideways. 🙂

  6. nia_starr
    Feb 12, 2006 @ 02:07:53

    incidentally, I notice you don’t mention The Aviator? Any particular reason?

    Yeah, for the simple reason that I didn’t get the opportunity to watch it in its entirety. It seems recently that anytime my hubby or I have time to watch a movie we just aren’t in the mood for that kind of genre, my admiration for Leo aside. I actually also liked his performance in The Quick and the Dead with Sharon Stone and Gene Hackman. Yeah, the man can act. Also he is an avid environmentalist which scores huge points in my book. Aaaaaand, last but definitely not least, he is just my type physically (kind of like Kalan) so it’s win-win for me!! 😀

    But overall I agree with you that it is kind of funny that he is receiving that award so young–lets hope it doesn’t forshadow the pinnacle (and subsequent slide) of his career. *knocks on wood*

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