My experience working in a little book store in my little town.
| I started working in this book shop recently, It's a quiet place, and small. It's quiet in the sense that very few people come in. An hour can go by without a customer. It's mind-numbing sometimes for just this reason.
What I do usually is sit and read, or stand up and read, or lean with my ass half on the counter and read. I've tried to walk and read, but that doesn't quite do. For one thing, the smallness of the place doesn't allow you to walk very far before you have to turn a corner or go back the way you came. The whole walking thing gets distracting after about ten seconds, and you can't really concentrate on your book. So, while I'm there, I spend a lot of time sitting, or standing, or leaning, motionless, reading.
One of the nicer aspects of the job is that you can listen to music while you read. There's a little CD player behind the counter, like a little boom box, if you know what that is. The guy who runs the place is named Matt, and he keeps a pretty nice little collection of discs and tapes on the shelf right next to the player. Mostly jazz is what he has. Oscar Peterson. Wes Montgomery. Duke Ellington. Monk. This is good because I really like that kind of stuff, but you can only listen to music and read for so long before you have to stop. Then there's really not much else to do. You can't read for eight hours at a time. I can't.
It's in this interim, after I stop reading and before someone comes in, that I begin to stare. This is precisely the kind of place it is. If you're not reading or bobbing your head to the music, you're staring. After about ten minutes of that, you can really start to feel worthless, and you can't go back to reading quite yet, so you walk aroud the shop looking for something else to read. Actually, you're just admiring the cover art or the titles, because after four or five hours of reading, it's hard to even choke down the synopses and blurbs on the backs of the books. You can see how this job could put you in a trance.
The other part of the job, other than the staring and reading and head-bobbing, is the ringing up of customers' purchases. The people who come into the place do liven it up a bit. Actually, most of them just walk in and start leafing through the magazines, but with the trance this place puts you in, a sneeze or a charlie horse gets you excited. So some guy flipping through Sports Illustrated is practically a party. Then if somebody actually buys something, and they say a few words, and you chit-chat a little while you give them their change, well it's almost too much to handle.
I'm not going to lie to you, and I've beat around the bush long enough. The most interesting part of this job is being a porn vender. In fact, I'd like to be able to put that on a resume some day, but I probably won't. I'd like to do it just for a laugh, but it's not the kind of joke that gets you a job in most places. But it is a really fascinating part of working where I work. It would be different if it was a sex shop instead of a book store. I wouldn't care for that. Not that I find it offensive or anything, but it's just not the same. There would be no suspense, for me or the customer. A guy walks into a sex shop, you know he's walking out with some porn or a blow-up rubber vagina or something. It lacks anticipation. But in a small book shop in a small community, it's really something.
It's not always something, to tell you the truth. Sometimes a guy (and so far it's always been a guy) just enters the store and makes a beeline for the porn section. These guys shuffle through the mags like their picking out socks. I don't think it's anything to feel shame over, but it's just more entertaining for me if the person feels a little uneasy. The ones who walk up to the counter with a stack as thick as a dictionary don't do much for me. I much prefer the type who tactfully bury their new issue of Barely Legal beneath an Old Farmers Almanac, a Runner's World, a Soap Opera Digest and a bookmark. Then while I make change, they talk about the weather. I love that.