Tony Miksak: Heard At The Bookshop

Words on Books KZYX
Thanks to Tom Davenport

I’ve been out of the bookselling biz for some time now. That old familiar monkey on my back bothers someone else with his bad breath, scratchy claws and constant demands for attention.

This week it all came back – the adventure, the heartbreak, the humor of working in an independent bookstore. It seems that bookseller Cynthia Christensen of Book Stop in Hood River, Oregon, recently came down with pneumonia and laryngitis, and her husband stepped in for a couple of weeks in her place.

He kept notes:

“Do you have this used?” (Customer holds up a book just released in paperback that day.) “It was just released today.” “But you’re a used bookstore.” “Sorry, they haven’t figured out how to print them used.”

“Do you have a restroom? My son needs to poop.”

“I’m just browsing.”

“I’m just killing time.”

“Can my kids stay here while I’m eating next door?”

“There’s a hair on this sofa.”

“Can I make you a deal on this book?”

“Have you seen my wife?”

“Do you have maps?” (Looks at map, copies directions, incorrectly folds map, leaves it on the sofa.)

“Where am I?”

“Is this a library?”

“Was Abraham Lincoln really a vampire hunter?”

“How come this town has three bookstores?”

“I can get it cheaper on Amazon.”

“Can you describe the lay of the land around here?”

“Will my car get towed if I leave it in front of your store all day?”

“I’m looking for a book that has the word ‘free’ in the title.”

“Mom, I have to poop!”

“Do you have a chicken section? Goats?”

“Have you seen my children?”

“Mom, can I have this Clifford book?” “No, Clifford gets on my nerves.”

“Are all these books donated to you, so I can just take one?”

“Have you read all these books? When do you watch TV?”

“If I bring in some books, can you tell me what they’re worth so I can sell them on eBay?”

“I never knew there was a library here.” “There is, but it’s on the next street over.” “What is this?” “It’s a bookstore.” “Oh, I don’t read.”

“Dad, look a bookstore! Let’s take a look.” “Why? It’s just books.” “Come on, it will just take a minute.” “No, reading is stupid.”

“Are you hiring?” “No.” “I like books.” “So do I.” “I promise not to get in the way. I could just read or something.”

Another person: “Are you hiring?” “No.” “Good! Can I use your company’s name?” “Why?” “I have to tell the Unemployment Department I can’t find a job.”

That’s a sample of what Charlie Christensen recorded sitting in for two weeks at his wife’s bookstore in Oregon. Other booksellers tweeted in on the same subject. Some of their contributions:

From Robert Sindelar’s first year as a bookseller in 1990: “Do you have ‘Get Rich Overnight’” “No, but I can get it for you.” “Sorry, I can’t wait.”

“Can you recommend a book? Something dark & creepy.” “How about Crime & Punishment?” “Nah. I don’t really like Austen.”

“So people actually come in here and buy books?”

“Who wrote Jane Austen?”

Lanora Hurley, Next Chapter Bookshop: “Had a customer demand to know where the ‘body shop’ was & dragged staff person outside to point at sign that reads ‘bookshop’.”

“I never like any of your books but you always play good in-store music.”

“Can you tell me who the author of Shakespeare is?”

“How many books are there in the trilogy?”

“Do you have the ‘Autobiography of Ben Franklin’? I’m not sure who wrote it.”

“Do you have Shakespeare in English?”

“Do you have those mystery novels by Angela Lansbury?” Replied ‘Yes’ and showed him the books by ‘Jessica Fletcher.’ He was happy.”

“Where do you keep fiction that’s true?”

In Mendocino more than once we were asked “Where’s your non-fiction section?” Think about it.