Saturday, 18 February 2012

"Where's Your Non-Fiction?" and Other Tales of Half-term Joy

Hell's Bells, I hate the half term holidays.  They're noisy and chaotic and I have to keep running round like a blue-arsed fly trying to rescue our books and new gifts from being ruined by everyone else's badly behaved children.  I've had a headache EVERY SINGLE DAY and I'm ready for a day off, when I fully intend to lie on my bed comatose and not talk to anybody...

To illustrate my point with a couple of choice examples from the last day or two:

YESTERDAY I found a nasty pile-up in the wake of a giddy child in the kid's section.  One of our loveliest new children's books was spread-eagled haphazardly on the floor, with an upside-down red plastic chair on the top, followed by a cuddly dog perched above everything.  At the very bottom of this delightful mountain I found a squashed baked bean.  Nobody was eating, we're across town from the nearest chippie... HOW THE HELL DID IT GET THERE?!

I also had a gentleman inform me that he would gladly pay £2 for a hardcover railway book he'd been looking for forever, 'because that's a fair price' - but the £2.75 I was asking for a hardcover travel book was just 'not good value for money'.  His friend informed him that he was embarrassing himself, paid for the book without a second thought, and dragged him out of the shop.  I could have kissed her!

Right after this I had the pleasure of serving the most miserable, sullen 40-something woman, mysteriously dressed in an enormous checked lumberjack's padded shirt... and a hat shaped like a koala.  Literally shaped like a koala.  The kind of hat that might have been kooky on a 17-year old girl, but was just plain wrong on the grumpy specimen standing in front of me.

TODAY I've just had the stupidest woman ever in here.  One of the 'non-fiction brigade' - the ones who toss the term around without having a bloody clue what it means.

Customer:  Excuse me, do you actually have any non-fiction books in here?
Me: Er, yes, it's everything that's not fiction.  So everything that isn't there (*gestures to fiction island*) or there (*gestures to crime and sci-fi island*).
Customer: Well, yes, I get that (*clearly doesn't*) but I'm looking for true books.  You know, like survival stories, that kind of thing.
Me: You mean autobiographies?
Customer: No, not autobiographies - true survival stories!
Me: That'd come under autobiographies, in the corner there.
Customer: (walking back to her friend) *world's smallest violin voice* Nooo, nothing here.... I didn't want autobiographies...

Of course, she returned to the desk five minutes later with a nice misery memoir... that she'd found in the autobiography section...  I couldn't resist: as I rang up the books I said "Next time you're looking for a survival story, you'll find it under 'Autobiographies'.  In just about any bookshop."  She had the good grace to look slightly embarrassed.  :)

On a lighter note, a guy just bought a nice old edition of The Pickwick Papers, because he'd been thinking about trying it for a while - and a fancy bound copy would look 'more intellectual' on the family bookshelves.  "Pfffft, sure!" his wife snorted, fussing with their baby's pushchair, "it'll look really intelligent next to all our Maisie Mouse books!"

Soooo, now I'm just waiting for another day to come to an end so I can go home, have a hot shower, eat a deliciously sinful plate of hash browns, fried eggs and baked beans, and go to bed...  Roll on Tuesday and two glorious days off!


  1. I'm sorry about the squashed baked bean--ew!--but some of those stories are pretty funny...I work at a college library and it is not half-term here, but this week I think the moon was full or something. I found a guy playing the ukelele on the 3rd floor, which is for silent study. This other guy wandered in with his hands full of half-eaten egg salad sandwich and asked me a question with his mouth full of egg salad. (The answer was "Well, first you go outside and finish eating your sandwich...) There was a girl in a red and black velvet cartwheel hat--she had a ukelele in her bag too--and a guy who would have looked tough if it wasn't for his stuffed wolf hat.

    Isn't serving the public fun? :D

  2. Oh yeah, after a few hours/a day or two I definitely find the stories funny. Writing about them keeps me sane! It's just in the moments themselves that I want to beat my head against a brick wall... or beat THEIR heads against a brick wall... ;)

    Wow, sounds like you've had your fair share of shenanigans this week too! Maybe half-term fever is SO POWERFUL that it actually managed to reach you all the way over there and cause outbreaks of periodic ukulele- and egg-related madness?

    P.S. Today's daftest customer turned out to be the lady who stood staring at the cookery shelves for five minutes but 'couldn't see any cookery books'. I pointed to the shelves; I told her exactly which shelves to look at (the top two), but even when I walked up behind her and actually scraped my hand ACROSS the shelves she didn't look quite convinced...

  3. If someone asked ME about "true survival stories" I wouldn't have even thought "misery memoir." I'd have thought of someone like Bear Grylls...

  4. So did I the first couple of times it happened! But every time they looked horrified at my mountaineering/trekking/Aron Ralston-esque offerings, and it turned out to be misery memoirs they were after. Maybe it's a local thing...??

  5. I just can't help but wonder if the miserable, sullen 40-something woman was miserable and sullen *because* she was wearing a hat shaped like a koala.

  6. *snickers* As much as I love these posts and find them hilarious I do feel terrible at finding humour at your expense! I tip my hat to you Elliekins. Make sure you treat yourself good and proper on your next day off you certainly deserve it!

  7. Kathy - Ha, that made me laugh, thank you! Just what I needed on a Sunday full of miserable "WHERE'S THE CHARITY SHOP GONE?!" folks... :)

    Jess - Giggle away my darling, giggle away... I'm taking it one day at a time until Tuesday - I think my tolerance levels just slide down and down as the week wears on! I like to live for my evenings during busy weeks - tonight I'll be eating a pile of delicious Danish toast, reading, and maybe rounding off the night with a chocolate chip muffin and a mug of tea watching 'Brothers and Sisters'. I can't wait! *sighs and checks the clock again*

  8. Wow, I overheard the exact same non-fiction-misery-memoir conversation in the library last week! Must be an epidemic :)

  9. I love your stories, keep 'em coming!

    Sorry about the kid though, as a parent of young children that extra annoys me because it gives all mum's and children bad reps.

  10. I love customer-in-bookshop-behaviour stories. Thanks for sharing. So funny!

  11. Hi Judith! It's funny, even though I have my own I still love reading other people's too... :)

    Shan - Oh, I don't know. Maybe it just makes me more appreciative of the NICE children and LOVELY parents? You know, a small child walks through the door, I breathe in and expect the worse... then they turn out to be really cute and well behaved, with friendly parents I can chat to. That's always a pleasure! :D

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