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Books For The Win!

, , , , , | Right | June 1, 2021

I’m a female Army veteran. I have a job as a day aide for elderly clients. One of my clients is a ninety-eight-year-old lady who is very exacting about how she wants things done. She is also mostly blind, so she wants me to read to her.

Client: “I want you to read some short stories to me. Have you ever heard of The Decameron?”

Me: “No, I haven’t.”

Client: “Oh. I guess there isn’t much literature reading in the Army.”

Me: “Well, that’s rude.”

Client: *Staring at me in shock* “What do you mean?”

Me: “You saying there isn’t much literature reading in the Army. I do read.”

Client: “Oh, I just meant you hadn’t had a literature class.”

Me: “I have, in high school and in college. I’ve read plenty of classics, like The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid. Just because I haven’t heard of this particular book doesn’t mean I’m uneducated.”

Client: “Well, I… I didn’t mean to imply that you don’t read. Just that you… I’m sorry.”

Since she apologized, I decided to let it go at that and read the stories to her. Once we got past that, we actually had a good conversation about the book, which is a series of stories based on the Black Plague. Yes, I know, a bit weird to read that right now, but it was nice to sit and talk. When it was time to leave, she said she was excited to have me back to read, so that’s a win.

“Yeah, I Guess,” And Its Sequel, “I Dunno”

, , , , , | Right | May 25, 2021

Two boys, around fourteen years old, walk in and just stand inside the door, hands in their pockets, not looking at anything. I walk over.

Me: “Hello. Can I help you?”

Boy #1: “Yeah, we need books.

Me: “What kind of books?

Boy #1: “Dunno. Books.

Me: “For yourself? Or as a gift for somebody?

Boy #1: “Ourselves.

Boy #2: “We’ve got detention and the teacher said to bring a book to read.”

Me: “Ah, I see. What kind of books do you like?”

Boy #1: “Dunno.”

Me: “Would you like to look around and see what we’ve got?

Boy #2: “Nah, you show us.”

I start at the nearest display.

Me: “Do you guys like to take pictures?

Boy #1: “Yeah, I guess.

Me: “Here are some books about photography. This one’s about cameras and lenses and so on, and this one shows how to take a great photo with just the right colours and lighting. Would you like to look at them?

Boy #1: “Nah, sounds boring.

Me: “No photography books, then. Do you like scary stories?”

Boy #1: “Yeah, I guess.

The two of them are “Yeah-I-guess” interested in adventure, technology, sci-fi, true crime, cars, animals, foreign countries, history, philosophy, whodunnits, superheroes, Norse mythology, politics, and romance.

Every book I suggest either “Nah-sounds-boring” or “Nah-looks-too-long.” They never take their hands out of their pockets. I wonder if I should send them to the library just to get them off my hands.

While I’m taking the two of them from display to shelf and from shelf to display, showing them everything except the preschool picture books, my coworker is helping other customers. The doorbell chimes and one of our regulars comes in.

Coworker: “Hello, Mrs. [Regular]! Over here.”

He pulls a book from a shelf and holds it out to her. 

Regular: “That’s the one. Thank you!”

She follows my coworker to the till, buys the book, and leaves. My two teenagers have been watching. 

Boy #2: “Why can’t you do what he does?”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Boy #2: “He just looked at that lady and knew what book she wanted.”

Boy #1: “Yeah, why can’t you do the same thing for us?”

Boy #2: “Or maybe he should look at us and give us our books.”

I suppress a groan, turn a beginning facepalm into a hair-adjusting gesture, and switch my smile back on.

Me: “My coworker has a special gift. If you’d like, we can go over and ask him to find the books you want.”

I walk them over. My coworker must have heard what we said, because as we are approaching, he squints at [Boy #1], then closes his eyes, murmurs to himself, and says:

Coworker: “Yes, yes, I can see it. You want, you want—” *points in a random direction* “—that one!”

He’s pointing at the technology shelf. [Boy #1] walks over, pulls out a book about the history of cars, and says:

Boy #1: “Yeah, this one looks good.”

My coworker repeats the process with [Boy #2]. Both end up buying books that they didn’t want earlier when I suggested them. After they’re gone, I turn to my coworker.

Me: “Mrs. [Regular] called ahead, didn’t she?”

Coworker: *Grinning* “Yes, she did.”

Me: “Why do you always get the easy ones?”

There’s A Truly Terrible Place In Hell For People Like This

, , , , , | Learning | May 22, 2021

When I was young, I was pretty well known as a smart kid with a smart mouth. I was also known as the super short girl who always had a book. Luckily, my class was pretty nice — we didn’t have nearly as many bullying problems as other grades — because I would’ve been an extremely easy target. But whenever someone did pick on me, it made my blood boil.

Toward the end of middle school, I was in the last book of a series I’d been reading for several months. A boy I didn’t talk to all that often walked up to where I was reading at my desk.

Boy: “What are you reading?”

Me: “[Book].”

Boy: “Have you read it before?”

Me: “No, this is my first time!”

Boy: “[Favorite Character] dies.”

My little eighth-grade self was ready for murder. Sadly, he was correct, and my favorite character died, but he was later granted his life back. For the rest of the year, I used a cloth cover on all of my library books so the boy wouldn’t be able to spoil them for me again.

Always Finding The Upside

, , , , , | Related | April 30, 2021

I’m both an author and a big nerd; therefore, it’s probably not a surprise that I’m always trying to get my kids to read. Both are reasonably accepting of my enthusiasm for the written word but would much rather be on the computer. The other day, I brought home a small stack of books I thought my eight-year-old might like.

Daughter: “Oh, thanks, Mom! I love books. They’re good for when I have no electronics privileges because they’re just like phones except you can only do one thing on them: read.”

Depressing Little Fires Everywhere

, , , , , | Right | April 22, 2021

A customer comes up with “They Both Die at the End” by Adam Silvera. 

Customer: “What’s this book about? Is it the same as the new TV show?”

I explain the plot.

Customer: “It sounds depressing. I don’t think you should stock this anymore.”

Me: “Well, it’s not up to me; it’s up to my boss. I read it myself and there are some sad parts, but overall, it’s a good book.”

Customer: “I still don’t like it. I wouldn’t approve of my daughter reading this, anyway.”

Me: “That’s completely up to you.”

Customer: “Yeah, I don’t know why she likes all these teen books. She just graduated college. She should be reading authors like Judy Blume or that one author with the book about fires. The one with the Asian name.”

She set down the book on the counter and purchased some romance novels.