The Reading Dead

, , , , | Right | July 17, 2020

I work in a small bookstore that is part of a very large national chain. A big-deal gay-themed movie has just premiered. I happen to be very familiar with it myself; I’ve already taken out and read the book with the story collection from the library. When the movie comes out, the publisher puts out a new fancy and expensive book with just this one short story; the book chain carries it and is selling many copies.

One day, a man comes up to me at the register. He’s middle-aged and wearing poorly-fitted leather pants that look extremely out of place in this high-end, fashionable neighborhood. He speaks a little tentatively and slowly.

Customer: “Hello, I want to buy the book Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx.”

Me: “Sure! You can find it at the fiction shelves under the author’s last name.”

Customer: *Confused look.* “Um…”

Me: *More carefully* “It’s on our fiction shelves under the author’s last name: Proulx — starts with a P.”

Customer: *Blank look* 

I point at the shelves a few feet away again. We are a small store and the P fiction books are only about three rows in. The shelves are quite short and you can even see all the way to the back of the store from the registers where we are standing. It’s extremely easy to find any fiction book. Everything is plainly alphabetized by author’s last name. I’m on register duty and cannot leave the counter.

I try speaking slower and clearer.

Me: “It’s around the third aisle. Right over there. Under the first letter of the author’s last name. Proulx — starts with a P.”

The customer is just silent with a dull blank look. He looks a tiny bit to either side in complete confusion and stares back at me with empty eyes. I am confused and beginning to get weirded out at this point; he’s starting to somewhat resemble a zombie. I point at the shelves again and speak even slower.

Me: “It’s right over there. On the third shelf. You just need to find the letter P on the shelf.” 

He’s still silent, staring at me with a blank, wide-eyed look.

Me: “You just look for the letter P. Everything is alphabetized. The book will be under her last name. The author’s last name. It’s Proulx. It’s on the shelves right over here.”

No change. Not a sound out of him. Blank look. One of our managers happened to be walking by right then and observed a few seconds of this interaction. He just looked at the customer for a few more seconds and then quickly went to the fiction shelf, retrieved a copy of the book, and brought it upfront. It took him less than ten seconds.

I rang up the book and the customer silently went on his way, still with a blank look on his face. The manager and I silently stared after him in bewilderment. Zombie searching for gay-themed books instead of brains?

Related:
A Brokeback Fountain Of Hate
Not Your Dad’s Cowboy Movie
I Wish I Knew How To Quit This Class
Going For Broke(back)
A Desolate Beauty

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