Wish You Could Shelve That Conversation Away

, , , | Right | January 21, 2020

(I am on book-shelving duty in between very tall shelves. My book cart is a few feet away. Right when I have a large armful of heavy books, a customer comes up behind me and startles me into nearly dropping everything. The customer, a man around thirty, doesn’t seem to notice me fumbling desperately and just barely managing to keep the stack of books in my arms, but immediately starts rambling in my direction without waiting for me to acknowledge him.)

Customer: “Hello! I’m looking for children’s books! The children’s books I’d like are—” *blah, blah, blah*

(He goes on rambling extensively and at very high speed, while I try to keep my books from falling.)

Customer: “Yes, I’m looking for children’s books because–” *much rambling* “—and the children’s books I’m looking for are meant for my [Relative]… And the children’s books I’m looking for should preferably be about musical instruments! Because—” *long and convoluted explanation of why*

(I really want to put my books down, as they are getting heavier by the second, but it seems unacceptably rude to turn my back on a customer or step several feet away to the cart. But I think, “Surely he’ll stop speaking soon! A person can’t really ramble non-stop this way for much longer!”)

Customer: “And the children’s books I’m looking for, which should preferably be about musical instruments, should preferably be about guitars! Or pianos! And the children’s books I’m looking for, which should preferably be about musical instruments, and preferably be about guitars! Or pianos! These books should preferably be of [length]! Or [other length]! And they should preferably be [size]! Or [other size]! And I need these books for [Relative]! And I need these books about musical instruments, preferably about guitars! Or pianos, because—” *several minutes more of rambling about the details of the irrelevant reasons why he decided on these types of books as a gift*

(I am quietly boggling at him in shock while my arms have turned to lead, about to fall off from the strain. I try to open my mouth to interrupt him several times, but it’s clear he’s paying me no actual attention and it would be impossible to get a single word in without raising my voice – which I’m not willing to do with a customer.)

Customer: “And I need these books about musical instruments; preferably about guitars! Or pianos, to be preferably with [type of font], or maybe [other type of font], and I’d prefer them to have [amount] of illustration!”

(As I continue to stand staring at him in bafflement and despair, my arms now hurt so much I feel I’m just shy of having sweat falling down my face.)

Customer: “…and so I need these kinds of books! Children’s books! About musical instruments! Preferably guitars! Or pianos!”

(He’s finally wound down and has now deigned to look me properly in the face. Through great effort, I don’t make any overt expressions or say anything nasty to him. Silently, I step a foot away and find a space on a shelf to finally set down my armful of books, then unobtrusively take a deep breath to calm down and turn back to him.)

Me: *with a stony expression and voice* “Sir, you can go right over there, to the front counter, and ask one of the employees at the registers for help. They can assist you with finding the books you’re looking for.” 

(I point at the registers about twenty feet away, around the corner from the bookshelves. The very large, square register counter is in the front of the store, next to the entrance doors, with multiple other employees behind and around it. The customer has to have passed right by it when coming in, chosen not to ask anyone there for help, and instead hunted me down deep among the bookshelves, where I was very clearly performing shelving duty, and proceeded to rant at me for nearly ten minutes. And no, I’m not even really retaliating or just getting rid of him; I know nothing about books in the kids’ section and one of my coworkers up front is an expert.)

Me: *staring at him while standing very still and blank-faced* 

Customer: “Oh. Right.” *looks at me for a beat, then goes off to the front*

(I saw him a few minutes later going toward the children’s section with my coworker and rambling the same endless spiel at her.)

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