Monday, June 2, 2008

The Drama of Life in my Open Shop

It was the worst of times, it was the best of times.

Friday was a real trial for the Book Trout at Ye Olde Book Shoppe. The weather was spongy and muggy with intermittent torrential rain so I had few people in. Of these valued customers, all were were difficult in varying shades: one Baroness requesting title after title and when I would find them, sniffed that they were not in the right edition or condition; the Overbearing Daddy who followed around his poor kid with a negative comment about every single book the tyke picked up and a constant reminder that he only had $6 in his wallet; the Time Waster who spent half an hour chatting me up about the state of the book biz and disparaging those who don't support local stores and then left with a 50-cent bargain rack novel, and several folks who just wanted to step out of the tropical downpour, kill time while waiting for their hairdresser appointment or just take a stinky bathroom break.

I came home contemplating an office job, only to find that my two lovely spawn had each planned a sleepover, AT OUR HOUSE, and promptly hit the Pinot Grigio.

Saturday dawned and I scuttled off into the garden to pull weeds and contemplate another ho-hum day at the bookstore. Things improved when I found out that my two borrowed offspring were now taking my daughters away for a 24-hour respite. I could at least look forward to a snuggle and upscale conversation on the couch tonight with my hubby.

I opened the shop and set out my book carts on the sidewalk on a now sunny and pleasantly breezy day. After a slow start, a herd of lovely bookfolk starting showing up. I immediately sold an antiquarian local history book for a Trout-pleasing price, and which went to a very appreciative home. Ah. A family of inveterate readers stopped in for a first time visit to Old Saratoga Books and were enthusiastic about our selection of classic fiction and children's books. Ahhh.

Other sweet and endearing repeat customers came by to request a favorite title for a gift or for themselves and I had most of them to ring up. A bookselling colleague came in with his wife and a mystery-loving friend and we had a great stretch of convivial shoptalk. Ah indeed.

The showstopper occurred 10 minutes to closing, a time when I usually strain to paste on my welcoming grin, accompanied by meaningful glance at our store hours poster in the front window. A smiling gent came in to ask whether we had a vintage paperbacks section. But of course! That's one of Dan's babies. He loves the range of cover art, the more lurid the better, and lovingly encases these bodacious beauties in see-through sleeves and spends hours shelving them alphabetically by publisher and then by author.

Over the winter we bought ten boxes of these retro numbers and greatly expanded our vintage pb section. My customer was beside himself. He had been out booking all day and had scored several new books for his collection, but this was overwhelming. It turns out that he is a painter and is friends with John Leone, who started out as a pulp fiction illustrator but now paints horses and hunt scenes at his studio in nearby Schoharie County. He was delighted to pick up a couple of Leone covers to add to his collection and we had a great time talking about art and books.

While we were yakking, in came one of my favorite Saratogians, an artist and photographer who was looking for old botany books for an upcoming show. He was delighted to find some great books for his project and some new arrivals from the photography shelves. I introduced him to the other artist and they had a swell time talking about things cultural.

Amazing. From Grouchy Bathroom Attendant to Literary Salon Owner in 24 hours.

1 comment:

CHarmaine Taylor said... my own online virtual world I can have the exact same kind of day..but via electrons and telephones.

I wake up to 2 emails demanding where their order is, a phone call asking for constulting advice only, and no orders. After coffee perks me up, I sit hopefully in my chair attending to labels and shipping receipts, hoping the screen will pop up a few orders..and it does! one-two-three-- ok, the last two are the same guy too confused to place both orders in one go. The phone rings again and a lady orders a book for her husband's birthday. We have a nice chat. I solve the "missing orders" by tracking the postal codes-- still in transit. The customers calm down. Then bingo-- 4-5-6 orders come in, and I am gleeful as one quite healthy, and will require the large priority box. At 4:00 pm my doggies are running in and nudging my ankle or looking wistfully towards the car..they know we leave at this time, and why aren't I ready to take them for walkies. I load up the car, answer one final call for a book order (horray $30. closer to retirement) while the red dog grumbles under her breath at the delay..then off we go to a tiny PO,a wonderful clerk,my age who has served me for years,and then to a peaceful walk in the gorgeous redwoods...their tails wagging, running ahead of me, scouting anythng new, in one hour I add 20 more minutes to my life by following quickly behind.