Customer of the Week

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

This week we finally had a clear winner. Some weeks there are customers are who are so absurd or hilarious that I nominate them just for breaking up the monotony. But this week's winner was just a super-cool person who deserves the dubious honor of being the Blue Crayon COTW simply for being an interesting person.

For some reason I'm getting a lot of hours scheduled at our information desk. I'm choosing to be flattered that the powers that be have such confidence in my knowledge of our inventory, and in my ability to google a book title while looking like I'm doing intense bookseller-jitsu. Or else they realize that the longer I am stuck behind a register, the more likely it is that someone will end up in tears. You be the judge.

An older lady approached the information desk and I instantly braced myself. But! This lady asked if we had a copy of Philosophy for Dummies in stock. Which we actually did, and which was actually a bargain book that we found right away (triple score!) While a different bookseller offered to fetch the copy of the book I chatted with the lady. She said she needed the book because she liked to take college classes for fun, and this semester it was philosophy and "who can keep all that stuff straight?"

Right off the bat, I was impressed. cool! I hope that when I'm a little old retired lady, I'll still be taking college classes for fun. And instead of taking the community learning classes about retirement planning with all the other old ladies, she took real classes with tests and everything. And apparently, half the fun for her was going out with the other girls in the class. To review: little old lady, going out with college kids. So instantly, an image of her little gray curls kicking back a jello shot. And then she said that she also volunteers twice a week with a local Montessori elementary school. And we talked about Montessori education and parenting philosophies, something that is very much on my mind as Mr Blue and I need to start working on a preschool game plan for Lil Blue.

I thought about her a lot after she left. I don't know anything about her life - maybe she's a rich widow, maybe she worked hard and is wealthy in her own right. Or maybe she's living on a comfortable fixed income and just chooses to splurge on education. No one needs to learn about Kant and Heidegger this late in their life. But this lady is seeking out knowledge for its own sake (or for the sake of finding out where the good parties are...) And she's not just enriching herself, she's paying it forward by working with children. Hopefully they will learn from her the same thing that I have realized as an adult - even if we work our whole lives, we can barely scratch the surface of all there is to know. But we should never stop trying.

Staff Picks - January 2009

Saturday, January 17, 2009

"A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul"
Franz Kafka

Those of you who aren't living in the Midwest (hi, Hawaii readers! I see you!) may not have heard that we're currently experiencing record cold t
emperatures. Yesterday forecast fox gave up and simply listed the temperature as "N/A" with a picture of a thermometer and an icicle. While I can safely say that I'm pretty much over winter by now, even I have to admit there are some things to enjoy about this season. There are all the cliches about how clean the city looks covered in snow, the joys of ice skating, hot chocolate, scarves and winter coats. My favorite thing about winter is how quiet it is. When I get home from work and pull into my driveway, I love just standing there for a minute, looking out at the valley and listening to ... nothing. There's a particular kind of quiet that you get when everything is covered in snow that I just love.

Apparently snow and ice
also are conducive to creativity, because this edition of Staff Picks is all about great things that come from icy, snowy places.

e Girl With the Dragon Tattoo : Stieg Larssen. This is one of those books that also comes with an interesting story. The author, a Swedish journalist who wrote about the neo-Nazi movement, died unexpectedly shortly after delivering three manuscripts to his agent. The publisher was then left with the unenviable task of promoting a first-time author's work when the author himself was unable to do any press, book tours, etc. Luckily for us, the publisher believed in his work enough to promote it heavily in Europe. In the US, tireless booksellers hand-sold it, it gradually became more and more popular, and the rest is history.

The bo
ok itself is a complex inter-weaving of several mysteries taking place over a span of 40 years. The protagonist, a crusading journalist (get it?) is thrown into solving a classic closed-room murder that took place nearly half a century ago. While he is attempting to solve this old mystery, several new mysteries start swirling around him in the present. He eventually hooks up (both literally and figuratively) with the titular girl with the dragon tattoo, who becomes a strange, sort-of ally, critical to solving all of the mysteries. With several different plotlines, two main characters, and scores of secondary characters, its easy to see how the novel could collapse under it's own weight. Luckily, Larssen has the chops to pull it off. I'm looking forward to reading his two remaining books when they become available.

I've been on a bit of a Scandinavian authors kick lately. On my to-be-read pile are
Last Rituals: An Icelandic Novel of of Secret Symbols, Medieval Witchcraft, and Modern Murder by Yrsa Sigurdardottir. Which is a lot of letters to fit on the cover of a book. Also, Redbreast by Norwegian Jo Nesbo (who
has a new book out called Nemesis, which has gotten some great reviews)

Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
: Sigur Ros Icelandic band Sigur Ros is one of those groups that I was aware of for awhile before really listening. Apparently this album is one of their most accessible, so maybe thats what finally got me to check them out. iTunes loves to recommend Sigur Ros to me, so much so that I finally broke down and gave a listen just to get them to leave me alone. Surprisingly, the music has really grown on me. Its lyrical and strange and very, very well crafted.

Na Na Ni: Fredrik Thanks to NPR for cluing me into this Swedish band. While I'm generally sceptical of bands where every member goes by a single name, I was hooked by how pretty the songs are. I'm a sucker for the first cut, Black Fur, which has an Arcade Fire-like, early U2-esque, soaring, orchestral feel.

LUSH Snow Showers Shower Jelly: Apparently this one was a winter-only product so you'll have to wait until next year to experience it's orangy, clovey, moisturizing goodness. However, I recommend anything you can get your hands on from LUSH, because they are magicians. They are constantly rotating their stock of hand-made glycerin soaps, so don't get too attached to a particular scent. Their Honey Waffle soap is the only thing I've found that doesn't aggravate Lil Blue's eczema. And I treat myself to their liquid body washes and it makes the whole second floor smell like a spa. Awesomeness.

Of course all of these things can be enjoyed more fully when accompanied by an Irish Coffee. Slainte!

Customer of the Week

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

This one is short and sweet. I love it when little kids come up to buy things. Especially when they are paying with what is obviously allowance money or lemonade stand money. They take it *so* seriously, with the counting and the price-checking. The savvier ones know to ask me how much it costs with tax so that they make sure they stay within budget. It makes me happy to think how much more special those books or toys are when they're paid for with money their owner has earned.

This week I had two little ones (boy and girl) who were each buying a toy with what their mom informed me was a combination of Christmas money and allowance. The little girl put her toy on the counter. Her mom helped her count out the correct amount, then pushed it over to me, prompting an outraged shout from the girl. "What are you doing?!?" she wailed. "Why are you giving away my money?!?!"

"Remember, we talked about how you would pick out a toy, and then pay for it with your money" her mom replied.
"But that's MY money!!"
"Well, you don't get to keep it and get a toy. To get the toy you have to give up your money"
"But its my money!"
"That's how it works, honey"
"... grumble grumble grumble..."

This exchange made me smile because it reminded me of something I frequently forget. Everything a child does is being done for the first time. I don't doubt that this mom and her daughter talked about how the little girl would pay for her toy. I just don't think it occurred to mom that her daughter didn't know what "pay" really meant.

I felt like telling her "Just wait until you get your first job and see how much money disappears for taxes. Because I very clearly remember proudly opening my first paycheck, only to look at the "Net Pay" box and wail "But that's MY money!!!"

A Very Special Customer of the Week

Monday, January 5, 2009

Image from A Charlie Brown Christmas. Of course.

jeez, I've been kind of a bummer lately, what with all the serious posts. So in the interest of lightening the mood, I have a COTW - Christmas Edition!

Anyone who's ever worked retail knows that Christmas is not really the season of good cheer. Its more the season of busy-ness, crankiness, passive aggression, unreasonable demands, crowded parking lots, and work work work. Christmas used to be my most favorite time of year. Now, by the time I'm done with work, it takes a few days to relax, decompress, and get ready to actually celebrate Christmas. By which point, it's December 27th. This year I made a concerted effort to not let it get to me. I forced myself to recognize and remember the customers who weren't terrible. When I quit thinking of every non-employee in the store as a potential enemy, I actually started enjoying myself. Kind of. So this post is to recognize all of the many customers who brightened those dark days between Black Friday and Christmas Day.

The man who waited in a 20 minute line, had me ring up his (long, complicated) transaction, only to have my register crash. Then told me not to worry about it, and cheerfully followed me to another part of the store so that I could ring up his transaction again.

The lady who yelled at full volume to her friend "no, I'm not hanging wieners on the tree!" I'm guessing this was a response to a suggestion to purchase one of our mini-dachshund ornaments. Or maybe not? But the image of a wiener-tree was enough to make me laugh.

Every dad shopping for his teenage daughter. Even if every single one bought Twilight. You could tell they were so happy that maybe this year their present wouldn't result in an eye-roll. Awwwww....

Little kids shopping for their parents. Especially the kid who was buying his dad the star wars book and was so excited to be buying something for his dad that he was clutching his present as had as he could.

Every person that bought something off of our giving tree for a local orphanage. You people rock.

Every person who genuinely wished me Merry Christmas, happy holidays, have a nice day, whatever. Thank you for noticing that I'm also a person, who might actually have a family and celebrate holidays too.

And of course, the most special people of all: my co-workers, who make me excited to come to work even when I know it'll be crazy and busy. I'll overlook the fact that no one saved me a Dixie beer. This time.