Not all customers that entered the bookstore were book lovers. It wasn’t uncommon to have someone come through the door and announce that they don’t read. I’m not sure what they expected me to say to that proclamation. It’s kind of like walking into a car dealership and announcing you don’t drive.
There were the usual odd questions with impossible answers. I’m looking for this book, I can’t remember the name, it’s about a horse. And it’s blue. It was also odd that customers expected you to have every author and title of book in existence in your inventory. I can’t imagine what that bookstore would look like but I want to go there. I’ve said and done some bonehead moves myself so I won’t judge too harshly. A customer asked if I had a copy of Dante’s Inferno, I was only half listening and asked, ‘Who wrote that?’ He said, ‘Dante?!’, with a look that did not convey much confidence in my bookselling ability. I laughed, he didn’t find it as funny as I did. Another memorable bonehead move on my part occurred when a browsing customer was reading the back of a book, I took the opportunity to tell him that the author was Canadian and while the writing wasn’t the greatest, the story was quite good, if not a little predictable. The man stared at me for a second then informed me he was the author. I asked him if I offended him, he didn’t answer but pressed me with a couple of questions that were obvious attempts to see if I actually read the book. In my defence, he looked nothing like his picture on the jacket.
One day a couple came in, the gentleman asked me to help him find information about Crohn’s Disease. He was very unsteady on his feet so I directed him to a chair, then watched him guide his wife into the chair, and use the back to hold himself up. He went on to tell me that he was just diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and he needed to find out everything he could because he needed to stick around for his wife. Jim explained that he and Dot had been married 30 years, he whispered conspiratorially that it wasn’t either of their first marriages. I whispered back that I was wearing out my second husband with no regrets. He talked about his time in the military, the places they had lived and how they met. Dot fluffed her hair and said, ‘When I was pretty‘. He gently caressed her cheek, and said, ‘You’re still pretty‘ They left with a book about his disease, holding hands, and leaning on each other for support. These are the customers that I think about, and wonder how they are.
It was also a common occurrence to have older people come in looking for information. It didn’t take me long to realize that there was a misconception that because I owned a bookstore and possibly had access to all the knowledge in the world, that I knew things. If these people had only realized that not only did I not know things, but there was a good chance I had put dinner in the crockpot that morning and had either forgotten to plug it in, or turn it on.
An Italian gentleman came in armed with a grocery list, I’m assuming written by his wife. He had been at the grocery store looking for evaporated milk, couldn’t find it, and apparently couldn’t find anyone to help him. What prompted him to decide that the bookstore would be the place to go to solve his problem I’m unsure. My bookstore was not located in close proximity to a grocery store. I ended up calling the grocery store and arranging for the manager to meet him in the dairy section. That seemed to be the easiest place for him to go to get help. These incidents never usually resulted in any sales but I did receive a bounty of baked goods, and various produce from vegetable gardens. Far more valuable in my opinion.