By HEIDI HOLTAN
Blast Minnesota Bureau
So I'm one of those crazy Gen-X people you hear so much about -- jumping from job to job, relationship to relationship, drinking martini's at clubs, speaking the cool lingo and not caring about much of anything except the latest independent films and the best place to get a cup of coffee (you know, a place that doesn't know it's trendy yet).
OK, fine. I lied. By day, I plug away in the same library I've been at for nine years, working my way up the civil servant ladder and doing respectable, solid work so that once in a great while I get promoted. So what if I've hit the proverbial glass ceiling? I still get to attend interlibrary loan conventions with women who always wear sensible shoes and arty, yet tasteful pins.
But do I make up for it at night! Are you ready? At night I'm a bookseller at Barnes and Noble. Crazy? Daring? Label it what you want, but it's my life. That and reading, writing and not dating! Scintillating, don't ya think? Actually, it's better than it sounds.
The Barnes and Noble gig is a recent development. Between uttering
"Would you like a copy of 'The Littlest Christmas Tree' with 'The Joy of Sex?'" and "is everything current?" I've been having a pretty good time.
Sure it's got its ups and downs like any job in the world of retail.
I have to force myself to stay silent as purchasers of Penthouse and Playboy call me sweetie and dear.
I've learned to say inane things like "People seem to like the Dr. Laura books" and "Have you seen our beanie baby handbook?"
I've become accustomed to pulling out my phony grin to parents of children who are repeatedly squeaking the Peef toy attached to their books.
I've spoken Finnish swear words to an elderly man from the Iron Range (for those of you who don't know, it's the land of crazy Finlanders in Minnesota) while he bought his Finnish dictionary. I didn't say anything too racy since my grandma only taught me "goddamn mosquitoes" and "shut your mouth and put your lips in your pocket" ... but he knew what I was talking about.
During the holidays while I endured my stint as store "greeter" (For
the record, I feel that eye contact and a quiet hello is just as good as "Welcome to Barnes and Noble. Would you like to purchase this book, 'The Littlest Christmas Tree?'") I politely listened to a man explain to me why he thought Arnold Schwarzenegger should be in a western. I think he was a bit out of his head and perhaps grieving over "Titanic" being sold out at the HarMar mall theater. Being the good bookseller and people-pleaser that I am, I murmured encouragingly "maybe" even though I found it a ludicrous idea. I mean really, I
doubt Arnold could ever live up to the great modern-day western of
our time, "Young Guns II." Everyone knows that was the springboard to
Jon Bon Jovi's acting career.
But back to me. Not only have the customers been interesting but my
coworkers have been entertaining as well. I wasn't surprised to meet
out-of-work playwrights, animators, teachers and writers, but I
didn't expect Bush. Yes, his name is Bush. A) because it's his last
name and B) because he hasn't shaved in 15 years. Bush is 54 years
old, a member of Mensa, and a jungle guide in the winter, and he drives a
Mercedes motorhome. Oh yeah, and he gets around the "men must wear
ties" rule by wearing a piece of neon mountaineering tarp. He's been
known to shout things out to me like, "There's a john in there if you
ever need it" in reference to his vehicle parked out front with the
T-shirt stuffed in the gas tank and miscellaneous books, pamphlets
and food stuffed in the dashboard.
All this and I get half off of Starbucks coffee!
Tune in next time for: Having a beer with Bush at a dive bar on University Avenue.