Thus revealed, the creature buried its nose in the tire-tilled soil...
June 30, 2004
Bookstore blues, drawing onslaught.
Category: Art … Serious

Hey, sorry about the brief posting hiatus. Hopefully the artwork in this piece (among other things) will make up for it, and hopefully I'll be back tomorrow with a new SC article. In the meantime, hop over to the main page, read the Site Talk block, and write me with answers to my questions! They would be most helpful. And, y'know, leave donations if you want. 😉

So Friday through Monday I worked at the bookstore, closing the latter three shifts and cleaning the bathrooms two of them. I could gripe about that with ease -- they weren't that disgusting, but I don't get paid enough to deal with human waste, thank you very much -- but I won't. Suffice it to say that my assumption that women's bathrooms were always nicer and cleaner than men's bathrooms has been utterly smashed. Not that either of them were particularly spotless or had walls caked with shit, but we're 0 for 2 with the women flushing the toilet. Let's try a little harder here, ladies.

But as anyone who's worked retail already knows, for all of the shit that you have to put up with regarding other requirementss of the job, it's really customer service that's the worst. Because that one involves the customers, you see. Most of them are fine -- most of them don't bother you and don't screw anything up. Sure, most of them don't buy anything either, but that's okay too, since with the exception of discount cards I don't get any sort of commission off of sales. And when they do bother you (or the other way around, since in my case I patrol the store saying, "HI! ARE YOU FINDING EVERYTHING OKAY, SIR/MA'AM?" or "HOWDY FOLKS! IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN HELP YOU WITH?" or something along those lines), if they genuinely need some help finding something and I can give them a hand -- and they're polite about it and remember to say "thank you" -- it's not bad at all. But then you get the freaks and assholes and other assorted bastards who ruin it for everyone. I don't remember everyone who was pleasant to me, but I sure as hell remember the ones who made me want to swing by K-Mart to pick up a revolver for the blowing out of my brains.

Like the creepy self-help book ladies, for instance. I have little doubt that under other circumstances you'd refer to them as creepy cat ladies, but we don't allow pets in the store so they can't bring Mittens and Fluffikins along, and strangely enough they don't flock to our tiny section of cat books and pace in front of that shelf, selecting a title that catches their fancy every three minutes only to replace it and continue pacing, pacing, pacing. No, as their epithet implies, the self-help book section is the haunting ground of these elderly dames, and they stalk those three adjacent shelves with the inconscient tenacity of ghouls. When I rouse them from their zombie state to ask if they need any help -- why do I do this? it's my job -- they occasionally hiss at me, but more often than not they'll float forward, select a book, and proceed to tell me about its merits in detail while I smile and nod and subtly cough the word "bullshit" at intervals. One woman this weekend detained me to praise a book entitled How to Make Anyone Like You in Sixty Seconds Or Less, which of course was ironic since for all of the good the woman claimed it had done her I didn't like her at all. She went on and on about how she'd gotten it for her nieces and nephews and their friends and that cockeyed kid on the corner and everyone who had read it counted it among the best books they'd ever read and regarded it as "life-changing" stuff. I actually started to argue with the woman a little bit here -- because unless that book contained the schematics for a mind-control ray the likes of which would make Grodd salivate even more, how the hell could its teachings make anyone (as in everyone) like a person in sixty seconds or less? To this, the woman replied that psychology studies have proven that you have a window of seventy-five seconds to make a good first impression and that once that impression is set it can never be changed. Well, that much may be true, if we define "first impression" as "the opinion a person forms about another person during the first seventy-five seconds of their acquaintance" and note that, since it is contingent to a specific time, once it is in the past it cannot be changed, but I'm pretty sure I've met people that I liked at first and later grew to dislike, just as I'm sure that I've met some people who struck me as real assholes at first and finished in the black with respect to my estimation. At any rate, the woman returned to the front of the store with the three remaining copies of the book as well as a few others to foist on her eager and equally insipid relatives. With my head lowered in shame and disgust, I rang up the sale.

And then -- I write "and then", but really there are many more varieties of customer I'm just not going to discuss at the moment -- you have my least favorite customers, for reasons that should be obvious if you've read any of my other views on the subject. Now, it's not that these customers strike me as particularly deranged or unbelievably rude -- they're not -- but somehow that just makes it worse. If they were stark-raving lunatics or snarling bears, for example, at least I could console myself by saying, "Well, that person was a stark-raving lunatic/snarling bear." On the contrary, they're usually quite pleasant. They cheerfully walk into the store, and I greet them with a hand out, saying, "Hi! Welcome to Books-A-Million. Can I help you find anything today?" Here, they reply, "Yes, actually, you can... where do you keep your African-American authors?" And here, though my hands tense with the urge to strangle, I clap them together and with a smile on my face and a hearty, "Right this way!" I lead them to the section they've requested.

Now, some will shrug and say, "To each his own," or something along those lines, and tell me that I shouldn't find this upsetting in the least, and to those people I'd like to deal a swift kick in the shins. First of all, let's go back to the wording of the statement -- they didn't ask for, say, "African-American History"; they asked for "African-American authors". And while you might be tempted to argue that by that they meant to refer to the subject matter of the books, I reply that no, they really didn't -- unless the author's skin implies a particular kind of subject matter -- nor is that how the category is grouped. Occasionally, you see, I'll browse the section, and a number of times I've come up with books that, if the section were so named because of subject (in our store, the section is called "African-American Nonfiction", since our fiction section is merged; in others, I've seen it called "African-American Reading"), wouldn't be there at all, as there is nothing particularly "black" about the book except the darker grey of the author's skin in the black-and-white photo on the back cover. The color of Martin Luther King's skin notwithstanding, I think that the content of his speech was enough to secure his biography a place in the Biography section, thanks. In fact, the other day, I found a book entitled The Race Myth -- which sets out to debunk the concept of "race" -- tucked in with the others in the "African-American" section. Now, it may be true that the people browsing this section are in desperate need of a book like that, but it's also true that, given the subject matter of the book, it would probably be better grouped among the Social Science titles. But the section is not named for any specific subject, save the subject that the author represents.

So the other day, after a woman I took to that section found that she'd read all of the titles we had by the author she sought, she turned to me and asked me if I had any book recommendations. I smiled, clapped my hands together, and said, "Yes, ma'am, right this way!" explaining as I walked that we kept our bestsellers up front and that there would probably be something interesting there for her. (I was tempted to steer her towards the two titles by Kafka that we have on the shelves, but thought better of it.) So when we arrived in front, I looked at the bestsellers for a moment before retrieving the trade paperback version of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones, which I wouldn't say is a fantastic read, but it's certainly among the more interesting books written in the last few years (that I've read) and more than deserves a casual recommendation. Also, it was the only one of the bestsellers that I'd read. So the woman asked me what the book was about, and I explained that it tells the story of a murdered girl who goes to heaven and continues to watch over her family in the years following her loss. The woman nodded and seemed interested in my description, so she took the book from me and hefted it for a moment. Then she turned the book over and flipped to the inside back cover, looking for the author portrait. Now, you may say that she could have been looking for any number of things, such as the number on the last page, a quick description, etc., but trust me; I was standing right there. She was looking for the author's portrait. When she found it, she smiled weakly, closed the book, and replaced it on the shelf.

In the back room of the bookstore, with respect to customer service, there is a poster on the wall that reads, "Books-A-Million: Whatever it takes." I guess they meant it.

I think I'll use the above as a springboard for a story. What do you think?

So, on a less depressing note, I've drawn a few pictures in the last few days. Let's have a look at them.


Cain Marko, a.k.a. THE JUGGERNAUT. He's very strong.


SUUPA RAPHAEL!!! He's insane. And happy!
Perhaps because his shoulderpads really chafed.


Leonardo leads, but machines aren't his area of expertise.

I also drew yet another picture -- of an original character, no less! -- but I'm waiting to make a profile page with all of her official info on it and stuff before I post it. Actually, scratch that, let's go for it. Everyone, meet...

Stealthy Dukes! A Wes creation.


Look out -- it's Stealthy Dukes, the daisy dukes-wearing rogue ninja. Formerly of the Denim Ninja Clan and younger sister of the famed assassin-turned-hero Stealthy Jean, Dukes grew tired of living in her sister's shadow and sought to achieve her own level of fame and notoriety by employing the bold fashion statement from which she takes her name. Yet for violating her clan's trademark by turning them into "trampy whore-rags", she was banished from the Denim Ninja Clan by the patriarch (her father, The Faded One). Now, a rogue ninja, she's out to prove that her style of dress doesn't make her any less skilled a warrior!

Yep. Four pictures in as many days (that's not even counting Fatty Whale, who brings the total to five) -- looks like I'm getting a lot faster with the drawing. That's good, right? Now I'll have to start working on illustrating that children's book... Anyway, new SC article tomorrow. Probably today by the time you read this. So look for that.

Until next time, ja!

-posted by Wes | 9:52 pm | Comments (0)
No Comments »
Leave a Reply...