Sunday, June 22, 2008

Thank You for Your Bushiness

In my town, there isn’t much culture, unless your idea of sophistication is barbecuing in your driveway. So it’s not unusual, on a Sunday, for me to make the ten-mile trip to Barnes & Noble, there to commune with civilization.

When I approached that store today, though, I was greeted by the following sign, which I’ve reproduced verbatim:


The first sentence seems to imply that the clerks have rebelled against management. “You can’t come in because there’s a mutiny going on.” But, no. It’s 21st-century shrink-speak for: The fucking electricity isn’t working.

Nobody in America today — except maybe for bloggers — wants to make a definite statement, commit himself or herself to a clearly defined position on what’s right and what’s wrong. Instead, parents have issues with their children, and children have issues with their parents. Workers have issues with bosses, and bosses have issues with workers. Teachers have issues with students, students have issues with teachers, and everybody has issues with the principal. Conservatives have issues with liberals, and liberals have issues with conservatives. Christians have issues with Muslims, Muslims have issues with Jews, Jews have issues with Christians, and who doesn’t have issues with atheists?

“Having issues” is a weasel phrase. It’s not the same as “taking issue,” which at least means “disagreeing.” No, “having issues” is about viewpoint, based on the idea that all opinions are equal. It was born on the psychologist’s couch, where having strong ideas is often considered a sign of mental aberration. It was reared in a relativistic society, in which we all must "respect" one another, whether we've earned that respect or not. And it flourishes in media-driven politics where candidates strive to be the most inoffensive product for sale.

"Having issues" leads to rubbish like “Teach the controversy.” That’s why creationists have issues with so-called evolutionists, and why real, but apologetic, scientists have issues with the army of ignorati who are largely responsible for teaching our kids nonsense.

But, often, there are no issues, f’cryinoutloud. There’s a right side and a wrong side; opinions are not necessarily co-equal. I, myself, do not “have issues” with fundamentalist thugs who want to shove religion down the throats of impressionable youngsters. Instead, I argue, vehemently, for what’s objectively right. If you’re an atheist blogger, chances are that you do, too.

OK, returning to the sign, let’s look at the second sentence. You may not have noticed that “inconvenience” is misspelled, so take another look. Now remember: That sign was written by a person surrounded by English dictionaries. There are at least a dozen different editions scattered over the Reference shelves in my local branch. Does an employee have issues with orthography? Or with Noah Webster, maybe? What does it say about the Barnes & Noble staff if the combined skill of all the clerks can’t manage to spell a fairly common word correctly? Do they read anything they sell, or are they too busy slurping caramel macchiatos to look at the store’s main product? Follow-up question: Are books still the main product of Barnes & Noble Booksellers? Or should the company be renamed to “Barnes & Noble Latte Pushers”?

But idiotic behavior was not limited to those powerless few in the store. I sat for about ten minutes watching customers walk up to the doors. Singly or in groups they stood at the entrance and carefully read the posted message. Then ... they pulled on the handles of the doors. Not one person shrugged and turned around to head back to his or her car. Nope, every potential customer decided to try to get in, as if the “We’re Closed” sign were some kind of hoax. Even when one person or group failed to gain entry, the next in line thought that maybe he or she would have the magic touch.

Call me an old curmudgeon, but I have issues with that kind of stupidity.


Anonymous said...

I have issues with that kind of stupidity.

Maybe it was skepticism - refusal to accept a statement without evidence or test - rather than stupidity.

I anticipate that you will take issue with that suggestion. ;)

tina FCD said...

Well, crap! I go there for the mocha's too. :(
I try very hard to spell everything right but, I do make mistakes. I get nervous coming here because I KNOW you pick apart every comment. :)

At least I'm not as bad as Trinity! :)

tina FCD said...

Didn't you have anything better to do than sit and watch customers try that door? Just pickin'!

The Exterminator said...

Maybe it was skepticism ...
Yeah, I can tell from all those Jesus fish on the cars that I'm living in a hotbed of skepticism.

I get nervous coming here because I KNOW you pick apart every comment.
If you're scared now, wait until you get your final grade!

Didn't you have anything better to do than sit and watch customers try that door?
No. That was the most cultural thing to do in my town this afternoon. I made believe I was conducting an anthropological study.

Spanish Inquisitor said...

Exactly what have you against Caramel macchiatos?

Hey. I went to my local Starbucks today (Tommy and I at Exercise in Futility have a thing about Starbucks) and they had a sign on the door that said that because of a local water main break they had no fresh coffee. Fortunately for this ignoramus, the women ahead of me came out of the store and announced to her husband in the car that they still had frappachinos and iced coffee. Since I went there for an iced coffee I was saved.

Finally. I was saved. I always had this latent desire to be saved.


PhillyChief said...

I'm assuming you're either like me and have no cellphone or yours is one of those early ones before they stuck cameras in them because that sign seems like something worth snapping.

I remember once trying to get a job in a bookstore and the application I had to fill out included a literature test. After realizing I had no idea what the books were in the first five questions I casually strolled out and decided maybe I should try finding a job making hoagies instead. Times sure have changed!

Two "issues" I have with this post:
• one of these days I'll have to expose you to the cultural value of barbecuing
• I'd probably be one of those door pullers, but it would be more of a venting rather than an actual expectation that it would magically open for me despite everyone else's attempts, like some B&N Arthurian legend. (Btw, you can play Merlin).

The Exterminator said...

Exactly what have you against Caramel macchiatos?
I love caramel macchiatos. But not when they're dribbled over books.

Actually, I have nothing against barbecuing. It's doing it in your driveway that I object to. That, and having your guest rev his Harley until the food is ready.

Anonymous said...

I guess that it's sort of the same thing as watching people come up to a "Wet Paint" sign.

A relative is a commercial painter and he told me that they very seldom put up such signs anymore because of all the fingerprints which appear all around the things. Only makers them more work.

When my sons were still home we saw something very interesting once.

We were in a department store and waiting for my wife (she was trying on clothes, and another man there whose spouse was so engaged advised us, "Ruuuuunnnn! Saaaaave yourseeeellllves!" so we told her we would look for shirts. I wasn't thinking clearly and had forgotten the rigors of a woman selecting clothes. The timely warning from someone already caught in that dire and baleful mesh was appreciated!)

We went over to the escalator to "people watch" and were rewarded.

The escalator was not working, and watching people's reaction to that was astonishing. About half stopped, stared, and made some complaint about not being able to get upstairs, turned around and walked away. Never connecting an escalator which is not working with, well, STAIRS.

The store my wife works in is in a mall, has been there for over forty years, and has never had an upper level. Yet every week, at least three times a week people will try to return something or ask for something that they insist they saw or purchased on the second floor. You can't comvince them that such a place doesn't exist, never has, and they're in the wrong store.

Anonymous said...

In the spirit of natural selection, you should shoot whomever wrote that sign.

Also, I couldn't help but wonder, did you tug on the handle yourself?

Anonymous said...

Speaking from a bookshop which opens late on a Tuesday for "staff training" (trans. "coffee and croissant session whilst some rep from a publisher you've never heard of tries to hard-sell you on their latest Jodi Picault rip-off"), and where the main doors (with signs at eye-level advising of our daily opening hours and a big Tuesdays-only sign saying "Closed until 9.30am for staff training") were in full view of the croissant-scoffing booksellers, I sympathise. For the entire half-hour meeting, we were contsantly being interrupted by people banging on the doors, determined to find out why the shop was closed even though the staff were all clearly inside. Eventually we stopped opening the door to explain; I would walk up to the glass, look them in the eye, point to the sign, then turn and go back to my breakfast.

If they were still there when I sat back down, they got the finger (okay, that, sadly, isn't true).

PhillyChief said...

Well clearly your neighbors are confused because the smoky goodness is supposed to come from the burning wood, not exhaust pipes. Also, you're supposed to be cooking the hog, not cooking with a Hog.

The bar across the road has become a biker bar. The sound of pipes at 2am ain't fun, but I suppose it would be worse if they were hanging in a neighbor's driveway.

Davo: I believe the "spirit of natural selection" will manifest eventually for those folk without any personal intervention.

I used to work in an art supply store in a shopping center and we'd get people coming in looking for strange things like bug spray, shoe polish, Ben Gay, etc. Eventually you just get tired of explaining that you're an art store and you get creative with the answers, especially when they swear they've bought the item in the store before. I'd usually say we stopped carrying the product either because it'll give you cancer or it was manufactured by Communists. Either answer would work to get them to go away without an incident. ;)

Spanish Inquisitor said...

Wait! I've seen art created with bug spray, shoe polish and Ben Gay.

Or was it art that was created by Ben Gay with bug spray and shoe polish?

Anyway, it was in a museum.

The Exterminator said...

Your wife should tell people that they are on the second floor because the first floor has been removed for maintenance.

You've got natural selection mixed up with eugenics, which is neither eu- nor naturally genic. I suggest you read a good book on Evolution. A good place to start might be The Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner.

What is "staff training" in a bookshop? A brush-up course on alphabetization? But for a few bookshop groans, see my response to Philly, below.

Customers are morons. Here's an interchange I had with someone years ago, when I was working the information desk at a book store:
Moron: I'm looking for a book.
Me: What's the title?
Moron: I don't remember.
Me: Well, do you know the name of the author?
Moron: No.
Me: OK. What's the subject of the book?
Moron: It's hard to say.
Me: Well is there anything you can tell me about the book you're looking for?
Moron: I think it has a brown cover.
Me: Uh-huh. Have you looked in our Brown section?

Another time I had a customer ask:
Moron #2: Do you have any books by Christian authors?
Me: Oh, sure. Almost everything in the store was written by Christians. Just steer clear of the Judaica Section and you should be fine.

John Evo said...

In my town, there isn’t much culture, unless your idea of sophistication is barbecuing in your driveway.

Hey, I'm surprised you guys have driveways.

Nobody in America today — except maybe for bloggers — wants to make a definite statement

I not sure if this is true.

You may not have noticed that “inconvenience” is misspelled

Nope. I sure dint.

tina FCD said...

Got my smile for the day! I just love the humor you guys have. :)

bullet said...

Then ... they pulled on the handles of the doors.

To be fair, sometimes the idiots forget to take the sign down. "Wow, it's slow today."

The Exterminator said...

Well of course we've got driveways. Where else would people keep the cars they're disassembling?

Nice smile.

To be fair, sometimes the idiots forget to take the sign down.
True, but the fact that there were no lights on in the store should have been a pretty good clue that the sign was correct.

Anonymous said...

On the misspelling.
I recall seeing a job advert, for an English teacher, in which there were spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. I always wondered if either a) it was obvious the school needed and English teacher as the advert writer couldn't spell; or b) job applicants had to point out the errors to get the job.

Anonymous said...

or c) they were just shit typists like me

that should have been "needed an English", not and

I sometimes wish there was an edit button on these blogs

Anonymous said...

I've been told, "There's no such thing as a stupid question".

This is a slogan rather than a supported statement, but true enough: the question has no intelligence but the questioner...

I am a civil war reenactor and some of the things that one is asked makes me wonder about things.

We are often asked if we live in our tents year round, do we really eat the food we cook, do we reenact for our livings.

We are asked (in 90 degree weather) if our wool uniforms are hot. We thought we'd gotten the ultimate when we were asked if the fire was real. We hadn't heard anything yet, though.

I heard one that shades that one. A very well dressed couple was asking about the dress and way of life mid-nineteenth century, and the gentleman pointed to our fire and said, "That is a real fire, isn't it"?
We affirmed that it was, indeed.
He asked, "How did you get it here? How do you take it with you when you leave? It can't be easy".

One of our members, much more mentally nimble than I, said, "We have a special wooden box we carry it in."

The couple nodded, said "Thank you".

The Exterminator said...

Typos don't necessarily count as a sing of ignorance.

Here's another from my book store days: A customer wanted to find a book of middle names for babies. I asked, "Have you considered 'nimmun'?" The customer carefully repeated "nimmun" and rolled it around her tongue. "I sort of like that," she said. "How do you spell it?" I told her: NMN.

Anonymous said...

If we're going to share bookshop stories, these two are my personal favourites...

1. A woman comes to my desk on the first floor of the shop. Bear in mind that to get to me, she's had to walk under a HUGE sign that says "Ottakar's Bookshop", past several large displays of books, up an escalator lined with posters advertising books, past a load more books and finally to a counter with books all over it and "Ottakar's Bookshop" written over the top.

Her question: "Do you sell bran?"

Assuming she was referring to a new book I was not aware of, I said, "I'm sorry, I don't know that one. Do you know who the author is?"

She gave me the most withering and pitying glance I have ever seen, like I had just drooled all over my shirt. "No, BRAN," she says. " I want to make face masks."

What do you say?

2. This was a telephone conversation.

Me: Hello, Ottakar's bookshop.
Customer: Hello. Do you have any books on British psychopaths?
Me (only mildly taken aback, that's not a very odd request by my standards): Well, let me see... we have a couple of books on the Fred and Rose West murders, some things on gangland killings in London, I've got one or two books on Peter Sutcliffe... in fact there's quite a few. Was there anything in particular you were after?
Customer: What are you talking about? I want a book on British CYCLE-PATHS.
Me: Ah...

Ubi Dubium said...

Ok, this one is from a friend of a friend (sorry) but it's still my favorite.

He was a guide at Gettysburg, and after explaining the battlefield to a group of tourists, one lady accosted him with this question:

"Why were none of the monuments nicked by bullets?"

Best Online Pharmacy said...

Since Barnes and Nobel went digital. It has been a while since I go to the store.