Friday, September 30, 2016

If You Try Sometimes


Not in my teens.
 Not in my 20s.
Not in my 30s.
Not in my 40s.
Not in my 50s.

I'm starting to feel a little like I've got a scarlet B on my chest.

For the (several decaded) life of me, I can't seem to land a job at a bookstore when there's an opening. This stings a bit, because bookstores are my natural habitat. Why don't they want me?

Let me go over the past two forays into getting in touch with my inner bookseller. When I was 42, shortly before I went to Korea, I tried to get on at the local bookstore. It went something like this:

Me: O! I love to read! Booksbooksbooksbooksbooksbooksbooksbooks....

Bookstore Manager: (a bit frostily) Customer service

Me: Booksbooksbooksbooks...Huh? Oh yes, of course...customers are important to me. I want to recommend books I've read and build rapport and...

BM: This is not a sit-down job

Me: Uh, I would read...in my off time....of course...

BM: Do you have bookstore experience?

Me: Well, no, but it's my dream to work in a bookstore.

BM: Go away

In my most recent attempt (July, August) to get on at the local bookstore, there was a third page on the standard application. Favorite authors, an easy matching books and authors. Why do you want to work here?  I was veryvery careful this time to thread in my love for customers and my willingness to bend like Gumby to the randomness that is retail.

But, sigh... I may have let my bookworm freak flag fly too much. I named 3 or 4 authors when one would have done (Who can choose just one???? That's just not right...but did I have to say Zola????!!) I also wrote down this blog's address so that BM (different BM; she's really nice, even if we sort of disagree about the hiring thing) could further explore my reading life at her leisure. I think I restrained myself from mentioning that I wrote a book, but when I look back...well, I was in a fever. I could have said anything.

So much for enthusiasm with a slight nod to careful calibration.

No joy; not even a phone call requesting an interview.

I held out hope for over a month, I carried around my book-shaped earrings for good luck, then I gave up. Actually, that was a lie. I'll never give up hope. Last week, an unfamiliar number popped up on my phone and I had this little frisson of joy that rubbed against my heart like sandpaper and I thought: Maybe it's BM. Please, please. But no. A robot informed me that I could win a vacation to Florida. I guess there are bookstores there.

Maybe it's time to get real: No bookstore job for Bybee. This could be a good thing. I remember something George Orwell wrote about being an avid booklover and going to work as a bookseller. At the end of the day, he was all blarrgh and sick of the sight of books. I wouldn't ever like to feel that way, but I wouldn't mind the chance to find out.

So for now, I'm not in the room where it happens, but the completist in me has her head up and is already scenting the air of the future: I still have my 60s to go! Will victory finally be mine, or will the book finally slam shut on my bookstore dreams forever?


5 comments:

Richard said...

If you worked at Barnes and Noble, they would start you off at minimum wage. They don't even start off at a token 25 cents more. They told me during an interview that they could only start me off higher if I had bookstore experience.

Sam Sattler said...

I have had exactly the same experience. When my company, in their eternal wisdom, decided to lay off pretty much everyone approaching 60 years of age a while back, I went to four local bookstores and asked for part time work...and made it clear that I was not overly concerned about the hourly wage or the particular hours they would require me to be there.

I scared all four bookstore managers to death. Only got two actual interviews and thought I aced them. Never heard another word.

I still shop at the same stores and have noticed that three of the managers are long gone, but I don't have the heart to try it all over again. It's just not going to happen for me.

Why, I wonder, do people like us scare the crap out of bookstore managers? Do we remind them of their formerly naive selves? Do they think they are doing people like us a favor by sheltering us from reality?

Lynda said...

Same. I've applied for a couple of bookstore jobs, and as soon as I admit that I don't have bookseller experience, I can see their eyes cloud over and they start looking at their watches.

Well, even if I can't get a job there at the bookstores that I love best, at least I can still hang out there. And sometimes if I see a customer that looks lost, I strike up a conversation and help them find what they're looking for / make recommendations. So it's almost like working there. :-)

Unruly Reader said...

I wish I owned a bookstore. I'd hire you in a New York minute.

Care said...

This post makes me laugh because I, too, have had zero luck getting a job in a bookstore! In fact, the last one, I helped a customer find the book she was looking for - such fun. But, since I don't have recent experience working on cash register?! Seriously cracks me up what people assume others can or can't do. Whatever.