The other day I watched a browser shouldering an oversized backpack ask Carroll where the bathroom is, which is a question we at Books & Books answer fifty two hundred times a day. Oddly, he waved his magazine at her when he asked. Well, not his magazine, a magazine we sell, one of those oversized, glossy, foreign photo mags.
“I ask for the bathroom because I’m going to read this while I rectally birth a brown baby,” his wave said. “Furthermore, not only do I have no shame in this act, there's no way I'm buying this magazine.”
As Becky and I ate cake at the children’s computer, Oversized Backpack passed us en route to the men’s room.
I’m not one to care what accompanies someone into the bathroom. I’ve had people breath, “You brought that book into the bathroom?” in tones suggesting I just farted on their sandwich. Well, yes. My hair was in there with me, while we’re on the subject. My shirt, pants, and shoes, too. What’s your point?
When I worked at Borders, we often found issues of Maxim or Inked in the men’s room with pages stuck together. I didn’t really expect Backpack to give himself a treat to the magazine, but the idea that someone would sit on a toilet with a magazine he didn’t own skeeved me out. When you purchase something, there’s a reasonable expectation that a stranger didn’t leaf through it while he dropped his intestinal children off at the pool.
I think I just made a case for online book purchasing. Although come to think of it, I’ve been in the country's second-largest warehouse for online book purchases. They have employees. And toilets. Just sayin’.
Anyhoo, Books & Books in the Gables is a giant U:
Employees travel back and forth between the entrances all the time. As Backpack left, Carroll was crossing the bar area. Backpack caught her eye.
“What?” he demanded.
Carroll was taken aback. “Nothing,” she said, going about her business. Backpack followed her, repeatedly asking, “What? What is your problem? What?”
Carroll decided he needed something besides her assurances that there was not a problem. Noticing he didn’t have the magazine, she asked if he’d left it in the men’s room.
“Ah, there it is,” Backpack said. “You make me feel like a criminal.”
Some back-and-forth followed. Backpack made a point of getting in Carroll’s space, using his physicality for emphasis. “This is a bookstore, lady. People take things and put them anywhere. You have to expect that. You make me feel like a criminal.”
Carroll was a stewardess for decades. She’s been on planes hijacked to Cuba. Twice. She’s had a gun to her head. Nice try, Backpack.
“Sir, I don’t have a problem. If there’s a problem, it’s your guilty conscious.”
“No, the problem is that you are a bitch,” Backpack yelled.
“You can’t talk to me like that, Sir.”
“I’ll talk to you however I want.”
“I need to ask you to leave.”
“You can’t kick me out for browsing, this is a fucking bookstore.”
“I’m not kicking you out for browsing, I’m kicking you out for cursing.”
By this time, the bookstore was on pause. Employees and customers alike stood and watched the show. The man demanded her name and the manager’s name and promised to call. Carroll gave her full name, spelled it, and invited him to do his worst. She told him she’d call the police if he didn’t leave.
“Call whoever the fuck you want, I don’t care. Is there a manager here right now?”
Tucci might not be much of a manager, but he counts money and certainly looks the part. Tucci listened while backpack spilled his story of unjust persecution. Maybe it’s me, but if I thought someone was accusing me of thievery (which we weren't, just assholery), I’d open my giant backpack to prove my innocence. Borders also taught me that the folks causing the biggest stink are usually the ones robbing you, or covering for someone else who’s robbing you.
“Well, what are you going to do about it?”
“That behavior certainly sounds inappropriate, Sir,” Tucci said, “but I wouldn’t want to comment without speaking to my employee.”
“I can tell by your tone of voice that you don’t care, and you’re not going to do shit,” Backpack said. He opened the door and delivered his parting shot; “You can shove this fucking bookstore up your ass.”
I spoke with Carroll about it afterwards, intimating that the man didn't know who he was messing with because of her past experience as a hijack victim.
“Actually,” she said, “having a gun to your head is easier than this.”
Believe it or not.