by Andy Mitchell
One day a man was in our bookshop scouring the Lincoln section, scratching his head.
“Got that vampire book?”
“You mean the one by Seth Grahame-Smith?”
“I don’t know nothin’ about any Smith fella. I mean the one about Abe killin’ vampires.”
“Yes, I believe we have a copy in the other room.”
“How come it ain’t with all the other Lincoln books?”
“Because they’re all fact-based, non-fiction books.”
The man looked at first perplexed, then resolute.
“You mean you don’t think he really done it?”
“What, kill a vampire? No, of course not.”
“Hell, it weren’t just one. He killed lots of ‘em.”
“Oh,” I acquiesced, as if to indicate that I simply hadn’t realized the cold hard facts all these years. While everyone knew Honest Abe fought slavery by day, what they didn’t know (or, at least I didn’t) was that by night he fought vampires, too.
While all of my conversations in the bookstore are not that strange, I do encounter odd inquires from time to time. As a bookseller, it seems I’m not alone in this regard. Jen Campbell compiled an entire book of “Weird Things Customers Say In Bookstores.” Undoubtedly amusing for anyone, this self-explanatory book is particularly so for those of us in the trade. We’ve all been there on occasion.
Just a couple of days ago someone asked if we carried any books other than “historical” ones. Evidently the customer hadn’t noticed the “Wimpy Kid” series, or any number of other books one would not likely consider historical.
Once I was asked if I sell my books. “Pardon me,” I replied, confused.
“Are your books for sale? Can a person buy them?”
“Yes,” I said, “you can buy them. They’re all for sale.”
What did he think, that Our Town Books might be some kind of museum? Funny, he stayed around quite a while, but didn’t buy any books. Did he simply not find any to his liking, I wondered, or was he still not convinced he was really allowed to make a purchase?
Then, there was the time this guy (why is it always a man?) who wanted to buy some shelves. “Well, sir, the shelves are not for sale. But you can get some just like these at Ikea.” “What about the desk?” “You mean this one (the one I’m sitting behind!)? Sorry. But again you can get one just like it at Ikea.” “Did you get all your stuff from there?” “Pretty much, except of course, the books.” “Well, I’m not really interested in your books.” What the hell, did he think he was in a furniture store? I wonder if after he left the bookstore he stopped over at Walton’s hoping to find a good book.
The two questions I’m most frequently asked are:
1) “Do you know how I can get in touch with Rich McCoy?”
2) “Do you know the hours of the coffee shop?”
Sometimes I wonder if the Ikea desk I inherited when I bought the store looks like an “Information Desk.”