Saturday, May 30, 2015


     When I used to work in downtown Boston at my beloved bookstore, I would come home with amazing stories to tell the kids.  Sometimes it was famous writers or actors or sports figures, but more often than that, it was tales about the homeless people who would come into the store.  We had a lot of regulars, because most of the time they kept to themselves and were quiet and orderly.  Often they were looking to get out of the heat or the cold and read in a corner, very rarely did it affect any of the paying customers - and honestly, if we can all be civil and act accordingly, stay as long as you'd like. The stories came from the unusual situations.
     There was one guy who was short and skinny, and he would walk around muttering to himself.  I talk to myself all the time, so no big whoop to me.  This guy would walk into the newsstand area and have low toned conversations with the people on the front of the magazines.  One day, the conversation got heated, and I guess the guy on the cover of Time said something untoward, and the skinny guy punched him in the face.  I was worried about his hand, but the corporate person I was walking the store with was more concerned about appearances, so I walked over and started to steer skinny guy toward the door.  He left, and then I got a gentle lecture about standing too close to the crazy people, the need to be more careful.  She was right, I did get too close to the guy, but I wasn't going to say anything close to what the Time magazine guy said to him, so I wasn't as worried.  
     One of the many things that my time in that store taught me was that the interactions with the "crazy" homeless people were often a lot easier to maneuver through than the supposedly sane people in the suburbs.  You learned to expect the unpredictable and to roll with it.  When I told a woman she needed to leave who kept falling asleep and rolling off the step stool she was sitting on and onto the floor, I wasn't surprised when on her way out she took her bag and swept all the books off a display table.  But when a "normal" woman in the suburbs argued with me over the wording in a coupon, telling me that "20% off a CD in the music department" meant 20% off a computer disk package containing CD's in a store with no music department, I almost lost my shit.  It was the closest I've ever come to putting my hands on someone.  She got inches from my face and told me that I better give her what she wanted or she'd keep complaining all the way up the chain of command until she got that 20% off and more.  And my brain told me she was right, she'd get her more, while I'd get the short end of the stick for letting it get to that point.
     These "normal" people have let their kids crap in a corner of the store and allow you to literally stumble upon it.  They think it's acceptable to hit on the staff, men and women alike ... bring them presents, liquor,etc.  (This happens in my new line of work, too.  All the time.)  They think it's ok to be rude, racist, sexist and condescending, sometimes all at once.  And they surprise me every single time.  I never see it coming.  It makes a woman want to punch The Economist.      

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