Monday, September 19, 2005

The Not-So-Purloined Book

The title of the post is based on Edgar Allan Poe's short story, "The Purloined Letter," wherein a detective is brought in to find a key piece of paper which no one else seems to be able to find.

I recently went off in search of Guns, Germs & Steel, by Jared Diamond. I'm seeing Mr. Diamond speak at a lecture tomorrow, and I thought I'd get the book signed for my friend Mark, who seems to love the book (which I personally haven't ever read). (After it's signed, I'll hold on to the book for a few months, until I can pass it along as a Christmas gift.)

There I was at Kramerbooks, staring at the shelves of books about American history and politics, and not seeing what I was looking for. I was tired and slightly cranky already, so if they didn't have it, I'd have to hit the Books-A-Million, and I'm not a big fan of the chain stores like that. The guy behind the counter didn't seem like he'd be all that helpful, because he seemed to be pretty engrossed in some kind of telephone call. Not wanting to interrupt him, I continued to stare at the shelf, which I had already determined did not carry the object of my desire.

Finally, another clerk appeared and rang up another customer. (Of course, at around the same time the first clerk got off the phone. Go fig.) Frustrated, I walked up to the available clerk. "Excuse me," I said, "Could you help me find a book?" Though I was tired and cranky, I didn't want to come across like a bitch, so I was trying to moderate my voice. Instead of tired and cranky, I probably came across sound like some meek little old white-haired lady.

"Sure," the clerk said. "Which book?"

"It's called Guns, Germs & Steel," I told him.

"Ah," he said, and, without even punching it into his computer, emerged from behind the counter. He proceeded directly over to the large nonfiction island which dominates most of the room and, almost without looking, reached out and grabbed a copy of the book.

Well before he got to the book, I knew exactly what I was in for: the sheer humiliation and embarrassment that comes from asking for help in locating a product that was, in fact, right in front of your eyes the entire time.

"Here you go," he said, handing it to me. Thankfully, he wasn't terribly pissy about the fact that I made him retrieve for me a book that wasn't more than 6 feet from where I was standing.

"Uh... thanks. Well, that was easy," I tried to make light of it.

Not that he responded, but now I was just on a roll of trying to make light of this ridonkulous situation I had created. "That was your fault," I joked. "I think you hid that book from me."

"Yeah... all, like 27 copies of them," he responded.

Not sensing any sarcasm or pissiness in his voice, I carried on. "Uh... yeah. Exactly. It's a conspiracy, I tell ya."

At which point I signed my credit card receipt and took off outta there.


katie said...

That seems to happen to me ALL the time. Once I was actually standing directly in front of what I was looking for. Horridly embarassing.

Steve said...

I get like that from time to time, so don't sweat it. Oh yeah, was he cute?

Vince said...

Looks like you need to find a new book store.

duane said...

My question, is why didn't they have some on the book shelf, and on the display; after all, there is a way to organize things so that they are easy to find; IN CASE YOU DON'T WORK THERE!!!

Don't feel like an idiot... the store is an idiot for having their crazy system of hiding books in plain sight. Bitches.

Jon said...

Don't sweat it. It happens to all of us. One time I went to the supermarket, paid, and started to walk out with my two plastic shopping bags of groceries still on the checkout counter! That's much more embarassing!