sanctioned vandalism

I recently finished a temping gig in the bookstore for one of the area colleges.  Overall, it wasn’t a bad experience at all – my coworkers and the students were all really nice, and even though my legs felt like Jello at the end of the day and my free time was devoured by the two hours of commuting, it felt good to be busy.

Amazingly, we only had a few problem customers the entire two weeks I was on the job.  One of them was a girl whose name I ended up learning because she forgot her wallet twice and, on her third visit, she returned a textbook she’d accidentally purchased for a class she wasn’t even in.  Another was a girl who also forgot her wallet (this was astonishingly common) and opened and drank a bottle of water before realizing she didn’t have the dollar to pay for it.

I met a few entertaining characters as well.  One was a Middle Eastern grad student who wanted a study book for the LSAT and asked if I was sure, darling, that this was the book he wanted.  Another was a woman who came into the store blatantly high, wanting to know if we sold bread.  She spent the next two minutes staring at the ceiling while slowly trying to get her wallet from her backpack, undoing and redoing every combination of mismatching zippers in the process.

During the second week, business slowed down.  Our back counter piled up with small stacks of books on hold for the inordinate amount of students who had forgotten their wallets.  During one of the slow periods, I picked one up – Volume II of a Western art history textbook.  While I was flipping through, the young woman who orders the textbooks came up to talk to me.

“Are you reading that guy’s book?”

“Yyyes,” I admitted, expecting a scolding for reading on the job.

“GOOD.  That guy was mean to me.  Feel free to ruin it.”

“Oh! Want me to tear some pages or something?”

“YES.  He was SUCH a jerk.”

I didn’t deface the book, but I did continue reading it.  I finally learned what Dadaism was and saw some examples of Renaissance architecture.  Since the next morning (my last day) was also slow, I went back to the book, munching on a slice of coffeecake our boss had brought in.

The bookbuyer came over.  “Are you reading that book again?”

“Yes.  I may have gotten coffee-cake crumbs in it.”

“GOOD.”

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