Oh the places you'll go and the people you'll meet! is a line from a Dr. Seuss book. This is a particularly apt way to start this blog as the children's section is my favourite place in the whole bookshop where I work and Dr. Seuss is one of my favourite sub-sections. For me, working in abookshop is alittle like taking care of an orphange: the books are children in my care and I have to make sure they all find homes with worthy people who will love them and appreciate them for who they are. I would never try to convince an avid Wilbur Smith fan to take home Yann Martel's "Beatrice and Virgil". The fan would deride the book, perhaps fling aside something he could not understand and make it into an outcast from all love and understanding. I would feel much more comfortable sending him home with a shiny Clive Cussler or a Vampire Diaries book for his daughter.
I always feel most happy when my own personal favourites are chosen from the store and taken home. With books I suppose I don't even have to feel guilty: favouring one book over another is hardly the same as favouring an orphaned child.
And what a strange lot of adoptive parents turn up at our doors. There is a the large (larg as in there are many of them, they are not over-weight. They probably live on all-organic, home-made produce), red-headed, home-schooled family who wear home-spun clothes and laugh a lot. Peter Jackson could have made them hobbits because I could swear I can see large, earthy feet under their long skirts, cargo pants or leather jackets.
Then there is the dear old lady who comes in once a week to complain to Telkom about her telephone not working (she has a daughter overseas that she needs to speak to!) and to buy a book from us and complain to us about her telephone not working. She always sounds dreadfully sorrowful.
Another older woman comes in and tells us in confdential tones that she treats herself to books and then hides them away so that she has a secret stash for when she is alone. She buys books instead of food sometimes. They aren't naughty books, just regular novels and biographies. I think she enjoys thinking of herself as engaging in illicit activities as much as she enjoys reading the books.
There is a skinny Chinese boy in his twenties who captures you in conversation about the conspiracy theories he and his lecturer have discussed.
1.) Mandela is actually an evil, corrupt man and there is a media scam that makes out he is great.
2.) Immigrants will bring the economies of the world to an end.
3.) Obama is terrified of the Russians who still control the USA (secretly).
4.) Beware the yellow peril! (This from a Chinese man).
You can start by arguing but eventually you just starch a smile and stare. He is unstoppable, and more than slightly nauseating.
There is also an unwashed martial arts enthusiast who you can smell from across the cash desk. His teeth have blackened ends. Every piece of paper he hands across looks soiled and his hair is lank and dirty blonde. Yet he is one of the friendliest people simply bursting for their goodwill to spread to everyone they talk to. Bless him.
And then there was the guy who tried to Derryn-Brown me into giving him my phone number. Needless to say it didn't work.
But not all of them are bad or quite as characaturable as I have made them out to be. Some people almost shriek with joy when they see the book they have been waiting for and others grip theirs firmly and lovingly. Some people speak to you like you are their guardians through the maze of over-stocked bookshops and like they trust you with their books (which are like their new-found children).
And that is when I know I've done my job.