… Please learn some freakin’ social skills. Thank you.
I was in the bookstore yesterday.
Barnes and Nobles.
I really hate those places. I do.
Don’t get me wrong, I love bookstores. I love old bookstores. I love reading. I love books. I love the feel of books and I love the smell of old bookstores, the musty odor of old binding glue and paper. I especially love used book stores. I love the peace and the quiet and the tall stacks of mysteries and thrillers and horror and science fiction.
I grew up around Grand Rapids, Michigan. Whenever we’d visit my Aunt and Uncle in Eastown, usually every Sunday, My cousins and I would walk down the block to stare in the windows of what had to be damned near the perfect bookstore, Argos - which, I’m happy to report, is still there 35 years later, though it is a very different place from the store I remember. As soon as I could drive, Argos was one of my most frequent destinations. In those days it was a cramped dusty establishment in an ancient brownstone building, nobody ever went there but us bookworms. The front was a wood and glass door with an old fashioned brass handle, there was supposed to be a latch but the old brass thumb lever had long since stopped working. The door stuck and was hard to open, and when you finally forced your way in there was the sudden tinkling and jangling of bells. The shelves were just boards knocked together by generations of college kids who worked the ancient manual cash drawer and helped you find things using an arcane card filing system that only they understood. The lighting was lousy and the old wooden floors creaked when you walked on them. The store smelled of paper mites and glue and ink, and there was an air of mystery and weirdness about the place. They sold mostly used books, but there was a lot of new stuff too, especially science fiction. And they could order things for you and they had stuff that never appeared at Walden’s or the other mall bookstores – such as signed hardcover copies of Poul Anderson’s Orion Shall Rise, or Niven’s Ringworld (both of which I still own, three decades later), or the amazing but short lived Epic Illustrated with such fantastic fare as Abraxis and the Earthman by the incredibly talented graphic artist Rick Veitch
I loved that store.
I spent hours among those stacks - and you could, spend hours among the stacks, because nobody bothered you. There were never any screaming children, I doubt that in those days children ever set foot in the store. There was no coffee shop and therefore there wasn’t any of the associated dipshits loudly slurping coffee and smacking their lips among the aisles. There were no easy chairs sucking up precious space, and thus no freeloading bastards plopped down on the cushions with their feet sticking out in the way, shoes off and sock clad toes stinking up the place, and their sticky finger gunking up the books with biscotti guts. There were no gum snapping bimbos in trashy outfits pushing book carts down the aisle – because, hey, when else would you stock the damned shelves but when your customers are trying to look at your merchandise?
No, Argos was a book store. You wanted to sit about with your pants unsnapped and your shoes off, slurping coffee and passing gas and reading, well you bought the book and went the hell home. The place was a bookstore, not your goddamned living room.
I’ve been back once or twice in the years since.
Sadly the store has expanded and modernized. It wouldn’t surprise me if they sell coffee and have easy chairs. And it’s the same everywhere else, the musty little book stores are slowly disappearing, replaced by giant soulless megastores. There’s no personality to those places, they’re the Wal-Mart of bookstores. They smell of paint and new carpet and Starbucks. One stop shopping – except they never have what I’m looking for.
And worst of all, they’re crowded – full of mouth breathing retards slurping coffee and chomping on Italian cookies and talking on their goddamned phones and chasing their screaming kids. It’s funny how people sort themselves out without even realizing it in one of those mega book barns, isn’t it? A psychology PhD candidate could probably get a reasonably decent thesis out of it.
- The New Age section had a woman in what looked like homespun woolen leggings and a none too clean checkered dress. She had a big violet crystal on a chain around her neck. She smiled dreamily at me as I passed by.
- The guy in the gardening section reeked of burning rope and I think he had been crying, because his eyes were all red. He was wearing those really big and thick corduroy pants and some kind of homespun looking tunic thing – he might have been related to the woman in the New Age aisle. He had a book on organic tomato cultivation. I said “Excuse me,” as I walked past him, he sort of grunted acknowledgement and skrunched over to one side as if he was afraid of contact – in this age of flying pig flu maybe he had a point.
- There was a long haired bearded guy in a gray sweater pursuing the Linux section of the computer aisle. He wasn’t wearing suspenders, but he was wearing sandals with red socks. He passed me about four times looking for something in particular which he couldn’t find, the first three times he said, “Excuse me,” the forth time he just sort of nodded.
- The cooking section was filled with gay guys (OK, two gay guys, but they were large gay guys and they filled the aisle) arguing about pasta. They stepped aside to let the book cart girl go by, and then me.
- There was nobody in the woodworking section. It was right next to the photography section, which featured a large hardcover book entitled “Boobs.” Every single male that passed by stopped, glanced around, then opened the cover - then acted like they were really, really interested in photography when their wives came to see what they were looking at.
Eventually, I ended up in the science fiction section.
Which brings me back to the subject of this post: Attention nerds. Attention geeks. Please, by all that is holy, learn some social skills will you please?
- Hygiene in public is not optional, take a shower, use soap, use shampoo, scrub your ass - or stay home.
- If you walk between me and what I’m looking at, use the phrase “Excuse me, please.” Better yet, don’t walk between me and what I’m looking at, go behind me. Yes, I realize this will require you to actually be aware of your surroundings, try it, you might like it.
- I don’t know what you had to eat last night during your whirlwind World of Warcraft fest, but it crawled up your ass and died. Don’t share. Really. Burping and farting loudly in public went out with King Henry VIII. If you lack the necessary sphincter muscles to control your flatulence, I suggest you try jamming that cell phone you’re loudly talking on up there as a cork.
- Don’t sit on the floor in the middle of the goddamned aisle with a stack of comic books, snorting and giggling at the black and white line drawings of warrior women and their enormous boobies. Also please stop pawing the Boris Vallejo collections. (Also, maybe if you took a shower, learned some manners, and got a little sun – you’d get to see some boobies, you know, for real, just sayin’).
- If you must stand directly behind me and chew that fucking biscotti, try to do it with your mouth firmly closed. OK, Horse Lips?
- Empty coffee cups go in the trash, not on the book shelves or the floor.
- Shoes, not optional, Sasquatch. Keep yours on.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some reading to do.