In case anyone needs reminding, I work in a book warehouse. We take large boxes full of other people’s trash and hunt down the treasures. For most of the employees, that means running the books’ ISBNs into our inventory system, which tells them if they want to keep it or not, if it’s a keeper, it gets quality graded and sent on to the inventory. If not, it gets sent elsewhere, to a similar location, or it gets recycled.
My own position is a little more interesting; I get to deal with all the books that don’t have ISBNs. Old things, weird things, foreign things. It’s fun. I get to poke at weird stuff that most people wouldn’t know existed. I post pictures of some of the stranger, amusing or interesting things to Twitter and Instagram all day long, as some of you may have noticed.
But for a place that’s full of books, where one would think being intelligent and bookish would be a bonus (to know what’s worth salvaging and what belongs in the recycling bin, for starters; to appreciate all the free books we’re allowed to take home at the end of the day, for another), there are just some plain, flat-out dumb people that work there.
A smattering of the idiotic statements I’ve heard in the last 24 hours:
“You gave me your asthma.” – This was my favorite. Because, so far as I have ever been aware, a genetic and slightly-environmental overreaction of one’s immune system to the basic concepts of breathing isn’t a communicable disease; if it was, I’d love to know why none of my sisters, my ex wife, or the resident artist haven’t “caught” it, but the person I intereact with for 5 minutes 4 days a week somehow did.
“The asthma is making my period really strong!” – Same person. The followup is even better because the person saying it is a trans woman. So now my non-communicable breathing disorder that you somehow caught is aggravating your non-existent menstrual cycle? Neat!
“Who the hell reads, anyway?” – Random book receiver, grumbling after being reprimanded for not scanning enough books. Well, sparky, judging by the number of books we put through in a day (50k+) and the number we sell a day (a similar number, most days), I’d have to say “A lot.” And that you should be glad for it, since otherwise you’d be unemployed…
“Who’s this Shakespeare guy? Is he important?” – Asked of me when someone brought a box of early 20th century Shakespeare compilations to my desk. I wanted to headdesk. With their head. But then I woud have gotten blood all over the pretties, so… And, you know, I could understand – still be pissed and in a state of despair over the situation, but understand – had they said this about Goethe or Dumas or hell, even Dickens. But not knowing who the hell Shakespeare is? I mean, isn’t that illegal or something?
“Look! Arthur Conan Doyle’s signature!” – Another gem when someone brought me a book to examine. This was a Book Club reprint/collection of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Inside the front cover, in white-on-green, was a printed signature. Quite obviously printed. Aside from the logic of “who writes with white-out pens,” you could see the print “dots” in it, it was obviously embedded “in” the page and not “on” it, and didn’t smear with a wetted thumb. Oh, and the book was printed in 1965. I told them that, yes, Mr. Doyle rose from the grave thirty years after his death to sign it. They didn’t appreciate the sarcasm.
“I bet this will be worth thousands! Maybe more!” – In relation to a beat-to-hell copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, that had some bleary smear that I suppose might have been Rowling’s signature, but it also could be a crayon scribble from the previous prescholastic owner. Even if it was Rowling’s, the book’s condition – missing the spine, front cover ripped in half, book rolled into a tube-like shape, origami performed on most of the middle pages, and something sticky all over the back cover – would practically guarantee it being worthless. Said employee then chose to pocket the book. Normally this would trigger my ass-kicking tendences – given that it was company inventory and possibly autographed, it is my duty to protect the company’s interests in this matter, something that infuriates the other minions to no end when they actually do find something of value – but I gave a Rebel Wilson shrug instead on this one. Somehow I don’t think the company will miss it.
“Why don’t they let us smoke in here?” – Another grumbling employee who wasn’t too keen only getting their fix every two hours. Now, admittedly, I sympathize with this one. As a great glutton for nicotine, I would be quite happy to chain smoke while I work. But, aside from all those laws to protect you poor non smokers from second hand smoke (and don’t even get me started on that…), gee, you’re in a dry, as-water-free-as-possible warehouse filled to the brim with hundreds of thousands of books, many of them very old and not treated with nifty fire-retardant chemicals. You can’t make it through a smoke break without someone setting the ashtray on fire, and you want to let these people wave around open flames right next to the tinderbox? That’s aside from the potential of smoke damage and nicotine stains on the books themselves – something I suspect may concern only me, here – or the safety of the lungs of your fellow workers (though that one I don’t care much about. I’ll care about their lungs when they respect mine by not drowning themselves in lavender sachet and patchouli oil).
“We need a safety room. It’s too stressful here, and it’s not always safe for us. So we need this to let out the stress.” – I have no words for this except “oh, fuck off and grow up.” Not popular, I know, but I’m tired of hearing that particular line of crap.
All day, I hear things like this. And then I wonder how I haven’t snapped, yet…