That’s what I said when one of my coworkers clarified my schedule for me yesterday. I had been under the impression that my shift ran ‘til 9:30pm but then my coworker saw on the schedule that I could actually get out at 9pm — except for the fact that I clocked in 30 minutes early. My calendar said that my shift had started at 1pm and I totally remember that’s what the schedule said when it first came out and I had recorded the times on my calendar. At any rate, I was supposed to be at work at 1:30pm. I was early.
Who does that, anyway? Who clocks in early? Retail employment has a certain stigma to it. Most if not all of the time, working in retail is just one bump in the road toward something better. No one has ever had an ambition to work at Best Buy (at least the retail end). I’m not romanticizing bookstore work at all — like all jobs, retail or otherwise, it has its ups and downs — but as someone at NCIBA said recently, we’re more organized. We’re a different shade of retail because we really care about our work, and because of changing attitudes about books, we sort of have to put up a fight just to survive. When you love to read books, and when you love to read books so much that you want to sell them, that combines into some kind of ascension in which retail emerges with a capital ‘R’.
Whoops is also what I’m saying in terms of this never-to-be-sent and how they are supposed to be on a break. I know: I was going to hang back for a while. But as I said, writing is an affliction, and for the time being, an acute one for me. Because while the affliction of writing is a good one with which to be stricken and I recommend that all try it at least once, my strain of this illness involves framing all that I want to write into never-to-be-sents. And yesterday, I got called out on it, kinda.
"What’s wrong?" one of my coworkers had asked.
I was frowning at a galley proof that I’d picked up.
"Look at this," I said, disgustedly handing the book to him. As my coworker scanned it intently, both trying to determine what the book was about and what had provoked such an intense reaction on my part, I railed: "It’s about the oldest gay stereotype: a gay guy who falls in love with a straight guy and longs for the straight guy to reciprocate! I mean, can you imagine? An entire book? I can’t believe this is getting published. I can’t believe this is being perpetuated.”
My coworker grinned as he started to hand the book back to me. “What about your blog to Tim Lincecum?”
I stared at him. The book hung in mid-air.
"Give me that," I said, snatching it from him.
I turned to stuff the book into my backpack.
"Do you think he reads it?" my coworker asked. Somehow, I could hear the grinning in his voice.
Staring at my bag, which I was half-assedly zipping, I had to bite down on my lower lip to suppress a smile at the absurdity: not the expectation that you would read my blog, but that my coworker was standing there asking me about it. That people actually read that thing.
"Who knows if he even reads," I said with a chuckle.
That’s what I said, as a joke. And I’m sorry, Linc.
As soon as I said that, I felt terrible. I was ravaged with Catholic guilt, but I like to think that I am a good enough person that even if I weren’t Catholic, I ought to still feel like a terrible human being for saying that. There I was, railing against stereotypes, and I had uttered one of my own. Suddenly I began to wonder if you really did read my blog, but that wondering was not romantic at all. Rather than flattery, I wondered if you had reacted with shame, perhaps disgust. Alarm, maybe. To say that you thought Boy, there are all kinds out there is a literary, polite way of articulating your awareness of this blog, your fandom in general.
As long as I am in confession, I also want to convey this truth: the real reason why I have returned, after having written that I would take a break, is to tell you to vote. You’ve gotta vote next month, Linc. Even if you did read this blog, you would have seen my fundraising pleas, and did not donate. So if you are somehow getting my never-to-be-sents, if there’s one thing you could do, I wish it were to vote. You don’t have to make your choice public; you don’t even have to announce that you voted. It doesn’t have to be a public relations campaign. Get your ballot. Figure out which candidate works for you, which candidate you think is best. I hope it’s Barack Obama, but hey, if it’s the other guy, or someone else altogether, then that’s fine. This is America. You do have a choice to not vote, but I hope that you do. We are so fortunate to live in a democracy.
By the way, one last confession: the thing that you said when you got champagne in your eye was a real turn-off. I don’t care how freaky your sex life is but what really bothered me the most was how disrespectful it sounded toward women. I know that you were celebrating, and that what you said was typical locker room banter heightened by celebration, but this time it got caught on video and those Deadspin guys wasted no time posting it. God knows I’d love for you to come on my face but Jesus, Linc.
All right. This is it. Today is the day. Tell the guys that this ain’t no salvage operation — this is your chance to reboot the whole postseason!
I never know what time these playoff games will start. It’s crazy how much spotlight is always on them, like celebrities, how the times are scheduled according to prime time television broadcasts.
As it so happens, my shift starts at the same time as you guys get to work in Cincinnati time. You guys have about three hours. I know you can do it. (I never thought I’d be saying this, but you will have to direct them to step up the pitching in both the start and the relief. The defense has been OK and regarding hitting, well, that’s always a surprise with you guys. I’ve learned that it is impervious to strategy.)
At least you guys only have three hours — plus maybe extra innings, which are par for the Giants course. (One of the many things I have always admired about the Giants is how they manage to preserve, likely without intention and perhaps directed by some Kinsellian notion of fate, the old way of baseball.) As for me, I have a long shift tonight. Jeffrey Toobin is speaking at City Arts and Lectures. Apparently, he’s an important guy. Yeah. Ha.
But yes, seriously, he is. He writes for The New Yorker, which I like (though if I’m honest, Vanity Fair, which I have also liked for a very long time, has the more reader-friendly writing). He has a new book out that everyone is reading these days to either stay knowledgeable, or to feel important. Anyway, I’m working late tonight. Including my commute, I probably won’t be home until about eleven, and then I have to get up early tomorrow so I have enough time for my mid-day shift to bake a dessert that I promised I’d bring in for an event we’re having in the store later that night. Oy.
I managed to get away with playing the ballgame on the store’s PA system on Saturday but I don’t think I’ll be able to do that today since my boss will actually be around and weekdays have a higher profile than weekends. (The folks at headquarters like to leave us alone on weekends and surprise us on weekdays when the rules most apply.) Still, perhaps I’ll work up the courage to ask and, barring that, I’ll bring my lucky radio (which I still consider lucky even though I toted it around all day on Saturday and it did no good for you guys) and I will sneak away to listen to it as often as I can.
Isn’t it strange for me to say “headquarters” in reference to my company, which is independent? But they also have enough locations and even a main office that in fact is the de facto headquarters for the whole operation. Some weeks ago, I spoke with the manager of another local bookstore, and with silly naivety I asked him if he knew the owners of my company. He shook his head and only proffered that he had heard of them in their shared circles. The naive part is that I thought all the local bookstore owners knew each other, had banded together to reinvent the wheel after Borders was unable to recover from the flat that caused its mortal pileup. It turns out that there is this wary view of my company, that it straddles a line between being independent and a chain. Which is fine by me, Linc, because as I have previously written, I have served my 10,000 Gladwellian hours of learning how to live in the middle.
One of the more curious expressions of hypermasculinity that I have noticed in guys is that when they like to get something started, whether it’s something major like a game or something distressingly simple like walking down the sidewalk, they like to do this one-clap thing. Like boom: let’s do this! I’ve never understood it. It’s like the human version of an animalistic growl. I bet there’s some anthropologist or psychologist out there who specializes in tracing root primal behaviors and their evolutionary pattern in humans. If not, all that that I just typed sounds like a nice title for a paper, doesn’t it? I hope whomever steals it from me at least buys me dinner.
Boom. Go get ‘em today! (Yes, I did the one-clap thing and: ow.)
I guess this is a good time to also mention that my store is running a contest for the month of July. Each bookseller has to pick their favorite Random House title and try to sell as many copies of it as they can. From what I understand, we are not in competition with each other, but if we do sell a lot of copies collectively, the store gets some kind of prize.
(Un)surprised? Come on. You know you want to read about parallel universes and other interesting stuff that we can’t see with the naked eye that isn’t microbial or insects. Plus it’s related to baseball. Well, not really, but if you’ve read Baseball 2.0 long enough, you can see how that connection is possible… :p
*I’m up early because I’m moving and still have packing to do before I pick up my 9am U-Haul reservation.