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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

I Said, He Said

The little notice at the top of today's post is something I taped outside my bookstore door a couple weeks ago. Originally I had it inside on the bulletin board, but my helper, Bruce, thought it needed to be bigger, so Bill Coohon made me a full-size printed sheet (now on bulletin board), and the little original moved to its current location, where people see it as they reach to open the door. 

Another small notice on the door itself provides information on when the bookstore is open. I list my hours as 11-5, though I’ve generally been open by 10 this summer and often don’t get away right at 5, either, if the store is full of (ahem!) browsers. (No one minds when a store opens early and closes late. They do mind if it opens late or closes early!) As for those Mondays, I've been open regularly on Mondays, but yes, my bookstore is closed on Sundays this year. Having a day off preserves my sanity and helps me be happier in my work.

This morning I got to town earlier than usual, because Wednesday’s early morning errands get me on the road before 8 a.m. I wasn’t all that surprised to see a note taped beside my door: sometimes a friend stops by before I get here or a delivery person makes an unexpected early morning stop, or maybe someone I don’t know is leaving greetings from a mutual friend faraway. Today’s note was different, however. The writer, though I’m not sure why, seemed to take exception to my browsing instructions. Here’s what I found:

I admit I was puzzled. Could the writer not see through the windows that the space inside was furnished and stocked? Did the writer expect the bookstore to open before 8 a.m.? I have been serving my Up North market — locals, summer people, tourists — since 1993. Had the writer ever seen me crying over online shoppers? No one has ever seen that, because it doesn’t happen.

While my own note beside the door does not bear my name, people generally make the correct assumption that I am its author, and if they ask I say, yes, of course. The note left for me, on the other hand, was anonymous. (Wouldn’t you know?) Without a clue to the anonymous writer’s identity, therefore, other than handwriting (very neat printing, actually, using good ink) and the kind of blue masking tape used by painters, I’m going to hazard a guess. 

I could be wrong, but I’m guessing that Anonymous is male. I’m guessing further that he is relatively young. As I say, I could be wrong. 

Here is the background assumption behind my guess: Young people, and particularly young men, often think they have figured the world out much better than their elders. They are eager to proffer sage advice — and yet, not always eager to enter in dialogue. Those seeking the last word prefer the exit line zinger. Better yet, the anonymous message.

I wonder if Anonymous has ever read Nietzsche. Poor Nietzsche! He was so eager to have the last word that he larded his later writings with off-putting remarks about how no one alive could possibly understand him, how he was speaking to the future when, presumably, humans would have evolved the higher intelligence he himself already possessed. Ah, the Myth of the Elusive Last Word! The world has not yet ceased interpreting Nietzsche, and it never will as long as his works persists, so he didn’t have the last word, after all, and neither will Anonymous -- and neither will I, for that matter. The world spins on, opinions multiply. Whatever we say, however carefully we say it, someone will find a way to object. 

Well, sorry! I digress.

Anonymous left a second note written in black magic market on his blue masking tape. Or maybe this was his first note, the inked list his second? Anyway, here's the shorter message:

I don’t know if you can read that. What it says is, “Also, Respect Your Customer.” Then below that it says, “WTF? Nice Joke,” with an arrow that pointed down (before I removed it) to my browsing instructions. 

My first response to “WTF” was “NVN!” (By that I mean Not Very Nice.) But it’s so hard to interpret the rest without context or facial expression. By “Nice Joke,” was he saying he appreciated my humor (as do most people coming through the door)? Or was he being sarcastic? Well, no way to know, is there? As far as respecting the customer goes, though, I’m proud to say I have an excellent track record, but don’t take my word for it. Ask around. I'm not hiding behind anonymity. 

And now, enough of that nonsense. It was fun for a while and good for a laugh to start the day, but let’s not get completely distracted by anonymous note-writers or bullying tweeters, because the more we can talk to each other face-to-face, the better our lives will be. 

Also, whatever you do, do not lose track of my Thursday Evening Author series, with two more events to go this summer! Next week, Michael Zadoorian! Read about his new novel here, and come meet him on August 8! 


BB-Idaho said...

I guess the retail trade has its downsides (thinking of the literary
vandalism) and I agree 'young male' is the likely culprit- probably gives them the giggles. It is almost retrograde internet anonymous
nastiness; actual pen and actual paper (the handwriting looks different in each note) with a long history going back millennia.
Rome was notorious for its graffiti; a regular ancient reddit. I hope you take it with a grain of salt and consider the carved inscription in Palmyra. "My hand may wear out, but the inscription will remain" Paper trumps rock in that respect!

P. J. Grath said...

Thanks, BB! Good to "see" you again here. Hope life has been treating you well. I admit my first reaction was an adrenalin rush, as if I'd been attacked, but that subsided very quickly, and I had to laugh. And anyway, I got a blog post out of it, didn't I?