Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A career for the introvert

Listed, ready to shelve so they can await buyers.  Downyflake finds the whole process rather boring.

Selling books is probably the most ridiculous job a person could have.  OK, one of the most ridiculous.  Well, pretty ridiculous.

Books are becoming a specialty item for a niche market.  Readers are still pretty abundant, for read-and-toss (which is also a great book type for digital reading) and for Fifty Shades of DaVinci or whatever.  But readers who want to collect them, or to pay postage for cheap copies, are getting fewer.

There's just one problem.  I love doing it.  I love books, but more than that, I love connecting readers with books by offering them something they love, or finding them a deal.  This is why the invention of online selling is as close to heaven as I can get on this earth.  I can match-make people with books they want, and still retain control over my interactions.

The fan of free enterprise who bought this never paid for it.  But we sell online!  We don't ship till we're paid!  Sale was cancelled and it's been relisted.

So, OK, online selling is what I love.  When somebody discovers our online store and buys a whole boxful, I'm not just a businessperson.  I don't just say commodity in, commodity out.  I picture the pleasure of the customer getting a box and opening it and finding it full of books.

You'd think I was a People Person or something.

I am emphatically not.  People stress me.  A real bookstore owner would, should, love jawing with customers and talking books and responding to requests.  I really prefer to just pick my own stock and let it sink or swim, so I'm not only not very People-y, I'm not very business-savvy either.

That's not me.  My ideal bookshop was going to be called Bad Attitude Books, and the philosophy was going to be; "If you want something, buy it, if not, go home."

Or maybe my own version of the "You break it, you've bought it" sign, which would read, "You talk me to death, you've bought it."

Really, put 4 bucks in the tip jar, and then yap away.  I'll apply the $4 to a purchase, but if you force me to act interested in Christian Amish romance novels  (It's a really big genre.  Seriously.), then buy nothing, I'll keep the dough as a listening fee.

See how awful I am?

Counter-leaners come in three types, and one is interesting and supportive of the store.  I'm cool with that.  The others are the dreary ones, and the ones who are out to distract us.  The best was the husband-and-wife shoplifting team.  He leaned on one elbow and yacked congenially while she pocketed paperbacks.  And little gift items.  More profit down the tubes to buy a video surveillance camera.

No we don't do special orders.  Nobody ever comes back for them.  Literally nobody.  We had a 100% forget-it rate on them.

No, I haven't read Lifetime TV-Type Plot of the Month Lady Novelist.  The whole "wasn't it great?" thing rarely happens between me and another reader because I read strangely.

That doesn't mean I read better stuff, just that I'm never in sync with other readers, good books or bad.  Surely everybody's read The Help!  I might get to it eventually.  I am an unrepentant lover of some of Dean Koontz's books, but tend to dislike the ones others love. I've never even read The Age of Innocence, but I did read The Children, which absolutely blew me away.  I think it gets wrongly classed with Edith Wharton's potboilers and is much finer.  In other words, I am a book person, but entirely the wrong book person for whatever topic others are on.

Excuse me, what were we talking about?  O yes, ways in which running a real store (which we did for a year in 2004-5) was taxing.

No, we can't "do better" on the @^%#ing price.  You enjoy wheeling and dealing, negotiating is a form of recreation for you?  Congrats.  I find that about as much fun as cutting my toenails.  Know what I enjoy?  Paying the @^%#ing  rent, that's what I enjoy.

So I stubbornly plug away at selling books online and try to believe it's what I'm meant to do;  that it's one of the ways in which I make a difference that I don't necessarily ever see or know about.

We do fantasize about opening a walk-in store again, in a place where it might be appreciated, but that, and the necessity of doing it on our own terms, are critical.  I want to own the building, and I want to welcome interesting people who actually support the business, and I want to be able to tell the tedious ones that lean on the counter extolling the virtues of O'Reilly's newest so-called history book, that it's junk.

Friday, August 24, 2012

I had to draw my own.

It's not that I've looked at every single cartoon about the "legitimate rape" thing.  Maybe somebody else has done it, and undoubtedly better. 

And having to choose between denial of science, and hideous lack of compassion is absurd, but still, the realistic scientific view that violent assault does not trigger some kind of mythical bodily defense against pregnancy, makes the absolutists' to-hell-with-you treatment of women who've been impregnated by assault much much nastier.  To me.  I wish I could draw.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Control Issues. [R] language warning

I've always lived by the idea that we have some control.  Maybe not as much as we want, maybe over surprising things and not always over what we want to have it over, but that applying some wisdom increased our ability to control outcomes. 

There's the Serenity Prayer:  serenity to accept what I can't change but courage to change what I can, with wisdom to know the difference.  Maybe I interpreted that the way I wanted to, more than the way it ought to be interpreted.   And there's the Gandhi quote I repeat over and over:

But life for a few years now has sent disquieting messages that nothing is certain; that being an emotionally well-centered adult requires acceptance of that, and ability to enjoy life anyway.

I sit here in a comfortable house some people would sell their souls for, and I want to flee, and then hate myself for my ingratitude, which is kind of a useless pattern unless I go deeper into why I'm so tense and unhappy.

But the reason is the pervasive uncertainty of it.  A parade of funerals.  Storm vulnerability.  Exposure of this formerly out-in-the-boonies little dirt road to the outside world.

I'm very grudgingly revisiting a book I bought a year ago and have avoided reading : Comfortable with Uncertainty.  The fact that I bought it long ago indicates I dimly realized I needed to deal with the issue, but that's as far as I got.

About once a year we see swaths of road-bank grass on either side of our house, and saplings just inside the woods, brown and wither in an obviously unnatural manner.

It also shows up all over the county, and there was no doubt that the county was poisoning the vegetation, for reasons unknown - I figured it was cheaper than mowing the shoulder.
It wasn't quite the reason, but I was close. The other day we caught the county employee spraying nauseatingly day-glow-purple-colored poison along the edge of our woods, and he insisted it was required to keep limbs from interfering with the power lines. Never mind that no limbs are anywhere near the lines.  The worst ice storm on earth wouldn't bring any of those limbs into contact with the lines.  Never mind sending a crew to cut limbs instead -- too expensive.  It's standard county policy; spray poison within X-distance of the lines. The groundwater or marsh runoff be damned.

Not a great photo - but last year's poisoning shows in the brown patch and dead saplings. THIS year's, sprayed the day before the photo, is just starting to yellow out - see  foreground, and background just behind the discarded drink cup.

The bypass highway is one block over from our street, and the traffic noise has always been there, but the neighborhood used to be left alone when it was not a destination to anywhere.  Then the bike bridge brought SUV after SUV of tourists, blocking the road (It's just dirt!  It can't be a road!), dumping trash.  Our neighborhood is theirs to do with as they please.

Take the green snake.

Here comes the bad language. And no, that "damned" in the paragraph a bit above was Jane Austen-esque compared to my feelings about some other things.

In the brush next to our driveway, there lived, past tense, a small green snake.  One morning about 3(?) weeks ago, I came out and it lay dead at the side of the dirt road, its head cleanly chopped off.  Not run over by a car, not attacked by an animal.  Neatly cut by a man-made implement, and left to rot in the sun.

Some total and complete fucked in the head tourist came into OUR neighborhood, decided to walk/jog/bike down our little country lane, did not approve of the little country wildlife on our little country lane, and had the arrogance to decide the snake was not entitled to live.

I understand snake fear.  I understand quick reaction that can't take time to look at head shape -- venomous snakes have distinctive heads -- and I'd have understood if this snake were at all sizable, or had any kind of scary markings.  Some harmless snakes look similar to venomous ones unless you know the markings.

But WHO on this godforsaken planet is LEFT that doesn't know small plain green snakes are harmless?  Who doesn't know that they eat little pests and certainly hurt nobody?  Jerknuts tourists from concrete jungles?

Am I supposed to feel sorry for the daily lives of those property-rights-challenged touristas, and not begrudge them this brief vacation in a place with country lanes whose wild residents are so unfamiliar?

I don't feel sorry for them and I do begrudge them.  They can go to goddam zoos, where the wildlife is protected from them behind walls, and they could realize it's, duh, not their neighborhood or their place to make any bloodydamn decisions here, and they could learn some basic kind of response to new experiences, like, say, leave it alone if it's not affecting your life or wellbeing.  There is no way that this Touron felt threatened or trapped.  The snake was not invading the moron's space.  There was plenty of space to avoid the snake, which lay at the SIDE of a wide road going in two directions.   Even massive ignorance doesn't make killing it, rather than dashing off, logical.

Why couldn't I have caught them at it?  I know, best I didn't.  It would have been unpleasant.

My reaction is awfully big, considering the fact that the species isn't in jeopardy and there are are plenty more little green snakes living large all around the area.  I feel like it's not just another wildlife anecdote, and it's not just another lamentation about how this quiet little street that used to be nowhere anybody would walk to, now is violated by trash and crass stupidity and now, thefts, over and over. 

Someone has broken into our basement again.  Our ground floor linen closet holds only some old bedspreads and a black-and-white screen gameboy.  They were terribly disappointed.  I'd like to disappoint them further with a cartilage-popping kick to the knee.

Someone else has stolen some small hockable items of cherished sentimental, more than monetary, value from inside the house.  Family obligations have sent us off on several short trips in the past few months, and we still think that the people to whom we needed to give access while we were gone would never do this.  We're saddened, angered and baffled because no answer makes sense, except that someone left the door unlocked, but it adds to the bafflement and the uncertainty.

Yeah, we're looking into ways to take back some control over this.  We can do more about the house than we can about the Nature Lovers. No locks will keep away the poison or the trash dumping or the wildlife abuse.

Eventually yall will realize that I am not being funny when I say I am not a nice person. I dream of painful justice.  I also feel like it's been a long time since I posted anything joyful or positive.  Anger is a natural response to most of this and I don't want to beat myself too badly about it, but I do feel spiritually off-kilter in my loathing for so many fellow human beings.

You see dead animals on roads all the time, and I always hate it, but the death of that one little snake just tore it for me.  We feel we have so little control over our home and lives anymore, and it's just the precise illustration of that.

OK, so, Gandhi's quote.  It's about leaving results in other, or Other, hands, but not about saying we can't make a difference.  In our tiny little ways, we help the birds and the garden spiders and an occasional turtle or lizard, and we take some cans to the food bank, and maybe I only need to believe we have power to make an actual difference.  Unless we're given something else to do, these must be what we're meant to do.

And of course, somewhere inside, I have the fantasy that there's a Shangri-La we could get to where there are no natural threats like fires or storms, and no jerks, and I'll never get teed off again and can sit and sip tea in blissful serenity.  I know it's rot, but my knowledge is intellectual, not heartfelt.

I'm not sure I can let go of the need to have some power. The idea that I really have no control over anything disturbs me, so I'm sitting in a comfortable house with air conditioning and a refrigerator stocked with food, and swearing anyway, because I'm starting the grieving process for the idea of Control now.

I may be through the Denial phase but I'm probably gonna be stuck in Bargaining for awhile, mixed with Anger and gloom, before I get to acceptance.  I might not ever get there.  It's not lookin' good.