The end of the school year (both K-12 and college) brings a flurry of odd bookstore encounters.
Two high schoolers (likely boyfriend/girlfriend) are looking around the history section with that utterly lost look on their faces.
Me: Can I help you find something?
Girl: Well…we need to read 1984 but it’s not here. (Waves at US History)
(Oh honey, no….)
Two teachers are wandering around in the fiction section.
Male teacher: Do you have any Faulkner?
Me: Yes we do – which book are you looking for?
Female teacher: Oh, any are fine.
(I showed them the shelf of Faulkner, they made appreciative noises, and I left them to browse. About 15 minutes later, they come find me.)
Female teacher: Do you have any shorter Faulkner?
Me (shorter?): Are you looking for short stories?
Female teacher: Not really. These are pretty dense. (Shows me Absalom, Absalom, As I Lay Dying, and The Sound and the Fury) We were hoping for something like this but shorter.
Me: Well…I don’t see any abridgements available in the catalogue. There are literature guides like Sparknotes.
Male teacher: Oh, those will work. We just need it for Contest Speech.
(I’ve never come across a kid who did Faulkner for Contest Speech – I can’t decide if that would be interesting or just plain nuts)
Parent with an armload of AP biology and calculus study guides: Are these books guaranteed? The tests are next week and my son needs a 5.
(Unless the courses and exams have changed greatly since 1996, which I doubt, the result is more dependent on whether one paid attention in class all year rather than the cram session but, no, a study guide is not a guarantee of a perfect score.)
Customer (college-aged male): You don’t have any copies of Paradise Lost.
Me (finding this very hard to believe because I saw some not long ago): Well, let’s go look on the shelves in poetry.
Customer: Poetry?? But I don’t want to read a poem.
Me: Here it is, under Milton in poetry.
Customer: Do you have one that isn’t a poem?
Me: No. Milton wrote a poem about the fall of Satan.
Customer: Do you have it in English?
(Give up while you’re ahead, big guy)
Very pleasant college student on the phone: Do you have a copy of Ulysses?
Me: We do, do you need a particular edition?
(She needs the Knopf with the 1961 text, which we had on hand)
Student: Great! I’ll be in to pick it up tonight. Will it take long to read? I have to have my paper done by the end of finals.
(Finals were about 10 days away when she called. Um….)
Most often-heard response to the statement “Unfortunately, I don’t have a copy in the store but I can get one in about a week”:
“But I need it tomorrow!”
(And then when I mention things like libraries and ebooks I get a withering look in return)
I also have a more generalized comment about Lexile scores, but will save that for a different post.