in an effort to continue being able to pay to live, i'm working in a bookshop.
there's a bit of a disconnect between my experience of working in a bookshop and the way this particular bookshop views working in a bookshop. for it is not that i work in a bookshop. it is that, in working in a bookshop, i have now become a bookseller.
that was before you became a bookseller, a colleague noted in relaying a story of an episode that pre-dated my having come to work there.
this strikes me as tremendously odd, given that i've never once thought of myself- in my time working in a bookshop- as a bookseller.
i am a writer, a biographer, a podcaster, a host of things, a reader. i, um..., put things on the shelf and ring them up. i can apply a discount. i can, when someone walks into the shop and says, "i need a book for a 60 year old man whom i know nothing about," attempt to find a book for them to buy. but i don't think i'm a bookseller.
is this because i'm an american? does being a "seller" of anything automatically sound like being a "car salesman" to american ears?
i am, i realize, perhaps a little too quick to attribute things to my being an american.
the other day, in the bookshop- because a ginormo component of bookselling is gift-wrapping (who knew?!)- i was wrapping a gift.
there is, i have learned in working in a bookshop, something about the way that i, in wrapping a gift, do corners, which is amazingly commendable. seriously. multiple people have commented in tones of awe.
i am prone to hyperbole but this is not exaggeration. the level of their admiration is so out of proportion with the menial task in which i am engaged that i have, repeatedly, blushed at being so lavishly praised for having wrapped a gift in the only way i know how.
they stand back on their heels and, with the pinched lips that betray a (perhaps unconscious) desire to release a slow whistle of admiration, they behold my ability to do corners in a way they have never seen corners done before.
i never would have thought to do them like that! is the common response.
and i've genuinely no idea what they mean, because i don't know what it is that i'm doing because this is how i have always wrapped gifts. ever since i was the kid who everyone in the family paid to wrap their christmas presents. (because i was a young, entrepreneurial capitalist or they were extremely lazy? and/or both??)
i so admire your corners, a woman said to me the other day.
the student feedback on my teaching was unprintable ("um... she tried?") and, hearing this woman say this, i wonder if perhaps it might be added to my CV.
the woman next to her nodded approvingly and joined it: i was just thinking the same!
and i replied that it was maybe some wacky american thing as everyone around here seemed to be taken by surprise. and, inevitably, these two women wound up being americans and were all no, no, no, we never learned to wrap like that, that's not the american way of wrapping.
that is uniquely you, i think, the second woman said.
a kind response that seems so hugely philosophical that it is profoundly ridiculous that it has come in response to my gift-wrapping techniques.
so if all else fails career-wise, apparently there's always gift-wrap.