You ever have one of those days? You know, where you’re afraid that you’re no damn good at what you want to do, your bosses tell you you can’t do the one thing at work that keeps you sane, and some complete stranger phones to threaten to bury you in a shallow grave somewhere? Is it just me?
I might as well start from the beginning. I’m editing a new book and am starting to have doubts. This isn’t the kind of doubt that is rooted in reality, it’s the kind where you just doubt everything about yourself. Consider someone who looks in a mirror and only sees fat-fat-fat no matter what the reality is, and apply that to a writer.
This is nothing new, however. I deal with it every so often, like a relapse of malaria. There are two things that can help get me out of that mood – reading and writing.
Only I’ve been told today that I’m not allowed to read or write at work anymore.
There is no rational reason behind this. I haven’t been slacking at work or had any complaints. In fact, I pay more attention to my customers than anyone else in the various bookstores of our chain, of that I have little doubt. I ask every customer if I can help them and give advice whenever I can.
But this is a situation where the Powers-That-Be, that is the owners who visit the stores maybe once a month for five minutes, see dropping sales in all our stores and go “Those slack jawed yokels must not be working hard enough. We have to do something about it.”
Therefore: no reading, no computers, no eating, no drinking, no telephones while on duty.
What does this amount to for me? MADNESS. Aside from helping customers there is very little for me to do at work. I order new books once in a while, arrange the shelves and the window display. That’s it. This take between ten minutes and one hour of my time. So the rest of the time I’m going to be staring at the wall, jaw hanging open, drool forming a water slide down the ripples of my shirt.
It also just annoys me because it smacks of people putting in a change that will only have a demoralizing effect on the staff, just so they can pat themselves on the back and go “problem solved.”
Sigh. This is just the sort of thing that puts a damper on your whole day. Of course, then I got the death threat.
Phone rings. Guys downstairs answer it (they always do), then forward it to me. Guy wanted to talk to the book shop. The exact words are lost on me, but here is the gist of the conversation.
“Right. You sound like you know what you’re talking about. Are you the fucker I got that disc from?”
“What? Sir, this is a bookstore.”
“I know what it is you cunt, now listen. I came to your store and got a disc, now I got a fucking virus on my computer. I want to know who the fuck I go to about this!”
“Sir, I don’t have any computer discs, I just sell books.”
“Listen, you cunt, if you don’t help me, I’m going to come down there, and bury you.”
“WHAT?! Is this some kind of radio prank?”
“You want a fucking radio prank? I can be down there in twenty minutes. I’ll fucking drag you out of your store, into my Jaguar, and bury you in the park. You understand me? Now what the fuck do I do about this disc I got from your store?”
And so on and so forth. At the end he made it clear he WAS coming down and hung up.
In all likelyhood this was a radio or TV prank. There is a show here called Phonejackers for example. But the worrying thing is, they can’t use that recording without my permission, right? Nobody called to get that permission.
So while I’m 99% certain this is a crank call, the 1% of me that thinks it might be a completely insane nutball who might be completely insane enough to come over. So there is a knot in my stomach that won’t go away no matter how much I convince myself it was just a crank, I’m thinking about how I can use the fire extinguisher to blind the nutter then thwack him with the blunt end of it.
I did not need this, even on a good day. Of course, then I realized. Hey, wow, there’s a story in that. I’ve been thinking about writing a story loosely connected to the various bookstores I’ve worked at (not unlike how I did for teaching with The Professional Tourist) and that would be a great scene, perhaps even a major development. Wow, maybe I should start writing about it now?
Except, I forgot, I can’t write at work anymore.
Oh, and tomorrow should be fun. I’ll end up biking to work at the start of the G20 summit, where the could very well end up being riots springing up everywhere. I bet I’ll be arrested by police. Yay!
Well, just so you all know, regarding my store’s “no reading/computer” policy. I formally say “screw you” and will continue to do exactly what I’m doing now. If they give me any grief I will explain to them that if I am not allowed to read and write when there are no customers around, I will quit. Simple as that.
Or, if I want to be a coward, I can just wear my iPod and listen to audio books all the time. Decisions, decisions…