Thursday, June 4, 2009


I talk too much. I may have mentioned this before... but then, garrulity, at least by my example, holds no special promise of anything new, does it? To be scrupulous, when I last reviewed this subject, I was worried that at the next day's meeting I would say more than I meant to, not so much by volume as by weight. I am too easily persuaded, as I said then, to make of the most innocuous solicitation a platform. Evidently, in this last instance, I was, if no less forthcoming, at least uncharacteristically kept on point. Happy exception! But tonight I am more concerned with my general nattering.

I've always been chatty. In my defense -- a phrase from the use of which I promise hereafter to refrain -- I am at least aware, even as I gab and gab, that I ought always not. I try very hard, nearly every day, at work, to check myself. I do work hard at what I do and I do try not to waste my own, my customers' or the company's time. My job is such that there are clever, funny people almost always by. We talk amongst ourselves, it's true, but not always to excess. And when I do talk too much, it is as likely to be with my customers, many already I feel I can proudly count among my friends. We giggle, which is excusable, I think, if hardly in keeping with professional standards, and we laugh out loud, which, if we did it just a little more infrequently, might lend the place an unlooked-for but not entirely unwelcome bonhomie. (There are times, believe me, sometimes whole days at a stretch, when the business of talking about, of buying and selling books could benefit from a lighter atmosphere.) If I didn't enjoy most of my customers, I'd quit. I've known booksellers who did not, in the end, like their customers, or really having customers to like or dislike. Most had the sense to seek out new lines of work. There are times of course when if I couldn't laugh, I'd cry. And I'd like to think that mine is an infectious laugh, but then wouldn't we all? If it is, it seems, the immunity is common enough. My trouble is that this giddiness of mine can get the better of me. When this happens, and I admit, it does happen, I imagine everything more amusing than it is, most particularly, me. My trouble comes then not from excluding others from the ongoing conversation I have with the public, or even from being insensitive to the unhappiness of others, but from insisting everyone is meant to be having as good a time as I am at the bookstore. I am not mindlessly cheerful, mind, but I try to enjoy my working life, and to make the experience of my customers as pleasant as may be.

But I can misjudge my opportunities. As when, say, some otherwise amiable soul comes politely up to the desk just looking to get a book and go, having not the slightest interest, frankly, in me or my opinions, silliness, or state of mind. Usually I recognize this and behave myself professionally. Occasionally though, in my enthusiasm, or perhaps betraying a compulsive need to be thought endearingly jocose, I must be rather too much. I tend to think I've only to include any newcomer in my good mood, by explaining and or elaborating the joke, and by so doing add to the general mirth of the day. When this fails, as I ought by now to know it may, I should just to shut the hell up. I should just shut the hell up, you will say, well before any awkwardness arises and you are right. I should just shut the hell up more often as a general rule, you might be moved to point out, and, again, I can not fault the argument. Instead, when I feel it necessary, or more likely once I've begun to panic in the face of either evident disinterest or impatience, I have been known to provide both sides of a conversation that has actually ended, but for me, and in which the other party never intended to become engaged.

In other words, I find myself talking to myself. Now that's not right, is it? That is what crazy people do. I am disconcerted by it myself.

No wonder then, just today, I'm sure I frightened, pissed off or at least frustrated a perfectly nice gentleman who'd come in looking for a book he'd heard of, but did not otherwise know enough about. He'd been listening to a discussion, as they say, "already in progress," on the radio and thus missed the author's proper name, and slightly misheard the title. I was happy to talk this through, that we might find the book together, and after quite a long time, I eventually did find the right information and order the book. My problem is that I might have done this without, at the same time, being an ass.

I did what I ought to have done: I searched our inventory, tried variant spellings and alternate titles, consulted the Internet, eventually even called the radio station. I did, I insist, do everything right. I was glad to do it. But, why feel the need to narrate the process? Why did I insist that, in addition, this transaction required a constant stream of happy gibes and jokes, of patter and yes, I fear, even song?! I think I was embarrassed not to have done better by my customer sooner. This happens every day, and when it does, while I'm searching, grasping really, for the right title or the right author, I talk. Sometimes, as it was today, this is a mistake. I talk too much. I babble. And this afternoon, as the minutes ticked agonizingly by without result, I talked. I joked. I gabbed merrily away. As my researches became necessarily more elaborate, and my own frustration and embarrassment increased, why, I must say again, did I not just shut the hell up?!!

My dear and helpful coworker tried, I think to help me, to calm me, but even she finally had to move on to another customer or task, with I should think the greatest relief, leaving me there, on hold, on the phone and typing madly away at the computer, and... talking. My poor customer tried valiantly not to resent my noisy, nosey help, I think. And really, I was trying to make him happy. I was.

The wonder is, he didn't tell me to just shut the hell up himself.

And now, home and still obsessing, again, I can not stop yakking away about yakking away, if only here, and in my head. I was tempted, before I left utterly defeated for the day, despite having found the nice man his book at last, to take my customer's name and information and send him something in the way of an apology. A book. A gift card. A note. But then, that would have been insane. I don't think compounding my bad manners with stalking is a good idea at all, come to think of it.

I am sorry. Again I seem to be talking, or just now writing, too much and saying too little.

Evidently I never quite know when to just... you know.

So instead I am biting my foolish tongue as I write.


  1. I always made a running commentary while trying to unearth a mysterious title. It was both a desperate attempt to keep the customer interested in the hunt and a way to get them talking - the more they talked the more clues I might get. Sadly more than once, the customer would beg me to stop looking just as I thought I was getting warm. There I was madly running through the store saying, "And now we'll check the book review from 2 weeks ago!" while the customer was squeaking out, "I have to go now, I really don't think I wanted that book very much after all. Nevermind.."

    Oh those were the days!

  2. For some of us, they never end, my dear.