Wednesday, July 21, 2010


I've written a lot about why booksellers drink--crazed or clueless customers, local authors, odd requests for information, strange phone calls, etc., etc. Earlier this week we had an interaction of a different sort.

One of our good customers, JJ, is a crusty old fart with a brusque manner, but for months I've been greeting her warmly, giving her lots of personal attention and the occasional hug (which always seems to catch her off-guard), taking her special orders. And now when she comes into the store, she smiles and seems at ease.

Monday I returned from an errand to find her at the counter with Alan. I asked how she was, and she said, "I have a big problem here." I thought, "Uh-oh. What did we do?" Practically in tears, she told us that an old friend of hers had moved to Trinidad, Colorado, several years ago, and JJ hadn't heard from her in a long time. She had tried calling her friend, but the voicemail on her cell phone was full and the friend didn't have a landline. Letters to her had gone unanswered. JJ was afraid that the friend had died, and had no way of finding out.

Alan had been using Google to find the name but without success. I asked JJ whether she knew the friend's address, so that perhaps we could use an address finder to locate a neighbor, who might be able to tell her about her friend. She had the address, and I found the names and phone numbers of some neighbors. JJ said she'd call them.

The touching thing for me is that when JJ was at a loss about how to proceed, she came to us.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"The best things in life are free." "No, they're not. You forgot about shipping, handling, and tax."

Back in May, a father came into the store and said that he had a win-win proposition for me. If we would hire his daughter full-time for the summer, he would reimburse us 100%. He wanted to do this because having a job would show the kid the value of money earned by the sweat of one's brow. He assured me that the kid had initiative and was a self-starter. Lost on him was the irony of the kid's not having the initiative to come to the store to apply for a summer job and that Dad was surreptitiously paying her salary to teach her the value of a dollar.

I sent a note to our bookkeeper explaining the proposal, and she wrote back that it was indeed legit, except, "You need to make sure and add up all the cost to you. Your state unemployment tax rate is .03%, your federal unemployment tax rate is .8%, and the employer’s part of FICA is .765%. You will also need to add in the workers' comp insurance cost." Simple!

Michele, Alan, and I discussed the matter for about three minutes and confirmed that we wouldn't accept the offer. We were fully staffed for the summer with three self-starting students who had come in person to pick up applications and applied in January.


Today a customer came in to pick up a playscript that he had special-ordered. He was sore because it was cheaper online from the source he gave us and because he had to pay the County gross receipts tax on it. He did not want to hear about the playscript company's not discounting to the trade, shipping charges, or the capitalist system.


Today a woman presented her unsigned credit card for a purchase. "May I see your ID please?" I asked automatically. She said, "Absolutely not! I don't need to go through a background check just to buy these books from you. I don't sign my credit cards, because if I did, somebody could forge my signature. [Not to mention the possibility that a crook who gets his hands on her signature-free card could just sign it in front of a clerk, thereby making the card appear valid, while also ensuring that the signature on the card will now match the crook's own signature on the receipt.] Here! Here's cash. I resent giving you cash, because I know you make more money from cash transactions." I thanked her warmly and gave her her change. "Do you take local checks without a background check?" she asked. Before I could answer, she turned on her heel and stomped out.

It's been One of Those Days. Fortunately I have a song in my heart to chase them naughty blues away!

I will give you the cash that would otherwise go to support my aged parents back on the farm. Satisfied?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Skate park!

Before Izzy, Kevin, and Erin left to go back to California, we visited the skate park.

Kevin shows off his moves.

Mei can really scoot on her scooter.

Xian wears her protective gear--for drinking Vitamin Water?

Bobbie takes pictures of the action.

Kevin catches some air.

Um, Mei? You're supposed to use a scooter on that feature.

Xin roars by.

Using her best Miss America wave--elbow elbow wrist wrist--Erin greets the crowd.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Happy birthday! Now call the fire department.

It seemed like a good idea at the time: putting sparklers on Mom's birthday cheesecake. The only problem is that you can't blow out sparklers. And you have pyrotechnic residue on the cake. And if you try to catch the residue by covering the surface of the cake with waxed paper, you'll have a waxed-paper fire right there on the birthday table.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Dinner at Gabriel's

For Mom's birthday dinner, we all went to Gabriel's Restaurant between Los Alamos and Santa Fe.

Here's the Birthday Mom.

To commemorate the event, Chuckbert took a picture of Mom's dinner.

And then Chuckbert took a picture of P-doobie taking a picture of Chuckbert while Mombert and Bobbert cracked up.

Bobbie and Izzy posed nicely with some bunny ears.

Bobbie picked up the check. Seeing her distress, I snapped my fingers to summon a waiter and said, "¡Garçon! El desfibrilador, por favor!" He brought us a parachute and some dried apricots.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A birthday present!

This weekend we celebrated our mother's big 9-0 with family, friends, and relatives. The first order of business on any birthday is, of course, presents!

The present was wrapped in fabric that was pinned together. Something this big and cool deserved more than the Sunday comics pages that our dad favored.
L to R. Mei, P, Bobbie (back to camera), Chuckbert, Mom, Xian.

As Erin used to say, "I'm so exciting!"

We decided to replace Mom's boat anchor old computer with an Averatec all-in-one PC with a 25.5-inch screen and wireless keyboard and mouse.

It took only a minute to set up.
L to R. Chuckbert, Mei, P, Xin, Mom.

It looked great!
L to R. Izzy, Mei (back to camera), Chuckbert, Mom, Xin (back to camera).

Mom took it out for a spin.

And she wins her first game of Spider Solitaire!
L to R. Xin, Erin, Xian, Bobbie, Mei, Mom's head, Chuckbert, Izzy.