So long

Jul. 19th, 2011 12:12 am
rightangles: (Default)
[personal profile] rightangles
Today, Borders announced that the company had tried everything they could to remain afloat and had failed. The store and all its assets will be sold to liquidators, who will then close everything, and the company now known as Borders will be gone.

We knew this was coming. We have been in "bankruptcy reorganization" since February. Hundreds of stores have already fallen, and we knew more were scheduled to go. But even through that, even through the past few days of darkness, when things looked too black to see any light, there was always some small part of me that hoped we'd make it through the void. Hope springs eternal, they say. Hope is the thing with feathers, they say, who sings the tune without the words and never stops at all. Obviously, they were right, but to what end? Even with my hope, and the hope of my co-workers, and the hope of my customers, and the hope of so many other people out there, Borders is still dead.

I don't love my job. A lot of it is tedious, thankless and repetitive. (I'm looking at you, endless dusting!) A lot of it makes no sense -- like separating young adult and intermediate books into stand-alones and series, and then alphabetizing by title for series and author for stand-alones, for instance. A lot of it is dealing with customers that you'd rather slap than smile at and say "Come again!" Lord knows, everything in my short time there (a little less than four years) hasn't been perfect, and some of it has been downright infuriating. (The NOH8 pin debacle comes to mind, which still makes me feel angry and ashamed when I think about it.) I bitched and moaned virtually non-stop to anyone who would listen, about illogical policies or obnoxious customers, about annoying traits of my co-workers or angry notes (we called them "howlers") from my manager. I even remember threatening to storm off in a huff on several occasions, never to return.

But I never stormed off. Why? Because I can honestly say the good outweighed the bad. For every ten bad customers, I had one who made everything worthwhile, whose generosity or kindess or gratitude or love of literature outshined all the angry remarks or sour faces I'd heard and seen. I'll miss the man who commandeered me to help in his quest to collect every twenty-five cent bubblegum bottlecap in the collection. I'll miss the woman, crazy as she is, who called every week to ask if we could order her a subscription to Us Weekly -- she called it You-Ess Weekly and always threw in the strangest non-sequiturs, like "Did you know my glasses look like Sally Jesse Raphael's?" or "I just bought new curtains, and I think they're too green." I'll miss the woman whose in love with Drizzt Do'Urden, the man who buys every issue of Playboy with a check and without shame, the guy who comes in and reads Garfield and laughs so loud the whole store can hear him. These are people who I've seen regularly for four years now. I've developed a rapport with them, got them to open up to me (and vice versa!), chat with me when they're in, call me by my name. They're not friends, not really... but then again, in a way, they are. I'm going to miss them.

Most of all, though, I'm going to miss my co-workers, who are my friends. Our Borders Express is very small -- there's only nine of us. And I can't imagine what my next job, whatever it may be, will be like without each and every one of them. Again, like the job itself, they're not perfect. One talks about manga and video games so incessantly that your eyes glaze over and you start to pray for a power outage. Another one has the mouth of a sailor, even though she's the size of a twig with short gray hair and glasses. A few of them have tempers bigger than they are. But we all have fun together. We laugh together. We watch out for each other, and we've learned each other's rhythms, got the dynamics down, understand how everything goes. I'm not an easy pill to swallow -- I'm something of an acquried taste -- and for the most part, my co-workers have accepted me for who I am and what I am. With the exception of that NOH8 pin debacle I mentioned above, I've never felt the need to be anything other than who I am around any of them... and that's amazing.

I'm going to miss them. I'm going to miss the store, too, which is the only bookstore in our county. I'm afraid for the future. We'll always be able to get books -- amazon.com is going nowhere -- but will there always be places to go to buy them? I'm afraid that the Internet is taking away the physicality not only of the written word but also of daily life, stealing away the places we could go for a break from our homes and our jobs. At this point, things look bleak, and I'm afraid things will only get bleaker. But I refuse to let myself get too upset by this. I will mourn, of course; I may even cry on our last day in the store. But the tears will dry, and I will let them.

I mentioned earlier that through this all, I hoped we'd make it through. When I heard about the liquidation, I admit it: I was mad at myself for hoping. I wanted to find an imaginary BB gun and shoot the thing with feathers that sings that stupid song. But now, after a few hours have passed, I've decided: I will continue hoping. I hope that something good will come from this, the death of Borders will serve as a warning that cyberspace cannot be allowed to oust the physical from our lives. I hope that the liquidation process goes smoothly and with the least amount of drama as possible. I hope my co-workers find new jobs quickly, jobs that they love even more than the one we have now. I hope I keep in touch with them after we turn in our keys and name tags. Most of all, though, I hope that the idea of Borders -- everything it gave us and everything it stood for in our eyes -- doesn't die with the brand name.... because our dedication to literature, to customers, and to each other is so much bigger than those big red block letters that will be no more.
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