Interesting People

9 08 2008

So I was working at Barnes & Noble tonight and I got to thinking about some of the regulars that frequent the store.  Some of them are pretty interesting.  

There are the people who come in for hours at a time and leave bookmarks in the books they put back on the shelves.  Maybe that’s not too unusual, but I’ve never really thought of doing it.  There are the young asian kids who sit in the aisles and read manga for hours.  There are the young couples who sit in the sexuality aisle and make crude jokes as they peruse the kama sutra books.  And then there are the more shy ones who take the sex books to the kids section or the nature section to read them so they won’t get caught and then they re-shelve them afterward with the kids cookbooks or something crazy like that.  And there a few individuals that stand out as well.  One guy basically followed the female manager around the sales floor, pretending to browse but was actually just checking her out.  Kinda creepy.  Another guy with a fro comes in and wanders aimlessly around the store.  We think he might be a crook, but one day he came and submitted a job application, I think it was to throw us off his trail a bit.  

There are a couple of brothers (probably like 10 and 12 years old) I’ve seen in the store a few times that are just too smart for their own good.  Today they came in and they were trying to haggle prices of some encyclopedia-type books with me.  And one of them wanted to know where the latin dictionaries were because “school was starting soon and you know…”  Who is this kid?  Who needs a latin dictionary in middle school?  Then at the checkout he looks behind me at a copy of the DSM and says, reading the title, “the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatry.  Man, just reading the name of that book makes me want to have one.”  The funny thing is, if I hadn’t been so shy as a kid I might’ve sounded like that to other people (I’ll tell you a story about me in a sec).  

The last guy I want to mention is probably my favorite.  He comes in quite frequently and he will grab a handful of tattoo magazines, Tattoo, Tattoo Life, Savage, and he takes them somewhere in the store and quite often he will lie down on the floor and start reading his magazines.  And he talks to himself all the time.  Sometimes he’ll take a break from reading and just lie there looking thoughtfully at the ceiling and muttering to himself.  When he realizes you’ve seen him he says something like “God is amazing!” or “There are such beautiful things around us!” referring to the tattooed women he has been studying.  It’s actually sort of funny.  

So in all, kinda funny stuff.  But now I’m gonna get a little serious.  These people that I’m poking fun at here, I actually admire them in a way (except for the creep and the crook).  It brings a smile to my face to see people who are so obviously out of the norm, but also obviously quite comfortable with it.  I imagine it brings a sense of freedom with it that I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced before.  For better or for worse, I feel like I’ve lived my life trying to fit in.  And I can’t help but think what would be different if I had been more comfortable being a little out of the ordinary.  Maybe nothing.  Maybe I never was out of the ordinary or maybe people now think I’m out of the ordinary.  Either way, I see something in those people that seems liberating.  It makes me think.

And now, the story I wanted to tell.  Seeing those boys today who were too smart for their own good made me think back to a time when I was trying to be too smart for my own good.  When I was in about grade 5 I was browsing through the encyclopedia one day and I came across something utterly fascinating: the periodic table of the elements.  At the time, I had grand dreams of science and chemistry in my future and I thought this periodic table thing was right down my alley.  So I memorized which symbols went with which elements.  By grade 6 I knew what all the symbols stood for and I could list off almost half of them by memory.  I was always looking for the most up-to-date table that had the names of the most recently discovered elements so that I could memorize them, too.  In grade 8 wood shop I made a coat rack in the shape of the periodic table.  Somewhere along the line I learned that Marie Curie had discovered some elements and won the nobel prize and died and she became my hero.  I definitely had the makings of a know-it-all.  And that’s the story of my juvenile love affair with the periodic table of the elements.  Turns out I didn’t really go in that direction at all.  Oh well, I still know what all the symbols stand for. :)

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