Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Old Man

I have worked at Borders Bookstore for almost 3 years now. One of the reasons I love working there is that by nature bookstores attract a very diverse clientele. The liberal, the conservative, the artsy, the sciency, the cooks, the conspiracy theorists, the creepers, and the people who get mad when we don't have green lightsabers.

The last person I helped today was an old man.  He was disheveled, sewaty, breathing hard, and smiling.

I asked him how he was today.

Grinning and squinting his eyes he said: "Oh, as good as I can be. How about you?"

I told him I was fine, and asked if I could help him find anything.

Clearing his throat, and in a rueful tone he said: "Yes... I am looking for any books you may have on stopping hearing loss, or maybe any books on recovering lost hearing."

I remember my Great Grandpa Joe sitting in his big chair, propped up by pillows. I told Grandpa how sunday school was through a microphone that connected to the stereo that connected to his bulky headphones. 
I wanted very much to help this man. He was so sincere; so determined. He had a problem, and he was set on finding out how to go about fixing it.

I told him that I would look it up in the computer.

He stood to my left, leaning a little on the information desk catching his breath. The search results came and we didn't carry anything on hearing loss in the store. The books listed as "availible to order" taunted me. 

I told him that we didn't have anything in the store. His smile faded.

I told him that I could take him up to the section that those books would be in... just in case.

"Yeah, I'll take a look there." His eyes were hope.

I headed towards the stairs and pointed to the elevator saying that he could take it if he would like. 

"No, no." He followed me up

There are are two levels at Borders with two landings on the staircase as it winds upwards.

As we climbed, his breathing grew heavier and his steps slowed. I reached the top and stood there uncomfortably. Should I look at him as he struggled up the last set of stairs? Maybe smile encouragingly? Should I look away? Pretend to adjust a book and leave him alone with the last few steps of torment?

I couldn't decide.

He reached the top and sighed. "Alrighty." 

We  arrived at the "Health and Wellness" section. I put one hand on my chin and used the other to touch and move aside books as I combed the shelves for books on hearing loss prevention.

There weren't any.

I told him that I didn't see any. 

"Oh, well... Ok."

Looking at the shelves dejectedly I saw some sort of family health encyclopedia thing. I snatched it off the shelf and flipped to the index desperately.

"There we are, Hearing Loss: page 349." I said.

Smiling, he took the book from me. "Good man." 

He strode off to find a seat.

1 comment:

  1. In addition to being an exceptional human, you are also wonderful at giving great customer service! I, too, used to work in a book store, loved to help customers find challenging things, and am discouraged at how many people do not take the extra effort to provide adequate service, much less great service. Thank you for providing an example to those around you and for showing at least a few customers that people such as yourself DO still exist in the world - people who care about doing the right thing, not just the easy thing!