Friday, May 16, 2008

gut reaction

When I was in high school, I worked at Norwalk Book Shop. It was a great part time job; I was surrounded by books, the work was engaging and straightforward, I got to groove to the cool sounds of AM radio, and was often joined by a sister or two during busy times of year.

You know how some memories are distinctly sensory? I remember the smell and the taste of the coffee we used to make in the back room with that gross powdered creamer. I remember sitting back there to eat lunch, and grabbing a book to read off the stock shelves. There was a crazy old-school copier. What a funny, bizarre place.

One day I was working with Jane, and one of us had made a sojourn to the little market next door (by the way, Ellie will be sure to comment at length to supply the names and details for everything that I remember wrong. My brain is a sieve) Was it called Wall Street News? Anyway, it was our habit to have a little candy snack in the afternoons. So this one day, Jane and I were munching on our delicious, nutritious snacks when the phone rang. I set my last bit of kit kat down on the counter to answer the phone. I’m cool like that. “Norwalk Book Shop!” I said helpfully. I was a really helpful teenager. Then I proceeded to respond to whatever question or request or inquiry the woman on the other end of the line had for me.

As I spoke with the caller, something happened.
This something happened in slow motion. It was that shocking.
When it happened, I locked eyes with Jane and time actually stopped as the earth screeched to a halt mid-rotation.

Jane picked up the last bite of my candy - and ATE IT.

It was literally unbelievable. So out of character for Jane – she was the good one!

The resulting pause in the cosmos had but one reasonable resolution. We started to laugh. Jane cracked up – I can SEE her, bent over with her mouth full (bitch) and her eyes tearing up. My gut started to react, the laugh was bubbling up through my esophagus and I threw my head back to scream/roar/guffaw/erupt, and that’s when it hit me. I was still on the phone!

There was no stopping this eruption, I was done for. I tried to talk to the woman, but all I could muster was that breathy, trembly low-talk as the suppressed laughter pounded my brain and oozed out of my every orifice. I somehow managed to bring the phone call to closure. I was desperate to hang up and kill Jane. Just as I thought I was in the home stretch, the woman said:

“May I have your name?”

Oh shit, the gig is up.

Now Mr. Corcillo will know that I was being an idiot on the back phone, not giving the customer the respect or attention that she deserved. Those of you who knew Mr. Corcillo know what a threatening authoritarian he was. And I would have to face his wrath. I told the woman my name, and to this day I kick myself for ratting myself out instead of telling the lady that my name was JANE.

Remember that, Jane? You bitch?


Anonymous said...

Oh. My. God. My coffee's nearly spilling onto my keyboard. The only thing that would make this better is if you DID lie for the
blog. Just, you know, for the Sake Of Art. Hilarious.

Anonymous said...

Crap - I just wrote this long post and it got eaten up and disappeared when I tried to log on to post it.

anyway - how could I forget? I KNEW that's what you'd write about when you wrote the subject line! You have to admit, it was the perfect crime. Still, I feel an apology is long overdue - I'm so sorry I sandbagged you, littlest.

I, too, can remember the smell and feel of that place like it was yesterday. I loved it. I loved the dark back room and the slow times when you could just wander around, searching and looking. Don't you remember every title on the classics rack right in front of the back table?

Ellie, do you remember that one Christmas season afternoon when we were slammed and wrapping (beautifully) tons of presents when a tall, curly-haired red head came in and bought a bunch? She asked if we'd gift wrap them then suggested she come back in an hour, after doing other errands. We got slammed and forgot all about it, until she walked in an hour later and Ellie and I both had an uh-oh moment. She asked for her books and we mumbled some excuse/apology and said they'd be ready in a couple minutes. She stopped and said, "they're not done?" again, mumbles, apologies, and she then positively roared, "THAT SUCKS."

the contrast between that serene, sweet space run by that serene, sweet man and this woman's utterance was stunning!

Ach. We had a great childhood.

BOSSY said...

Bossy's Note To Self: stop eating other people's candy. Instantly!

Anonymous said...

LOVE it, Jane! Of course I remember, but I haven't thought about it in such a long time. "That sucks." LOVE revisiting my memories of NBS. And don't listen to Bossy -- it really WAS the perfect crime!