Saturday, October 2, 2010

Clean Up On Health and Wellness Aisle, Please

The city of Portland has a plethora of cool places. Like the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and the Japanese Garden, and Washington Park. We also can boast the fact that Powell's, the largest independent bookstore in the world, resides here. This amazing store literally takes up an entire block of downtown Portland.

I visited Powell's the other day as a treat for myself after enduring my pulmonary function studies. I should have probably delayed my visit until another day when I was not tired from the whole huff and puff experience, but then I always have had issues with instant gratification.

So I strolled around the meandering ancient brick building with pleasure but also a quickly depleting energy reserve. And as I have mentioned previously, when I am tired, I am also cranky and stupid. Not a really attractive combination of traits, but there it is.

By the time I had made it to the top story of the store, (and it's hard to tell what number of stories the store has since some are halfway between others), to the wellness and health area, I needed to pull up a stool and plop down in front of the bookshelves. Which were surprisingly sparse, come to think of it. I would have guessed that a store that encompassed a city block would contain at least an acre or two of books on such an important topic.

At any rate, there I sat sweating and pondering the fact that there was one - just one - book on autoimmune disease sitting by it's little lonesome self surrounded by books about chronic fatigue. I stood up rather disappointed. Then looked with surprise at the pile of books prominently displayed directly above the chronic fatigue books. This is what I saw:


I picked up the book and paged through it, becoming crankier and stupider by the minute. Yes, Wendy Wasserstein has written some wickedly funny satire, and I'm sure that had I seen this book displayed anywhere else in the store, I would have been mildly entertained.


Sorry. I didn't mean to shout.

As I mentioned, I was plenty cranky at the point and stupid enough that I really didn't care if I made a scene. In my favorite bookstore.

Meanwhile, a skinny young man with Powell's credentials hanging prominently from a lanyard around his neck had the bad timing to walk past me. I snagged his elbow and spun the astonished clerk around to face the stack of offending books.

"Do you see this??" I snarled.

He looked with panic from me, to the books, and back to me again, and swallowed nervously. "Um, Ma'am?"

I shoved my nose within two inches of his pimply face. "Let me make something clear. I find it extremely offensive that a book about SLOTH should be displayed prominently above books about chronic fatigue. A slothful person has a choice how they spend their energy. Chronically ill people DON'T. If someone thought they were being clever and funny, they were wrong. WRONG!!"

I noticed at this point that patrons from several aisles over were craning their necks to see what the ruckus was about, but I couldn't have cared less. I glared at this poor kid as he recovered from his shock and finally grasped what I was trying to say. At the top of my lungs. While sweating buckets from walking up several fights of stairs.

His face turned a bright red as he beat a hasty retreat to the safety of his computer station and began to punch telephone buttons frantically.

"We need a manager to health and wellness. NOW. What? I don't care if he's busy. What? Well put him on the phone, then. Yes, NOW!!...........Hello, sir. Yes, I......I know you're occupied, but I have, um, a very upset customer here.........well, yessir, I did talk to her......(NO YOU DIDN'T, YOU LITTLE SNIVELING WEASEL, I thought. Hm. I hope  I was thinking this instead of loudly vocalizing it, come to think of it......)

He cringed behind his computer monitor and timidly offered me the receiver. "He wants to talk to you."

I snatched the phone in time to hear a carefully calm voice say, "Hello! I'm Doug. Can I help you?"

"Well, hello, DOUG, my name is Julia."

Out of the corner of my eye I could see the pimply kid scurry over to the offending books and begin to scoop them up as fast as he could. He scuttled around the nearest book shelf carrying a precariously tall stack of Sloth books.

I repeated my earlier comments at the same approximate decibel range. By this time a small crowd of patrons had gathered.

"Look. This is my favorite book store. I have been coming here for years. I know your staff is better than this. I know you can do better." I finally paused for breath.

"Ma'am. I'm sure that this was not intentional. Of course it was completely inappropriate that those books should have been placed in this department. So sorry......." his voice trailed off as I placed the receiver back in the cradle. Not very gently, I'm afeared.

By now, I had blown off a considerable amount of steam. I sat back down on my stool, my cranky energy completely spent. The clerk poked his head out from his hiding place. "Are you OK, Ma'am? I really am sorry that you're offended."

I felt like a helium balloon that had been popped. And slightly embarrassed at my outburst.

"Oh. Well, thanks for moving the books. I appreciate that." I slung my purse over my shoulder and slowly lumbered to my feet. As I began walking toward the stairs, a man approximately my age followed me and tapped my shoulder. I turned around in surprise.

"I just want to thank you for bringing that to their attention. I noticed the same thing but was kind of afraid to say anything. I take lots of medications for a mental disorder and they make me so zonked out that some days I can't even get out of bed." He smiled and walked quietly away.

My embarrassment disappeared. Yeeeeaaaah. Actually, and probably unfortunately, I'm accustomed to making a scene periodically.

I'm just glad that occasionally others can benefit from my crankiness. So there.

Powell's images found on The Insatiable Reader.


annie said...

Yeah Julia! Who did the layout for the store and what were they thinking? I'm surprised no one complained before, but if they're like the rest of us and have a chronic illness and they're on meds and brainfogged, maybe they didn't really notice where the books were placed!

Anonymous said...

Your my hero !!

And bu, the way, I have to get to that store !