I just left Borders a few moments ago and I was the victim, once again, of Literary Profiling. It’s starting to piss me off. And I’ll state right here at the outset that I’ve received this treatment at Barnes & Noble as well, so its not a matter of the store I choose. It’s a matter of these book-Nazis assuming that certain types of people buy certain types of books.
I took a look in the mirror when I got home. I had pretty standard apparel on for me:
Navy Blue Baseball Hat, Duke University
Navy Blue Fleece Pullover
Navy Blue w/white side stripe Nike warm-up pants
Navy Blue Crocs, Chicago Cubs Logo
Various undergarments (none of which are Navy blue!)
Granted, I look more prepared for the gym than I do the bookstore, but that’s no excuse for Literary Profiling. But that’s exactly what happens when I walk into a book store. They see me walking through the new releases and tell me, very politely, that they have some great new books in the Sports section in back.
It’s almost like they don’t want the smart-looking people to see me browsing the books up front. Apparently, they think I’m some kind of smart-person scarecrow.
“Oh look, the Neanderthal wanna-be jock guy is looking at the jacket of that book, it must have pictures and small words! I won’t even bother picking it up.”
When I go into the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section, they assume I’ve gotten lost. Apparently, I don’t look like a guy who can appreciate a story about Elves and magic. And so:
“Excuse me Sir, can I help you find something? Are you looking for a gift?” Why must I be shopping for a gift? Why can’t I enjoy wizards and witches and magical swords? Huh?
Well, lately it’s been much, much worse for me. I’m not normally someone who reads the classics. I much prefer contemporary works to the oldies, but for the past few months, I’ve been on a Kurt Vonnegut kick. I’ve gone through almost his entire library of works, with only a few left to go.
Granted, it’s the beginning of Christmas shopping season now, so its not uncommon for the register person to ask I need a gift receipt, but this has been going on since this summer and they aren’t just asking if I need a gift receipt, they ASSUME I need one!
Here are some of the various things that have been said to me after plopping down one of Vonnegut’s books at the register:
“Oh, do you have a Vonnegut fan in your family?” Yes. Me.
“Are you buying this for a special someone?” Yes. Me.
“Oh, look, Siren’s of Titan, one of my favorites! You know it’s not your typical science fiction right?” Yes. I do.
“Breakfast of Champions! You know it’s not about the cereal!” [ha, ha, ha!] Really? I thought it was a recipe book!
Do I have the word DUH written on my forehead? Is it impossible for someone who dresses like I do to enjoy dark humor and scathing wit? And let’s face it folks, anyone who’s ever read Vonnegut knows that it’s not tough reading. A middle-school kid could get quite a bit of Vonnegut and would have no trouble reading him.
So, what’s with these elitist, book-nerds who don’t want to let me play in any reindeer games? I bet if I came in wearing a half-tucked shirt, dark-rimmed glasses and mismatched socks they’d be nice to me! Do I really have to nerd it up in order to have a peaceful shopping experience? Do I really need to dress the part so that I won’t be met with incredulity when I reach the cashier?
I’m a dork. I’m proud of the fact that I’m a dork, but I don’t have to dress like a dork do I? Aren’t the Cubs Crocs enough proof of my dorkdom? Do I really need to push the envelope farther than that in order to gain your respect bookstore people?
So, no. I don’t need help finding my way back to the Sports books section and I’m not interested in the new NASCAR picture book you recently got in for the Holidays. Yes, I’m actually buying this deep and intellectual book for me. Hooked on Phonics not only worked on me, but it created a miracle! Jesus hisownself, of water to wine and rising from the dead fame has nothing on athlete-wannabe guy who learned to enjoy books of substance!
I just want to do my book shopping in peace. I like being in bookstores. I like grabbing a cup of coffee and wandering aimlessly in my comfy clothes for an hour or two, just reading the jackets of various books and picking one or two to take home with me. I like being left alone while I wander through the Psychology section and the Writing section and the Classics section. It’s not a jungle. Navigation, even for a Neanderthal like me, isn’t that difficult. The HUGE signs hanging all over the place letting me know what section is where are extremely helpful and do a wonderful job all on their own.
So, in the future, book store people, just smile and assume I’m exactly where I want to be in your store. Assume that I’m buying these books for myself and that I’m a big boy who can understand all of the big words and big thoughts inside them. And please, just stop it with the Literary Profiling.