Friday, May 22, 2015

Story 83: Bookseller Beleaguered

(This is from a sketch I wrote a few years ago, based upon personal experience and observation)

(Scene takes place at the front cash register in a bookstore.  The bookseller at the register goes through the motions with dead eyes.  There is a line of at least 10 people that continuously grows)
Bookseller: (Speaking unenthusiastically as the current customer at the counter takes her bag and leaves) Thank you for shopping at a bookstore, e-books will never fill the void in your soul, next.
Customer 1: (Carrying a small paperback) Just this.
Bookseller: All right.  (He scans it) $8.55.
Customer 1: I only have a 20.  (He hands over the bill and digs in his pockets as the Bookseller enter the amount and the drawer opens) Oh, wait!  I have 13 pennies!
Bookseller: Now I don’t like to depend on a machine to figure out basic change, but to jump in with $20.13 for an $8.55 bill would give even an Honors student pause. (He takes out a calculator)
Customer 1: (Hopping up and down and waving the bill and coins under the Bookseller’s face) Come on, man, I gotta go!
Bookseller: Here! (He exasperatedly throws some change and the book at Customer 1 and yells after him running away) By the way, there’s a camera in the parking lot that’ll see which car you get into, so if my drawer’s short tonight I’m coming after you!  (Customer 2 has walked up to the counter) Wasn’t quite ready yet.  (He closes the register drawer)
Customer 2: Hi, I'm just getting this candy bar.
Bookseller: (He scans it) And the book?
Customer 2: (She drops a textbook onto the counter) Actually, can I leave this with you?
Bookseller: (He sees that Customer 2 is carrying a notebook and that the textbook has a cracked spine and worn pages.  He picks up the textbook and leafs through it) You took notes from this, didn’t you.
Customer 2: Um, yeah.
Bookseller: (He throws the book over his shoulder onto a growing pile behind him) You exploited this book.  It’s no good to anyone now.
Customer 2: (She leaves money on the counter and grabs the candy) Freak.
Bookseller: Go home, book rapist! (Customer 2 runs out of the store as the Bookseller puts the money into the register drawer)
Customer 3: (Arrives at the register with a magazine and speaks in a low voice) Yeah, can I have the latest, um, you know, mumble mumble?
Bookseller: Shyeah, OK.  (He reaches under the counter, scans a sealed magazine, picks up the magazine Customer 3 had brought to the counter, and holds it up with the cover facing out to show that it features marijuana.  He addresses his supervisor who has appeared suddenly at the end of the counter) Holy cow, we sell this?  It’s not even legal in this state yet!  (Customer 3 hangs his head in shame)
Supervisor: Dude, we have a whole section on how to grow it.
Bookseller: (Takes the money Customer 3 gives him and bags the magazines) Really?  That’s like selling pamphlets on how to make your own moonshine during Prohibition!
Supervisor: I know, it’s crazy.
Bookseller: (To Supervisor as Customer 3 slinks away) Listen, could you hop on my drawer for a few minutes?  I gotta go to the restroom really bad.
Supervisor: (Sees the growing line and freezes) Dude.  I can’t ring on your numbers; I’d need a manager to switch the drawer over.  (Her eyes dart to the side) I hear the phone ringing.  (Runs away)
Bookseller: Dead to me.
Customer 4: (Gives the Bookseller a mass market paperback and a piece of paper) I forgot my discount card, so here’s the phone number it’s listed under.
Bookseller: (Enters the number into the register) Oh, I see that this is for an educator discount card.  (He holds up the book) And I see that this is a romance novel.  Do you teach sex ed. to perverts?
Customer 4: You –
Bookseller: Buuuut we’re not supposed to question discounts during hard times such as these.  (He hits a key to enter the discount) $3.83.  (He takes the exact change and gives her the book in a bag) Have a fun prep period, wink.  (Customer 4 leaves in a huff.  Customer 5 walks up to the counter as the door alarm sounds) Excuse me.  (The Bookseller instantly appears at the door in front of a previously unseen customer, who is holding a bag) Hello!  Could you pass the bag through the checkpoint, please?
Shoplifter: You can’t search my bag!
Bookseller: I’m not asking to search your bag, I’m asking you to pass it through the checkpoint again to see if the event can be duplicated.  (The Shoplifter waves the bag between the poles and the alarm sounds again)  Now I’m going to search your bag.  (The Bookseller snatches the bag and pulls out a book) May I see your receipt to verify that one of our capable employees had somehow rung this up incompetently?
Shoplifter: Uh, I think I threw it out.
Bookseller: No worries!  We can have all the garbage cans searched throughout the entire building until that wayward receipt is located!
Shoplifter: Uh, actually, I don’t think it was today.  I mean, I don’t think it was rung up yet.  Yeah.
Bookseller: Well, let me rectify the situation for you right now!  (Everyone on the line moans)
Shoplifter: Uh – (Runs out of the store)
Bookseller: Please come again, white male, 5’11”, blond hair, age 21-35!  With a slight limp.  (The Bookseller returns to the register, files the book and bag into a bin, and applies sanitizer to his hands.  To Customer 5) Now, may I help you?
Customer 5: Yes, I’d like to return this.  (He hands him a book and receipt)
Bookseller: (Reads the receipt) This says February 12.  How long ago was that?
Customer 5: About three months.
Bookseller: Uh huh.  (He turns over the receipt and points to it) And what does this say?
Customer 5: “Items must be returned within 30 days - ”
Bookseller: Uh huh.  I’m sure that, since you had purchased a book, that reading is one of your strengths, no?
Customer 5: I want to speak with your manager.
Bookseller: Let me save you the trouble and tell you the same thing you would hear in about a minute: this isn’t a library!
Customer 5: (Snatches the items and heads for the door) You made a big mistake, pal – I’m calling your corporate office!
Bookseller: By all means!  They’ll send you a $5 gift card and a coupon for one free “Kiss My Ass”!
Customer 10: (Standing halfway through the line) Hey, man!  Could you call somebody to help you ring, this is taking forever!
Bookseller: With all the turmoil and strife in this world, if the only thing you have to complain about at this moment is a long line, then your life is a very blessed one indeed!
Manager: (Appears next to the Bookseller) Go take your break.
Bookseller: What good are breaks when your soul is dead?!
Manager: Just disappear for 15 minutes, please!
Bookseller: (Leaves the register) No one appreciates conscientiousness anymore.  (He walks to a sitting area where four customers are reading – the table and chairs are covered with and surrounded by books, magazines, and drinks.  The Bookseller’s eyes widen at the scene as the readers stare at him.  He speaks in a quiet voice) You will remove this disaster from my sight within the next five seconds, or else you will clean this entire store after closing.
Reader: This was here when we got here.
Bookseller: DON’T lie to me.  (They stare at him some more) Four!  (They scramble to clean the mess) And the battle rages on forevermore.

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