01 December 2010

Which came first--the ABCs or Shakespeare?

(not my image--found online)
Yesterday was one of those nightmare retail days when the bizarro customers crawled out of the woodwork.  I'm not sure if Jupiter was misaligned with Mars, or if folks were just anticipating the next full moon, or if something was in the water, but every single one of us working at the counter had a customer tale to tell.  Here's mine:

Woman (while walking downstairs to the fiction & children's department): Hello?!  Is anybody there who can help me?  Hello?

Me (from behind the counter. You know, where I'm supposed to be): Yes, I'm right here.  What can I do for you?

Woman (looking around): Oh, there you are.  I'm in a rush.  Where is your Shakespeare section?

Me (walking around the counter to show her the exact shelf): It's right over here, arranged alphabetically by title.  Which one are you looking for?

Woman: Oh, it looks like he wrote a lot.  I don't know -- what do you recommend? 

Me: Well, are you thinking a comedy, tragedy, or one of the histories?  Or maybe you're looking for his sonnets?

Woman:  Oh, I think a history.  Do you have Hamlet?

Me: Well...yes, many people would say that if you're only going to read one Shakespeare play, Hamlet would be the one.  But it's not technically a history--it's a tragedy.

Woman: I thought it was history.

Me: Well, it certainly took place a very long time ago, so in that case I suppose you could call it historical, but it's definitely a Shakespearean tragedy.  Not based on actual history like his historical plays. 

Woman: Oh.  Well, I definitely want history.  What do you recommend?

Me: Well, I personally like Henry V, but it's the last book in a tetralogy, so maybe you'd like to begin with the first one, which is Richard II, which continues with Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2.

Woman: Ummm, I'll take Henry.

Me: Okay, which one?  Do you want to start with the first one, just take the last one, or do you want all three?

Woman: What about the middle one?

Me: Well, I personally wouldn't recommend starting with Henry IV, Part 2 because it would put you in the middle of things, but yes, you could do that. 

Woman (kneeling on floor in front of shelf): I'll take all of them.  Where are they?

Me (standing a little behind and to the side of her, peering over her shoulder): They're arranged alphabetically by title on that shelf.

Woman:  I don't see them.  Where are they?

Me: They're right there, under H.

Woman: Where's the H?

Me (tempted desperately to say, "It's usually after the G but before the I"):  Ummm...move your hand to the left a little.

Woman (pulling a book off the shelf): Is this it?

Me: Actually, that's Hamlet. Here, let me get down there and grab them for you. [I kneel down, grab three and stand up again, handing them to her.]

Woman: Are you sure these are the right ones? They all seem to look alike.

Me: Well, yes, they're all published by Pelican, so this edition will have a pretty uniform look to it.  But see, here on the front cover you can see the titles, and then if you turn the book sideways, you can see the titles on the spines, too.  [Glancing around to see if anybody else is witnessing this insanity. Hoping that maybe she's buying these as a gift for somebody else...] Would you like me to giftwrap these?

Woman: No, they're for me.  I'll just take them upstairs to buy, okay? 

Me (to my coworker, after the coast is clear): WOW.  Just wow.

Coworker (holding back laughter): Well, when I walked in, you did say it was shaping up to be one of those days!

Okey-dokey.  So, maybe this is a totally radical notion, but it seems to me that anybody who buys Shakespeare for herself should already have a working knowledge of, oh, the alphabet.  I'm just sayin'. 

Methinks she was an artless, idle-headed strumpet!

Things that make you go hmmmmm...


  1. Like! Like!
    Ah, the good ole days when I had stories like that to share.

    Do you know about this website?:


    Makes me laugh so hard.

  2. wow!z omg *bug-eyed*

    Maybe she's dating someone who likes Shakespeare and didnt want to come off as ignorant??

    :) Im making up excuses for her in my head now...

  3. Lolz! Love how you captured the convo. Have I told you before I’d love to read something you wrote in print; novel, memoir, essay. Etc anyway, speaking of Shakespeare - and Hamlet- do you have a review of Lisa Kleins Ophelia that I can nab? Also, do you ever read/give your POV on works in progress? Asking for a friend­čśČ

    1. Ooh, this post is a blast from the past! Sorry, but the Ophelia book is old enough now at this point that it would be long gone -- we donate old ARCs. And yes, I I frequently give input on works in progress. Let me know what your friend has in mind. :-)


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