November 24th, 2006

Occupational hazards

Normally I love my day job, and will do whatever I can to avoid ever having to leave it. I love books, I love the philosophical and historical ramifications of selling books, and I love other people who love books. is NOT one of those days when I love being a used bookseller. I think I'll punch out anyone who gasps out, "Wow, must be great to work in a bookstore - you just get to read all day!" (Wonder what they think about people who work in liquor stores?)

For one thing, working in a used bookstore is physically hazardous. Look at anyone who's retired after a career in bookselling, and chances are you'll see someone whose knees are shot from climbing up and down ladders, and whose back is permanently bent from years of hefting heavy boxes.

And then there are the short-term hazards, like the one I fell prey to this week: As the last used bookstore in the east end of the San Fernando Valley, we buy books from the public. Nonstop. All day long. Box after box. And many of these boxes have been in a garage, an attic or a shed for years. We've opened boxes only to discover silverfish, cockroaches, rat droppings and live Black Widow spiders (which we fortunately saw before shoving our hands into their nest. Yes, nest.). It's amazing how few people show enough common courtesy to clean these things off first. So Tuesday, a guy shows up with four boxes. While he's blathering on and on about some of the great books inside, I open the first box to find a load of books that would have inspired Lovecraft to new heights. These things are all covered with some kind of indefinable gray ashy sludge, which in places has actually eaten away chunks of the books; they also are far more rank than, say, the cat's litterbox after a week. My first instinct was to just close that first box back up, throw a few carefully-chosen epithets at this idiot, and send him on his way. Instead, I made a token effort to go through this s*&t.

Ever since, I've had rashes, low-grade fevers that come and go, and a constant head-to-toe itchiness.

And today, while the office workers of America enjoy Day 2 of their four-day weekend, I will be running my ass off (after about an hour of sleep), and scratching. Scratching. Scratching.

I've warned Ricky that he should expect parts of me to start glowing and falling off shortly.