I used to work at Borders bookstore back in the day. It was a time in my life when I short on confidence and desperately needed work. I remember being taken into a backroom, talking to a manager and feeling very nervous that I would not get hired. I must have agreed to work just about any shift because before I knew it, I was closing every Friday and Saturday night. This was back in the heyday of Ward Center. The store had a coffee shop upstairs where people (mostly non-book buying people) would spend literally the entire day and night camped out at a table. It was a place where there were stacks of books as tall as I was left in the children’s reading area every night by the time we closed. Where there were tons of people hanging out in the magazine section browsing. We, the closing crew, were responsible for returning the abandoned merchandise to its rightful place. To straighten out the magazines. Although aggravating and tedious, I worked with really great people. And got a fantastic discount.
Many years later, I am still close friends with two of those people. One is my running buddy who I see every Sunday, very, very early in the morning. And the other is a friend who, although we see each other infrequently, we tend to spend important holidays together, like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Although closing both weekend nights seemed like it put a dent in my social life, I think that ultimately I gained more than I lost.
There were many weekend nights spent traipsing up and down the stairs. I always loved trying to find that one book for a customer that they were looking for. It was like winning. The old time closers, we tried to have fun when we could. Sometimes we dressed up. I frequently wore my vintage clothing. On more than one occasion we did 80s night. We sometimes went out and sang karaoke. We frequently drank quite a bit. Brew Moon, when it was still open, had a late night happy hour that we often took advantage of. We knew the waitstaff, fellow service industry sufferers.
Now that Borders is Bed, Bath and Beyond, I have a really hard time shopping there. I find it difficult to use the stairs that previously featured local artwork. And winding my way through the second floor often reminds me of a single themed garage sale. All kinds of stuff that somehow made sense to someone to all be sold from the same place. It seems too packed and too disorganized. Like someone’s bad dream. And maybe it is. No more books. Hardly any place to get one anymore. So despite the fact I complained about the people who left the stacks and stacks, at least there were stacks that had been looked at. Maybe spilled coffee on or nibbled or drooled on. Touched and browsed. My family and I were dreadfully sad when a long time bookstore holdout was turned in to a Ross store. We do not go there. We yearn for the days when there were more opportunities to touch the books. Hold them. Peruse them. And buy them. We have our fingers crossed that one of the final bookstores, located at the mall, does not meet the same fate. Maybe its diversification into games and Starbucks can help save it. One can only hope.