Day One

It started Wednesday when we found out the company had filed for bankruptcy. By lunch time (in fact I found out as I was heading up to the break room with my lunch) we knew we were one of the ones closing.

A lot goes through you. It tries to come out all at once. You want to cry. You want to hold it together because you know it isn’t the end of the world, it’s just the end of an era. And yes, six months can be an era when it’s meant so much to you.

Today, though, is officially day one since today the liquidator comes in and takes over. When I came in nothing seemed different, until I got to the back office and it’s already so much emptier. We used to also be home base for the regional corporate sales manager, a bear of a woman named Val who was hard as hell for most people to work with. I bet a lot of them didn’t see how she jumped in to play manager when we needed help, put off ringing big orders on our slow days so boost us toward our sales goal or hunted down books like the rest of us grunts. The hole where Val is supposed to be hurts a lot more than some of the other things I’ve seen so far. But the news there is good. For now Val grumps on at another location.

The next thing I discover is that the cafe is gutted already, the first corpse in this killing spree. Marion, our amazing cafe lady, tells me how she was working yesterday and the regional manager and manager from another store just came in and started taking all her product. How do you take that, when at least one of them you know and had been friendly with and now they’re picking your organs out of your chest without even and “I’m sorry”. That’s just conjecture at this point because I wasn’t there. I don’t know that’s how it happened. But I do know the tone in Marion’s voice and it’s sprinkling of betrayal.

At the morning meeting we don’t learn much new. The good news is there will probably be a lot more hours available, but do I need more time to watch what’s happening here? Well I am, sort of, a glutton for punishment.

At ten a.m. I get my first buzzard, a man who swears that table says fifty percent off and I’m going to give him his fifty percent off. The thing is we don’t have a fifty percent off table and the liquidator hasn’t even been in yet so in this moment of limbo there are no sales. We can’t even honor sales or coupons handed down from home office. Our employee discounts are gone too, a sad reminder that our days are limited.

We get three kinds of customers today. Buzzards who want us to hold books for later sales, who don’t care that everyone of us are out of a job, but still here, haunting the place and playing at being a customer service team. They just want to pick at our bones while there are still juicy bits left. There are regulars too, about to tear up as they make last purchases. A few of them ask about sales, but only after asking about us, and telling us how much they’ll miss us. And then there’s the people who either don’t know or who give us the silent dignity of not bringing it up.

Don’t get me wrong with the buzzards either. The liquidation sale is vital to seeing this whole dance come to a close. And I don’t blame people for wanting a deal, who doesn’t these days? But is getting your twenty percent off worth the price of the end of the store?

It’s the nastiness that gets me. That I’m told I’ll have to get to as the buzzards begin to outnumber everyone else. All I ask for is a little bit of dignity. Realize that while you bargain hunt we’re ticking away our last moments at a job we love. How rare is that these days?

So I’m standing here, writing this between customers, watching the store I’ve spent a lot of time working to make wonderful being dismantled. My first display, which I filled with books by my favorite authors and friends is still out. I felt so happy when I was able to push them like that. Now that it’s my last display I’m in part a little happier because I had the time to do that at least.

My last staff recommends was Matheson’s I am Legend. It seems fitting.

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