in the middle 1980s, i worked parttime holiday sales at a bookstore in an indianpolis mall. i won't say which mall it was or which company it was, but it was neither borders nor barnes and noble, which had not reached central indiana by then.
i wrote some notes about that time and that job. after i reviewed them, here are the best vignettes i could've written from my notes.
the agitated crank
i was behind the register when an older man, who i often had seen come into the store before, walked in. a few minutes later, he came to the register with two biographies.
"i only buy true stuff," he said.
i asked him if he had read citizen hughes, which was a recently published biography about howard hughes.
i had not expected the explosion that followed.
"did you know that son of a bitch, for 17 years, never paid any income taxes?" the man said of hughes. he then went on about hughes' fear of germs, his attempts to buy politicians, and his attraction to teenaged girls, among other scandalous actions.
"he should've been shot -- him and the budweiser folks," he said.
the man then told me that he was a pharmacists and that hughes took 30 micrograms of valium a day. "that's a dosage large enough to kill 15 people," he said.
as he was going on about hughes, another customer came to the register. the guy then left.
a beard for a name
i was working the cash register in january, after the christmas rush, when a man used a check to pay for his purchase.
his name was charles a. beard.
now, beard is a hoosier native of which little is said. he was born in knightstown, a small city about 40 miles east of indianapolis. i knew his history. if you want to read more about him, please click here.
(by the way, in my notes, i went into great details about beard. but with the internet and hyperlinks, i can put this background information in the back room, so to speak.)
i talked with mr. beard because business was slow. i asked him if he was from knightstown. sure enough, he was. he said he grew up there and graduated from high school there in 1935.
a woman behind him then spoke up. she said she had lived in knighstown until she was 10 years old, then moved to new castle -- a city near knightstown.
an older gentleman -- with white hair and heavy jowls and a solid bulk -- dressed in a business suit -- came up to me when i was working the register with four books.
two of them were crime and punishment and the brothers karamazov, both by dostoyevsky. one of them was surburban souls, an erotic novel written in the victorian area. the fourth one, i can't remember.
at first, i was surprised with his purchases. he didn't look like the type of man who would buy dostoyevsky. if he did buy novels, they probably would be by jack london, robert louis stevenson, or possibly joseph conrad. he also didn't look like the type of man who would've dared to buy an erotic novel in public.
but later i thought: why should you be surprised at this guy's purchases. there are people like him around indianapolis, even though they aren't that plentiful. and the way this guy dresses -- he's moving around without sticking out and being noticed.