Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Goodbye Borders and the End of Summer

It's been a rough road (read: end-of-times) for Borders. We've been watching them slowly collapse (to quote Eddie Izzard) like "a flan in a cupboard" for months and this weekend sounded the final death knell of the once-megagiant bookstore.

Borders, you will be missed. I'm not sure what I'll miss more. The quirky selections? The know-it-all employees? The roomy cafe? Above all, I think I'll miss having the freedom to choose. Now there are no longer two games in town: Borders and Barnes and Noble. We're down to only one - and this is not Highlander ("There can be only one") when there should be many more.

However, what's sort of heartening is the fact that the Borders employees are having their say, damnit. Ok, some might call it flat out, unleashed sarcasm, but the hardworking staff has earned every mouthful of their bookstore ire. I for one find it fantastic that they are refusing to hide behind the corporate veil. Vent away, former Borders employees! If one of you writes a tell-all, I will be first in line to buy it.

I used to work in retail so I can relate to many lines on their list. My favorite? "If you don't know the author, the title, or the genre of the book, but you do know the color of the cover, we don't either. How it is our fault if we couldn't find it, we'll never understand."

Yes, Borders employees. Yes. Word. Thank you for your unflinching honesty.

 Back in the day, I worked at a music store with many other wacky, wonderful Clerks-esque employees. We had ripped jeans and Tori Amos maxi singles (remember those?) and loved The X Files. We were cool. We were sarcastic and rad. We thought we knew much more than everyone on the planet, because when it came to music, we did. I cannot tell you how many times I had a total stranger walk up to me and say "I'm looking for this one song. I don't know who it's by or what it's called, but a woman sings it and it sounds like this," and then I'd have to listen for an agonized and slightly embarrassed twenty seconds as the other person kicked into an off-key serenade of whatever Top Ten hit she'd heard on the radio that morning. Why did I listen? Because I was nineteen and getting paid $8.75 an hour, which in those days was a lot of money, and because it was my job to listen to middle-aged patrons singing Madonna until someone who worked in the store could play "Name that Song" correctly. Now, the middle-aged patrons are a lot closer to my own age then they once were, so I can sympathize a little bit more, but now we have Google and can look up song lyrics. No one need listen to this generation's off key serenades anymore. Our music humiliation no longer has to be public. Score one for technology.

So, I'm always up for a good retail rant. Borders, I always loved you.

As we say goodbye to Borders, the end of summer has also just arrived, at least in world of poetry lists. At least, I got an email  confirming this today from Huck Gutman 's wonderful poetry listserve. He quoted from Emily Dickinson's "As Imperceptibly as Grief":
                                      "As imperceptibly as Grief
                                The Summer lapsed away—
                                 [...] Our Summer made her light escape
                                 Into the Beautiful."

Borders is gone. We loved you while you were here. We loved the choice you presented, we loved the quirky books. I loved that after a Saturday morning meeting, I could stop there on the way home and soak it all in. Bookstores on Saturdays are magical places: moms and kids, couples, the smell of coffee, the stacks of new releases. The feeling of a new start when one opens the front cover. Journeys beginning. Stories ending. All the good stuff in between.

Thanks, Borders, for being the good stuff for so long. You'll be missed.



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