Saturday, April 4, 2009

Occupational Hazards

When I got out of the military and opened the bookstore, I thought my days of living dangerously were over. I reflected with gratitude that I had survived brushes with ebola, Hezbollah and Saddam Hussein to embrace the bookish, professorial lifestyle of a book maven. I thought the worst hazard of this job would be an occasional papercut. Oh, to have the halcyon days of pre-bookstore naivete back.
Last weekend, I cleaned up after my first toilet accident. I don't mean the toilet overflowed. If you've followed this blog from back in the Myspace days, you know we should be (knock on wood) immune from that for quite some time. I mean, yes, worst case scenario--activate the hazardous materials response team. Well, it just so happens that like most other titles associated with this business, I am also captain and sole member of the Hazmat response team. You might think that a bookstore is a strange place to have any need for a Hazmat response team. You might think this a more likely scenario in a bar, or even a restaurant. At 11 am last Saturday, I would have thought the same. At 12, I was dry heaving and cleaning up the big nasty. An elderly gentleman had apparently taken the military slang name for the trash can literally and relieved himself all over it and the surrounding area, and with a most unfortunate constitution to boot. I'm not telling this story to put his business out there. I know he didn't know what he was doing and, more than anything, I felt great empathy for him. But the younger woman who was with him, who went in there after him and made only a single swipe at the mess before heading for the hills, now she could have done a little better by the old KBster. As embarrassing as it would have been, if she didn't want to or couldn't clean it up herself, she might have at least told me and spared me the ten minutes of wandering around the shop, trying to figure out where the smell was coming from (and worrying in the back of my mind that, somehow, my sewer problems were back). Regardless, there I was, alone in the shop, and the buck stopped with me. So I worked through it. Unfortunately, I had also had a few drinks the night before, so it was doubly painful. I managed to avoid adding to the mess, but just barely. Fast forward a week...

This morning, I came in early to sweep and mop the store. Because I'm situated next to the Dust Bowl (the tattoo parlor parking lot is unpaved--a combination of gravel, dirt and trash), this is a fairly frequent occurrence that I've pretty much gotten down to a science. So I finished that up in short order and went out on my deck that juts out over the creek out back to give it some much needed attention. I noticed that I had some impressive weeds growing from the wall at one end, an eyesore my patrons surely did not need to see as they sat out and enjoyed their coffee and the sound of running water. Tree hugger that I am, I dismissed the idea of coming inside and grabbing my herbicidal sprayer. I congratulated myself on my environmental stewardship, crouched down to reach through my wrought iron railing and commenced to pulling weeds. First one, no problem. Second one, cool. Third one, oh my God, is that a snake? I won't keep you in suspense. It was. A little juvenile SOMETHING coiled up tight under what had formerly been its private green room. My mind always goes to worst case scenario, so naturally whatever it actually was became the meanest individual of a poisonous species lying in wait. So the strange blend of National Geographic, Man vs Wild and the Crocodile Hunter started playing in my head. Yep, the juveniles, they're always the meanest ones too. Blimey! He's a beaut! Their venom is concentrated because they don't know how to control the dosage. He has a small mouth, but he could bite me in the space between my fingers and kill me! Oh Lord, what to do? I don't want to hurt him--he's a beaut aint he?--but one wrong move and... So I ended up taking an ashtray off a nearby table and carefully raking him into the creek below. I watched him swim off before shakily retreating to the store to retrieve my herbicide sprayer. I love all of nature but, hell, it ain't worth DYING over.


Matthew K. said...

Wow- I had no idea bookselling could be so gross. Hope next week brings you nothing but joy and happiness (and well mannered patrons).
Bless you for sparing the snake's life. I've always had a soft spot for em. FYI- I did a little research, and according to the VA Herpetological Society, there are only 2 venomous snakes native to our neck o'the woods: the Northern Copperhead and the Eastern Cottonmouth, and there are over 20 nonpoisonous species. So- odds are your's was totally cool. Cheers! said...

Wow. Just Wow.

Keith just told me about this last night - the snake story TOTALLY funny - I'm sorry it is...I can just see your face too.

Gratz on the house BTW.


martha said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.