Monday, January 16, 2006

Pint Sized Customers

(why oh why oh why do all of my thoughts come to me in the middle of the night when I should be asleep)

It can be frustrating sometimes when kids come up and ask me for books themselves, rather than their parents. Not because they mean to be, but just because they're kids. Not only are they still learning everything, including how to speak and ask questions properly, but their different perspective makes their thoughts hard to follow sometimes. Adults may come in asking for the Magic School House books - rather than the Magic Tree House or Magic School Bus books. Second graders, however, will often ask simply for the "Jack and Annie" books, because it's the characters that stick in their mind, not the plot device the series is named after. It can take ages to track down the right series if you aren't familiar with it.

Kids are also often nervous about asking questions of adults they don't know, which not only means each question takes ten times longer than usual, it also makes their enunciation even worse than usual. Matt Crilley's Billy Clikk: Creatch Battler* (when they finally spit it out) becomes "BillikClikkCritchBatter" only worse, really. Kids can also have a harder time than adults explaining exactly what they want. They have an idea or picture in their mind and often one particular word or name for it, and if I'm not familiar with that phrase they are often at a loss as to how to describe it further.

The great thing about kids though, is that they know that they don't know everything and so they do try to come up with better words and you can tell they are listening and absorbing when you finally say "Oh! You mean the Captain Underpants activity books, right?"

Adults, otoh, can be downright rude.

Last spring, a woman came in asking me for "The Chronicles."

"Which chronicles?" I asked.

"The Chronicles," she said, giving me a "duh" look.

"Um, which chronicles?" I ask again, this time putting on my "puzzled" face.

"The Narnia Chronicles." she says condescendingly. (keep in mind this was before the trailers were even out and back when I got one person a month asking for them rather than several a day.)

I smiled**, like a good little capitalist, and showed her where they were, all the while thinking "Silly, me, of course it's the Chronicles of Narnia you wanted. It's not like there are dozens of series that have chronicles in the title in the kids section alone, several of which I get asked about more often than the Narnia books. No, no, I'm the ignorant one - even though you're the one who can't even get the name in the right order."

Yeah, it takes a lot of patience to deal with kids, but it takes a lot more tact to deal with adults. I'm much better at patience than I am with tact.

*sometimes I think half the books for kids under 12 are deliberately given tongue twisters for names. it would make sense really, since the kids usually love 'em

**actually, I must admit, I think this one came out more like a grimace

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