a.k.a. a life changing experience, or How To Give Birth to a Bookstore

I had no idea, or at least very little idea, of what to expect. But then again, how can someone describe something like this? I've been trying for 5 years,but it's apparently important enough that I'm going to try again here and now.

A sort.

Defined in my language, a sort is the process that takes a bookstore of a certain chain beginning with B from empty shelves to perfect, from untrained staff to helping customers, from 7 veritable strangers to my 6 new best friends. You have 3 weeks. Go!

You walk in on Wednesday, whenever your plane, taxi, trainervan, whathaveyou arrives, to (hopefully) a great place to play with squirt guns. Construction is mostly finished, you have miles of empty shelves and an understanding that you will be the one to fill it. And oh yeah, there's a truck parked outside. First of two today, first of 5 full ones and every box in it has to get sorted by category into monstrous piles that you plant flags on the top of after scaling. After the mountains are made, the boxes get opened and sorted into real sections. Then alphabetized. Then put on shelves. Then shifted around to make room for other sections. Then merchandized. And oh by the way, you've got four sections to do this to, and you have to train the whole staff on something in the middle of it all - how to run a register, how to look up something, how to order music, how not to answer the phone. That's barring construction issues, wiring issues, staff issues, training issues, management issues, store issues, issue issues.

Three weeks of 6 day work weeks, at least 3 12 hour days in that week, although you'll hit 14 and 16 hour days in the last week or two. You're away from home, living in a hotel, and working, eating, drinking, playing and just being with the same 6 people the entire time. You eat tons of food just because it's being paid for by someone else. You drink way too much alcohol (at least some folks do) because it's one of the few ways to wind down and fall asleep. You don't sleep much at all, though. Marriages are made, relationships are broken and when you go home, you know you won't say much about it at all to the people you work with. They won't get the jokes, they'll talk about your vacation. They won't understand your post-sort depression comes in part from seeing the same six people every day and now wondering if you'll ever see them again. You are exhausted, emotionally drained and yet you'll get that last box out.

On that first day, the doors will open, and you'll say to yourself, "Oh yeah, this is what I do in real life." And the boredom of routine will set in, until that first moment when someone walks into the section that you put together, that you made the decisions for, that's YOURS. For a moment, you'll wish that you could stand as you did as a child with your arms spread wide and say "Look! Look what I made! I did it, and it's perfect and no matter what anyone else does to it years from now it will still be mine! And here, it's for you..."

Of course, the next thing you'll think is "For God's sake don't put that there!
Do you know how long it took me to build that???"

My 11th sort is next week. I know it'll be a completely draining experience. I'll come home exhausted, and won't want to return to my regular routine. My cat will snub me. A plant will probably have died. It'll be a week before I have the energy to cook something after all that restaurant food. It will take at least 2 weeks before I catch up on everything that happened everywhere else in the world. I can't wait. This is why I like my job.

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