Stan the Man
December 15, 2001
a little show of hands, here: how many times have you been into Mac's
and neither you nor we have been able to find the book or magazine the
computer insists is here? Once? Twice? Surely not more? No, come on, NOT
more than three times!
a great point of pride with us, either to have the book you want/need/lust-after,
or, at the very least, be able to lay hands on for you as quickly as our
supplier and Canada Post will permit. (And yes, I know that it is all-too-often
later than sooner but it is not from lack of trying on our part and even
the most jaundiced customer will have to admit that our Special Order's
department has been known to work miracles that are right up there with
the water and wine incident.) Our Bookbuyers are well-read themselves
and on a perpetual quest for the new and titillating. We try to keep up
with the National Post and Globe bestseller lists and keep the corner
of our ears open for titles that pop like corn on the CBC morning AND
evening shows. We have regular "Oprah alerts!" and, it goes
without saying, even the newest clerks are trained to take note of what
it is that local inquiring minds are demanding to know and to pass that
information along for dissemination.
the books are in the store, we like to think that it will be a simple
matter to find them. The computer says, "Yes, indeedy, your book
should be in Psychology in Aisle 1, shelved alphabetically by author,
I think on the third row down from the top." SHOULD be in Psychology
(also known as Self Help.) SHOULD be. SHOULD.
Isn't it funny how you say a word over and over and it stops having meaning?
Should, should, shoud, shud. "The book shud be there." And like
saying it over and over, looking for it over and over fails to turn it
up. "Hmm, that's funny, it should be right here, Dabney would come
right after Czerney and just before Dafoe." And you gaze helplessly,
at the offending space where it should (shood, shud) have been.
Books get out of order. Staff get careless and shelve by the first name
instead of the last. Customers will carry a book for a while, decide they
don't want it and will put it back in any empty space. We call this "bleeding,"
for lack of a better expression and when we look for a title in Spirituality
or Philosophy, chances are it will have bled all the way down to Health,
finally coming to rest on the Relationship shelf simply because it is
entitled The Soul of Sex.
So we check up and down the aisle hoping to find the slippery little devil
and sometimes we do, feeling relieved and pleased for our customer, and
sometimes we don't. And when we absolutely cannot find a title, upstairs
or down in overstock, we throw our hand up in disgust and proclaim that
the book "has walked." In other word, the book has been slipped
into a packsack or under a coat and carried out of the store without benefit
of a cash transaction.
It grieves me to tell you that it happens more often that we like to think
about and, coincidentally, is more apt to happen this time of year than
any other. Gives the expression, "Going down to Mac's to pick up
a book for Dad for Christmas," a whole new meaning, doesn't it? We
do have the monitors and we are all trained to keep an eye out for suspicious
behaviour but in spite of our best efforts, books still wander away, leaving
holes in our inventory and staff members whining, "Well, gee, I don't
know, it was here just yesterday
One evening, a few years ago, I followed a fellow around the store, ostensibly
shelving books but cleverly arranging to be wherever he was, at the same
time. He was a short man, round of face and stocky of build, and he seemed
not to be shopping but rather, just wandering up and down the aisles,
pulling book and returning them and then looking around. Not taking my
eye off him for a moment, I snagged Christina on her way to help a customer.
fellow in the blue jacket, " I murmured out of the corner of my mouth,
"No, don't look, but watch him, he looks suspicious
In spite of my admonition, Christine looked anyway, and laughed. "Oh
Ellen, that's Stan Winters. Chris hired him to work security till after
Christmas." So much for my instincts!
Stan worked several Christmas for us and we - and our customers - came
to know him as a fixture around the store. He took his job very seriously
and though I don't believe he ever caught anyone as he sauntered around
the place in a John Wayne kind of way, we liked having him there and our
inventory tended to remain intact when Stan was on the job. We kidded
him a lot about his gunfighter image and he sassed us right back, knowing
that our teasing was all in fun.
Stan had a heart attack a little over a year ago, died with his boots
on, and we miss him still. My greatest regret is that I never showed him
the poem I wrote for our Christmas party a couple of years after he came
to keep us and our stacks safe and secure.
I include it now, in his memory. A few names and faces have changed since
that time, a note or two added for information, and a few verses have
been deleted in the name of brevity but otherwise here it is. For you
and for Stan. Better late than never
the day before Christmas and all through the place
We were puffing and blowing as if in a race.
Mac's Fireweed was busy with last minute shoppers
All those pensioners, yuppies; those young teeny-boppers.
had been a long season, we were all tuckered out
But the last day's the longest, of that there's no doubt
As the procrastinators came looking, and spending
Buying armfuls of gifts as their chances were ending.
Chris looked so happy, his face was a-glow.
"We're subbing twelve thousand, six hours still to go.
And Dawson's a pistol and Porter Creek's rocking!"
And he laughed and envisioned his full Christmas stocking.
then, of a sudden, there arose such a clatter
We all craned our necks to see what was the matter.
Christina was busy, "Oh yes sir, what more, sir?"
So Lori and Colleen went for Stan, the Enforcer.
what did he find, at the end of the aisle
But a short little man with an enormous smile.
He was dressed all in red, from his head to his knees
On his feet were tall boots, just as black-as-you-please!
teeth, how they flashed in a smile, oh so merry!
His tummy was huge, made us all think of Kerry. (Our bookbuyer on maternity
His eyes were so shiny, we thought he was plastered
And Stan caught his arm, "Come with me, you old
your best rhyming instincts.)
pack on your back looks to be full of booty
And I'll have to arrest you, it's my solemn duty."
But the fat man just brushed of Stan's hand, and he chuckled,
And tucked his thumb into his belt where it buckled.
Christmas, you fool, surely you recognize me?
You were happy enough when I came to YOUR nice tree
It's me, Santa Claus, and I'm doing my work.
I'm not swiping more stuff. Unhand me, you jerk!"
gave us wee presents, all right, left and center,
A-smiling and grinning, happy to be presenter
Of gifts that we were so delighted to get
We forgot, for a moment, the stress and the sweat.
then, once again, it was back to the races
But this time we went back with smiles on our faces.
And the fat man took off, with a laugh and a wave.
And, well, so he should have, the jolly old knave.
while we were opening our tiny gifts
He'd been cleaning the shelves in great two-handed lifts.
True Crime and Erotica went in the first haul
To be followed by Penthouse and Hustler and all.
been more selective in other departments
Best-sellers were taken from all their compartments.
The Giller and Booker shelves all had been cleared
And so had Photography
just as we feared!
looked at each other, our stomachs were rocking,
There'd be no "little somethings" in our Christmas stocking.
And Chris would be looking for someone to axe
And we all knew that our days were numbered, at Mac's.
what to our wondering eyes should appear?
But Stan, the Enforcer, and as he drew near
We could see that he clasped a red arm in his hand,
Followed right along by that little fat man!
knew he weren't Santa, t'was so plain to see
At least, not the one that would come to MY tree.
And he didn't bring me my one heart's desire:
A Red Ryder rifle and some bullets to fire."
I nabbed him and now I have made him bring back
The books from the shelves and the mags from the rack.
And I hope that you've all learned a lesson from that.
That it ain't always Santa whose red-dressed and fat."
* * *
It's the night before Christmas, the store is shut down,
It's buttoned up tight, and so is the town.
We're home with our families, snug in our beds,
While visions of bonuses dance in our heads.
Sherry and Chris are still up, counting tills,
And laughing and chuckling and drinking refills
"Cause no one has told them about the fat man
Or how much they owe to their Enforcer, Stan.
that note we'll leave it, suffice it to say
We survived to work on for at least one more day.
And at last I will say, "Bless us all, everyone!"
And to Santa I say, "Please don't forget Stan's gun!"
Christmas to all from your friends at Mac's