This Sunday I was at our local Waterstone's browsing through row upon rown of 3 for 2 offers and Richard and Judy Book Club Reads when it occured to me to enquire about a certain book I had recently read and wanted to buy. So I went up to the counter and found myself facing the kind of gel-haired, multi pierced, Nuts reading youth that seem to have taken over the retail industry. I should have known how things were going to turn out and left then. But I didn't.
Me: Do you have The Collected Stories of Colette?
Gel-head: Is that Tony?
Me (feeling a little guilty for having had such mean thoughts about a hearing impaired person) No no COLETTE not Tony
Gel-head (who by now thinks I'm the slow witted one) NO I M-E-A-N-T T-0-N-I C-O-L-E-T-T-E
Me (back to feeling morally superior) No just Colette.
Gel-head: Let me check. How'd you spell that?
Gel head: I don't think there's anyone like that
(So what now I'm imagining books by non-existant writers?)
Me: Can you check anyway please?
So Gel-head spends about twelve minutes searching for Colette on the database. I'm sure it was hard locating the alphabets on the keyboard what with all that Gel seeping from his hair in to his brain and clogging it.
Gel-head: You sure it's not Toni Colette?
Me (gritting teeth) Positive
Gel-head suddenly gets up and wanders to the blonde girl at the next counter to chat her up and tickle her.
Gel-head (suddenly realising I'm still standing there) Yeah. Sorry. Nothin like that.
Me: Thank you
Gel-head: If you want I'll check for Toni Colette. That's probably who you want anyway innit?
This young man ranks second in my list of useless book shop staff. The first place is occuppied by a dread-locked lady of indeterminate age at W.H Smith, Kings Cross Station who informed me that no such publication entitled The New Yorker existed. May be it is just me.