Jobs I’ve Had – Book Slinger

(Cross-posted as a comment in this MeFi thread.)

I worked for Waldenbooks when I was in college. My store was one of two such franchises in Hamilton Place Mall, the first two-story mall built in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The upstairs store was closer to the food court, which might’ve been why we experienced more teenager traffic than the downstairs store. More teenagers means regular patrolling the Erotica section, disheartening requests for Cliff Notes from late-coming summer readers, and — best of all — very special Special Orders. These very special Special Orders were always for one of three books. None of these books were regularly stocked, though only one of the three defied categorization entirely. These books were, in increasing order of awesome: The Satanic Bible by Anton LaVey, The Anarchist’s Cookbook and … The Necronomicon.

The placing of the Special Order always went the same way. A Creepy Kid would step into the store with a determined look, avoiding the eyes of anyone working behind the counter. He’d go through the store from section to section. Science Fiction? Gaming? Religion? Occult? New Age? But what he wanted was not to be found, not without speaking to somebody with a Waldenbooks badge. And so, Creepy Kid would wait until there were no paying customers near the counter, then he’d make his approach.


“Yes. Help you find something?”

“Yeah. Um …”

“Looking for some Cliff Notes?”

“What? No. No. Do you … You guys carry …”

At this point, I’d lean a bit over the counter, knowing what I was about to hear.

“… The Necronomicon?” Said at a whisper, like the password to a speakeasy.

“You sure? Well, alright then. If you’re sure. I’ll have to … Special Order it.”

Normally, these special orders would never be completed. I’d get to the part where I needed a phone number, and that would be that. As this was the early 90s, teenagers just didn’t have cellular phones. And even a phone of your own at home was rare. So I wouldn’t get a phone number, and they’d walk away disappointed. But sometimes, a Creepy Kid would be brave enough to hand over the digits. Special orders didn’t require any pre-payment, so with all the information we needed to submit the order, the request would be sent to Ingram. Five to seven days later, the Necronomicon … or The Satanic Bible … would arrive in our store. And as we would for any other special order, we called the customer to let them know.


The voice on the line was hardly ever the Creepy Kid, but usually their mom.

“Yes, hello. This is Thomas with Waldenbooks … yes, the one in the Mall. Right.”

“Oh, okay. How do you do?”

“I’m great. And I’m calling to let … um … Billy? Yes, Billy. If you could let Billy know that his special order of copy of The Satanic Bible has arrived.”

A pause.

“The Satanic what?!?”

“The Satanic Bible. By Anton Lavey. Oh, and we have his Necronomicon as well. A book that collects the …”

“I’m sorry. I have to go and … speak … to Billy. Thank you … very much.”

“Okay. Have a good day!”

While I was there, not a single Special Order’d Necronomicon or Satanic Bible was picked up by any Creepy Kid.

  • Amber Rhea

    “I’m great. And I’m calling to let … um … Billy? Yes, Billy. If you could let Billy know that his special order of copy of The Satanic Bible has arrived.”

    Love it.

    I don’t recall ever ordering the Satanic Bible or Necronomican for any creepy kids while I worked at Waldenbooks, but I did like to loudly embarrass the teenagers trying to sneak around magazines to look at Playboy.