This customer I'm about to describe to you was real. (Presumably, she's still real, but no longer a customer.) I have not made any of this up. As my friend Nan says, "You can't make this shit up."
At the bookstore yesterday, we had an event, during which we turned off the store music and spoke quietly so as not to interrupt or disturb the authors as they spoke. Some people are just oblivious to these clues; this customer was one of them. I dub her Oblivia.
She wasn't shouting, but she definitely spoke much louder than most people I know, and she was one of those who just liked to talk.
Sometimes, customers don't like to ask for suggestions, for whatever reason. Instead, they just start telling you everything about themselves, and everything they've ever read, hoping you'll pick up on the clues with your incredible mind-reading abilities. Sometimes it works, but customers, please understand: we are not psychics. Most of us don't even want to be, which is why we're at a bookstore and not Lady Moondancer's Fortune Funhouse.
So. Oblivia started telling me all the genres she's ever read. The first ones were mystery and history, so I handed her a book that combined both: The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson. (Mostly, I was hoping a book in her hand would make her be quieter, but that didn't really work. I should have stuffed it in her mouth.)
I told her the title and she kind of gaped at me. "This book is about the devil?" she asked, shocked that such a book would exist, and that I would hand it to her.
No, I explained, this book is about the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and a serial killer who claimed many victims there.
"Chicago? You mean, Chicago Chicago?"
At about this point, I started saying many things in my head that I would never, ever say outloud to a complete stranger. Things like, No, I mean Chicago, California. This is the Midwest; what Chicago do you think I mean?
She asked me to write down the book for her, since she wouldn't have money till tomorrow. I offered to put the book on hold, and she said no, just write it down. In the indie book world, that translates to I'm not going to support your store; I plan to buy this book from the Evil Empire in the hopes of putting you out of business. Great.
After Oblivia had looked at the book for a while, she pulled me away from my work to say, "I can't believe there were serial killers back then!"
Wow. You're something special, aren't you? "Yep," I replied. "Murder has pretty much existed since humans have."
"Well," Oblivia responded, "I hate that stuff. I'm a Christian."
Atheists hate murder, too, I desperately wanted to say. So do Wiccans and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
She continued. "But I guess murder's been going on since Adam and Eve. I hate crime. You know, I'm a tourist from California, and I was going to go to Oregon, but then I heard they had a murder there. That occult group murdered someone! I was so sad to see that group is here, too."
Huh? Occult group?
"The occult group," she further described. "The one with all the tents set up."
I skipped over the part where she seemed to think Oregon had only ever had one murder. My eyes widened. I kind of wanted a big slab of concrete to bang my head against. "You mean... Occupy Madison?"
"Yeah! That's the one," she said.
So. Oblivia is wandering around, thinking the Occupy movement - the one focused on equality and the radical notion that the rich should pay taxes - has something to do with magic and godlessness. She thinks that they're single-handedly responsible - the entire Occupy movement - for one murder in Oregon.
People like that make me think I work in a psych ward rather than a bookstore.