Thursday, April 9, 2009

Memory and the Sales Floor

There's a certain kind of memory for books and a slightly different kind for people. That's my dilemma as I spend more and more time on the sales floor at Boswell's. I've always had problems with names and faces, and that problem has gotten worse as I've aged. I've always been pretty good at pulling books out of my head, though I find myself becoming more dependent on computers for this as I age.

In my new role, it's really important for me to remember as many people as possible. As you've already heard me say countless times, all we've got to set us apart is our knowledge, our relationships, and the store experience. I warn each person I talk to that I'm terrible with names, but in the past this didn't come up as much as I sat and bought in my buying cave. Now every day there's someone I know, but due to brain malfunction, I sometimes come up with...nothing. Other times, the memory kicks in about halfway through the conversation. Go memory, go!

So I'm working this week and a familiar woman comes in and we start chatting. I say, "I know you from somewhere" and it turns out that no, I know Polly in 17 different ways and she knows every person I know in Milwaukee. She's co-worker of one old friend, ex-landlord of another (both fellow booksellers at one time), campaign manager of another friend, I am more embarrassed by the second! Sad too, because I like her very much and wonder why I don't know her better.

Then another man comes in, they're friends, we talk, and when my brain yet again doesn't function, it turns out we've also met many times before and Michael is married to my friend Jennifer. My embarrassment knowns no boundaries. Then I run into Nick. Since he was a customer from 20 years ago when I worked on the floor of the Iron Block store downtown, I did remember him. He runs the Inova Gallery at UWM. Here's a current exhibit.
I've turned into that person who you've met several times but never seems to know you. I've become that guy! Me! Ick. I can't speak for everyone else who seems to snub you, but I promise I'm not doing it on purpose. I can only blame the old hardware.

To make sure I never forget Polly and Michael again, I've posted their picture here. Michael's in town to possibly work on an upcoming Milwaukee Art Museum project with the Chipstone foundation. Polly seems to do 300 things connected to UWM six blocks away.

In part, I blame files that are overloaded. On April 3rd's On the Media, Brooke Gladstone complained about wanting to get rid of the theme from the Patty Duke show to Gary Small, the author of iBrain. This was about how Google was affecting our brain. "I don't really need that anymore." My thoughts exactly! Only I like remembering the song. That's my problem; I want it all. But there's plenty of other things I wouldn't mind deleting.

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