Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Best Job in the World by Grace Burrowes

I’ve recently concluded truck travel from Maryland down to Florida, out to California, and back by way of Colorado. This is how much I hate to fly—and how much I enjoy driving the open road.
I used my rambles to stop in at several dozen Barnes and Noble bookstores, as well as a few indies, and a couple pf Books a Millions. I figure as long as I’m in the neighborhood, why not sign my stock? Every bookstore was willing to accommodate that request, though one fellow asked for identification. (I write under a pseudonym… We pulled up my website on my phone, and there I am, in grinning, Grace Burrowes, color.)
As I stood at the customer service counter, scribbling away, I cast around for small talk, and ended up asking, “So how do you like working here?”At first, it was just idle chit-chat, but the answers I got prompted
me to make it into an informal survey. The replies were along the lines of:
“I love it here. I never want to work anywhere else.”
“I’ve been with the company seventeen years, and I hope I’m good for another seventeen.”
“This is the job I was born to do.”
“I love my job. Love it.”
Not a single bookseller said, “It pays the bills.” Or, “This just until something better comes along.” Or, “Retail is tough, you know?” Not one. Nada. Zero. Bupkiss.
Now, some allowances must be made for public relations training—customer service is typically in the middle of the floor, and the stacks have ears—but I didn’t hear a hesitation, a qualification, a whispered aside, to suggest these sentiments were anything other than the heartfelt truth, time after time.
If I conducted the same sort of informal poll in three dozen law offices, three dozen landscape service companies, or three dozen bakeries, somebody would have a little grumbling to do.
Not the booksellers, at least not at the stores I visited. This amazes me and encourages me as an author and as a human being. It restores my faith in the idea that any occupation can be a calling (even writing romance novels), and that in a world full of negativity and doubt, there’s at least one group of people happy--thrilled!--to make a contribution in a relatively unsung and uncelebrated role.
Have you come across somebody who made a humble undertaking into a vocation? Somebody who could bake the daylights out of a cake? Deliver the mail with verve and panache? Drive the school bus as if it were a joy and a privilege? What occupation would you consider your calling, if you could chose any profession?

To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of "Nicholas," a Lonely Lord whose calling in life is to love and be loved…


  1. I too loved working for B&N during college. If I'd been smart, I would have stayed there and gone into management.
    As for your question what would my dream job be: A librarian. I volunteer at my local library and I can't tell you how fast the time flies!

  2. GourmondeGirl, I've thought I might enjoy library work too--sleuthing among the stacks, reading to the kids, handling those books all day... Imagine all the arcane facts you'd come across, and how you might use them in a book...!

  3. I used to work at a bookstore and loved it too. I mean, I was often bored because it is boring standing behind a register for hours, but once I'd been there long enough and could do other jobs, I was so happy.

    If I had my second choice job (not writing), I would work with animals. Maybe in animal rescue or for a shelter or with education.

  4. I'm a journalist by trade and I've never worked in a bookstore, but I've always thought it would be satisfying to work as a librarian: you get to be around books, see the new, shiny ones when they come in, and probably learn a lot about titles across multiple genres that you might not otherwise. It seems like it would be nice to get paid for that!

  5. I think most hard-core readers are closet librarians, and we'd all happily work in a bookstore. I don't think I've ever met a grumpy bookstore worker!

  6. To be an author!!! Best job in the world.

    I've worked at a was fun seeing the new books come in and lots of the patrons were wonderful--but believe me, emptying book bins full of trash because someone decided to empty their trash in them, or having irate patrons who didn't like having to pay a 15 cent late fee on a book, or worse, pay for a book they dropped in the bathtub, then tried to dry out at home before they turned it in....or issues with parents who let there darling children pull off all the books on the shelves--which means having to spend hours reshelving-- or run screaming through the library while they're glued to the internet, or have to deal with the guys getting into porn sites on the public computers or their own, then saying it's okay because it's their own computer...not in a public library it isn't--wasn't fun!

    Yes, I could fill a book...

    I'd much rather be an author...

  7. There's a subway conductor on the A line in NYC who treats morning riders to extensive commentary about every stop. I feel like he must love his job, and the city, to be so effusive and enthusiastic every morning.

  8. Shana, I couldn't do the shelter work, unless it was a no-kill, but the truly no-kill are rare. Still, some times I think about all my foster children, and the huge safety net they have--what do the animals have?

    Diana, I like what the library stands for--a temple to literacy, which is surely, surely a foundation for an informed and participative citizenry. And imagine all the obscure topics you'd learn about...

    Leslie, that's a good point. Not only were these people enthusiastic about their jobs, they were happy--and some of the questions they had to answer will honestly a bit silly. The mysteries, for example, were shelved right there--where it said "MYSTERY."

    Terry, when I was in college, somebody dropped a squirming pillow case into the main library book return bin. Two rattlesnakes were set free in an appropriate location by the campus police.
    Rattlesnakes!? In the library? What a woild! (And I love being an author too.)

    Unknown, I recall a bus driver in DC from the T6 line thirty years ago. He'd sing the stops long before Rap was popular. Always made the ride go so much faster.

  9. Awesome series! Absolutely loved Nicholas

  10. Awesome series! Absolutely loved Nicholas.
    Darius was awesome as well.

  11. Grace I think the person that fits the profile is a librarian I know named Cindy, don't remember her last name though I'm sure I've heard it before. She is my go to person at the Central Library here whenever I can find her as she's always willing and able to go out of her way to assist patrons. If I had it in me I'd love to be such a librarian. Instead I'm trained in library technology though I've never worked in it in a paid position.

  12. Being a groom, pitching stalls, feeding, and doing light exercising. When my last board would drive me to the end of my patience I could be found muttering "if pitching stalls paid this much that is where I'd be!!"

    Love the Lost Lords series. Didn't think the Windhams could be topped, but the Lost Lords are making a serious bid for that position. Thank you for hours and hours of enjoyment!

  13. I worked in a library, loved handling the books and restoring a sense of order, hated the politics and dealing with the messes that others created.

    Sounds like a great way to see some of the country and what a thrill for all of those folks to meet the person behind your delightful books.

  14. Oh yes, I've met people before who really like their job and give it their all. One of them is my son, he loves amusement parks and works at one as a supervisor for several rides. He interacts with the customers and makes it fun every day. And he gets me into the park for free, what could be better than that? Another person is my mail carrier, he's been working in our neighborhood for many years, greets everyone by name, and just the other day he noticed a neighbor having trouble, called an ambulance for him, and stayed until they got there and took my neighbor to the hospital. He jokes with me all the time whenever a book arrives in the mail for me, he's a wonderful mail carrier.

  15. I think working in a book store would be wonderful although I would want to read all day lol. I always liked anything in the arts from music to drawing or anything to do with animals. I get too attached to work in the shelters but although we do have a no kill shelter not too far away, it's not somewhere I drive to. In my next lifetime I am going to learn how to drive while young and not be so afraid to venture too far lol.

  16. a travel writer would be fun

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  17. There is a check out at my local grocery store who is always kind, positive and very customer focused. There are days I leave feeling so great because I went thru her line! I was very blessed to realize my calling as a stay at home mom! It was the best decision I ever made and it worked for me.

  18. I'd love to own a used book store! That will probably never happen, so I'm doing the next best thing - I'm a branch librarian!! I love, love my job! Terry, I had to put a sign on my drop saying it wasn't a garbage can and I've dealt with everything you mentioned!! But I still love it!

  19. Sue--thanks! I'm fond of Nicholas myself (and Dare too, of course).

    Molly, I can see you working in a library, particularly the romance section. You'd keep it organized, and no question would go unanswered.

    Larisa, my ideal writing space would be above a horse barn--for the smells, for the sound of horses munching hay at the beginning and end of the day. Might inspire me to do a cowboy series--Except Carolyn Brown has those about sewn up.

    Elf, it's discouraging to think people would be disrespectful of books, particularly lending books. I guess every job has its tribulations.

    Barbara, that is a some letter carrier! I'll bet his is another job that can be meaningful in surprising ways.

    Jeanne, I do OK on the open road, but one of stressors staying with my parents was driving my V8 Tundra around their town. Truck did not fit in the parking spaces, many of the streets near the beach were only a lane and a half wide.. ARGH. I was glad to get out of there! And I'm sure your kitties want you at home with them.

    bn100- Why do you think I set stories in England and Scotland?!

    Nise, my mom stayed home with the seven of us, and thank heavens she did. I HATED putting my kid in day care, though there are good dedicated day care parents out there, and she had some. Hats off to you for taking on the toughest best job there is--parenting.

    Martha, didn't know you were a Person of the Books. Particularly honored to have you here with us!

  20. In a previous life I worked for several book stores. Best job in the world though I NEVER took home a paycheck. Always left it behind!!

  21. Not 100% sure of my calling per se, but I'm getting closer. :-D
    I recently discovered your work and have been absolutely devouring all your books. So, while I'm still searching for my calling, I'm certainly enjoying the work of you and others that have found (and are flourishing in) theirs

  22. My dream job would be research librarian.

  23. I absolutely LOVED working in a bookstore. However aside being an author, my dream job would be to be a rock star.

  24. My dream job would be an archeologist. I love the past and as a child I wanted to dig in the ground looking for treasure or bones.

  25. id love to work in a charity bookstore but it would be too much temptation for me. it would be great going through all those unwanted books and finding out of print books.
    i'm a veterinary nurse which I love. its not the best paid job in the world but I enjoy it most of the time.