Tuesday, July 19, 2011

She May Never Be Consoled, But I'll Try

     We all knew it was inevitable, but we're still torn up about it.  Borders Books and Music is officially closing.  The whole thing; it's locking up its doors and burning all the books.  (It's not burning any books.)  The news reported it would liquidate (I do not know what this means) and, uh, fire all the people who work there.  I was still half asleep while listening to the news.  I heard these words: Borders, liquidation, 11,000, area stores, 500 people out of work.  But, I do know it's true, Borders is closing. 
      I know Mary is pretty upset about it; I'm hoping I can talk her through the pain. 
      The number one store was in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  It was a fine store.  It was on the corner of E. Liberty and State Street.  For the few years I was there, it was icon.  I worked there my senior year of college.  It was the best job I had in college.
     Years before my mother and I had gone into a Borders and I wandered over to the cafe section.  I had asked if they could make me something that was half hot chocolate and half coffee.  I was probably 16 or 17 at the time.  The wonderful barista said she could make me something even better.  I was skeptical, but she guaranteed it.  That was my first mocha and I was hooked.  I had thought it was weird to have a cafe in a bookstore, but now I was a full convert.  A cafe in a bookstore was genuis.
     So it seemed fitting that my last year in college was spent there, at the cafe in Borders.  I don't know if this is still a thing, but at the time, they had fountain beverages.  I used to put shots of espresso in my Coke.  I don't actually recommend it, but it kept me from having to sleep. 
     A fun part of working the cafe is that the floor manager would often rotate booksellers through the cafe to cover breaks and whatnot.  The booksellers didn't make the coffee, but they were there to help out; to ring people up and keep me company.  For me, it was fun to just meet my coworkers by having them come to me.  Also, my coworkers were usually my first and last customers of the day.
     There were only about 4 of us cafe folks- people who only worked in the cafe.  We were highly specialized!  I still remember Skylar telling me I was like "10 pounds of happiness in a 5 pound bag."  Yes, he was being sarcastic.  They really were a great group of people.  
     I even liked the break room they had.  Borders gave hour long lunches to their employees who worked 8 hour shifts (I think that was the rule, it's been a few years).  This was the first job I had where hour-long lunches were a thing.  It was such a luxury.  Some days I would walk down to the Cottage Inn and get a small meal.  Other days, I would take a nap on the couch in the break room.
     They offered a pretty nice employee discount, and I remember some sort of holiday deal where for three days you could get double your discount or something. I don't remember the details, but I do know everyone got books for Christmas that year.  And their birthdays.  And for every holiday for months after that.  I actually did buy a lot of books while I worked there.  
     My friends used to come by and study there.  The book store was a lot like a library to us.  (Perhaps that's why they're going out of business- we just rented the books instead of buying them.)  We'd read a little, do a few equations, have a cup of coffee, listen to new releases at the listening station, tell a few jokes, make a journal, wear their T-shirts, use their restroom, put the books back, and stumble to a bar.  It was a good place; it was a second home.
     It's sad to see it go.  I haven't actually been back to the E. Liberty Borders in a few years.  But all Borders still had a Borders quality to them.  I'll miss it as a fixture.  But I'll miss it based on sentimentality and nostalgia, not because I think it could still be useful.  It hasn't been a huge mystery as to why it wasn't working out for them.  But still, the Borders brothers had something special for a while.  And I'm glad I got to be a part of it. 

1 comment:

  1. It's pretty upsetting. I went to three midnight release parties for Harry Potter at the Borders in Birmingham. I do pretty much 100% of my Christmas shopping in Borders. And the one in Ann Arbor - that was the killing time spot. An hour between classes? Wander around Borders. Our movie doesn't start for twenty minutes? Wander around Borders. Poor Borders. I shall miss them dearly.