Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Bookstore

The Bookstore.
The bane of my existence. Even though I spent as little time as possible in this prison cell, it was still a font of humor, frustration, ill-will, amusement and sometimes even amazement.

Inside the Fort Jefferson Visitor Center there is a small (5' tall) doorway with a sigh overhead reading "BOOKSTORE" along with a sign that says "LOW ENTRY - Watch your head".
(Even with the warning, at least once a day someone would hit their head on the top of the doorway. Heh.)

Imagine, if you will, a 12' by 12' room with postcards, refrigerator magnets, navagational charts, t-shirts and one whole wall filled with books.
Further imagine a large, hot, irritable, ogre seated behind the desk within.
("Hot" as in roasting, not "Hot" as in sexually desirable. Quite the opposite, actually.)

Joe (or Josephine) Visitor looks inside, glances around, sees the ogre and asks the inevitable question:
"Is this the bookstore?"
Yon ogre has little patience for repitition. Hence, when the 3rd or 4th visitor walks (ducks) into the above-described room and asks "Is this the bookstore?" you can imagine the response.
(Complaint forms are over on the table near the window. Please be specific about HOW he pissed you off.)

Oh, we get all kinds of questions in the bookstore...

See the t-shirt display? The one that has the prices, the t-shirt sizes, compositional makeup, and the request not to open the packages? You see it there, next to the display shirt showing the pretty design featuring the Fort, non-existent sea grape and palm trees, terns and other colorful flora of Garden Key...

Clueless Visitor: "How much are the t-shirts?"
Ogre in Bookstore: "Please see the sign- 17.99, 19.99 for 2XL."

CV: "Do they shrink?"
OiB: "See the sign. They are pre-shrunk."

CV: "What are they made out of?"
OiB: "The sign says cotton."

CV starts to unwrap one of the t-shirts from the stock shelf.
OiB: "Please don't do that."
CV: "But I wanted to see what the design looks like."
OiB: "It looks like the one *right there* on the display."

Clueless Visitor continues looking around the store...

Clueless Visitor 2 wanders in... Looking around carefully.
The Ogre has seen this one too...

CV2 is holding a soda can or water bottle or some other trash.

CV2: "Uh... Do you have a trash can?"
OiB: "No... The trash can you are looking for is out in the sally port, next to the sign that says "NO FOOD OR DRINKS INSIDE FORT"
CV2: "Oh. Uh. Thanks." and sheepishly departs.

The original CV has another question...

CV: "Do you have any books here?"
OiB: "Is this a trick question?" indicating the entire wall of books, with subjects ranging from Marine Science to Botany, from Historical biographies of the Lincoln conspirators to the construction of Bastions and armament design. Books on fish, birds, marine life and Florida wildflowers. Different field guides for everthing from saltwater fishes to astronomy.
Do we have books? Does a cripple crab crawl?
CV: "Oh. I didn't see them."

Oh the questions we get...

- How do you get here in the morning?

- Do you live out here?

- What do you eat out here?

- How do you cook your food?

- Do you sleep in the campground?

And not just the personal questions... Sometimes the questions are downright weird.

- Where can I rent a speargun? I want to shoot some lobsters I saw out in the coaling docks.

- Can I rent one of those yellow carts? I'm too tired/it's too hot to walk around the Fort.

- Where is the best diving? (I usually answer "Australia".)

- Can you shoot the fish with your gun? (Asked of one of the Law Enforcement rangers)

The bookstore and ersatz "giftshop" often gets interesting requests for odd items...

- Where is your drink cooler? (Usually a camper or a visitor on a private boat)

- Do you sell ice? (Same as above)

- Is there ANY way to get a perscription filled here? (This confused me horribly. Like I was going to whip up some Darvocet out of buttonwood and casurina bark or something.)

- Can you give me a razor? I cannot be seen in my swimsuit until I shave! (She points at her armpits and groin.)
(This came from Niki Ryan, who in the 3 years she worked in this loony bin saw *everything*.)

And the infamous question:

- What time does the self-guided tour start?

Ah, the Bookstore.

Good times, good times.

Famous, out-

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