I was having a look at this today after thinking about the year and a half I spent working in a local branch of Borders Books here in Glasgow. I couldn't really say I enjoyed my time there, since I rapidly realised the job was absolutely no different from working in a Burger King or stacking shelves in a supermarket. Down the plug went all my previous ideals of how cool it would be to work in a bookshop. As I like to say, substitute cans of beans for the books and the job is no different; the only real winners are the shareholders.

The curious thing about Borders is I can't actually figure out what the worst thing about it was. The staff break room was always like the waiting room for hell. How can I describe it? A malaise, a sickness of the mind, an innately depressing environment.

Actually, I'll tell you what it was a bit like. It was a bit like being back at school. The problem with a place like Borders is they need to hire at least some people who actually read books. That means intelligent, frequently college-educated people. Intelligent, college-educated people and mindlessly tedious jobs stacking shelves and operating tills do not go together. Especially when you remember that some of the people in your local Borders are writers, and writers are, by their nature, not the most typical people, either by lifestyle or temperament. Instant friction.

Here's something else. Here in the UK ( I don't know about the states) we also have the Waterstones book shops around the country. Two people I knew who couldn't stand working in Borders - including one who previously worked in a Dillons - jumped ship to the local Waterstones. There has never been, nor I suspect ever will be, an incidence of someone working in the Waterstone's here going to work in the Borders. I could be wrong, but ... well, I've run into people since I quit a couple of years ago who tell me they won't even set foot in the Borders again. I have to, since the sf writer's circle meets there, but I can't say I always enjoy going in. Scary place.

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