Some days as an independent retailer I reflect longingly on my time as a lawyer for McDonald's Corporation. Not only did I love my job, but I also had a really smart executive assistant whose work it was to make sure all I did was practice law. Plus there were IT and HR and catering departments, not to mention cleaning and maintenance support. As I've mentioned via my "bad-a** hands" blog last week - this is just really not the case for me and my staff at our beloved bookstore. Example: earlier today I tottered on a ladder replacing lightbulbs in our super high yet lovely ceiling. That said, we feel so lucky to be in a fancy mall now - where (hallelujah) folks shovel the parking lot and salt the walks for us! No more stopping by Buikema's for snow-melt on winter workdays! Wait though, dang -- salty boots make the hardwood floors - well, really salty. Hmm, what department do I call for that? What's the extension?
The Daughter Department. And I have her on speed dial. You see, my eldest is willing to labor for cash since she's paying her own way in post-college life and it turns out life is expensive. Prairie Path Books is lucky to have access to the 6500 square foot event space next door at Town Square for our larger gatherings*, and we had one planned for Friday, but the flooring needed serious de-salting. So I dialed the Daughter Department and promised cash for clean floors. She grabbed some cleaning solution from home and came over; I directed her to the bright and energetic-looking yellow mop and bucket/wringer contraption. She got some music going and was actually grooving and singing as she swooshed the mop about. Bop bah, tra la. La.
After a while, however, she began to notice that traces of salt reappeared as soon as the mop water dried. Hmm. She called to my attention that not only was the floor not getting clean, parts of the floor not salty before, were now messy with white film. I've not been a mom to involve/solve my kids' issues (unless helping out meant making food), so I didn't engage in her grumbling. I mean, after all, kids today need to learn how to get past adversity, am I right?
She mopped it once. It took one hour for the 6500 SF and grumbling replaced her singsong half-way through. She mopped it twice (13,000 total SF, 100 minutes). The wood looked better but still, it was salty-filmed. Daughter Department was showing signs of disappointment and distress. I finally offered: "I bet you're not refreshing the bucket water often enough, do it again but change the water more." She said "love you mom," as she wheeled and sloshed the bucket over for the third time, making it 19,500 square feet of mopping. (OK she said something I couldn't hear, but I'm pretty sure it was love-ly). Finally, she had to get back to the city and I paid her but we neither of us were happy with the results. I groused to myself that kids today don't seem to be able to MOP for heaven's sake. What would her Great-grandmother MacGregor say?
After she left, we had a nice person come in, and he happened to comment re our salty hardwood: "You're not using a household floor-cleaner like Bona are you? That won't clean up real commercial salt pellets, it doesn't have the right ingredients. You're just spreading the salt around." WHAT?? She was diluting the salt and then mopping it all around from the bucket? How was I supposed to know?
Naturally, my frustrated floor-salt funk dissipated quickly because I began giggling at my daughter's expense. Giggle hee. Haha tee hee. She didn't have the right cleaning stuff?! Hee hee tra la. I mean, we thought we knew how to get floors clean because we have muddy Bad Dog to contend with. I never imagined there might be special commercial stuff that worked better in an ummm ... commercial setting. I laughed and laughed with my staff and some customers and my husband about poor Hannah's Sisyphean efforts, but I hesitated to tell her that I myself had set her up for 3 hours of frustration and failure. Because then I would look like an idiot and I hated to ruin her belief that mom is serene, wise, and all-knowing (be quiet, readers). But I went with my gut and told her. We laughed so hard, we cried.
And yet, still, I feel solid on the independent retailer/parenting front because here's the reward for learning things the hard way: you remember what you've learned. Plus your sore-muscle memory reminds you to prepare all you can next time you undertake a task. "Measure twice, cut once" my (carpenter) Grandfather MacGregor would say. In mopping thrice my daughter got to see with her own eyeballs: 1) what hard work it takes to keep a small store going; 2) that failure can be an irreplaceable step-stone for learning if you let it; 3) that laughing at mistakes is not just good for you but also an inexpensive form of entertainment; and 4) her mother will always be good for giggles because of her mistake/life ratio.
All that to say, I'm so glad we are an independent bookstore family because soon comes Independent Bookstore Day! In a few weeks (April 27) we not only have a party planned (a' course!) but two author events and our Jenny and Sandy spring book review bash: Champagne & Daffodils. Call to let us know you can come!
*Oh and hey - now it's all clean and ready, contact me if you have a bookish event in mind, we'd love to have you next door, but for heavens' sake, wipe your feet.