Who hasn’t watched a scene in a movie or TV show where some character unknowingly sports a “Kick Me” sign on his back? I’m pretty sure my first exposure to it was Eugene in Grease.
Well, Jennifer Colgan over at Killer Chicks posits that we’re all wearing signs we can’t see. Now, the signs she’s talking about aren’t hung by the T-birds, but are instead messages that we unconsciously put forward into the world. And they garner just as many reactions from those around us.
I’ve known for years what my invisible sign is:
I WORK IN THIS BOOKSTORE.
Now, I have never worked in a bookstore. I did spend one summer working at a library, but that’s the closest I’ve ever gotten. Still, I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been stopped while perusing the shelves to be asked where another patron can find the book they’re looking for.
It started in eighth grade. My mother and I went to the mall after school. A mall that I loved because it had two bookstores, one on each end. I, naturally, paid a visit to both that day. And in both, I was stopped by people who thought I was an employee.
At that point, I just assumed it was because of my outfit. We’d had a Christmas show in school and I was wearing a white button down shirt tucked into black pants. It could have been a uniform. So that must have been it.
Except it wasn’t.
Since that day, over and over again, I’ve been asked “Do you work here?” more times than I can count. Once I was stopped as I was exiting the store, coat on. The patron had just barely crossed the threshold, made eye contact and asked if I was employed by the establishment.
With the exception of that day when I was thirteen, my bookstore attire generally consists of jeans and a sweater – nothing particularly uniform-y there. I’m not one to sport a name tag for the sheer fun of it, so that can’t be it. Never once have I asked anyone if they need assistance in locating a desired tome. If people inquired about my employment in other types of stores, I might just assume that I have a shop-clerky look about me.
But it is only bookstores.
It’s possible my reading obsession shines a little brighter in a bookstore, drawing people to me. Or maybe, folks just assume that anyone carrying that many books around must be restocking the shelves.
I’m not sure. But I do know that it’s my invisible sign.