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The time I gave books a lift

Scholastic Books. There. Now you're thinking about Scholastic Books, which brings book fairs to schools all over the country to give students a little more say in what they read. I told you that to tell you this: I temped at Scholastic Books once. Of course I eventually worked in a book warehouse*. That was for three weeks in January 2001, right after I'd moved into Portland. The warehouse is still there, in an industrial park east of PDX. (Also on Facebook, where it promotes its in-warehouse sales.)

A good place and a good crew, thank goodness: a mix of temps and permanent people, and a mix of ages from twenty-something to middle-age, all (as I recall) welcoming and fond of books. Rap over the PA, Jammin' 95.5 to be exact, and this was when Outkast's "Miss Jackson" was on heavy rotation. I was probably concentrating on book-lifting too much to head-bob, but I enjoyed the music.

The books Scholastic publishes include the phenomenon that is the Harry Potter series — you'd see the odd box here and there from the previous summer's release of Goblet of Fire, marked "HARRY POTTER IV" because the title was kept under wraps until two weeks before the book came out — and on breaks at the job, I read the opening chapters of The Sorceror's Stone. I'd been aware of it, especially since I'd covered schools for my newspaper job when the first four books came out, and my dad was already reading and enjoying the series; finally I could see what it was about and go Ah, now I get it. And of course I explored more: the first Lemony Snicket books, science guides, First Reader-type books, and kid-friendly guides to all sorts of subjects: I particularly liked a hardcover Marvel Comics guide to X-Men, as I'd liked the 2000 film and had come to realize I was surrounded by friends who were X-Men fans. Skimming it (all I had the time for) helped me get a better base for following the series, years before the wonderfully comprehensive podcast Jay and Miles X-Plain the X-Men began.

A couple of tie-ins surprised me. Scholastic had YA books based on The Sixth Sense. It had YA tie-ins to the Left Behind books. Eclectic selection: you hope booksellers have that, even if I never would've bought those two series.

That job wasn't going to be temp-to-perm; I got a temp-to-perm job the next month, at the downtown Portland call center I worked at for three years. But the book warehouse felt like one of my moves, since so much of what I pack and unpack in each move is books. Helps to move books when you're being paid for it...



* Years before, I'd temped a weekend at a book sale, which also seems like something I'd do eventually, too. It was summer 1993 in Northern Virginia, between years at college, when Mom and Dad still lived there. The sale took over an empty City of Fairfax hardware store and had tables and tables of books. Workers got first pick before the sake, and I bought a behind-the-scenes book about the making of Star Trek V and a book jokingly retelling the Bible using photos from often horribly-done Biblical film adaptations.