I started a new part-time job this week at a place called Midtown Scholar in Harrisburg, PA. It is an amazing bookstore/café/art gallery/performance space/classroom/political debate venue, and more. So far, I couldn’t be happier. I love working there.
It is a dream for a girl like me to be surrounded by so many books. Plus, there’s gourmet coffee and tea, hello, and it’s in “Midtown,” a part of the city with much exciting history and culture. The building itself is worth a visit for its striking beauty and impeccable decor. It was originally a movie theater in the 20’s, the first desegregated one in Harrisburg. If only I could time travel and see it back then! Then, it was the first bi-level department store in the area. I can totally picture it full of mannequins, jewelry displays, cosmetics, and more. I bet it was “the” place to shop for those who had the money.
Because of its location in Midtown, the customer base is incredibly diverse. It is situated next to the LGBT Center, a cool thrift store, hip bakeries and coffee shops, historic buildings, office buildings, and as is normal in “the city,” surrounded by impoverished neighborhoods. You might have a conversation with a politician, then a mechanic, then a college professor, and then a homeless person looking for a place to get out of the heat. No one is required to buy anything, and as long as people are respectful to the other people in the store and the property, anyone is welcome to come in, drink all the water they need for free, buy coffee if they’d like, read books, converse, and stay all day if that’s what they please. Needless to say, you never know who you are going to meet. I love that about the place, and I love that the owners, Eric Papenfuse and Catherine Lawrence, have set up such a warm, welcoming, safe, culturally uplifting place.
Speaking of a diverse customer base. . . An eccentric man came in to the book store today to look for a book of plays by Molière. He was tall, muscular, heavily tattooed, and wore a large cross around his neck. Assuming no one had ever heard of the French playwright, he began to “school” us on who Molière was, what he wrote about, and why he should be more acclaimed. “Shakespeare himself named Molière the best comedian of the time.” After sharing a few more facts, he said, “Not bad for an old biker, huh? You know what? You seem like a nice person. I’m going to show you something. Here.” He took out his driver’s license and handed it to me. His last name was Moliere! He claims to be a direct descendant. He wears it like a badge, and even goes by his surname.
I remarked to one of my coworkers that it reminded me of the British film “Albatross.” It’s a coming of age story about two young women living in a seaside, rural town in England. One of the main characters is a young woman with the last name Conan Doyle whose entire lifestyle and self esteem is reliant on her belief that she is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s direct descendant. I highly recommend the film, so watch it if you get the chance.
Anyway, the guy realized that I was only in training and said, “You seem like you’ve worked here for years.”
I said, “Yeah, I’m just a really confident person.”
“Yes you are,” he said, “but I wonder if there’s a more humble way to say that.”
“I wouldn’t know,” I said, “I’m not a very humble person.”
“No. I have a lot of wonderful qualities, but humility is not one of them,” I said. (Get it? Wink.)
“Yes, you do have a lot of wonderful qualities. I can tell. I’m not hitting on you or anything, but I can see that you are a special person. You have the fingerprints of God all over your face.”
So yeah. Not only did he get a little weird on me, but he totally missed my clever joke about humility. (I think it’s a hilarious joke, in my “humble” opinion. Haha.) I say a little weird, ’cause it was, but not in a bad or offensive way. I took the “fingerprints of God all over your face” remark to mean, in a convoluted way, that I look like someone who is kind and full of love. I’m alright with that.
Oh yeah, and I looked up Molière when I got home. It turns out that “Molière” was only the playwright’s pen/stage name. So, I don’t think it’s likely that this guy is actually a direct descendant. Or maybe Molière is the name that the playwright passed onto his children. I hope so, and if not, I hope the guy from the book store doesn’t read this. Either way, if he comes back, I will recognize him, and I will say, “Hey, Moliere! How’s it going,” and I will play along, ’cause what do I care? If it makes the guy happy, good for him. Besides, stuff like that makes my day more interesting and gives me stories to tell.
I have a feeling I’m going to meet a lot of eccentrics at this new job, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.