Wednesday, January 02, 2013

More Charlie Stella, and a bit of stupidity is turned to good account

I was told I could expect my copy of The Man Without Qualities, Volume 2 to arrive this morning, but when I arrived at the store around 5 p.m., I was told the day's delivery had not yet arrived.

I enjoyed the succession of grimaces and furrowed brows from the store employee who looked up my order even though I was sure all the facial gymnastics meant no good news. Sure enough, she told me the book would now arrive Friday. Then, while I was browsing elsewhere in the store, another employee walked over to tell me that my order had never gone in after all and would now take about a week.

"No thanks," I said, similarly declining her offer for help with anything else. I'd been helped quite enough already, I told her.

But all was for the best, since it transpires that the e-book edition of The Man Without Qualities I'd read included just half of the novel's first volume. So I walked to another store and bought Volume I, and I now have fifty-one chapters and 390 pages to read before I need Volume 2, and by that time the order-challenged folks at the first store may able to come up with a copy.

I took my new purchase to hot dog restaurant, intending to have a bite and some coffee while I typed this post. The two workers in the place said yes, it was a WiFi hot spot, but they did not know the password. Was my chain being yanked, or are the folks who run the place really that lackadaisical and incompetent?
I've spent part of the rest of the day reading Mafiya, sixth of Charlie Stella's eight novels. It's a bit different from the other seven through its first hundred pages, with less humor and characters more savage and vicious. But the same multiple viewpoints he uses in the other books — Stella loves to show men and women at work, out, and at home, doing what they do in their daily lives — here make the vicious Russian gangsters even more chilling.

As much as I enjoyed Stella's first five novels, Books Six through Eight — Mafiya, Johnny Porno, and Rough Riders — are my favorites. Stella gets better and better.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Blogger Dana King said...

Those are my three favorite Stellas as well. You're right about the everyday stuff. Lots of people want to write about the bosses. Stella gives a view from the ground up.

January 03, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I was up until about 6 a.m. finishing the book. Charlie Stella rules.

January 03, 2013  
Blogger Unknown said...

"Was my chain being yanked, or are the folks who run the place really that lackadaisical and incompetent?"

Probably it was the latter. The is my cynical curmudgeonly view. My experiences with retail clerks, restaurant servers, and similar frontline helpers have led me to adopt an unpleasant opinion regarding the decline of western civilization (i.e., the rise in incompetence, and the decline in civility).

I had a similar experience today at a tiny neighborhood restaurant when the server complained that I wanted tea instead of soda because she had not yet made the tea. Then, when I asked about dessert at the end of my humble meal, she said there would be no dessert because business had been slow so she had not bothered to prepare anything. Her responses were offered with such gusto that it was clear that she had little or no patience with any customer's requests.

January 03, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

We're of one mind regarding civility, the lack thereof, and what it means. Your surly menial no doubt lacked the confidence, tact, manners, and brains to realize that if she had apologized for the lack of dessert and explained the reason, she'd likely have earned a sympathetic smile rather than a condemnation of Western civilization.

My crew were polite enough, but they were just dopes. If the wireless connection is for employees' use only, say so. And if it's for public use, then know what the damned password is, if there is one. (It has only just occurred to me that perhaps the connection was available without a password. If so, though, they should have known and told me so.)

I've had interesting experiences with front-line servers in recent years. I moved into my current neighborhood just as a lot of young entrepreneurs were opening businesses in the area. Their lack of service skills were obvious at first, especially compared to the very different and possibly even more grating service laziness and incompetence of the area's old-line businesses and government agencies. But the standard of service has gone decidedly up at these youngsters gain more experience. It's been an interesting phenomenon to observe, these folks learning on their own what in previous generations they'd have been taught.

Yesterday's clueless pair were in a different part of town, by the way, and one was a young woman, the other an older man. So they defy easy generalization about standards of courtesy and service eroding in the young.

January 03, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

P.S. If, as I suspect, neither of the two was an owner of the place, then the owners are to be blamed for not letting them know what they needed to help customers. Not to sound too bolshie, but a number of the quality-of-service problems I've found endemic to Philadelphia. notably in public agencies, are almost surely the fault of management rather than workers. I will elucidate in a future post about the area's public-transit agency.

January 03, 2013  

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