With dreads hanging over his eyes and a backpack, Moshe Mashela looks like a typical student. However, this third year BCom Law student has a cool job as part-time staff manager at a bookstore.
Why did you choose to work at a bookstore?
(The) flexible hours, so I can work and study at the same time. And (there is) easy access to books.
What are some of the challenges you face in juggling a part-time job and university?
The biggest challenge is time and energy. You have less time for school, but you manage your time properly. Luckily shifts are flexible…
What are some of the difficulties of the job?
It’s retail so there are difficult customers. The worst ones try to get their way by shouting at or insulting staff. I often have to deal with these since one of their favourite lines is: “Call your manager”. Most people are nice and reasonable. The women are pretty decent, although you sometimes get hit on by old men and women, which is not cool. Flattering, but still kind of disturbing.
A challenge is when people describe books that they are looking for too vaguely. We just plain don’t have a mental index of blue books with red writing about a lady or a cat, so we usually tell them there’s not much we can do without a title or an author, or a key word at least. Don’t get me wrong, though, no matter how vague a description, we’ll still do our best to help them find it.
People sometimes get mixed up and ask for books by Jane Eyre, or want to know when the next instalment of Anne Frank’s diary will be released.
What are some of the best things about this job?
Interacting with people, because you meet really nice people at bookstores and you have to get to know them to know what kind of books they like, and recommend something else they might like. You also learn a lot from them. They end up recommending books to you. The staff, which has become more of a family than anything else. The books, obviously the books. And not going to lie, it helps to have an income.
Any funny stories while you’ve been at work?
There’s this little boy, he sincerely thinks that he’s a wizard, and is convinced that we’re hiding our “real” spell books somewhere, and keeps asking for them. There was a lady once who asked for a book she saw in a dream. People sometimes get mixed up and ask for books by Jane Eyre, or want to know when the next instalment of Anne Frank’s diary will be released.
Has your reading improved? Have you read more books now that you’ve worked at a book store?
I’m still reading the same amount of books it’s just that now I’m branching into different fields, rather than just reading fiction. Because you have to have a working knowledge of almost, every section so I started reading things that I usually wouldn’t.
What do you think about the level of literacy in South Africa?
How do you think we should stimulate reading?
Not going to lie, I don’t know. We’ve been trying to do that and it’s just not working. The thing is, books are quite expensive so they not easily available to a lot of people. Making books available is quite expensive in this country. The reading culture is still underdeveloped.
this article was featured in the Wits Vuvuzela