The following is paraphrased, and altered slightly in the name of discretion (I'm rather protective of my customers and colleagues). But I think you'll get the picture.
Them: Do you have any books on Greek mythology?
Me: Some. Is there anything in particular you had in mind?
Them: We want a book on the Greek myth about the Eucharist.
Me: (Silence at first, as the brain tries to digest this. Then, slowly, carefully, hesitantly, not knowing quite what else to say, the following...) I think that Eucharist means the same as communion, doesn't it?
Them: No, there's a Greek myth about Eucharist. Not the Eucharist like with a church. The other one. It's Greek.
Well, yes it is. Utterly. I'm lost.
There follows an involved exchange wherein I wrack my brain for every Greek (or possibly Roman) myth I can think of that has something, or someone, in it starting with a similar sound, or that has something in it rhyming or nearly rhyming. We don't get very far, in part because I'm not as well versed as I might be in Greek/Roman mythology, and in part because my mind, having been started down the wrong path, is refusing to turn all the way around. The situation is further complicated by the fact that "Them" in this case is not the person who wants to buy the book, but someone who is trying to help someone else find a book she thinks she heard about somewhere. "Them" doesn't know the title, the author, whether the book is for adults or for children or for young adults, or if it was published recently or long ago. I know this because I ask about these things, searching for clues. "Them" also isn't sure that the person who wants to buy this book knows the title, the author, whether it is for kids or adults, or whether it was published recently or long ago. But he ("Them") knows she ("the potential customer") wants the book. She thinks it sounds interesting. We end the conversation for the time being, with me promising to work on it.
My husband and I have an intellectual conversation over dinner, in which we firmly establish that neither one of us knows as much Greek mythology we might, much less as much as we're sure we used to know in our school days.
Later, having been struck with a brainstorm, I have another go at it.
Me: What is this myth about?
Them: It's about flying too close to the sun.
Me: Got it. I know exactly what you mean.
That is an exaggeration to save face. I know exactly which myth he means (it being one of the few I know about), but my mind is crawling with all sorts of Names That Weren't Right that cropped up during earlier conversations and I couldn't give him the right name to save my life. I break off to go search on the Internet.
Guess first, if you'd like. The answer is here.
That hurdle cleared, we now get to move on to trying to figure out what book this person wants, and whether we can get it for her. My husband offers to take it from here. (The last I heard, he'd ordered in two different titles for her to look at, but they hadn't arrived yet.)
This sort of situation happens all the time. You would be surprised how few people ask for a book by its actual title or author. As often as not, we get something close to right, but not quite right. (Like the above example.) Most of the time this doesn't faze me. Most of the time I enjoy solving customer-caused riddles.
But, I have to admit, this one threw me for a bit of a loop, right there at the front end.
I know. I know. It should have been easy. In hindsight it's obvious.
What can I say? I was blindsided by this one.
Saturday Review of Books: March 28, 2015 - “I really demand a lot; sometimes, I think, too much. But I don’t want to waste time on a bad book. A bad book is any book you don’t like. A good book is a...
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