The Help Desk: Always be (talking about) closing

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Dear Cienna,

It’s obvious that my local bookstore is going out of business. I don’t know how long they have left on this planet, but the shelves are thinning and the staff is shrinking and everything feels a little more desperate.

I’ve been shopping there for years, and everybody knows me by name. My question is this: should I say something? Is it impolite for me to ask how they’re doing? Or is it more impolite to not ask? At this point, I think it might be too late to help them, but I also wonder if they know how obvious it is that they’re in trouble.

Is it better to just see the store out to the end of its days in silence, or should I be the nosy neighbor?

James, [Neighborhood Withheld By Request]

Dear James,

If the staff knows you by name, you've earned the right to voice your concern. You've built relationships in this bookstore and with its employees, and they're in jeopardy. However, if it makes you feel uncomfortable or nosy, consider this: nosiness is asking something for nothing – in other words, fishing for personal or sensitive information while simultaneously withholding gossip about yourself. So when I'm being nosy, I like to throw out a few embarrassing facts about myself first – like, "I don't believe in dinosaurs," or "I do believe in chemtrails," or "Sometimes I get drunk at hiphop shows and lecture black men who are hitting on me about the history of their own oppression."

I have found that people quickly let their guard down when they can't envision respecting me, and then they tell me everything.

Here's another thing: I don't live in your neighborhood or have the relationships with your booksellers that you do, but I can't help mourning the loss of yet another local bookstore and the great people and books it houses. I'm sure you feel the same and coming from you, that sentiment would probably mean a lot to its employees.