Kent State Bookstore Grinds My Gears

Mr. Japanese Sea Cow and I are visibly upset over not being permitted to buy a fucking Ampad notebook from the Kent State University Bookstore in the Student Center Complex, because I wouldn’t put my backpack in their “Place Bag Here” wooden cubby hole matrix. First, I disagree with the attitude that the bookstore takes toward students and anyone else who may be carrying a backpack–obviously, women are permitted to carry their bags into the store, large and small. I realize that many bookstores on college campuses have these bag areas with the idea in mind to reduce shrinkage. There are other, more effective ways to reduce shrinkage without overtly labeling all potential customers are thieves. Second, the Kent State Bookstore in no way assumes any responsibility for my bag and its contents, which includes a laptop, iPhone, books, notes, tools, etc. That’s right–tools. I don’t want to appear hypocritical–not wanting to be viewed as a criminal, yet distrusting others with my things out of sight at the front of the store by a heavy traffic, public area, but there is a difference–the store has substantial capital and the potential means to effectively protect their goods without criminalizing all who enter their premises. I, on the other hand, do not have the capital to run the individual risk of someone purposively or mistakenly lifting my nondescript black backpack from a public space unattended. I can, however, hold on to my bag and dutifully give others respect as human beings and fight the urge to steal, which apparently the bookstore is afraid that I cannot control. Third, I’m particularly troubled by the fact that students obey the signs and leave their things at the front of the store. I didn’t stand there after my altercation, so I don’t know how many were rebuked, but a girl in front of me was also reprimanded. However, she went back to the front and left her bag. I, on the other hand, left vowing never to return. Oh yes, I have voted in the market by taking my $3.50 elsewhere, and I will, going forward, tell my students to seek their books from businesses that give them respect as individuals and not treat them as criminals. By putting de Certeau’s theory of individual choice into action, I believe that I am effectively sticking it to the Kent State Bookstore and its attack on respect for persons. In my best Ricky Bobby voice–“Alan Wilde, save me with your magical powers of irony!”

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Jason W. Ellis

I am an Associate Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology. Also, I direct the B.S. in Professional and Technical Writing Program and coordinate the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, which holds more than 600 linear feet of magazines, anthologies, novels, and research publications.