Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Treasure Hunt (2)

“It is good to love the unknown.”
-Charles Lamb

I waited long, so long, for this particular week and as I marched toward the thrift store, my strides seemed too short, the crowd was too condensed and I could not get there fast enough. Such was my anticipation, I thought the door handle would melt under my hand and disappear; I thought the book section would be vacant; I thought that I would never arrive.
Still, I got there: and the fact that I fled after ten minutes of browsing is perhaps testament to both the superior store I discovered just down the street as well as the fellow who offered me a chair.
Ah, the chair.
"Would you like this book?" I looked up, uncertain if the question was directed at me or at anybody in particular.
A rather ragged looking chap was pulling books from the shelves and showing them to me. "I wanted this, but you could have it if you like." I soon realised he was making the same offer to every customer within earshot.
Most were polite and declined the record player, the board game, the stack of books that he had put aside for himself but was willing to relinquish.
After a few minutes I observed that he was equipped with a hat bearing the word 'staff' and I was quite startled, as I presumed he had not fished the hat from the boxes of castoffs.
I skirted around the shelves, hoping to avoid eye contact and any more hopeless discussion. Every time he caught sight of another book he liked but was happy to let another person buy, he would come around to my side of the shelf and attempt to sell it to me, or whoever happened to be there.
I prefer to explore bookstores in relative peace and solitude, not looking up from the shelves until my excursion is complete. If a stranger ever struck up a conversation with me I would be delighted and it would not seem at all to be a distraction, but he was half mumbling his bargain suggestions in a manner that indicated- though I could not put my finger on precisely why- I had better be careful not to offend him.
I had to lie, I had to construct gigantic fabrications about my reading habits, and tell him I owned most of the books he was holding up. In truth I had not heard of many of the authors but each one looked less and less like my cup of tea.
Then the dishevelled fellow offered me a chair, insisting that it was no good to hurt my back while searching for books.
"I'll get you a chair," he said. "I work here. I'll have a chair for you."
I had waited twelve months for this very week, most of which, if I am honest, were spent in a monotonous sitting position, and I refused to sit still for another moment when I could be pleasantly rummaging.
Still, I found myself saying, "that would be nice. Thank you."
I supposed that I could sit for a minute or two and then inconspicuously stand up, move away from it and start digging again.
The chair, oddly enough, never materialised. I did agree to one being delivered post haste, but that member of staff immediately resumed the discussion about this book or that, and I quickly comprehended that the chair was not going to make an appearance, and that I ought to be moving along also.
In moving along I realised that it was a blessing in disguise; that my intended two hours in that store would have masked the exuberant spirit I stumbled upon later. I had a marvellous day to the point where I quite wore out my feet, and my eyes could take in no more.
That is all that can be said about it, about the chair that was not there, about the day without a chair, about the day bursting with so many other pleasant diversions, that the lack of a promised chair is but a brief afterthought.


Pauline said...

I had to chuckle at the mental picture of you trying to fend off the staff man and his mumbles.

I had to laugh about my comment that Cambridge was 3 hours due west of me, too - it's just the other way around. I am 3 hours due west of Cambridge. But - I waved in your direction this morning, too, and not a soul minded...

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Pauline- I didn't even realise! I just knew what you meant and I waved accordingly. Not out to sea, mind ;)
Glad you waved too! Who could mind a thing like that...

Barb said...

Yours stories are always so descriptive. I could just see you standing in the back of the store, (I see you with a sun hat perched on your head and Birkenstocks on your feet) working your way through piles of dusty old books while trying viliantly to disengage yourself from your helpful staffer. Made me chuckle. B

polona said...

ha, this was delightful to read... probably not so much for you having to put up with that guy...

julochka said...

but what books did you find?

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Barb, I was in the very back of the store ;) you really could see me...
I'm glad you laughed- my work is done here ;)

Polona, no, he wasn't quite what I was expecting in that store but at least I found a better store next door.

Julie- I actually mentioned one of the books in reply to a previous comment you made. I probably will make a post about the books. But one of them was "The Ministry of Pain" by Dubravka Ugresic ;)

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