Usually this time of year I’m not at the bookshop. In years past, I’ve been at BookExpo helping out our regional independent booksellers’ association. I’ve always enjoyed the big convention; talking to publishers about new titles, meeting other booksellers, meeting authors, and just generally poking around and seeing what’s new. The educational sessions are great too – they always got me psyched up to try something innovative and different at the shop. I wore flat shoes and worked the floor all day, everyday. Camaraderie, good galleys, free drinks – what’s not to love? Tired feet were a small price to pay.
But this year, due to various kinds of upheaval I’m here at home. The last week in May is beautiful in Ohio. There’s lots to do this time of year too. We have a whole bunch of different authors coming to the shop that I need to get ready for, there are the air conditioners to put in the upstairs windows, flowers to be tended – we can put out the outdoor furniture and enjoy the breeze. I didn’t know what I’d been missing.
I really didn’t know what I’d been missing.
Today a man came into the store and asked, “Is this Barnes and Noble?”
There was a pause.
We said no.
He said, “But it says here on my iPhone that there’s a Barnes and Noble here.”
“Um, well… there’s not. Can we help you? We’re a locally-owned independent book store.”
“Did there used to be a Barnes and Noble here?”
“No, there’s never been a Barnes and Noble in this town.”
“But it says on my iPhone.”
“I’m afraid your iPhone must be wrong. We have lots of books, though.”
“Will you take my Barnes and Noble Gift Card?”
To appreciate the real weirdness of this scenario, you have to know that the bookstore where I work is located in a 200 year old building on a street entirely devoted to small, independent businesses. It has a large sign on the front with the name on it as well as the sort of clever, hanging sign you see on pubs in England, sporting our logo and name. We’re not shy about this whole who-we-are thing.
“Are you sure there didn’t used to be a Barnes and Noble here?”
“Yes, I’m sure. This shop has been here for 41 years.”
And no, this was not a teen prank dreamt up to mess with people. The fellow was at least 50 and did not seem parted from reality in any significant way that did not concern books. Though we are right next door to a bar, he was not drunk, nor was he discernibly high.
“I want to show you on my iPhone.”
We demurred. He insisted. He then held out the device so that the staff could all see that indeed, it seemed to say there was Another Bookstore at our address. I think he expected us to morph into a Barnes and Noble before his very eyes once we could see the evidence.
We remained stubbornly ourselves.
It’s a full moon tonight, variously called the Flower Moon, Milk Moon and Corn Planting Moon, but now I will think of it as The Bookshop Moon.
Goodnight stars. Goodnight air. Goodnight booksellers everywhere…