Directly from My Pocket

The following is a copy of the notes I took during my shift today, with comments that I’ve added in now:

Overheard on June 15:
-“I force myself to finish books.” ūüė¶ [Comment: This made me incredibly sad when I heard it. The woman who said it then complained to her friend that it felt as if she used to read four or five books a week. I wondered if this was true, or if this was just something she was saying because she thought that reading books was something that she should be able to do more easily. Other people who I helped later in the evening were unabashed about their inability to concentrate on fiction books, and while I felt very sad for them, because books are my entirely healthy addiction, I also appreciated their honesty.]

Seen on June 15:
-Blue-eyed, round cheeked boy, finding more and more books, shyly admitting “I like books…” [This made me happy, because I could tell that the boy would grow up to be an absolute stunner, and it made me joyful to see someone who I can see becoming a lady’s man enjoying books so much at a young age.]
-Some people walk around smiling all the time. [I don’t know why this is. It just seems that some people smile continuously, or whenever they’re out in public. It’s unclear to me if they’re smiling at someone, something, the world in general, or to themselves. Whatever the reason, they sometimes make me uncomfortable, but other times they make me think that I should smile more often.]

Those

There are those who browse, touching the books as they go.

There are those who straighten the books as they pass over them, as if, like me, it bothers them to see a messy booth.

There are those who look down resolutely, in denial that there’s someone on the other side.

There are those who look up if you greet them with cheer and a smile.

There are those who ignore even that.

There are those who watch other people, who pick up a book someone has just bought, or snatch it up if they didn’t want it.

There are those who listen in to my conversations with customers and try to glean information from them so that they won’t need to talk to me themselves.

There are those who think they’re witty and who continue to badger on with their friends and block the booth with sheer volume and an annoying aura.

There are those who are excited to buy books.

There are those who buy books only because they’re on sale or even for free with their frequent-flier cards.

There are those who tell the stranger next to them that the book he or she is holding is good.

There are those who tell the stranger next to them that the book he or she is holding is bad, even though they’ve only read the reviews.

There are those who are so passionate that they almost have tears in their eyes, and they do my job for me, convincing people to buy this or that book.

There are those who are mean, for no reason at all.

There are those who are nice, maybe because I’m cheerful, but maybe for no reason at all.

There are those who are old.

There are those who are young.

There are those with their lovers.

There are those with their children.

There are those who don’t care a whit about books.

There are those who love them as much as I do.

It’s 2AM

…and I’m exhausted. I worked my butt off from 6:3oPM to after midnight, and let me tell you – as much as I love books [and you all know I do], they’re HEAVY. Needing to arrange huge shrink-wrapped packs of ten copies of The Master and Margarita is no picnic, let me tell you.

Still, it’s worth it. I got moved to the classics table – I’d been at the contemporary fiction before – and I’m so much more¬†acquainted¬†with the older classics, mostly because they’re translated, while the contemporary fiction includes a lot of Hebrew books I haven’t read yet [although I’d like to.] So I got to spend the evening talking about Virginia Woolf and Melville and Hemingway, as well as the Israeli Yoram Kaniuk. I got to see people’s eyes light up when they saw that The Nick Adams Stories were finally translated into Hebrew, as well as Wolff’s Flush. I got to see the people who want more than airplane books, people who want to have the copy of a book they read years ago on their shelves and people who were just discovering the wonders of the classics.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t sneer at airplane books. I’ve read two Dan Browns, so I can’t claim to be a snob. If someone loves to read, then I don’t think there’s any reason to fuss about what he or she is reading, just so long as they’re spending that much time away in someone else’s world. But still, there was something about the people I sold books to tonight that made me feel like they were kindred spirits, excited that there was a world of books out there, old as well as new, that they could discover.