Wednesday, May 4, 2011
A good place to be on a very rainy day is the neighborhood bookstore. Specifically, the bookstore cafe. Routinely heading directly to the favorite shelves, grabbing the next book in the series, or the latest from the best author. Maybe selecting a gardening book to peruse, or that interesting-looking but too-expensive pagan book. Grab a glossy magazine, dodge the kiddies by the toy section and claim a table by the window in the cafe.
Appropriately supplied with a fragrant coffee, maybe a large oatmeal-raisin cookie the next half hour or so is spent flipping through the magazine (carefully, of course, so as not to spill coffee on the pages, because this will go back on the shelf for others to look at, before possibly being purchased by someone who thinks it is crisp, new and unread. Sometimes the music that plays from the ceilings is soothing, today it is a little loud and perhaps a bit too off-beat. Still it will not drive the customers away.
An elderly couple have just finished their soup of the day and are setting up a game of scrabble. Three giggly teenaged girls are drinking gigantic frozen coffees and texting like mad. A very studious man is engrossed in his laptop and chugging mineral water. The baristas are making a lot of noise behind their counter and machines are whirring and blending. A steady stream of mothers with babes enter the cafe, order something sinful, and leave quickly. The babies are restless and cannot be relied upon to be quiet and still while moms chat.
The manager of the bookstore is a very tall fellow. He towers over his employees, the bookshelves and the customers. He seems quite friendly. And very knowledgeable as he explains the features of the e-book his store is selling. Serious, middle-aged women listen with rapt attention, raising their gazes to the manager's face, high above them. They seem awe-struck as he goes through the various applications and mysterious workings of this device that could well be the hammer that nails the coffin closed...the coffin being the bookstore itself and his very job. Does he see the irony in this?
As the rain falls steadily, more customers come rushing in, seeking solace, a chance to spend a little time amongst the books and music, stationery and puzzles, coffee and cakes. Everyone seems amiably occupied. It is a rich atmosphere of companionship, literature and good will.
There have been rumors that this bookstore may close. The hours of operation have already been reduced. What a sad thing it will be if this happens. There are no small, independent bookstores around this town anymore. They were victims of this particular large store. The coziness of those little shops went the way of the general store, where folks gathered to talk around the cracker barrel long ago. Even though these big stores can seem corporate and commercially oriented, they have supplied the means for social commerce that many people crave.
Surely, books won't disappear too. It could never happen. Not in this day and age. Right?