Inevitably, when Jack and I hatch an after-the-shop-closes plan, we get last-minute browsers. It’s part of the business of being a business owner and we accept that, Zen-like as two Quakers can be. . . .
We got addicted to a French TV series called “Spirals.” After squeezing in an episode here and there after Needlework Nights and choir practices, we had a clear evening and planned to watch the final three episodes in a oner—a veritable orgy of big-screen viewing for two souls who struggled to get an hour in per week.
And we were really, non-grownupishly looking forward to it.
Picture it now: two college-educated adults debating the merits of turning off the phone. I made a veggie pizza at 4 pm and set up the hot air corn popper. The last customer disappeared at 5 pm and we sat, twiddling our thumbs in a dawdle of anticipation, useless for any project save waiting. At 5:45 Jack got out our screen and projector (all the benefits of a big-screen TV, plus economy and portability.) I checked the oven upstairs – pizza just going nicely golden at the edges – and started the salad.
And the shop bell rang.
We have an electric bell rigged to the door’s opening so we’ll know when customers come in. At 5:54, a teen-ager in a hoodie bopped into the shop, smiling. “Got any books on meditation?”
Yes, dear. Several. We use them to find inner peace at moments like this.
Baring my teeth in what I hoped would look like a smile, I led the child to Comparative Religion. She had questions; late browsers always do. Eastern or Native American? Dream therapy or transcendence? I took off my party hat, donned my bookselling beret, and swung into action.
Twenty-five minutes passed before she seemed satisfied that we’d found the single published book that met all her criteria. She arose from the puddle of rejects pulled from the shelves, stretched languorously, and said, “OK, then, I’ll guess I’ll take this one.”
$1.05 later, she meandered out the door, stopping to idle in the local book section as I resisted the urge to give an un-Zen-like push from the rear. It’s not her fault she bought a cheap book. She’s a teen. I should be grateful she’s reading. And that she shops local. That I got a chance to talk to her about what she likes to read. She didn’t know we had a “big” (pathetic) night planned. We should be thankful that we have customers at all in this bad economy. We have friends who run bookshops that close at 9 pm and then they still have to drive or walk home.
These things I chant to myself as I bolt the door and turn out all the shop lights. Munching burnt, cold pizza as the opening credits roll, Jack said, “Most of the time, it’s good to be our own bosses.”
Yes. Just perhaps a bit harder to find inner peace.