by Andy Mitchell
Recently a woman walked into the bookstore, took a whiff, and sighed, “Ah, the smell of books. You don’t get that with a Kindle.” Ordinarily I would run someone out of the store for uttering such an offensive word. But since she was using it to advance my own sentiments, I let it slide. Further surveying my kingdom (perhaps that Ken Bradbury poem has gone to my head), the woman surmises: “You have the best job in the world.” To which she adds, “How wonderful to be able to just sit and read books all day long.”
Ha! I can’t remember the last time I read a book. In the store anyway. Sure, I affect a life of intellectual leisure whilst sitting behind the desk, but when Anna comes in, it’s off to the trenches. That latrine needs cleaning; that trash needs taken out; those shelves need dusted. And I didn’t hire her to do those jobs. She’s the wunderkind. I’m just the owner/janitor.
But, honestly, I agree with Madame X, one of the many wanderers who enter Our Town (Books), just passing through on their travels. I do have the best job in the world. Even if I don’t just sit around reading books all day – not that there’s anything wrong with that!
For one, I have the best staff around. Did I mention Anna? Ok, maybe I’m using the term, “staff,” rather loosely. Even if she is the only paid employee, she’s as good on her own as most three or four individuals combined. But, let’s not forget Dr. Underwood (Bill to those of us with the good fortune to call him, friend). Once a week he imparts sagely counsel for which I pay him not, save for the odd book and the occasional bottle of wine.
Speaking of wine, I’d be remiss not mentioning Darlene, professor Emeritus of mysteries. Although I usually only see her once a month these days, our sommelier-in-residence keeps us happily supplied in vino come hop night. And for this I am eternally grateful.
I’m also fortunate to have so many faithful customers who put their money where their mouths are. A lot of people support small business in theory, but only those who practice what they preach keep local mom and pop shops afloat. And so far, Jenn (the behind-the-scenes “mom” of our shop) and I are staying above water, thanks to customers of all ages choosing us over other options. Bookstore owners are particularly challenged. Essentially we have three strikes against us: Amazon, big-box stores (Walmart, Barnes & Noble), and the aforementioned e(for evil)-readers, be they Kindle, Nook or what have you.
But fortunately we’re not playing baseball. Three strikes and we’re still swinging, if not for the fences, for a solid hit into the left-center gap. Hell, even a blooper into shallow right. A bunt! Whatever. Whatever it takes to stay in the game. Because it’s a fun game. Selling books, I mean. Well, baseball, too. If America’s favorite pastime were buying books, I’d have it made. But as it is I’m not complaining. Those faithful customers keep coming in. Out of the dugout? Out of somewhere, anyway. And as long as they do, they will keep me in the best job in the world.