by Andy Mitchell
If you’ve spent much time in the bookstore, chances are you’ve sat in the chair opposite the front desk. There’s nothing particularly special about the chair. I mean it’s just a chair. Except that it has multiple personalities. When Mom stops by for a chat, it thinks it’s “Mom’s chair.” When Carol Chesebro comes in, it thinks it’s “Carol’s chair.” When so-and-so comes in … well, you get the idea. Occasionally, when it’s unoccupied, I imagine Dad sitting in it. He sure logged his share of time there across from “my office.”
One of the perks of my job is playing bartender. At least that’s how Craig Cassens sees it. When he comes in and sits in “his” chair, he says he feels like he’s in a pub sitting on a stool. The only difference is that books are being served rather than booze. Although we’ve shared a few drinks at the bookstore, as well. When he recites Yeats by heart it seems appropriate to offer him a Guinness or a Jameson. Expressly for such occasions, I consider it my duty to stock the store with more than just books.
George Clark has been known to wander in, settle into “George’s chair,” and rattle off his favorite rhymes from the Rubáiyát. To hear them in George’s inimitable cadence – remnants of his Boston accent redolent of his Harvard days – truly is a unique pleasure.
There are certain days when it almost seems like Anna must have scheduled appointments for the chair. No sooner will one guest have left when another one appears. These days go quickly, each friend pulling up “his or her chair,” regaling me with the most entertaining and enlightening anecdotes, leaving me wishing I’d taken notes. While Craig kindly sees it as me holding court, I see it the other way around. When he takes “his” seat I feel like a student in a tutorial, gleaning nuggets of wisdom from the master.
Occasionally, Anna overbooks the chair. I love it when this happens. With several friends gathered at once, rather than holding court, I just sit back with my hands folded behind my head, and listen as the lively conversation unfolds.
Yesterday, Anne Logsdon had just nestled into “her chair,” when the aforementioned Carol came in on her lunch break. Anne quickly offered her seat to Carol, who just as quickly declined, perfectly content with the piano bench in ‘Poets Corner.’ So there I sat between them, delighting in the company of two faithful customers.
I might add that the honorable Mr. Cassens (another OTB devotee) never fails to stand up, step aside, and motion to the chair when anyone else enters the bookstore appearing in need of a place to sit. You see, everyone stakes a claim on the chair. But they do so without being possessive. They do so without even realizing it. They just feel at home in “their chair,” at home in my home away from home. And nothing could please me more.