Saturday in the Bookstore: Porter Square Books
In Which The Same Question is Asked 52 Times
As with many memoirs, the events have been condensed and stylized for the purpose of storytelling, but, even if this isn’t exactly factually accurate, this is certainly how a Saturday at Porter Square Books usually feels.
8:01 AM: Answer first “Can I use your bathroom?” question of the day.
8:25 AM: Set aside a copy of The Book Just Discussed on NPR for a customer who called from the car before Scott Simon even had a chance to thank the author.
8:49 AM: Wrap the first birthday present of the day: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. The joke about wrapping something with “origami” in the title doesn’t fly for some reason.
9:10 AM: Man, the line for coffee is really long this morning.
9:35 AM: Sell out of The Book Just Discussed on NPR. Consider asking a crafty bookseller to make Scott Simon a crown out of the pages of discarded ARCs.
12:17 PM: Answer 27th “Can I use your bathroom?” question of the day, though this time the question is phrased “Is there, like, a key or something, for, uh, you know, uh, the bathroom?”
12:44 PM: Can you believe that line at the café?
1:15 PM: Take advantage of a lull at the register to collect books that have been abandoned far from their homes. Topic for discussion: Was the person who left a Hilary biography on top of Science Fiction part of the “Draft Elizabeth Warren” crowd?
1:52 PM: Answer a question about where to start with Bill Bryson, but, since Gary is answering, provide an answer that incorporates the history of tourism on Mt. Washington, the reason why houses in Denmark are so narrow, and a story about hitch-hiking through Colorado with a distant relative of Winston Churchill and also manage to sell them A Walk in the Woods, A Distant Mirror, and the latest Chuck Palahniuk book.
2:02 PM: Boy, lots of a coffee drinkers in these parts.
2:04 PM: Yep, just gonna pop over to the café once the line dies down a bit.
2:08 PM: Any minute now.
2:09 PM: Yep, just a cup o’ Joe.
2:13 PM: OK. IF I DON’T GET A CUP OF COFEE SOON I WILL LEAVE A TRAIL OF DEAD THAT SHALL BE IMMORTALIZED IN EPIC DIRGES—[Café Zing barista kindly breaks away to deliver a cup of coffee] oh, you didn’t have to do that. Thank you.
3:40 PM: Wrap the 24th birthday present of the day (The Adventures of Beekle). Offer sympathetic smile to parent who has spent the last 20 minutes reminding indecisive child that the party starts at 3:30. Fed up with such pestering, the indecisive child reminds the parent and all within earshot that, rather than being a line, time is made of wibbly, wobbly, timey, whimey stuff. Feeling slightly regretful (but not really) for letting the indecisive child stay up late to watch Dr. Who last week, the parent reminds the child that cake, however, is a fixed point and the pace of departure increases rapidly.
4:28 PM: Customer asks for a recommendation and when pressed for more details responds, “You know, just a really good book.” Tackle Josh before he tries to sell Ulysses, or Santantango, or whatever other madness he’s been reading lately.
5:18 PM: Spend 20 minutes scouring the shelves for a book which you find 20 seconds after the customer leaves, sitting in stacks on the front table.
6:32 PM: Answer 52nd “Can I use your bathroom?” question of the day, though this time the question was asked in semaphore, which, though we truly appreciated the creativity (and the flags) was a little much for the end of the day.
7:06 PM: Take a deep breath, realize that there are fewer books in the store than at the start of the day, which means there is more joy and empathy and wisdom in the world than there was at the start of the day and remind ourselves that this is a pretty sweet gig.