I was looking for ways to redeem this Tuesday. I hadn’t really slept well or enough. As usual, I’d fallen asleep on my couch rather than my bed two rooms away, only to wake up at 1am and realize I hadn’t finished my reading for the night. So I drug myself to a halfway upright position and plowed through three essays on the Cold War, and then stumbled off to bed. I woke up at 7:30, later than I’d wanted, feeling even more tired and confused because I’d dreamed that I was looking for lipstick in Soviet Russia, a fool’s errand if there ever was one. My morning was spent being grumpy at myself for not getting more work done, writing a poor excuse for an essay on the causes of the Cold War, and stopping my rabbit from exploring his new favorite place behind the stove. I also ate some pineapple. And some olives.
When I got to campus, my day improved a little. My fellow history grad student, lover of all things Ryan Gosling, the March-born Georgia Van Gogh presented me with a magnificent belated birthday present that I immediately showed to everyone I could find—now including you, dear reader.
Before putting us through the rigors of a discussion on the economic and political challenges of the Cold War, my professor, a kind and compassionate Catholic priest who is widely regarded as one of the most demanding professors in the department, gifted us all with chocolate bunnies to celebrate Easter, and then had us debate the validity of various scholarly theories until my head spun.
Before heading home through a supposedly Spring afternoon that felt more like late February to make pasta and read about the diplomacy of the Civil War, I decided to run an errand I’d been putting off for a few weeks. So I drove to the local independent bookstore, and there my day started looking up.
As soon as I walked into this magical place, I felt at home. It was quiet, and uncrowded. No one bothered me the whole time I was there. I didn’t have Sales Associates coming up behind me as I tried to determine just what kind of books made up the “Space Opera” section to ask “Can I help you with anything? Do you have a specific title in mind? Are you shopping for anyone in particular?” I sat undisturbed for a good twenty minutes reading the first few pages of Anne Lamott’s latest work, and no one glared or shushed me when I laughed out loud at a joke about a blind gynecologist. Despite coming in to look for one specific title in one specific section, I browsed the whole store in peace. I discovered that there was a sequel to a favorite book from a favorite English class senior year of college. I found an addition to the Christmas present I have yet to give my sister. I had to stop myself from buying “Downton Abbey: The Complete Scripts, Season 1” or the entire travel section, particularly the guidebooks on Philadelphia. I squealed delightedly when I spotted a recommended book on my favorite female explorer, and a children’s picture book about the life of a small rabbit named Nicholas. What’s more, this bookstore had exactly one copy of the title I was looking for, and when it came time to check out, the woman behind the counter, who I have named Nancy, engaged me in conversation about my life and upcoming events. I smiled all the way home, even after I checked my mailbox to find it empty of the news I’ve been waiting to get for two weeks. My Zen state continued even after my pot of pasta boiled over, Indiana Jones James Bond decided it would be a good idea to check for Nazi spies and lettuce behind the refrigerator and I remembered I still had 200 pages to read for Wednesday.
Today, I spent an hour in an independent bookstore. And it has made all the difference.