Thursday, November 19, 2009

Its In The Bag

I just got back from The Big Book Sale at the library, and although I plan to take a nice little picture of my stack as "show and tell," here's how the morning went down.

Unfortunately, because I have a meeting at 1:00 p.m. (which has now been pushed back an hour), I had to wear something professional, i.e. a suit. Not my original plan, but the shoes are the thing. Those are easy to change, and besides, I have more shoes under my desk than I do in my closet at home. I tend to pad around barefoot in my office or in bedroom slippers, so no dressy type heels for TBBS.

I brought two black canvas bags that I use to carry home my groceries. Each has a little zippered pocket sewn inside - a perfect place to carry the necessary cash. They are deep enough to hold my glasses. That was a good thing since I forgot to buy a "granny chain."

At approximately 9:45 a.m., I set out (sans purse) with my two black bags and walked the two blocks to the library - no parking woes; so far so good - and found myself 16th in line. Also good. While the minutes ticked away, I glanced through the latest copy of Book Pages and periodically looked down the line that was forming hoping to see my old gentleman friend. Of course, I might not have recognized him had I seen him, but I was a little disappointed to be honest. Then at precisely 10:00 a.m., the double doors to the room were opened and we filed in. It was a much much smaller crowd this time, and there was no getting swept up in a sea of humanity. Oddly, the frenzy of last time added to the excitement. The crowd was a mixed bag of all ages and ethnicities - all united in the love of a good (and cheap) book.

My first stop was the cookbook table. Standing at the table was a very professor-ish looking fellow with a neat, short gray beard wearing a turtleneck sweater. All he needed was a pipe and beige corduroy jacket with leather buttons to fit into a stereotype of some sort. Of course, I don't know if he was a professor (BUT our world-famous art college has an academic building right next door to the library, so....) He was very dishy. "Dream big," say I to myself. Anyway, just as I reached down to pick up Lidia's Family Table by Lidia Bastianich his hand lighted on the same spine and we both pulled our hands back, and smiled at each other shyly.

"Go ahead," I said.

"No, no. I think you saw it first," says the dreamboat.

"No...really," said I.

He paused a second and looked deeply (or so I say) into my eyes. I tried to remember if I had refreshed my lipstick before I left the office. A little color is needed after a certain age. And as I was trying to mentally assess my appearance, he spoke.

"How important is this book to you?" He was smiling.

"Not very. How important is this book to you?," say I. (That's right, work the room Grad, a little voice says. I may have batted my eyelashes here, but I would hate to admit as much.)

"Not important at all. So you win..."

okay, here it comes - brace yourself

"...Ma'am." MA'AM??? Did that dude just call me Ma'am? That gray beardy dude?

"Yeah...well, thanks," I sniffed and shoved the damn book into my bag - my first grab. I wanted to shout, "And furthermore I bet you're not really a professor at all, so stop trying to pretend!" But I didn't. Poor fellow. I imagine he was left wondering what he could have done to offend the little old lady in the black suit with her pince-nez falling off the tip of her nose.

But the cookbook table was not a waste of time. I picked up my fill (including one by Jamie Oliver) and moved on to adult fiction. This was the most difficult area to wade through. Not only were books on the tables, they were under the tables as I expected. With my new (black) suit, it was best that I not kneel. Bending at the waist with my bum sticking out similarly didn't work for obvious reasons (small aisles and ample bum). Not to mention the fear of having my back go out and being stuck like that for days...and the problem posed by walking back two blocks dragging the bags of books on the sidewalk like a Neanderthal. Squatting was dangerous as I was not at all sure I could get up. Unless I could see the title clearly from an upright position, the bottom books were basically off limits. But I did pick up one from below - The Poisonwood Bible. Now, I wasn't going to go after it at first, but as soon as I lifted it out of a box a woman came up to me and said, "I loved that book. But it's so sad." Okay, you had me at first but now I'm not so sure. And then a second woman came up and said, "You have to read that book. I love that book." In the bag it went, not so much because I really wanted it, but I was very reluctant to disappoint these two ladies by not taking their recommendations. I probably could have sneaked it back into the box, but why take the risk of offending? After all, we're only talking $1.00.

After about 45 minutes I found myself not looking at the books so much, but listening to the conversations of the people who were there. One lady, obviously a teacher, was telling another lady, "I'm taking these back to my classroom. This is a great opportunity for me to get books that the kids want to read." A man and a woman arrived with post office bins on a hand cart in which they were grabbing armloads of volumes. In the bins they had children's books, and mysteries, fiction, and who knows what else, which they were taking to a shelter. A mother was saying to her little girl, "Which ones do you like? Which ones will you choose?" And her daughter's eyes were as large as saucers at the prospect. The kids' books were .50, so she could have as many as she could hold.

The one thing that I've noticed about The Big Book Sale (now that I am no longer a novice) is that the people who go there are just plain nice. There seems to be an effort to wait your turn, to stand back after awhile and allow someone else to get to the stack in front of you. There were a lot of "pleases" and "thank yous" (which, to be honest, are pretty typical for the South, so not a real surprise). There was no pushing, no shoving. The whole room shouted, "God Bless You," when someone sneezed. And, except for that one grizzly, old broad in a black suit with pince-nez perched on the end of her nose who had been standing at the cookbook table, everyone behaved themselves.

As I made my way to checkout, I spotted The Mitford Bedside Companion by Jan Karon. I thought I might have read someone blog about that one but I couldn't remember. It became my last grab.

Final tally (not sure how many books - I'll have to unpack when I get home) was $12.50.

Oh, and as I walked back to the office I passed several real professors on their way into the building next door. Male art professors, no doubt. I could not repress a smug smile as I watched. They all wore a turtleneck sweater, all wore either a tweed or plaid a jacket, and all carried books under one of their arms. Not one of them was smiling. There's poetic justice there...somewhere.


  1. Grad, this was delightful reading. I felt like I was there with you! And so funny about the man at the cookbook table. Can't wait for the photo and the list of books. Oh, and I loved Poisonwood Bible too :)

  2. Oh, how I love reading your posts!!!!

    "Ma'am"...grrr...the nerve of some people. ;) Gotta admit, I hear that more and more these days. *sigh*

  3. Sounds like heaven. It's been too long since I've browsed through the aisles of a book store, much less a Big Book Sale! Sorry about the "Ma'am." :o( Maybe just excessive politeness?? I too really enjoyed The Poisonwood Bible.

    I've enjoyed catching up on your blog - I can't seem to find the time to read and comment as much as I'd like these days, and I miss it, but I'm sure things will settle down eventually. There's a time and a place, right?

  4. I got called Ma'am on Sunday, Graddikins, by a young (but not that young!) waitress - I nearly died!!! Why is there nothing dignified and dashing for the many years in between 'Miss' and 'Ma'am'??

    Hilarious account of the BBS, as expected, and I've had The Poisonwood Bible recommended to me I don't know how many times, so I'm sure you'll love it.

  5. Stefanie: I will definitely post my stack. I got some doosies.

    Debi: Thanks so much. And, dare he! :>

    Janell: You've got your hands full these days, but I love it when you do drop in.

    Di: Hmmm...something dignified and dashing for the years between Miss and Ma'am. Let me think...I got it! Oh Great Goddess, Oh Wise And Beautiful Creature." Whaddya think? Too much?

  6. This post is hilarious! And I felt as if I could have been there - only of course, if I had, I'd have been under that table for the both of us, Grad. I'll bet the professor-type is kicking himself now, having blown his chances with a lovely woman by stupidly coming over too polite and saying the wrong thing. Never ever assume that a man gets the words out of his mouth that he chooses. My husband would be the first to tell you that silver-tongued lines are never there when you need them!

  7. Litlove, I wish you HAD been here to crawl underneath the tables for me (Ahh, youth). No telling what I missed, my plan for wearing jeans thwarted as it was. As for the "professor," I've taken to walking over to the library at lunch thereby passing the academic building...just in case Fate is sitting on the steps reading something purchased from the Big Book Sale.

  8. Oh Great Goddess, Oh Wise and Beautiful Creature?

    Yeah, I think we run with that.

    I'm feeling a bit sorry for the "professor" now - he's probably going over it and over it, wondering where he went wrong...

  9. Hi Grad

    I can't find an email address for you, so please forgive me intruding on your comment wall. I’d like to invite you to write about your favorite books at, where you can add information, images, video, music and links to illustrate and explore the books.

    Right now, we're running a $3,000 Tournament and we'll be offering contract work to the best entries.

    Best wishes

    Hector Macdonald
    Editor, Book Drum