For me, going to a bookstore is a simple pleasure. Sometimes I buy an item or two (or more); sometimes I come away with ideas for future purchases. Occasionally I come away disappointed because I felt like discovering a tantalizing new book and couldn't make it happen. While I fear for the future of bookstores and admit that I myself buy a lot of books online due to price differences I can't ignore, the stores are still here and still wonderful and I still love going to them. Or, usually, I love going to them.
The pleasure of this evening's trip ended almost the minute I walked through the door. A pleasant - no sweet, sweet makes it worse - young woman greeted my husband and me. Although I tend to be a bit of a lone wolf when shopping, I can appreciate the warmth of a friendly greeting. But this woman was greeting us from behind her nicely arranged display of the book she was promoting, had written, and was probably really hoping we would buy.
While I responded to the greeting, I did not head over to the table. Instead, I headed to the product section of the store. My strategy was that she would then think I don't even like books and only came to bookstores to look at flowered cushions and odd teas. Do people do that? I then proceeded to sneak back through other sections of the store to the bestsellers at the front that I wanted to see. (I also enjoy looking at magazines but under the circumstances, a move in that direction was too risky.) We left the store through Starbucks. It seemed to be for the best. (Incidentally, I did get a coffee out of the deal. It was good.)
Now, if my attitude seems cold and callous and surprising considering that I like to write too, I would argue that the actions I took were out of kindness. If I did go up to table and the sweet woman told me many details about her book, it would be worse for me to reject the purchase at that point. Then, I would be rejecting something about which she is excited, something on which she has worked hard. This way, I avoided an author's table; that is what I do. The chance I would want to buy the book is small - there are many books - and I don't want to feel pressured to do so. I did what I felt I had to do.
With me being me, I felt bad about what I did. When I met up with my husband, we discussed the situation (a lot of the discussion was really me going on and on and him gently agreeing). While the subtle nuances of it all did not affect his emotional wellbeing in the way it affected mine (they seldom do), he felt that the table need not have been that close to the entrance. I think people should feel free to enter and browse in a bookstore without feeling obligated right away.
I bought no books or, for that matter, flowered cushions and odd teas this evening. I might head to a bookstore again as early as tomorrow to make up for this failed trip (I have a coupon - it will expire!) and I hope that nothing as unpleasant happens on that visit. I love books, I love their possibilities and I love being able to freely explore them. I wish this author the best of luck with her new book and I applaud her for all the work that's gone into it and the courage it takes to sit there. And yes, maybe I did a horrible thing. But all I wanted to do was look at books.