Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Those Lovable Book Customers

It's been almost three weeks into our annual February break at Old Saratoga Books and as usual, I haven't cleaned and reorganized the shop as much as I would have liked (I get lazy and cold with the heat turned down and leave the shop with many a shelf-mile to dust another day) and the many projects I had planned to accomplish have dwindled to a paltry number. Dan and I have waded through an enormous pile of books accumulated through our eleven years in business and taken a few loads to various libraries, thrifts and one enterprising local youth and yard-sale king. The fiction section has been scaled back a bit and a few book sections moved up-, down- or below-stairs.

This annual break is always welcome at this iciest time of year in Upstate New York, but I do admit to beginning to pine for some of my favorite bookish customers.

*There's Duff Man, so-named for his blue-flowered duffel bag into which he incongruously stuffs macho thrillers and "shoot-'em-ups" (my uncle's term for spy novels). He always brings me in a stack of paperbacks to trade and then insists on just taking out a few new titles for his floral portmanteau, despite the fact that he has racked up scads more money in store credit. When I try to convert this overage to a store credit at the bookstore, he demurs and always mentions something about wanting to see our shop succeed.

*I also miss the perennially upbeat Julia Child lookalike that scoots in every couple of months to stock up on gardening, cooking and literary titles. She is so contagiously enthusiastic about books she has read and (even more remuneratively) books she plans to read as scooped up from our window displays and shelves. I beam every time I see her come into the shop and look forward to an engaging conversation about a new author I must try or about a garden project she has just tackled and wants to research further. Not to mention a few sales.

*There's the former art teacher and his wife who grace our shop every once in awhile and bestow advice about parenting the temperamental artist, offer favorite new recipes and always have good gossip about the local art and political scene.

*I miss charting the growth spurts of the now-teenaged denizens of the pre-school story hour my friends Jacky and Linda and I organized at the local library. These little ones have now morphed into interesting young adults, some of whom remember me, but more often just remember store cat Sam from later visits.

*There are a few shelf-feet of paperbacks stockpiled for my avid cozy mystery reader who comes in for her weekly fix and berates me for not having read all the great mystery classics she has ingested. And a few titles are squirreled away for the 11-year-old cutie pie who loves poetry and Goosebumps and has such excitement in her voice when she finds a good book score in the shop.

*I even pine for some of the wacky cat people that come in to pamper and cosset Sam. They come in a pick him up and purr to him and let him drape across their laps and the napes of their necks. The exclamations alternate with each cat lover: the first exclaims that "Sam's really put on weight", while the next cat fan pronounces that his new diet has really slimmed him down. Fact: Sam the cat weighs 16 pounds. Last year, the year before, this year and no doubt, next year. 16 pounds. I have the veterinarian records to prove it.

*I miss the retired bookstore owner who now has the time to research genealogy and local history in between tending to her 20 foster cats. They have their own cattery built onto her house and are all in some state of unadoptability: having feline AIDS or leukemia, multiple disabilities or missing limbs. She always comes in with a homemade catnip toy for Sam and some interesting local history tidbit unearthed since her last visit.

I have enjoyed having the time to go to my daughter's sporting events this month and spending some more time in hobbitude before the woodstoves and dare I say, even reading a few more books than usual this month, but the social aspects of this business are something special. See you March 1st, 10 am. Bring catnip and coffee. I'll supply the books.

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