Monday, May 15, 2006

SB Day: The Things You Leave Behind

Kate posted asking for any Traditional Regency Romance recommendations yesterday and it got me thinking. I’ve never been a Traditional Regency reader; I think that I devoured some during the time when organic chemistry ruled my brain, but after that? Not so much. My interaction with the Trads tends to be limited to shelving them, helping customers find them, and wondering if I should shelve them with the monthlies so they can all be in one spot.

Not a sub-genre that I dwell on overly much.

But I had this one gentleman, an older shopper in his late seventies, who used to come in and buy them from us. He never asked for help, never introduced himself, and I don’t think I ever knew his name, but weekly he would come in. Always in his golfer cap, buttoned down shirt, sweater, and slacks, always perfectly pressed, he would make his slow shuffle to the romance section and pick out one—only ever one—book to purchase.

His cap was gray.

His shirt always some type of plaid.

And there was always this little spot on the side of his neck that he seemed to forget to shave. I don’t know if he realized. Or if he cared.

Or if he had someone to care about it for him.

But I remember he always would make me smile, silent though our interaction was, because he never made it further than the bench outside our doors before he would sit down and start reading his purchase. He never read very long, just a few pages to get the first taste, but always, always, I could look up after he left and find him sitting there, book cracked open in his lap.

I haven’t seen him since last fall.

I don’t know if he died, or had to move to a care home, or was hospitalized. I don’t know his name, so I can’t even check the obits.

No one would think to tell a bookseller that a customer that they saw but did not carry on conversations with passed on.

I like to think that he’s moved to be with his family or to see some friends, and even now he’s wandering into a bookstore in Florida, Arizona or California, shuffling into its romance section, and selecting the newest Traditional Regency or reprint.

I like to think that he still doesn’t make it past the nearest chair or bench to start reading his choice.

And I like to think that somewhere another bookseller is smiling the same smile I do whenever I shelve a Traditional Regency and I think of him.


Christine Fletcher said...

What a lovely post.

You drew this man so beautifully, I can see him on his bench, book open. Like you, I would like to think he is simply in another city, selecting his Traditional Regencies from another bookseller.

Heather Waters said...

Wow. I think I might actually need a tissue. That post broke my heart, but was more touching than sad.

I know I'll be wondering what's happened to that man every time I walk into my local bookstore.

E is for Editrix said...

This reminds me of my grandfather who spent the last couple of years of his life at the Barnes and Noble which he called his "Corporate Headquarters." He sat there every day, walked around, made book recommendations to random people, talked to everyone... I always wondered if anyone told the staff he died.

What a sweet post...I'm a little teary eyed now.

Eileen said...

Fantastic post. I choose to believe that if there is an afterlife it contains a great independent bookstore, where the teapot is always on, there is a great chair and eternity to catch up on your reading. (which given my to be read pile is about how much time I am going to need)

Wendy said...

*sniffle* Reminds me a Mr. Trapp - a legally blind gentleman who came in at my old job to get audio books. He couldn't see a darn thing, so I always had to go back there and help him pick out titles. He liked mysteries, westerns and some non-fiction.

He passed away a couple of years ago....

Robin Brande said...

That post just made my day. We think we go through life so anonymously, and no one ever notices us. There you are with all the details of that man--his clothes, the unshaven patch, his buying and reading habits. I think it says more about you than him. How nice of you to notice.

lady t said...

I use to have a customer who I nicknamed The Professor(he was a former teacher at Fordham)-he always had a disheveled look about him but his manner was very gentlemanly at all times and loved buying stacks of classic lit,which we discussed during the check-out. Held up a few folks but many didn't mind-some even joined in the discussion!

He stopped coming by a few months before I left-do hope he's alright. Your post about this TR man,BSC, is so sweet and I'll bet you're right about him enjoying a good book somewhere:)

Kate R said...

after that lovely gem,

I'd feel like an evil turkey pointing out the beginning of the post (the bit about who reads trad regencies) also that I was looking for other recommendations. I've got my Trad Regency Winners all picked out. Now I just need to analyze the rest of Romancelandia.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone not have some unique, quirky old man this post made them think about? Thanks for the free ticket down memory lane.:)


Anonymous said...

mine was this little old man with plaid pants and pointy white patent leather shoes...he'd come into my store every sunday to get the paper.

i found out when i returned from school one semester that he had passed away, but a couple of years later it still makes me smile to think of him.

i just discovered your blog at work the other day and i've been reading through all of the archives- if i didn't live on the other side of the country, i'd probably try to find your store!