And Then I Stepped in Gum . . .

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Scenes from a Bookstore

We've spent two days not leaving the house, recovering from our vacation, and now we've slipped over the edge into cabin fever, so we decided to get the children out of the house. Now, many people might take their kids to a park or something, but since it's 3,000 degrees with 150% humidity here in Alabama, we opted for our favorite family outing: a bookstore.

Around here, we've got several giant bookstore chains from which to choose, and it usually comes down to Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million. I know that as the bleeding heart, politically correct liberal, I should be frequenting small, independent, mom-and-pop bookstores, preferably ones with a large selection of queer and feminist literature, but I can't help it. I love Barnes & Noble. Everything about that store target-markets ME ME ME, from the Starbucks (oh yeah, slam me for that too, why don't you?) to the author-decorated tote bags to the hunter green and cherrywood decorating. I could spend ages in B&N, and frequently have. Dave and I have not infrequently gone there on date nights, even.

But Books-A-Million wins out when we've got the kids, because they've got this great Thomas train table, and Ian can entertain himself for minutes on end. Katie prefers B&N because they have a little stage and benches in their kids' section, and she enjoys pretending she's in a steeplechase and galloping up and down the aisles, jumping over furniture. Yes, I know, we're horrible parents. At least we try to keep the exuberance to a minimum, especially when there are other patrons around.

So BAM it was today, despite ardent lobbying from Katie, who whispered furiously into Ian's ear in the back seat of the van. And it worked -- we got out of the house, we found some great values on home improvement books (tiling and painting and bookcases) to foster our new endeavors with the house, and we spent $100! How on earth we did that, I don't know -- especially since they were having a 20% off sale -- but we did it. And we can rationalize it by saying that at least it was probably less than we'd spend at an amusement park or something, and we do have lots of great, lasting books to show for it. Knowledge! How can you put a price on knowledge?!? Plus, I've still got half of a divine espresso brownie waiting for me to finish it. That's all the rationalization needed at certain times of the month.

There were two blogworthy moments at BAM. In the first, Katie and Ian were eating their brownie bribes nutritious snacks in the cafe. Katie, for some reason, started singing the alphabet song.

Katie: A-B-C-D
Ian, piping up: E-F-G
K: H-I-J-K
I: Ella-emma-o-pee
K: Q-R-S
I: T-U-V
K: W-X
I: Oh, oh, oh.

Okay, so he fell down on that last part. But you have to understand, we've never heard Ian sing the alphabet. He knows most of his letters, and has for a while, but when you ask him to sing almost any song, he just hums it. He never sings words to songs. I have no idea why not. Dave and I started at each other in amazement. Later, I tried to coax him to sing the alphabet song again by himself -- and he hummed it for me (perfect pitch, by the way, but no words). I asked him to sing the words, and he replied, "Humming is the words." Stubborn.

The other exchange didn't involve my kids. I was scanning the fiction section looking for a paperback that was engaging, but light enough to take on my trip to NY to close on the house this week (fingers crossed, knock on wood). At the moment, my nightstand contains books on John Wilkes Booth and Lincoln -- not exactly light reading. Anyway, an elderly woman was discussing a book with a staff member who looked to be about college-age.

SM: It's a really good book. It's one of my favorites.
EW: What's it about?

(I snuck a glance -- it was Animal Farm.)

SM: It's about this group of animals that get together and rise up and kick out the farmer and take over the farm, and then slowly they start to become more and more like the farmer.

Okay, so far so good, I said to myself as I eavesdropped. Then this:

SM: It's really an allegory of our political system.

BUZZ!! WRONG ANSWER!! And if you know me at all, you know I had to be obnoxious and intrude on the conversation.

Me: Um, actually it's an allegory about Communism.
SM: Well, true, but it's almost like what our political system is today. People complain about things and then turn into what they were complaining about.
Me: Yes, but Orwell wrote it about Communism -- that's the main thrust of the book. (To EW) You'll like it, really.
EW: It's not for me, it's on my granddaughter's reading list for school. (Running away with a "Get me out of here" look on her face.)

The staff member then tried to engage me in a political discussion, but I've learned my lesson about doing that down here. Very bizarre.

As I checked out, I found an abandoned copy of Animal Farm at the register. Gee, I hope I didn't have anything to do with that.