Speaking Volumes (2/16/13)There's an annual book sale I go to every year, the kind where you get in line at 3 a.m. even though the doors don't open until 8. Five hours of waiting and there are still a hundred people ahead of you because certain diehards pitch their tent at 6 p.m. the night before, all for the simple thrill of walking in ahead of everyone else.
It's a terrific sale, tables and tables loaded with interesting books, but people don't donate like they used to and there just aren't as many rare and unusual books as there were just a few years ago.
I've been attending the sale for nearly two decades, found my share of valuables. It's still a thrill, still something I circle on my calendar, still something I cannot resist. You wait and you wait all those hours and the very best stuff usually goes very quickly, within the first fifteen minutes. Some years I stay two hours, sometimes three. Depends on what I'm looking for, who I'm buying for.
It goes without saying that I spend more time in line than I do shopping for books.
This year was a relatively easy wait. I had a good partner in line with me and it was much warmer than it's been the last few years.
There have been times, waiting in that line, where I bought a cheap cup of coffee just to have something warm in my hands. Just a few years ago, in what we felt was bitter cold, we took turns sleeping in the van with the heater on for 15-30 minute shifts.
This year we sat in the same chairs we took camping, covered in blankets and extra layers of clothing.
If course, it's not just the cold or the lack of sleep that you're battling. It's the fellow eccentrics that surround you, the unabashed book addicts, the card-carrying dreamers, the socially awkward, the nutcases.
The line was mostly quiet except for the people sitting next to us who droned on about personal things (their jobs, their sex lives, their unpublished novels).
We listened in silence until one of the women paused to describe her unusually large hands. "These gloves I'm wearing? They're men's size large."
Which was all I needed to burst into laughter.
I tried to blame it on the lack of sleep, tried to muffle my giggling in the folds of my blanket.
I didn't fool anyone.