Holidays are a mixed bag for me. On the negative side, the hours are long, my feet are sore, and I wake up most nights worried about stupid stuff. On the bright side, I like to watch people shop. It’s fascinating, really. Everyone approaches it so differently. It can be so revealing of one’s inner psyche.
At the bookstore, shoppers tend to fall in to certain groups. First, there are the list makers. There still are some yellow legal pad people out there, but whether it’s print or phone, these folks have names, ages, addresses, preferences (and occasionally a record of last year’s gift) at their fingertips. When they get a grip on you you better allot some time, because they are not going to let go until all the ribbons are tied and the stamps are licked. It’s actually fun to share in the sense of accomplishment that is the object of their efforts. I always think we ought to share a little glass of champagne when we wrap the last gift for the niece in Urbana.
On the other end of the spectrum are the “creative types.” They wander about looking high and low in every nook and cranny. The telltale sign of the creative shopper comes when they ask to use some counter space as a sort and gather spot. There is often no apparent goal or time limit to this process, just little mysterious piles that grow and multiply. But there is energy (they remind me of the squirrels running around in my back yard) and sometimes genius. A mother/daughter team bought seven scarves the other day and matched them perfectly with earrings, while a grandfather carefully sorted out seven books of poetry for the progeny. You give these folks a little room and encouragement and they will be happy.
Then (and this is particularly an Island Books type) there is the advice seeker. Perhaps due to past positive experiences, perhaps due to the overwhelming options, many customers come right up to the counter with the question, “You chose the perfect book for my in-laws last year, can you pick out something perfect this year?” An innocent enough request, however it requires us to remember in-laws, preferences, last year’s book, etc. and then perform the magic trick again. Sometimes all I can see is fog. Thank God for the able staff of Island Books and their friendly, collaborative, and creative nature. Someone, somehow, will solve the problem. They are a proud group of old pros.
Lastly, there is the indiscriminate and unsophisticated group of shoppers. This is my tribe. I don’t really care what I walk away with when I go shopping on my one day a year. I just want to go someplace familiar, stimulating, cozy, and cheerful. I shop at two stores every year: de Medici Ming Fine Paper stationery store in Seattle and Galway Traders in Ballard. I just like returning, visiting, browsing, and conversing. To me it is a ritual with rhythm, not a process with a goal. I say I am part of the “Slow Shopping Movement.” My wife says I am useless.
Be it as it may, I have hundreds of kinfolks who while away some hours at our store in pointless pleasure. We provide for these folks too. Regardless of your modus operandi, we want you to know how much fun all your energy and questions bring to our store during the holidays. Thank you for shopping, and thank you for sharing.