Now, I know most of you folks are the right kind of donors. You don’t pack moldy books in banana boxes, and you don’t slip slow-moving teenagers underneath your copies of The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, thinking I won’t notice. The very fact that you are reading this blog shows your superiority to most of the world. (You may call yourself the 1%, if you like, but I wouldn’t.)
Still, I have had a few complaints from my pick-up volunteers, and one or two of them have come up more than once lately. If you could pass these along to those of your friends who aren’t quite up in your level, I’d be grateful.
1. Have Your Books Sorted: I don’t mean by subject or by hardcover and paperback, though you can if you want to. But please have your books sorted between what you’re donating, and what you’re not. Some of my volunteers adore standing around as you take books off the shelf, explaining the history of each one and what it means to you. Others have a rather tighter schedule and though they will smile, back here they will call you names that will necessitate the repainting of some of the walls.
2. Tell Security We’re Coming. This is especially true if you’re cleaning out an apartment for someone else, and don’t live in the building. Doormen look askance at people who show up with a van and say “We’re here for the books!” This is so unlikely a story that they have us pegged as jewel thieves from the outset.
3. Mention Stairs. Did I tell you about language that blisters the paint on our walls? When a volunteer comes out for eighteen boxes of books, and eight are in the basement and nine are on the second floor, we even have to repaint the ceiling.
4. Tell Your Dog We’re Coming. We can sometimes smile nicely and convince a security guard we mean no harm. Your Rottweiler isn’t listening to a word we say.
5. Consider Parking. While we haul thirty boxes of old comic books down the stairs one at a time, it is best if we are not parked in a) an alley so narrow nobody else can get through while we’re there, or b) the front driveway everybody uses to pull up to the building. Again, if you live somewhere else and are just cleaning out, YOU may not care what these people think of you. WE may be called back there someday for someone else’s books and be told to park in the next block because of what we did last time.
6. Tell Your Cat We’re Coming. We’ll be opening and closing all kinds of doors, and you may want to keep track of where little Moofin is at all times. ESPECIALLY if we’re carrying books on the stairs.
7. Shut Up. Most volunteers love to meet people and talk: it’s one of the prerequisites for the job. But there are certain phrases you should leave unsaid. “The book dealer took a lot, but there are plenty left.” “I threw away all the cookbooks.” “I set the boxes over there so the spiders wouldn’t get into my suitcase.”
8. Tell the Donor We’re Coming. So far, it has always worked out without gunfire, but we disapprove of your staging an intervention while the owner of the books is elsewhere. It’s not good for our morale, to say nothing of the donor. And it proves what the dog and the doorman thought about us in the first place.
9. Consider the Equipment. Please don’t tell us “There’s a cart you can use” and then offer us a TV stand with wheels, or a shopping cart, or that wooden object your grandmother used to bring the tea things into the parlor. AND don’t tell us there’s a cart we can use when there are two flights of stairs. Carts are not useful under these circumstances.
10. Tell Yourself We’re Coming. If we’re coming to YOUR place, we’d like to think you will have been awake for an hour or so, and are ready for visitors. If we’re meeting you someplace to which you have the only key, kindly show up. A mutual swap of phone numbers means we can exchange notes on traffic mishaps and such. Traffic happens. This is really important if we’re meeting you at a storage locker somewhere out in nowhere. One of the picker-uppers swears he hears music from Clint Eastwood westerns while he waits out there. Another thinks of slasher movies. It’s supposed to be about books, plum dumpling, not the cinema.
If you could keep these things in mind, I’d be very grateful. I don’t mind the smell of paint so very much; it’s having to wash my ears out when the volunteers are done describing you.