Cranks and Self-Starters

            It is not really my business to worry about what people think of me.  My job is pushing books, not polishing my public image.  Still, there is loose talk going around that may damage my image, and since I do, after all, represent the Newberry Book fair, not to say the Newberry itself, I suppose I must protest against what amounts to outright slander.

            People are saying I’m not cranky.

            If you listen to the epic phone message at the Book Fair Hotline (and some people do call just to listen to my dulcet voice) you will be told that if you drop off books, you can knock on the door and eventually a cranky man will come out to unload the books.  This refers to me, peach popover.

            Yet all this week, I have had to face insult after insult.  “You’re not as cranky as you make out.”  “You’re so nice.”  “I don’t believe you’ve ever been cranky.”  Do these people have no respect for my feelings whatsoever?

            I never promised I’d come out and kick your dog, or start biting your car.  (I’ve been warned against that anyway: there’s a chance my teeth will get stuck in the tires.)  And sometimes, let’s face it, one isn’t at the top of one’s game.  Being cranky isn’t as easy as people think.

            Take yesterday, say.  A volunteer starts the day by dropping off ten boxes of books which have all been in the basement so long that the cobwebs on them are a little moldy.  These boxes turned out to contain a couple thousand dollars’ worth of art books, which, however, need to be checked to make sure nothing crawls out of them.  (Prompting a philosophical discussion: when opening a box of books would you rather have something fly out, or crawl out?  We’re still working on that one.)

            But before I can finish that, a nice lady drops by with six boxes of cookbooks.  I am puzzled by the Liberace Cookbook, and inspired by one apparently called Eat Smurfs for a Healthy Heart.  I knew blueberries were full of anti-oxidants, but I never made the connection.

            I have just enough time to realize I have misread Eat Smart for a Healthy Heart when there’s a knock on the door.  Somebody has a load of hardcover mysteries that didn’t sell at his garage sale.  He has put the books in the boxes spine up, and is actually setting one boot up on the first box so he can make out a receipt on his knee when a station wagon and a pick-up truck pull into the lot.  Ladies step from the driver’s seats.  I know what this means: two sisters have so many books they didn’t all fit into one vehicle.

            But no, no: this time it’s mere coincidence.  One lady has two bags of books for me, and another has three.  So I make out their receipts, and bring in the boxes of mysteries, which can’t be stacked on each other because the books are sticking out of the tops of the boxes.  The phone rings.  The caller has two thousand books she needs to have me pick up, but don’t worry: she already has a thousand of them packed in shopping bags.  I duly note her information and realize it is lunch time.

            This time, the phone rings BEFORE I take the first bite.  Someone has a bag of books.  Is it alright if he brings it around next Wednesday around 1:15?  “Maybe as late as 1:20.”  I tell him that’s fine.  It takes three more phone calls before I can finish my sandwich: two people want to know when the Book Fair is, so they can get their books packed for me, and another wants to know if it’s true I don’t accept donations after Memorial Day. (It is not.)

            The afternoon is very much like the morning, except that at 4:30, I hear the gate of a truck being opened.  Knowing that this must be the UPS man, I open the door to find a rental truck and two men I’ve never seen before.

            “Hi!” says one of them.  “We’ve got these books.”

            “Are they for anybody in particular?” I inquire, knowing in my heart what the answer will be.  See, the lady meant to give all these books to somebody else, but the somebody else doesn’t have room for them all.  So the 57 boxes the other person wouldn’t take are all for me.

             Remember all this, next time you start to complain that Uncle Blogsy is being nice again.  Maybe I’m just too tired to scowl.

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