One thing you have to say for the Book Fair Brain Trust (or BFBT, which is the sound I sometimes make when considering their suggestions) is that it is not afraid of the big concept.
The BFBT is made up of, well, just anybody who offers an idea to make the Book Fair better, be it lacing the Horror section with cobwebs (we don’t have a horror section) or doubling our money by putting up a sign at Checkout saying “All Books Double the Marked Price”. There are little things about that last idea that make me reject it every year, like the possibility of being lynched and having the building burned down. He tells me every great idea jas a few bugs in it at the start.
Anyhoo, an idea we did almost work on for some time was the Book Fair Trolley. We picked up this idea from the Chicago Antique Market, which is held once a month way out west in the warehouse district. To get people out there, they established a free trolley service which picks up people near Water Tower Place once an hour on the weekend of the market.
“Why couldn’t we do that?” someone demanded. “We could bus customers in from Skokie or Highland Park, and it wouldn’t cost a thing.”
It would, apparently cost the Book Fair a thing, or even two, especially to keep it free for the customers AND pay for the gasoline. This consideration was a bit of a downer, but the proposers were not ready to give up. “The extra customers it brings in will pay for the trolley,” they said, “AND people will buy more books because they know they can just load them onto the trolley instead of having to carry them home.”
Well, of course, they’d have to carry the books home from wherever the trolley stopped. What if people from Rosemont wanted to come to the Book Fair, and had to travel first to Berwyn to catch the free trolley?
“We can just have a trolley for each suburb,” the proposers went on. “The more places we pick up customers, the more customers we’ll have, and the more money we’ll have leftover once the trolleys are paid for.”
They still couldn’t get past the bottlenecks in the organization. (Did I ever tell you my feelings about bottlenecks? Bottles need necks. Without them, they’re just jars.) Did the proposers have any idea how many suburbs Chicago has? They were instructed to listen to a week’s worth of newscasts. If you listen carefully to the newscasters, you will eventually learn that Cicero, Kankakee, Bloomington, and Dubuque are all parts of Chicago. And that’s just the LOCAL news. The national newscasters add Des Moines and Cleveland.
“What’ve you got against Cleveland?” they demanded. “Those people have money to spend on books, too!”
Finally, the naysayers had to fall back on their final gun, the one thing that can overcome all optimism, no matter how brilliant. “Our insurance would never cover it,” they said. “One good bounce over a pothole, and the claims….” There was much sorrowful headshaking.
So the Book Fair Trolley (we had a lovely list of names for each trolley, the Skokie Smoky, the Northwestern Nor’easter, etc.) has been waiting on a back burner. But these things never go away. “If we could only get a volunteer whose uncle works for the CTA….” one of them was murmuring.
I said, “Why not just get the city to extend the subway under our parking lot?”
Eyes shining, he hurried away. I have GOT to start carrying a sign that says “SARCASM”.