I’m not going to fill you in on all my strange habits because a) I have to save something for the national Enquirer, and b) you might giggle so much that the books would fall through the holes in the banana boxes. But I thought I’d mention one of them: I am addicted to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
It’s not a matter of sitting and watching for two nights in a row. It’s a matter of disconnecting the phone, barricading the door, and sitting glued to the set as I make notes on each dog that crosses the screen. I rank each according to its fitness to win, and watch for the judge to confirm my choices. I have learned something by doing this. I’ve learned I’m a crummy dog show judge.
Basically, after analyzing my own choices, I find I give points to particularly fuzzy dogs, to dogs that smile a lot, and to dogs that bounce a bit more when they hear the applause. It’s a matter of sheer sentiment rather than a cool, detached, objective decision.
I’m afraid this carries over into my judgment in other areas. The last time I was asked to act as a judge in a competition, I believe I was the only person on the panel who deducted points if it looked like the contestant wasn’t having fun. And once in a while, it comes into how I sell books.
Somebody gave me a small stack of catalogs for airplane engine parts, dating from the 1930s. While these are not so collectible as the same catalogs might be from the 1920s, they’re reasonably rare and collectible. Instead of listing them individually on eBay, however, I listed them as part of a larger collection, including some flying school correspondence course material and some textbooks on sheet metal work, and a lot of miscellaneous bits of aviation ephemera. The eBay customers were not pleased: more than one emailed me to let me know they’d as soon buy the things individually as buy a whole boxful of stuff.
I understood that. But the stuff came from one person, the person whose name was listed on the certificates for classes in aircraft blueprint reading and basic aircraft construction. That would be the same person whose name was listed on those certificates from Douglas Aircraft: the Win-The-War certificates they gave employees who made suggestions to speed up the assembly line, and the one saying he had spent 1944 and 1945 helping Douglas Aircraft build planes. That would be, I expect, the same person who put them in a box in the first place.
It was an important chunk of his life, or so I judged: those years he spent studying airplanes and how to build and/or fly them. I have had the impression, through the years, that a lot of people felt what they did during World War II was important in their lives. And though I realized all the time that this might matter to no one but him, I opted to try to sell the collection as one item.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to make that decision in Madison Square garden, under the lights and in front of the cameras. Tell you what: if they ever do a Westminster Book Show, I won’t apply to be a judge. Like as not, I’d just ask to see what kind of boxes the books were carried in.