Fretfulness | Page 44 | Newberry


I am by nature a worrier.  Fortunately, fate has dealt me a job where I can exercise this talent without let or hindrance.  I worry about books being donated on rainy Sunday afternoons and getting soaked before I see them Monday.  I worry about junky old economics textbooks being donated and NOT getting soaked.  I worry about bananas becoming extinct so banana boxes are no longer available to my donors.  I worry about people donating their honeymoon videos inside book safes.  I worry about whether my VCR will be in good working order when they do.

But to the surprise of my friends and relatives, I have a select list of items I have decided not to worry about.  My friends and relatives worry about me at times like this.  Don’t I understand that the one thing I’ve decided not to worry about is utterly crucial to the survival of the Book Fair, the American Way, and Human Civilization?

Sometimes I worry about whether I’m being contrart or whether it’s everyone else.

In any case, I have occasionally had helpers who offered me their strategy for dealing with the customer they considered Public Enemy Number One, only to find that I was not worrying about this evil miscreant.  “No,” I said, “I have to delegate some of my duties, and I appoint YOU to worry about that.”  One of them took me seriously and came up with new strategies every year to battle this scourge of Book fairs.

“We have to do something,” she would tell me, “About these people who leave with only one or two books!”

Some of the ideas for fighting this foe were epic in scope.  Should we have just two categories at the Book Fair: Fiction and Nonfiction?  That way people would have to go through forty or fifty thousand books to find what they wanted, and would be bound to buy more books.

Why not set up a special route that had to be followed, so that customers had to pass through every single section of the Book Fair before they could leave?  They’d be exposed to all kinds of books they’d have missed just going straight to Cookbooks.  (“What if they want to go back and look at something a second time?” said I. “Great!”  she said. “They’ll have to go through the whole Book fair twice and buy twice as much!”)

We could offer a discount for people who buy in quantity, she said: a dollar off for every hundred books.  (Please don’t tie up my check-out volunteers counting books.  Especially not so they can turn down a dollar.)

We could start charging admission, so that we could offer free admission to NEXT year’s Book Fair to anyone who bought a hundred or more books.  (I should not have asked her what we’d do for people who bought a thousand books.  She started to propose that they could get TWO year’s free admission, but then started to worry about what we’d do if they bought only one book NEXT year.  Would it be justifiable to revoke their free admission the following year if….)

“You know,” I said to her after one of these plans was unfolded, “The people we really need to worry about are the ones who walk out without buying anything at all.”

She frowned, thinking furiously.  Then, as I feared, she looked up, triumph blazing in her eyes.

“We WON’T charge admission!” she announced, “We’ll charge an exit fee of twenty dollars, and remit the fee for anyone who buys a book!”

Another thing I never worry about is running out of things to worry about.  I have people I can count on to make sure I’m well-stocked.

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