Horrors II | Page 51 | Newberry

Horrors II

People seem to feel I live an unusual life. They think it’s unnatural to spend one’s days surrounded by books. I feel sorry for these people, and try to sell them as many books as possible, but there’s a limit to what one Book Fair manager can do. About once a month, one of these innocents looks around the place where I ply my trade and exclaims, “I bet you even dream about books!”

I don’t, of course. What makes you think I ever get to sleep? If I want nightmares, I need only apply to my pick-up volunteers.

We had one pick-up of books where, for no reason that was explained, the elderly scholar who had owned, read, and even written them had been wheeled into the center of the room while his life’s work was taken down, packed in boxes, and carted away. The fact that he didn’t speak or move during the process did not make the volunteers feel any better about it.

One pick-up involved four hundred large, heavy volumes which, again, had to be taken off shelves and packed in boxes. This is a lot of work, so two volunteers went along on the job. They hadn’t been told two things: a. a company committee was still arguing about which, if any, of the books would be released, and b. the library in which the books were displayed had previously been a paper storage closet, measuring four feet by six feet. The shelves took up about half that space, leaving just enough room for two boxes and two volunteers.

One volunteer brought a load of books and coffee cups from a donor and then volunteered the information that the apartment had been crawling with roaches. We left this donation on the dock for a day or two. (The coffee cups were stolen. Good.)

Another donation came to us from a dimly-lit warehouse where the pick-up volunteer made four trips to his car before realizing what he was crunching underfoot were rat droppings.

Four volunteers so far have reported meetings with rather large dogs who did NOT understand why a stranger was taking things out of the house. None of these volunteers was especially afraid of dogs, and in three of the four cases made friends with the dog in question. (Good for the volunteers, but I wonder how much the owners were depending on these pooches as watchdogs.) In the fourth case, the dog just kept barking for the hour the volunteer was hauling books. Nightmare for the neighbors.

One volunteer had carried twelve boxes of books out of a basement when a neighbor demanded to know what he was doing. On finding out, she said, “Hey, I have ten boxes in MY basement you can take!” Pick-up volunteers have more nightmares about stairs than about books.

Several of our volunteers have had nightmare encounters with people suffering from separation anxiety about their book collections. These folks like to take every single book out of each box, discuss it with the volunteer, and then decide whether or not we can have it. On the other hand, a volunteer asked if she could please get sent on such errands. “It’s cheaper than joining a book group,” she said.

It’s the way things go: one person’s nightmare is another person’s dream. Which reminds me: I never did hear back from the lady who wanted to give me 7,000 empty CD cases. 

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