Saturday, May 24, 2008

Absorb It All In

Barnes and Noble bookstore is full of interesting people.

A group of students from the community college, enrolled in the children's literature course, are required to read a children's story to a group of four and five year olds. This helps the college students gain a genuine understanding of how children respond to literature, and, for the mothers of these kids, allows a 30-minute vacation to gossip and drink sexy, spiced coffee, or peruse the cooking section. Rachel Ray and Martha Stewart benefit, Howard Schultz benefits, young children benefit, idealistic twenty-year olds benefit, and so on.


These kids sponge up every word the overly zealous young lady reads to them. The personified spider in the heavily illustrated story reveals a new world, fresh concepts, and allows morals to crystallize in young minds. Young people are being trained to live and act a certain way and yet, to them, it is just an illustration and some words, maybe a funny line. Especially when the young lady stands up and acts it out. The children roll on the floor, curl their faces up and giggle.

Here I am, sitting at a table a few feet from the mothers, with franchise coffee on the maple top, a couple of artsy-fartsy magazines, and a book by Joseph Campbell that explores mythology. I feebly attempt to educate myself, seeing that I am on Summer vacation, yet the mothers' meaningless banter trumps Campbell's ideas about archetypes and the significance of heroes in myths by far. I calculate the amount of money spent by these five women:

1 grande soy mocha light, $3.30
1 venti caffe latte, $3.40
3 tall white chocolate mochas, $9.80
2 blueberry muffins, $3.20 (of course these are the centerpieces, and the women all claim to be on a diet as they pick away like birds at the crumbly mess)

Nineteen dollars and seventy cents.

Then I remember the jacket I just bought as it was literally hundreds of degrees outside. The complete uselessness of my purchase. I very well should have bought a bra and some panties. Neither will be used any time soon. Or, I hope not. Or, at least not by me. But I don't think I would give them away, either. Hell, I am not going to buy any underwear. Stupid example.

Anyway, the women got up, the children had been read to, the students had earned their grades, and the globe kept spinning. All as usual.

"Excuse me, sir," a frizzy-haired woman in a blazer quietly asks a stern Hispanic man sitting a stone's throw away, " we are on a scavenger hunt for our company and we need- well, are you available for a few minutes?"

The woman is trailed by a group of other businessy-lookin' people who are huddled around this man now waiting for a response.

"No. No, thank you. No. No . . ."

He hated it. He hated everything about what these people just did to him. Surrounding him, capturing him, obligating him. He buried his nose back in the sports section. And then there was Scott.

Scott raised his hand and inquisitively asked, "What do you guys need?"

The group synchronized and moved toward him with anticipation. I, like victim number one, put my head down and acted like I was reading the most important information I had ever laid eyes upon. The last thing I wanted was to be asked an uncomfortable question and then be obligated to give a polite "I don't know" or an "I don't think so, thank you." Some people love it. You know, answering questions, revealing a piece of themselves whenever possible. I think Scott got out of the house just so he could maybe, just maybe, have the opportunity to tell a story or share himself with somebody. I only think this because he, from a distance, lifted his head, raised his arm, and nearly shouted to get the business folks' attention.


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I am recent graduate just looking at the dirt, writing about it.