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Not a Bookstore in Sight

Awhile back I mentioned a work trip I took to Orlando and the ill-fated journey I made in search of a bookstore while there. My mission was simple. I had just finished the first book in Laura Lippman's Tess Monaghan series and was in desperate need of the sequel(s) to last me my final night in Orlando and for the duration of my trip home. Even though I didn't have access to a car, it seemed a simple enough task.

What follows still haunts me.
(Cue scary music)

Friday night, about 5:30pm
I stop in at the hotel desk to ask for directions to the nearest bookstore.

"A bookstore?" the clerk asks me blankly.
"Yes, a bookstore," I say, nodding and smiling gamely. "You know, a Barnes & Noble, a Borders. Anything will do, really."
"Um, no. I don't know of any bookstores in the area," she shakes her head several times.
Shoving down the beginnings of panic, I press on. "Perhaps a smaller, independent bookstore?"
"No, ma'am. Can I direct you to a shopping center? We have several large malls with lots of cool stores." She smiles for the first time, clearly on more comfortable ground.
"Might any of the malls have a bookstore in them?" I attempt to direct the conversation back to the topic at hand.
"Nope. None with bookstores," she says firmly. The look she gives me is now two parts annoyance, one part pity. I look around desperately but there is no one else to ask. Since it appears we have reached a stalemate, I ask her for a local map. She quickly hands me a folded, brightly colored brochure and motions for the next person in line to advance to the counter. I thank her for all her "help" and purchase a trolley pass.

Outside I take a deep breath and hop aboard the first wobbling, green vehicle that comes my way. I figure I'll keep my eyes peeled for anything that remotely resembles a store that might sell books.

Friday night, about 8:00pm
37 stops later, I spy a neon blue, partially obscured sign ending in "A-Million." I press my nose against the window glass, trying to see the rest of the sign. Could it possibly be a Books-A-Million? I've never actually been to one but have browsed their website online. The trolley continues another six blocks and then stops shakily for two smallish Englishwomen to climb on and collapse on the bench. I hop off and begin the trek back, back past the Denny's, back past the tattoo parlor, back past the self-proclaimed Largest Miniature Golf Course in Florida, which is surrounded by a lime green moat filled with what I am assured are "real, live gators." I stop to watch an elderly couple drop a couple quarters in a vending machine and toss their handfuls of peanuts in the moat. Nothing happens. The couple and I share looks of vague disappointment.

Two blocks later I reach a small strip mall that stretches away from me, the end disappearing into what appears to be a rather ominous, large dark field. Sure enough, the very last store sign reads "Books-A-Million" and I feel a small burst of energy, my quarry now in sight. Picking up the pace, I hike across the parking lot, stopping directly underneath the sign. There are no doors in sight. Just a bare cream stucco wall. At a bit of a loss, I wander around the corner and there, at the far end, is a small door. Sparing a nervous glance at the increasingly creepy, empty field next to me, I open the door and walk in.

The store is completely empty, the lighting a trifle dim. Two clerks sit reading behind the counter. Shocked looks cross their faces (presumably at the sight of an actual customer) as I walk cautiously up to them.
"Do you happen to have a mystery section?" I ask. The one looks at the other and then nods enthusiastically.
"We sure do! Just follow me. I'll show you right where it is." He takes off at a pretty good clip, glancing back occasionally to make sure I really am there. At this point I am very sure there is no way in hell they're going to have the books I'm looking for. There is just no way this mad journey will bear fruit. But lo and behold, I see one copy of each of the sequels on the bottom shelf. I gather them up quickly and beat it back to the counter. I place the four books next to the register and the second clerk looks at me admiringly.
"That's quite a stack you've got there." Indeed. Clearly he has never sold that many books at one time. I smile at him gently, grab my bag, and make a beeline for the door.

Friday night, about 10:30pm
I collapse on my hotel bed, too exhausted to even crack open the first of my prizes. A book clutched in my hand, I fall asleep and dream of lime green alligators chasing me through empty black fields. Not a bookstore in sight.

Comments

  1. Aw, that's so SAD! Not knowing where a bookstore is...

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  2. It was awful. *shudder*

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. You are hilarious! Jared thinks Malad is backward for not having a bookstore, but Orlando really should know better. I'm glad you found the books. The chase makes the prize so much better right?....or maybe you would rather have just been reading for those four hours.....hmmmm.

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  5. Seriously. I know there must be bookstores in Orlando but apparently they are kept very hush-hush. Or they're not visible to the naked eye.

    And someone really should open a bookstore in Malad!

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  6. I can't imagine! Even up here in backwoods Idaho, we have five bookstores in town.

    I was really worried reading your post that you might have accidently walked in to an "adult" bookstore! So glad you didn't have to endure that kind of trauma!

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  7. Lol. Well, I was certainly in the right part of town, Kristi! That would really have been the last straw.

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  8. I was just picturing an ambush of sorts. First, they lure the book-lovers to the only "bookstore" in town. Then, they throw them into the back of a van (with no windows). Then they spend the next 24 hours indoctrinating them in the ditsy, bimbo, mall-hopper ways. Once indoctrination is complete and the only phrases you can utter are "Fer sure!" and "That is SO TOTALLY CUUUTE!", you are released back in the wilds of Orlando. The city is safe, once again, from ...the reader.

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  9. Lol! I did feel like I was making those store clerks' week. I mean do people really only go to Orlando for beaches and theme parks? It was like I'd wandered into a designated book-free zone.

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