By Jason Williams
When temperatures soar outside there are few places that attract people better than a bookstore, so for this eavesdropping assignment that is where I decided to go. As I pulled up the temperature gauge inside my car said 103, and upon opening my car door and exiting the nicely air-conditioned cab I chose to believe the reading as sweat started immediately seeping from my pores. I quickly made my way into Borders Bookstore, encountering an older gentleman who held the door for me, “Welcome to AC land,” he laughed jovially.
I walked through the first door and the smell of new books overtook my senses. If there was another smell, it wasn’t clear unless you stood right on top a person which I didn’t take part in. Even as I walked closer to the coffee bar I thought that the smell of coffee (or frappuccinos) would surely come out and play, but books just dominated the air. Rightly so after all, this isn’t just a coffee shop but it’s a bookstore.
I decided to first find a seat, because it was so busy I felt like I needed to stake out my seat in the middle of it all. The space, arranged with several black leather chairs in a what is two circles, a larger circle facing in and a smaller circle of chairs back to back facing out, around the outside were your standard table and chairs. Someone was sitting in almost every single seat. Except for the one right in the middle, it was the awkward chair, the one that no one was sitting in and everyone was passing by. So I decided that this chair would be the perfect place to conduct my eavesdropping assignment, a creepy activity, but it got assigned so I’m assuming that it’s supposed to teach me something about being a journalist.
I settled into the comfortable black recliner, it was cool to the touch which was quite comforting since my back (and some other body parts) was still dripping with sweat from the extreme heat outside. What I quickly realized is why this chair was not taken, as I opened my laptop I quickly wanted to hide behind the small screen because everyone was staring at me. The chair sat right in the middle and had five identical recliners facing me, each with an individual in it that I thought had a story.
As I think about the people who sat across from me I can only imagine who they are because of what they were reading. This is because outside of one gentleman taking a phone call to talk about video games, everyone sat quietly and read. As I look from right to left the characters that sit in front of me are all different, it’s really an amazing look at society. There is an elderly man with his American Flag stickered cane, reading the book “Eat, Pray, Love.” Not something I picture an old vet liking, but to each his own. Next to him was a couple that seemed very in love and very into their magazines, they got up and left though shortly after I sat down so not much to them.
Next to them are two more interesting characters that at first I couldn’t put my finger on their personalities, then came the constant up and down behavior of the first man. He got up and got a new cup of coffee, then he got up and started talking someone in a book aisle, then he got up and went somewhere else(probably the bathroom); he was either reading a terrible book that couldn’t hold his attention or he was just a socialite looking for a conversation.
And then there was the last guy, who was also the most interesting, he was reading a book with content and laughing occasionally. He had an odd outfit on, hiking boots with black socks, a funny trendy print shirt, shorts pulled up to his belly button, funky black rimmed circular glasses, and a backwards newsie hat. The best part was his laugh though, it was sort of uncontrollable at times and he would lose it, which initially had me skeptical of his sanity. However, I would soon learn as he whipped out his white iPhone and had a very normal phone conversation just how deceiving looks are.
Which is what I learned as I continued to listen to what I could hear, and definitely see what I could see. We need to use all of our senses to understand the world around us. Oh and I can finally smell coffee!