16 March 2009

Musing Mondays

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about talking to strangers…

We were all warned as children to 'never talk to strangers', but how do you feel about book-talk with random people? When you see people reading, do you ask what it is? Do you talk to people in the book store or the library? Why or why not? What do you do if people talk to you?

Even as a book-mad librarian, I am shy about asking people what they are reading - especially at the library, where my own fanaticism about privacy issues has to override my curiosity.

("Madam Librarian," says the detective, "was the shoplifting suspect reading anything suspicious?" "I may not divulge that information without a subpoena," says Madam Librarian, hoping that the Wally Cox lookalike reading The Borrowers was not guilty of anything more serious than a desire to revisit childhood delights.)

Even in bookstores, even in the cafes of bookstores, I do not ask questions about peoples' books, even if the books are arranged artfully to attract notice. ("Look at me, I'm reading Nietzsche.") I even resist the urge to talk about the pile of knitting books in front of the woman at the next table with Noro peeking out of her tote bag.

However, I do find myself in situations in bookstores that force me to talk to strangers. In fact, I can not be in a bookstore without being approached by someone who asks "do you work here?" - even if it's the dead of winter, I'm swaddled in a winter coat and scarf and mittens, and I'm carrying my purse. Somehow, my aura must announce that I'm a book person. It's both comical and complimentary. I can't control my aura, but I can do my best to amass some good karma.

"No," I say, "but maybe I can help..." And, usually, I can.

14 comments:

caite said...

You give off a book store aura..I give off a grocery store aura. I am always asked in grocery stores if I work there...yes, even with a coat and hat on. perhaps they think I just came out of the walk-in cooler.

Jenners said...

This was such a well-written post! I totally enjoyed it. Love that you get the "do you work here?" when it would be extremely odd for you to be dressed up in all your winter clothes and be working! I would take it as a compliment though!

Roggey said...

"Look at me, I'm reading Nietzsche."

Ha! I usually avoid those tables...

If I spot a book I've been meaning to read or have heard about, I've no problem going up to them and saying, "Excuse me, have you read it yet?" or if they're in the middle of reading it, "What do you think of it so far?"

I've had several book recommendations spin off from those conversations!

Aunt Kathy said...

Hmm let's see... I rarely get to leave my house, and therefore no talking except to myself...

Hey AK did we read this book? No I don't think so. We'd remember if we did, right? Maybe. Hmm

Hey mom?? Do you work here, I can't find my other shoe, or the keys, or a spoon or...? And yes I am in my coat and mittens (but that's because the heat is broken) LOL

Carrie K said...

I'm always querying what people read. In fact, it annoys me when I can't quite make out the title.....terminally nosy.

I love that they think you work there when you're clearly not even dressed for the indoors. That indefinable aura.

Anna said...

I'm a nosy book store person -- if I see you looking at books I like, or carrying books I like, I'll ask you about it. It's led to some amazing conversations -- I've helped a bunch of college girls pick out cookbooks for a bridal shower, and talked about local hiking with some retired guy who finally had time to "sight see around town".

KnitNana said...

Great post...but I DO talk to people with Noro sticking out of their knitting bags!!! "Oh! NORO!! You have great taste, what wonderful colors...what are you MAKING?????"
;)
But no, not about the books. You must have bookshop/librarian aura...but I'd say that's a good thing...
((((hugs))))

Concateknit said...

For me it really depends - sometimes I will chat people up (although I NEVER chat up the folks who have the "look at me" vibe going) but I try to read people's body language before I say antyhing. :)

Beverly said...

If I'm feeling social, and if it seems the other person isn't going to be annoyed, I'll chat them up about reading (and knitting, although I've been surprisingly oft-rebuffed by knitters). I have to refrain, though, from too much enthusiasm in cases where I see a book I adore in another's hands.

Jennifer said...

Book people do just have an aura. It's a good thing !

Gal Friday said...

Aww..this entry made me grin as I read it. Great writing...

LICraftgal said...

Funny, you have a book aura, I have a garening aura. Whenever I am at a nursery or garden center people always ask me questions.
I however am nosey and would ask people about their books, especially if it looked like something I would like.

Donna Lee said...

I am one of those people that other people talk to on trains, buses, in lines, in doctor's offices. I have learned many interesting things about strangers. I like to see what other people are reading and I'll often look over their shoulder on the train to see what it is or flat out ask "what're you reading? Is it good?"

knitseashore said...

As a former librarian, I'll agree that if a stranger asks about another stranger's reading, we have to respect the person's privacy. However, I think it would be sad to take that to an extreme, since so many of us hear about the best books by word of mouth. If someone in a book store or on a train came up to me and asked what I was reading, I'd be pleased to share. If they seem open, I'll ask them what they're reading. You can discover some great books that way.