I don't believe in much, but I do believe in not tempting fate. You don't go around just asking for trouble, for trouble will be sent unto to you.
Looking back on it now, I started to tempt fate just by deciding to go to a Barnes and Noble's. But it's the only -- literally the only -- bookstore in 30 or 40 miles. And I really wanted to get Sarah Vowell's new book, The Wordy Shipmates, which came out this week. For I love her work with a passion roughly equal to Sarah Caudwell, William Faulkner and Uncle Terry*.
Fate can't be blamed for not announcing itself, either. When (of course) I couldn't find it, or even the essays section of the store (for lo, nothing so fancy is to be found in that branch), I walked up to the customer service desk. The girl who helped me was named Laura.
I did not take the hint. When I said what I was looking for, she squinted and harumphed, and asked me to spell the author's last name.
This was clearly a bookstore girl who was not familiar with Sarah Vowell. Another hint wasted.
She took me to where she /thought/ the essays were. There were no essays. Just Westerns. We returned to the CS desk.
"Oh," she said. "It's a new release. It'll be in the front."
I had looked there, you know. First thing. I ignored this hint, too. We went to the front table, where the book was conspicuous by its absence.
"I'll look in the back," she said. She did. No luck.
"You'll have to order it special," she said.
"But it's a new book. Out this week. Major publisher..." By the end, it was more a series of hopeful suggestions than statements of fact.
I ordered the book. It might be here in two weeks. :(
The whole situation was a bit mitigated when the other girl from the Customer Service booth, who was a more typical bookstore girl of about 21, followed me away from the desk and offered to buy me a coffee. It was sweet, but also sad, since it was exactly the right trick from exactly the wrong person. I'm chalking this up as karma for featuring someone I hardly ever talk about -- or even really let myself think too much about -- in a Sinister post I wrote this week, since there's nobody who'd get that more than him...
*Terrence Dicks, who taught at least two generations of Doctor Who fans how to read and unlocked the Doctor's past adventures to legions of his fans before the days of VCRs by turning the episodes into books. Granted, usually by adding "he said" and a few odd epithets to camera scripts: "said the Doctor, with his young-old face and shock of white hair" or "said the Doctor with his pleasant, open face."