I was scrolling through this morning's edition of Shelf Awareness and found this article, about a "walk-by" library in Massachusetts where commuters can pick up books for the ride. One of those would've come in handy last week, and I'll tell you why.
I was gearing up for a ride on the oft-maligned G train and suddenly found myself without reading material. As someone who stocks their purse (and hurts their back) with at least two ARCs at a time, this was surprising. There was nothing to do, I decided, but pick up an emergency read on the street. Luckily, someone was having a stoop sale on Atlantic Avenue and they happened to have fantastic taste. With a heady mixture of euphoria and relief, I paid $1 for a copy of David Sedaris' Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and descended into the bowels of the station.
Perhaps "bowels" is a poor choice of words, because within a few moments of self-congratulatory page-turning, I realized there was--what can only be described as--a pungent stench emanating from the paperback, like kitty litter at its worst. Worse, there were passengers on either side of me, normal-looking ones. Surely they could smell the book. Surely they might think it was I who smelled, and not the yellowed tome in my hand. Vanity would dictate that I find a way to dispose of the book before a misunderstanding could take place. And yet, and yet...
The essay I was reading, in which the Sedaris siblings ask their sweet, youngest sister to lie down in the street (sort of an intentional Meet Me in St. Louis scenario), was brilliantly funny. What to do, continue reading? The further I held the book away from my own nose, the closer it got to everyone else's. I peered around again more carefully, and weighed my options. Next to me, there was a 30something woman in a tracksuit. Directly across, a somewhat-attractive, bespectacled hipster. The truth was, I didn't want either of these nice denizens of Kings County to think I smelled. But just as I prepared myself to deposit the book on the floor, I realized it would be 4 more stops, and then another 5 on the L, until I reached my destination.
I decided I should take a chance. Just this once, I would make myself an unacceptable acquaintance to my neighbors. I continued reading and, when it was time, exited the train with a humble nod to hipster and lady. As for my copy of Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, I'm happy to report that it has found a home in the incense drawer of my good friend, Joe, where it will remain until one of us is very brave, and takes it out.