Upstairs shelving today in Fiction I came across a treasure trove of To Kill a Mockingbird. We had 12 identical paperback copies all lined up together neatly in a row, or, that is, lined up as neatly as our rows get, which is not very. This, for us, is quite a few to have on the shelves of just one title. Occasionally we'll glut up with some bestseller that's suddenly hurtled past its expiration date, but we usually manage to weed that stuff before too long. And besides, those titles rarely accumulate to more than seven or eight copies. So these 12 copies were quite a sight.
Now, as nice a book as To Kill a Mockingbird is, it did occur to me that
perhaps we have, er, just a couple more copies of it than we
necessarily need. And yet, even as I thought that, I caught a glimpse
into a different reality.
I know I go on rather a bit about Jasper Fforde, and about his books,
because they're all so wonderful and everything, but I just need to say
here something about how his Eyre Affair books are set in, at least at the start of the
series, a sort of alternate 80s England, one in which, among other
things, reading and literature are the great fanatic passion of the
population, much like movies or TV shows or popular sport, or all of them rolled into one, are in
contemporary culture. So it was something of this reality that I
I saw myself seeing the 12 copies of To Kill a Mockingbird and having to suppress a wave of panic because we were down to so few! Something is sorely amiss! I look around
in shock and note two other nasty shortages on the shelf, one alarmingly severe. The last person shelving up here was seriously slumming. I spring into action.
Racing to the end of the shelves I hit the big red panic button. I pick up the speaking tube and will myself to be calm enough to talk.
"Emergency dispatch, I've got a code 616 on three books." I say clearly into the talk nozzle.
"Roger that 616, go ahead." I hear tinnily from the tiny speaker can.
"We're down to 12 copies, no, 10, NINE! copies of" I interrupt to yell down the aisle "Hey, kid! One copy per person for To Kill a Mockingbird! Get some Steinbeck if you need more! Sorry," I say to the dispatcher "So, we're down to nine copies of TKM, eight of Huck, and two of P'n'P!" Even through our crude communication system I can hear them flinching a little at our dangerously low count of Pride and Prejudice on the shelf.
"Roger that 616. Nine TKM, eight Hucks, and two P'n'Ps. Central dispatch has been alerted. We're going to have to sound a code 940 on the P'n'P. I'm sorry, but that means you're point protocol."
Crap. I'll never get my cart shelved. "Roger that dispatch. This is 616 heading to Austen for point protocol. Over."
Now I have to go stand with the Pride and Prejudice trying to convince people to wait until central gets there with four dozen P'n'Ps. Hopefully I'll be able to mollify them by handing out complimentary Bridget Jones Diaries. It should be about ten minutes to re-stocking. I just hope it doesn't get ugly out there.
Ah well, at least people are reading.