Hunting season…

I haven’t done any proper book hunting since a few days after Christmas. Even that was more of an excuse to drop off a couple of boxes of my own discards than an effort to bring any more books into the house. The fact that I didn’t take more time then to pillage the shelves was probably the first, unheeded sign of the non-COVID sickness that struck me down a few days later. Since then, it’s been an occasional online order and walking through a couple of the local thrift shops while I was out to do other things. 

With our collective decision to operate as if the Great Plague is over, I suppose it’s time to get back into the habit. Subject to weather, my personal return to normal should be kicking off this weekend with a trip down to Anne Arundel County. The local historical association’s spring sale has been good to me over the last few years. The only thing that would keep me away is the steady rain currently in the forecast. My obsession with books doesn’t, as of yet, extend to waiting in line getting rained on for the opportunity to fight through low-roofs and narrow aisles of boxes for the opportunity to pick through items constantly being dripped on. A that point, better to spend an hour or two in a proper shop even at the risk of paying full retail. Either will likely scratch this particular itch until my annual birthday week buying binge.

On a related note, I’ve recently learned one of my favorite local used book sales – a fundraiser for Wilmington-based scholarship fund – has decided to throw in the towel. Until this spring it was held twice a year and consistently produced amazing books for pennies on the dollar of their retail value. According to their Facebook post, they’re facing a dearth of volunteers to keep the event running. It’s not surprising, but it is disappointing. I’ll miss their run-down storefront that opened into an Aladdin’s cave of the printed word once you got through the front door.

I’ve been feeding this addiction long enough to see a lot of these sales and shops disappear. It’s awfully rare to see one pop up unexpectedly. In fact, I don’t remember ever seeing that happen. In a world that didn’t have bills to pay, retirement to plan for, and in which I was slightly more insane, I’d lease a storefront or maybe a little warehouse space and offer to buy any book that came through the door for $1 a box or a $10 charitable donation receipt – Yes, yes, I know, I’d have to set up a legitimate charitable organization before offering to take tax-deductible donations… and then run a store and deal with people. That last bit alone ensures it’ll never happen. I’d never have the patience for it.

All these books that use to end up at sales and shops are going somewhere… probably directly to the nearest landfill or pulp paper buyer… I’d just like to get a fraction of them to pass through my hands and skim off the cream before they meet their otherwise ignominious fate. Wonder Book has a brilliant business model for this, but I’m hard pressed to figure out how to do it without it being a full time “day job,” needing to hire a staff, or it becoming a 30-hour a week side hustle. 

It’s a dream – a happy dream to be sure – but still, just a dream. Better to keep focusing on my niche and let the sellers and scouts keep doing their thing. It’s going to be one of those ideas that festers, though. As the shops and sales continue to disappear from the landscape, finding the good stuff outside the full retail or auction environment is going to go from rare to impossible. If I come up with a way to game that system that doesn’t involve opening my own business, I’ll be sure to let you know.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Warehouse fires. You know what warehouses are good for? Storing large quantities of things. That’s what they’re designed to do. You know what they’re not good at? Letting large numbers of people get out of them quickly when something goes wrong. They aren’t designed for that. Trying to push a large number of panicked people through a limited number of available exits is the working definition of a death trap. Sure the building owner has fault. The event promoter has fault. But the individuals who found themselves caught in the trap are not guiltless. If you walk into any building or room, particular one that is stacked to the rafters with flammable material and don’t immediately identify two or three (or more) exit routes you’re as culpable for what happens to you as anyone else – even more so since no one has more responsibility for your personal safety that you do yourself.

2. Staff Meetings. Two hour staff meetings are about a 110 minute waste of time under the very best of circumstances. Jamming one into the very end of the day on Friday reeks of desperation, or need to feel in control, or just trying to give everyone a giant douche-tastic start to their weekend. In any case, late Friday afternoon staff meetings fall very far short of the best of times. A good leader might be tempted to say, “You know what, this week the meeting was just overcome by competing events so shoot me an email of no more than five lines and tell me what you’re up to so I can look at them over the weekend.” Of course that would require the person making the decision to fall into both the “good” and “leader” category. If it turns out to be just another manager, well, we’ll see you for your Friday afternoon meeting.

3. Stop fucking shouting. Walk your lazy ass to the other side of the room. Or pick up the phone if you’re really that lazy. Maybe try out an instant messenger app. Since the gods on Olympus decided we need need to be packed in to the office at a density that no sane person would consider reasonable, the very least you can do is try you use your goddamned indoor voice, show a touch of courtesy to those around you, and pretend, even if just for a minute, that you have the sense God gave the average Christmas goose.