Friday, May 30, 2008

A Case of Ms.-Fakin' Identity

I arrived at the Friends of the Library sale in Greenville, South Carolina 3-½ hours before the sale began and secured a place in line. There were about 20-25 people between me and the entrance door. A few minutes later a petite, attractive (though bookish) woman joined me in line. I turned and said “Hi,” she said “Hello,” and we assumed our positions. Time passed. The sky was clear and bright and the warm Spring air was getting warmer. I had on my baseball cap but could feel the sun working on my forearms and the back of my neck. Eventually something was said between us and a conversation began. For the next two or three hours we talked actively about books and bookselling. We got to know each other better. It’s always nice when you find someone interesting to talk to while you’re standing in line, waiting for the door to open. When it did, we all charged in and began filling up our boxes. A couple times during the sale the petite, bookish woman and I crossed paths. I’d say, “Going pretty good?” and she’d say, “Going pretty good.”

Six months later:

I arrived at the Friends of the Library sale in Savannah, Georgia one hour before the sale began. It was my first time at this sale. I located what should have been the entrance door to the sale but there was no line. An older lady (sixties) with amazingly red hair who seemed to be affiliated with the book sale walked up to the door, knocked, and was let in. Time passed. After a while, and for the heck of it, I knocked on the door, too. Then I opened it far enough to stick my head in. There was a stout, silver-haired lady standing behind an upright folding table with a cash box on it. She was using her index finger as a pointer and was telling someone else how to do something. She stopped for a sec and looked at me. I said, “This is the place for the book sale today, isn’t it?” “Yes it is,” she said, and then, looking at her watch, she followed with: “You can come on in.” Quickly I did, filling my boxes, making it around the room. At one point I looked up from the books. There were other people all around. I saw the older lady with the amazingly red hair. I saw the stout, silver-haired lady with the pointy finger. And then I saw her, standing next to the silver-haired lady. It was the attractive, bookish woman from a few months back. I went up to her. I said Hello.

She looked at me like I was a stranger. “Can I help you find something, sir?” she said, flatly.

“No,” I said. “Just wanted to come over and say Hi again.”

Her eyes darted to the silver-haired lady standing next to her and then back to me.

“You remember me, don’t you?” I asked. “We stood in line together at the FOL sale in Greenville a few months ago and talked for a couple of hours.”

She swallowed hard. “You must be confused,” she said.

“No, no!” I said. “It was us! Remember? You were telling me about how you were in the business—“

“—No, I don’t know you,” she said, cutting in with a tone that said Drop it!

—which caught me completely off guard. I wasn't sure how to respond.

She went back to straightening the books on the table in front on her.

The silver-haired lady had an eyebrow arched. She was watching, listening. Then she blew a burst of air through her nostrils, turned, and walked away.

Something was going on between them, I could tell.

The woman who didn't know me shot me a look to kill. “She's not supposed to know," she said, like I might have just ruined her inside job. Then she turned and surreptitiously applied a handful of books to a box in a stack she had tucked away in the corner.

“Oh,” I said, getting it. “Sorry.”