Buying books does not make you smart, and as it turns out, neither does reading them, which was evidenced to me as I walked out of the library this afternoon, feeling very, very dumb, this in spite of the fact that I read daily and consider books to be one of my favorite things in the world. When the bank closed today, and I got off work a few minutes after one, yes, I had to work the Saturday before Memorial Day, depriving me of my much needed three day weekend, I drove to the main branch of the Memphis library, one of my favorite places in this city that I love. The parking lot was crowded, but I found a parking space without too much trouble, about fifty yard away from the biggest public library that I’ve ever seen. This weekend, the library was having their semi annual book sale, which boasts all books for sale at a price of two dollars or less, and since moving to Memphis last summer and having to work during the hours of the sale in the fall, this was my first opportunity to attend the event, and I was very excited.
There is a used bookstore located in the front corner of the library and I often go there in search of books, not that I really need any more, but there is something therapeutic for me in standing idly in front of a bookshelf, glancing at the spine of each book and waiting for something to catch my eye. On the front door was a sign advertising the sale, so I walked into the used book store and began browsing for the newest additions to my increasingly packed bookshelves at home. I didn’t see any sale prices anywhere, but figured that once I got to the register they would adjust the prices of the books, making them even cheaper than what was written on the inner cover in pencil. I spent about half an hour and picked out four books that looked decent enough to spend a few dollars on, none of which had I previously heard of, then grabbed another, a book by one of my new favorite authors, Augusten Burroughs, as I stood in line waiting to check out.
There wasn’t a mirror behind the checkout counter, but I feel certain that my face donned a look of panic as the cashier began tallying up the prices. To my dismay the prices being keyed in at the register were the same prices written in the books. I looked at the brochure on the counter which confirmed that the book sale was in fact happening today, at this very moment, but too full of pride and not wanting to embarrass myself I stayed silent rather than asking the cashier why the books weren’t discounted, thinking how pathetic it would seem that I couldn’t afford the already cheap used books, so I paid full price and left the store. Before I turned left out the front doors of the library I noticed a large number of people on the other side of the entrance lobby, people apparently smarter than I, as they had found the book sale without making the mistake of thinking it was in the used bookstore. I walked over and through the doors saw way more books for sale, than in the used bookstore that I’d just left. I browsed the fiction section for only a couple of minutes, torturing myself looking at books that I wouldn’t be purchasing now that I’d already bought some. I calculated that for the price I spent on five books at the used bookstore, I could have bought seventeen had I gone to the actual book sale, so no, reading books doesn’t protect you from being an idiot. Live and learn I suppose. I can try again in the fall when the book sale rolls around again.