It was a big day today in the Incidental Bookshop.
We gave the old girl a bit of a face lift. You think I mean 'a bit of a face lift' in a manner of speaking, don't you? Well, in fact I mean we literally gave her plastic surgery. You see, the company I work for is like the SAS of book sellers, the Green Berets of the publishing world. We sell books at prices other book shops couldn't because we're prepared to go to places other book shops wouldn't.
Dumps. Places with no paint on the walls. Places with no carpet on the floors.
My shop, for example, is an enormous old barn of a place in the biggest shopping centre in our small city. It used to be a discount supermarket till a few years ago but since they closed that down, the space has been boarded up and the resulting walls decorated with the art work of local kindergartners. You might think that's a bit tight, using free paintings from little kiddies to make it look like they are a community minded kind of shopping centre. You might think to yourself, 'Jeez, guys fork out some cash and buy some REAL paintings...' But let's face it, who doesn't like to look at finger-painting after incomprehensible finger-painting as far as the eye can see along the boarded up former frontage of old IGA Independent Market?
Luckily for everyone, last Christmas the company sniffed out a bit of an opportunity there and opened a gigantic discount book shop. I say lucky because it means that finally we saw the end of the fingerpainting madness.
But there was a small problem. Once unboarded, the space behind was putrid. How do you get around that when you don't want to actually spend any money on fixtures? Well, what you do is you get miles and miles of shiny red or green plastic wrap with the company logo all over it proclaiming "BARGAIN BOOKS" - it comes in enormous rolls about three foot wide and god only knows how many metres long - and you staple it to the walls. You wrap the grubby old tables in it as well so that it falls like a curtain hiding that grubby old table's grubby old legs.
I know! I know! It sounds awful! But it actually comes up pretty well. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the place sold and sold and sold. It sold so well they decided to keep it open and see if it continued to sell after the Christmas rush.
It died down considerably of course - but it paid its way and some weeks still did exceptionally well. So here it is nearing the end of May and we're still going.
But let's be honest here - it's an illusion. It's like The Wizard of Oz. "Pay no attention to the dump behind the flimsy plastic wrap curtain!"
Children poke at it and pull on it all day and as I mentioned in yesterday's entry, also occasionally vomit on it. It takes a skilled surgeon to keep up with all the nipping and tucking required. Sometimes, as I tape yet another patch of plastic wrap to a table straining under the weight of hundred discount books, I'd swear I can hear a little voice crying out from the darkness underneath, "I cannah hold 'er-r any longar-r, Capt'n!"
And so today was refit day.
Sir Laurence the Indispensable, a knight of the Order of Designated Ladder Climbers, came to my assistance as always. We pulled down all the daggy old red plastic wrap and put up shiny new green plastic wrap. We interspersed lengths of shiny green wrap which says over and over "BARGAIN BOOKS" with small snappy red posters that say "BOOK BARGAINS". There are a couple of ugly looking poles that just hang there in the middle of the shop doing nothing very useful except perhaps to hold the ceiling up. I wrapped them barber pole style with red wrap that says, surprisingly enough "BARGAIN BOOKS". It was a big job. A big big job.
Look, I know it's rampant commercialism. I know I'm exploiting people's addiction to consumerism. I know it's just plain tacky. But guess what? I love it! As I behold my bright green and red book cave with its fluorescent lighting, I smile to myself and say, 'Lo, it is good.' Not out loud though - that would be strange.
This entry has reminded me of Twin Peaks which I was completely obsessed with when my kids were small. My older daughter has grown up into the kind of person who would love the series so I suggested we get it out on DVD and watch it together.
She thought this was a great idea and told me that she remembers Twin Peaks from when she was small. Not the show itself which she didn't watch - but the ads, all of which contained a visual of a body and the words "... wraapt in plaastic..."
She was five or so and didn't know what any of it meant but somehow through those ads, she came to associate plastic wrapping with death and thought it was the normal thing to do - that we are all wrapped in plastic before being plonked into the old coffin.
Later on, when she had begun to read for herself, voraciously but dyslexically, she encountered the common phrase 'the late and unlamented' for someone who was not missed in death and therefore somehow neglected.
For several years she thought it said 'the late and unlaminated' and found it sad that some people could be so unloved that they had no-one to wrap them in plastic after they had died.