Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Barnes and Nobles: Paradise

We’d had guests, people we really like and admire, and now I was about to take them shopping. This kind of shopping is special. It is people-on-limited-budget shopping by people-who-may-never-visit-the-United-States-again and who have a lot of people hoping they will bring something back for them. We know this feeling – we’ve been those people on a limited budget who want to delight our family and friends with some exotic treasure.

I had a plan. Truthfully, I should know by now how it is going to work out, but I always plan bigger, just in case. This time, we started at TJ Maxx and The Dollar Store.

We park in a highly visible place. I know it sounds rude, but I escort them in, explain a few little things, then I go back to the car. I have a book with me, and Sudoku; they get to shop at their own pace without feeling like they are inconveniencing me. They have my phone number, and they know where the car is parked. Some groups come back and forth, many times, they bring packages, drop them, and head back again. This time, I didn’t see them, so after two hours, I went in and found them and told them this was their “one hour warning.” I had promised to have them back at their hotel by seven.

Almost on the minute one hour later, they came out, entered the car, and were so excited. One said she had finished all her shopping; she had something just right for everyone. The other said “Look! My friend wanted Bicycle cards! They had Bicycle cards!” They had found special gifts for all their friends and family, but the price was high. They had wanted to go to the Barnes and Noble store, but we had run out of time.

Deep sighs.

“It’s totally worth it,” the older one said, “I really really needed to have the peace of knowing my shopping was done. But . . . I’ve never seen the Barnes and Noble, only heard about it. Maybe I’ll have another chance at our next city . . . ”

I couldn’t bear it.

“The Barnes and Noble is only a short distance away,” I gave in, “I will take responsibility for getting you back late IF you promise me to only go in and look, just take a quick look, and come back out to the car.”

“Yes! Yes!” they both promised enthusiastically.

They were gone for twenty minutes. When they came back out, their faces were stunned. They got in the car, so silent I was afraid there was a problem.

The youngest leaned over, buried her head in her hands. She looked like she was going to be sick.

“What’s the matter?” I asked, alarmed.

“I almost feel sick,” she said. “So many books! We walked everywhere, but I stayed most of the time in the Business Management section; they had EVERYTHING. They had Who Moved My Cheese. Oh! They had so many good books, not the blah-blah-blah you get in textbooks, but the way they teach in parables, it’s so easy to understand their point. I can’t carry all the books I wanted to buy. I’m feeling shocked. All those books, right there where anyone can buy them! I want them all and I can’t have them.”

“You could order them, have them sent,” the older girl offered, and then remembered that no, she couldn’t have things sent in her country. She would never get them.

All the way to the hotel we had a great conversation about the flow of ideas, about censorship and the internet and cable television and Twitter, and how ideas flow more freely everywhere in the world, in spite of those who would try to restrict what their citizens might access. We also talked about freedom to travel – or the lack of freedom. We talked about families, caring for the elderly, and family responsibilities. We talked about what we’ve learned from one another, the truths travel teaches you about your prejudices and opinions, about others, and about yourself.

As I dropped them off, we all hugged, sadly realizing that we may never see one another again. Nonetheless, no regrets. Just the time I had with these two impressive young women was a great gift, and seeing the Barnes and Noble through their eyes – I will never again take a book shop for granted.

July 11, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Books, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Pensacola, Shopping, Travel, Values, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment