Re-reading, stupid

A week or so ago I had a customer selling books at the used book counter. She had about a dozen mass market romances and a Jodi Picoult hardcover. Usually I don’t remember these details, but this customer stood out.

After I took her name and other information and gave her the wait time she struck up a conversation with another customer who was browsing books. They spoke about how nice the used books section was and I glowed a little bit. I was working and didn’t really see any need to take part in their conversation, but I am a huge eavesdropper and they were standing about three feet in front of my workstation.

After the general niceties were shared, the conversation took a quick turn. Both customers were women, I’d say the one selling her books was in her 40s and the woman browsing was approaching 60. I’m not great at ages (or height or weight, I make a terrible witness, please don’t rob me) but that’s my best guess. I don’t quite remember how they got to this point, but they began discussing how neither of them re-read books. That’s why the seller was there, she had read all her romances and her Jodi Picoult and wanted to trade them in for credit to buy new books. Which is all well and good. I continued working, thinking a little bit about exactly how many times I’ve read my favorite book, but keeping quiet.

The browser mentioned that she never re-read books either. Two single-time-only readers! She also never re-watched movies, after all she “knew exactly what would happen.” I had to interject.

“Never? You never re-watch a movie you liked?”

“Oh no! It’s a waste of time. My grandsons re-watch movies all the time. I don’t understand it.”

Then the seller chimed in, “I don’t re-watch movies either,” she shared a conspiratorial look with the other customer. “It must be a generational thing.”

Now I was pretty sure at this point that these women were not of my generation, but they certainly weren’t of each other’s either. I half expected one of them to say they never re-read books because when they lived through the Great Depression they had to keep reading the only book the family owned and they never wanted to do that again. (I’m also not good with historical timelines.)

At this point the woman browsing books moved further into the section and the women selling her books was left with only me to talk to. Granted she could just come back to check on her books at the time I had given her, but she didn’t.

“I just think it’s stupid. It’s stupid to re-read a book.”

I was surprised at her change in tone. Before it was just something that these two women didn’t do. Now it was stupid?

“I like to re-read a good book,” I said. “Sure, you know how it ends, but if the characters and the writing are good, it’s fun to experience it again.”

“No. It’s stupid. I like sequels if I like the characters.”

“But you don’t want to spend time with the story again? Re-reading a book is like comfort food.” That got me a glare.

“It’s stupid. It’s a stupid thing to do.”

At this point I was out. While it’s not directly outlined in the employee handbook, I’m pretty sure “don’t tell customers that they are in fact the one who is stupid” is some sort of company policy.

The woman kept talking for a little bit, but I was out of the conversation. I don’t really have the ability to bite my tongue and say something nice. I just have to shut up. But after the fact with you, dear readers, I have a little more freedom.

Really, lady!? You know when you say something a person does is stupid enough you start to call that person stupid. And never is a strong word. I said I would never read one of the stupid romances you brought in, but I’ve read two so far and they weren’t as bad as I had kind of hoped they would be. Never re-read a book? That’s like never getting pepperoni pizza again because you did it once.

And maybe, just maybe, if you had better taste in books you might want to re-read them. Sure, in most of yours there’s a lot of flirting, a dirty scene and then a marriage. In Dickens you get more the second time around.

In summation, you don’t have to re-read anything. Just don’t call something you obviously don’t understand stupid fourteen times in one conversation. And get some better taste.

Kelly Hannon works in an indie bookstore, is editing her first novel, and blogs about annoying people at www.letterstopeopleihate.com. Follow her on Twitter @KellyMHannon

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