Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Bookstore Stalking Stories

Looking back at my past, it amazes me how perceptive--and dense--I can be in the vicinity of bookstores.

Back in high school, me and my friends were going to watch a play in the Shangri-La Plaza Mall. To kill time, I wandered around the bookstore and my friend was bored to death watching me browse through the shelves. I was so focused at book browsing that I excluded everything else. I bumped into a girl and I apologized before I resumed searching through the books.

When the girl left, my friend called me. "That was Ina Raymundo," he said. Now I wasn't familiar with TV celebrities. But I knew who Ina Raymundo was (and better yet, what she looked like). Ina Raymundo was one of the sexy stars of my generation and I bumped into her without realizing it. When my friend said that, all I could do was look back and all I saw was her back and her long flowing hair.

Just goes to show where my priorities are.

Of course in a bookstore, I also have a tendency to observe people's book browsing habits. I'm interested in what they want to read, at how they take out a book from the shelf, read the blurb at the back, browse through its pages, and put it back. And then do the same for another book in the shelf. I observe the patterns and identify the common theme. I secretly put labels on people, such as them being romance-fantasy readers if they pick up a book by Ellen Kushner follwed by Jacqueline Carey or Laurell K. Hamilton. The same reader might even wander into the horror section and pick up Anne Rice instead of say, Stephen King.

There was one incident when I saw a pair of girls browsing the shelf containing Dragonlance books. Now they didn't call each other by name but practiced the arcane art of book browsing (see previous paragraph). Now I had this friend I met online but never met in real life. I had no idea what she looked like, what her voice sounded like, and what her mannerisms were. And no, she wasn't the only online friend I had at the time who was interested in Dragonlance.

Something in my mind "clicked" however. Maybe it was more than them perusing the shelves. Maybe it was the scant few words they said to each other. For a guy who didn't ask girls out, I started some small talk with the two strangers. Perhaps what made this a different social situation was that I knew we had something in common and I had a subject we could mutually talk about.

It's a pick-up line in the sense that I said it to meet their acquaintance rather than to date them. And it's as cheesy as hell. "So you girls read Dragonlance, huh?"

After a few exchanges, I gathered the courage to ask the one question that gnawed at me ever since I saw them. "Are you Jean?"

The more vocal of the two replied first. "I'm not, but she is," pointing at her companion.

And yes, she was indeed the same Jean whom I chatted with at ICQ (yes, that's how archaic I am). I think I wouldn't have come to that conclusion if we were say, in the grocery or at a coffee shop. But at a bookstore? That's my territory.

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