by Susanna Ives
I needed my smartphone battery replaced. I knew it but didn’t want to admit it. Several times in the last month, I would be running up a nasty hill, my muscles straining, lungs burning, only the driving beat of Rick James’ “Super Freak” to keep me going. Then suddenly: silence. My smartphone screen would go black and the crest of the hill remained a painful quarter of a mile away.
I dreaded making the appointment with the smartphone store, then fighting city traffic, hunting down a parking spot, and dealing with the barrage of light and loudness in the crowded mall. It would take half a day and much emotional trauma to fix my smartphone. So, I did what I do best: I procrastinated, made excuses, and drifted about in the warm waters of denial. Then the technology gods took mercy on me when I visited my mother. She was overseeing Halloween crafts with the grandkids and sent me, her Martha Stewart-challenged daughter, to the store to pick up more fake cobwebs. I was driving along when I saw it shimmering in the distance: Barnes and Noble. My heart did little flippy things. (I need to make a note of explanation at this point. There isn’t a bookstore within an easy distance of my home. I buy books online.)
“No, no, no,” my inner accountant counseled my inner drooling Pavlovian dog. “Very dangerous.” (I understand that there is a skyscraper in Dubai that rivals my TBR pile.)
|Burj Khalifa or infograph of my TBR pile|
But next door to the siren bookstore was the smartphone store, and a minivan was pulling out of the parking spot by the front door. It was a sign from the cyber heavens. It was all meant to be. Fifteen minutes later, the hip, brilliant, young smartphone company employees had taken my phone to the magic place in the back to repair. “It will be about thirty minutes,” they told me.
What I would do for that long?
And without my smartphone?
So, you see, I had no choice but to go into the dangerous Barnes and Noble. I swear walking through the doors was like running into a hot, wildly interesting guy you fell in love with years ago, only to find that he is still hot and wildly interesting and you are still in love.
I adored the smell of the pages, coffee and pastries. I adored the quiet footfalls, whispers, and shush of turning pages. I loved that the books were neatly lined up for me to peruse, to admire the cover, flip the pages, read the words in their lovely serifs. The comfy chairs beckoned to me. Come rest. Come read like all the fascinating people here. That day I was in the mood for cowboys, and I found a wonderful historical western romance that pulled me in from page one. No emails popped up in the background as I read, no alerts from social media flashed, no potato chip grease smeared the surfaces, no battery counted down by percentages to a black death, no one needed to shout “Okay, who took my charger!”
I’m not naysaying electronic reading devices by any means. It’s just a different experience for me. To me, reading on my numerous reading devices is like a lazy summer day spent in a lounge chair by a shimmering aqua pool and sipping a cool drink, whereas reading a print book in a lovely bookstore is like lazy summer day spent in a lounge chair by a shimmering aqua pool and sipping a cool drink with a hot pool boy holding your straw.
Thirty minutes later I wandered into the smartphone store with a gentle smile lighting up my face and a hot cowboy western in my hand. I’m happy to report that I have the battery life to listen to “Super Freak” one hundred times over. But then I can turn it off and pick up my book, which still smells of paper, coffee, and pastries.
Susanna Ives is the author of the Victorian romances Wicked Little Secrets and the upcoming Wicked, My Love.