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Borders – Books and Awkwardness

March 31, 2005

For the past month or two, I have been doing my evening writing at the Borders near my house. Why? There are two reasons.

First, I have a difficult time writing at home. Even sequestered in my study, there are the dogs, the sounds of the TV, and other various distractions. 

Second, weather permitting, I prefer to write outside. Borders is the only location in close proximity that has outdoor seating.

I’ve never been terribly happy with Borders, however. The chairs are decidedly uncomfortable, the seating, looking out onto a parking lot, is anything but isolated. The constant passersby are distracting. For some reason, I’ve just put up with it.

Well, no longer. After my experience at Borders on Monday night, I will never write there again. 

First, let me set the scene. This Borders is in your typical strip mall, which it shares with a Jason’s Deli and a Bed, Bath, & Beyond. It lacks a defined patio or deck, so its outside seating is basically situated in front of the store. There are six tables, spaced at pretty even intervals. On Monday night, I was the only person outside at the tables. I was seated so that I looked out at the parking lot. About two feet behind me was the storefront.

The writing was going rough. My back was not happy with the chairs, and I’ve been finding it tough to get Chapter XIII out of the gates. Basically,
I wasn’t happy with the way I’d decided to open the first section, but
I couldn’t figure out how I wanted to change it. Should I open with Scipio awake, unable to sleep, or asleep and jerking awake from a nightmare? That sort of thing.

As I’m pondering what I want to do, this man walks up and proceeds to stand just behind me to my left. There is no reason why he should be standing there. I try to ignore him, hoping he is looking for somebody in the coffee shop or something, but he doesn’t move. He’s reading over my shoulder. Eventually, growing flustered, I pull out my headphones and turn to him. I ask if I can help him.

His response? Sign language. Friggin’ sign language.

I know enough Latin to understand a little Italian, but sign language? I know one word in sign language, and it is decidedly rude. Deciding against flipping him off, I shrug and shake my head. Mr. Deaf smiles. More sign language. This time I hold my hands up, trying to say “I don’t know what you’re saying”. He seems to get it this time. I figure he’ll wander off to bother somebody else, but no. 

Instead he points at my computer screen. Great, I think, exactly what the hell am I supposed to do with this?

This time he realized
I had no idea what he was on about, so he pointed around the back of my
laptop, at the USB drive I used to hold my novel files. Understanding, I point to the USB drive, then back to the screen. He stares at me with the same blank expression I get when I start talking in-depth about Roman history or cars. Then, inspiration strikes. I show him the USB drive window. I point at the USB drive, then the files in the window. An invisible, deaf lightbulb appears above his head.

Instead of doing something with this newfound understanding, however, he just stands there. I try to go back to my writing, but it is extremely disconcerting having some random deaf person staring over your shoulder. After three minutes (I was looking at the computer’s clock) he finally wanders off. 

I try to get back into some sort of groove, but before I can, he’s back. With a newspaper insert from Circuit City. He points to a USB drive on the insert. I nod and give him the thumbs up. He smiles. Then he points to a CD burner. Huh? I shake my head. He
seems to get the idea, and, armed with the knowledge that the USB drive
on the insert is similar to the one in my laptop, he finally leaves. This time for good.

I’m almost completely out of sort now, but I rally and try to get back to work. 

Alas, this was not my night.

Not five minutes
after Mr. Deaf leaves, an old guy, dressed in a green polo shirt and
khaki shorts, strolls over and sits down AT MY TABLE. Again, there are six tables in front of Borders. The other five are wide open, and this guy sits down at my table.

I do my best McDougall glare, but he doesn’t even seem to notice I’m there. Instead, he pulls out his cell phone and proceeds to have a very loud, very irate sounding conversation with somebody. The cherry on top of this sundae of random annoyance is that this loud, irate conversation is taking place in RUSSIAN.

Having had enough, I pack up and head home. The dogs are distracting, but they don’t hold a candle to a deaf guy and a loud, old, inconsiderate Russian.

I will never write at that Borders again. My wife, by the way, thinks that this is pretty much the funniest thing ever. I’m sure anybody else who knows me and my love of random encounters with complete strangers will think pretty much the same.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 31, 2005 6:21 pm

    ” ”
    That was a special joke for you in sign language
    JB

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