Total Pageviews

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Case for Bookstores, Part 2


For some time, my Book Rack visits often coincided with those of a guy I named Mr. Controversy. He was an uber-talkative, gregarious fellow with a scruffy beard and 2-3 extra humans worth of heft, mostly around the mid-section. Pretty sturdy, though—closer to Hacksaw Jim Duggan than pre-subway Jared. He took it on himself at least twice to help Doug clean up and organize a section of books, which was nice, but it also planted him firmly in the mix for hours at a time. He specialized in un-PC, contrarian statements, such as, "Everyone in government should be lined up and shot, and I'm NOT kidding." Also in the business of sexist statements, he made comments only memorable because they made me respond with such uncharacteristic drivel as, "Well, let's just be glad my wife's not here for that one." He was the sort of guy who has a quick, semi-witty answer to everything, and he seems entertaining at first, but after five minutes, you realize he's a classic bullshitter. A jolly, helpful guy in some ways, but full of it, and full of being full of it.

Mr. Controversy was apparently pro- recent Frank Miller but anti- recent Grant Morrison. Specifically, he claimed to love Miller's All-Star Batman for it's ridiculous abusive violence, but hated Morrison for killing off the first Batman, etc. I don't think there was any real reason for his opinions, other than to disagree with me, and gleefully stir the turd. Actually, Turd Stirrer might be a better name for him. Christian Turd-Stirrer, because one day we got into a conversation that ended with him telling me, in all sincerity, that I should try talking to God.

I should have known better. He sucked me in by telling Doug, as I was checking out, that there was no way for a person to have morals—or be much better than an animal—without believing in God. This argument is sort of a pet peeve of mine, since it is one of the stupidest, cheapest views of humanity available, the same as saying that you'll only do right if you think there's some omniscient Superdad who will reward you or punish you accordingly. I think Doug was just looking at his computer and absent-mindedly saying "u-huh." So, I had to say something in defense of non-believers. I'd like to think I might defend them even if I were a believer, because I'm AMERICAN enough to know that you don't have to be a monotheist to be moral. So I pointed out that I fixed the roof of the Book Rack once, for no money, just to be helpful. Doug said, "Yeah, that's right," with just enough emphasis to suggest that he was either on my side, or re-thanking me for the repair, or sick of Mr. Controversy yapping all the time. Unfortunately, it led to that mild proselytizing we've come to expect from Christians. Not the loathsome kind from yesteryear, but still enough to goad me into fueling the argument with a few personal details. Finally, he asked me if I ever tried talking to God, which is a disarming move. I said, if I had, it had been many years—maybe as a kid. He said I should try it. I said something conciliatory, like, "Maybe." Then he went back to insulting women or something. When I left, he jokingly said, "Bye, and God Bless You."

The funniest part of these situations is Doug. He knows he needs to stay out of it, since he could lose customers by taking a side. So he gets a little nervous and stays pretty quiet. I've noticed a few times, pointing out, "Doug really loves it when these debates sprout up." He gets a nervous grin and says, "You're not supposed to talk about that stuff here. Just talk about Batman or TV shows."

This may seem like an argument against bookstores, but even when people annoy me, I think it can be a good test of will, and a good source for stories (and isn't that what a bookstore should be?). That said, I learned to ID the guy's vehicle so I wouldn't have to go in if I didn't feel like bantering on that level. One day I saw it and just drove on by.

No comments: