The Twenty-four Copies of Good Omens I Was Getting Rid OfPosted: 23 April 2012
The excitement was almost too much. The sun dawned bright and… sunny; today, finally, at last, was the day I was to bless twenty-four neighbours with twenty-four copies of one of my most favourite books as part of World Book Night. From the word go the experience of being an official ‘giver’ had been one of personal fulfillment and righteous pride. For once, I was actually making a difference!
That was, of course, how I felt until the slightly uneasy feeling of last night emerged fully-grown into some kind of twenty-four-copies-of-Good-Omens-shaped nightmare. What was I actually going to do with these books? Who would I give them to? Oh, crap… and then, it sunk in. Not only had I no idea where I would offload my precious charges, but I had entirely forgotten the fact that I would be approaching total strangers to do so.
I’ve never been the most confident person in the world, but this is one thing I find exceedingly difficult. To admit my worst faults, I am shy, introverted and carry a complicated inferiority complex. I am clinically depressed and suffer from anxiety. I gibber awkwardly when put on the spot. To put it simply, I am not the kind of person you would find doing this sort of thing willingly. My job does involve working with strangers, but working behind a desk or among the bookshelves and being approached by people with fairly predictable queries is a completely different kettle of fish. I really don’t think I’d mentally prepared myself for what today’s challenges.
It didn’t start out particularly promisingly, either. One thing or another had driven the necessity to phone ahead prospective locations where I could give out the books. I was already feeling guilty when I dialled the number for the local Sainsbury’s superstore; the waffle about ‘nominated charities’ and ‘monthly diaries’ made me feel worse. It was clear they were not going to allow me to do anything there this year, let alone today. My next attempt was the local doctors’ surgery, where I was informed quite snootily ‘we don’t really do things like that’ (what, provide free literature for your patients?).
However, a suggestion from my mother had me phoning a local cafe – The Mad Hatter. The literary connotation of the name should’ve perhaps occurred to me earlier, especially since it is (in my preformed and therefore unbiased-by-recent-events opinion) the nicest cafe in the area. They also do the best chili-chicken paninis this side of the Wear and quite regularly deliver dinner to an elderly friend of mine’s door, even though they don’t normally do deliveries. Surprisingly enough, they were more than happy to let me hand out books in the cafe. It’s just unfortunate the book in question wasn’t Alice in Wonderland!
So, we decided to have our lunch at the Mad Hatter today and while we were waiting for our food, I would be giving out the bag of books I’d brought with me. I won’t lie and say I wasn’t nervous, or that I didn’t feel like an ungainly pest, but it became easier and easier. The lady at the first table I approached expressed shock when I told her that the book I’d just given her was entirely free. At another table, I was asked about World Book Night and what the free books were for. After explaining that it was an opportunity for people who love books to share the joy of reading with others, one of the gentlemen at the table who had previously declined my offer asked me for his own copy.
As luck had it, sitting in the middle of the room was our local councillor, who invited me to sit down and tell me about WBN and the book I had just given him. Even though the upcoming elections were in the corner of my mind (and no doubt his also) he seemed genuinely interested in what I was doing and who I was. He promised to read it, said he would give it to his wife too then made a note to contact the library when he’d finished to tell me what he thought of it. He also came over afterwards to thank me again and wish me luck with my career.
Not a single table turned down my offer and I was genuinely surprised that the books made people happy. All of the books I’d brought went in the space of ten minutes. My mother commented on how nice it was to see people leaving with books under their arms. One of the waitresses told us that the other diners were talking about how nice it was. I was even invited to come back tomorrow with any books I had left. Looking at the much depleted pile, I wish I’d been given more!
When I applied to be a giver I did so because of my love of reading and, of course, because I want other people to find enjoyment in reading too. I definitely wasn’t expecting anything in return. To my surprise this experience gave me a real impetus to overcome my fears and share something I love and feel so deeply about; and as a result, my self-confidence, interest in the life of my community and pride in myself have improved a thousandfold.
This much should be said: I will DEFINITELY be participating in World Book Night next year!