I think about this because it’s what the day is made up of – people coming through the door and people leaving again. Everyone has their method. This is about how people leave.
Some people leave because of a phone call. They don’t want to take a call inside a bookshop. They dive for the door, catching the phone, their response face ready. Half of a cheerful conversation is cupped in the alcove outside and shipped back inside.
‘Hello, this is Dave.’
‘Hello Ruth, at last you got me…I knoooow….’
Customers who are pleased with their purchases, pleased with their stack, delighted with the experience, exit backwards, ‘Thank YOU, yes, thank YOU, thank you very much.’
Readers who just want to read, crash through the door to the street, reading the back of the first book, frowning. Customers who were rewarded with nothing, because there was nothing here, or because I didn’t have it, leave slowly, peeling the plastic away from their next plan.
One visitor told me that when he was young, he was not allowed to tear the Christmas wrapping paper from the presents. They had to ease it away from the gift, the tension, without a rip, so it could be used again. His face was rich with memory when he told me this, his lips curled in agony over the red paper, the sticky tape, and the forty degree day. When he left, his lips were still tense, still telling me the story. He backed into a noisy solo phone conversation that was occurring in the doorway,
‘Look if I had to pull him up for every mistake, I’d be there all day…. look we’re not paid to be there…. we’re all in the same boat…. you’ve got multiple talents there…’
and he (the Christmas paper customer) turned abruptly to find his ute, which he though was close by, but wasn’t.
Children leaving the shop turn and place their daisy faces on the door, squash their noses against the cool glass and look at me until they are yanked away by parents. Older women look grimly at their families waiting outside and stay inside. Young women with prams exit with a hundred apologies even though nothing has happened.
Teenage readers exit easily, turn phones around and press the news of books through the internet to friends. Older men stand with the door open so that nobody can come in or out and continue their story about themselves.
Many customers ask me where to go for coffee, or for the directions to Macclesfield.
My mother leaves me with a cake and two jars of jam and tells me not to leave them in the car this time.