Where’s the Weirdest Place You’ve Talked Books?

One of the very best things about being a Book Person is meeting other Book People–I am firmly convinced that book people are the best people, even if I do hate talking to them on planes. Whether we read the same books or not, all of us who love books share a common language. We know what it means to experience the world through the lens of literature and to make sense of our experiences by reading. When there’s no other obvious conversation topic available, we always have books to fall back on.

And so I find myself talking about books in strange situations. Not just at dinner parties and my husband’s work functions. Not just in line at the post office or with the cute guy at the gym who asks about my Fahrenheit 451 tattoo. Oh no, that would be far too normal. The more awkward and uncomfortable the situation, the more likely I am to start talking about books. And when I wish we could just be silent and not talk about anything, but talking seems to be required? You guessed it, I’m going to books.

A selection of weird places and situations in which I’ve talked about books recently:

During my annual visit to the Lady Doctor. This one happens every year. I love my Lady Doctor, and I appreciate that she always remembers what I do and takes time to ask what I’m reading. But really! Does anything say, “Let’s try to pretend like everything is cool and you’re not wearing a paper gown while I touch your privatest private parts” like, “So, read any good books lately?” The universe seems to conspire to make this annual conversation hilarious, as two years ago the book I was reading at the time was a gynecologist’s memoir called What’s Up Down There?, and this year it was a collection of essays about Judy Blume. Achievement unlocked: talk about Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret? with a doctor who specializes in periods.

At a funeral. When my grandfather passed away a few years ago (he was 95 and had lived quite a life), I found myself in a Holiday Inn in a small town in Georgia that is so far south it’s practically in Florida. It was the middle of the summer, and even the mosquitoes had sunburns. During the visitation (southern Methodists don’t call it a wake), I discovered that my mother, being the proud mama that she is, had told the funeral director and a bunch of my grandparents’ friends about my job. So there I stood, shaking hands with strangers and accepting condolences…and talking about books.

Through a dressing room door at Nordstrom. I do not like shopping for clothes. It’s time consuming, and big stores have so many choices that I never know where to start, and I’m short and hard to fit, and the whole experience is generally frustrating and what Charles Barkley would call turrible. But having someone else do the shopping so all I have to do is try on clothes? Amazing. Nordstrom has a (free!) personal shopper service I discovered a few years ago, and whenever I go now, I talk about books with the shopper while she hangs out on the other side of the door. It distracts me from the million little things I find annoying about trying on clothes, and it helps her understand exactly how nerdy I am so she won’t try to put me in that 80s-style-yet-somehow-fashion-forward splatter painted blazer with shoulder pads again. I am not that cool, and now she knows.

In more Uber cars than I can count. Okay, talking books with a driver may not seem that unusual, but you should know that I make it a mission in life to space out while riding in taxis, collect my thoughts, enjoy the silence (when I can get it), and not talk. I’m not rude, I just don’t want to chat. But something happens when I use the Uber car service. I can’t resist talking to the drivers, usually about how awesome Uber is (you request a car from an app on your phone, and then it appears like magic, then they charge your credit card for the ride and the tip, and you never have to open your wallet), and we always make our way around to, “So, what do you do?” And from there it’s all books all the time, baby.

During a bikini wax. Something about baring my parts makes me want to bare my soul. Or maybe being physically naked makes it easier to be emotionally naked. Who knows. But there I lay, capitulating to contemporary society’s impossible standards of feminine beauty, talking to the aesthetician about Justin Cronin’s The Passage. And then about Colson Whitehead’s Zone One. And then we took a brief detour onto reality TV and the Doomsday Preppers series (because zombies). We came full circle with, “Did you read Fifty Shades of Grey?” Yes, honey. Yes I did. So you know it’s gonna take more than a little wax-and-chat to make me uncomfortable.

I’ve shown you mine, readers, now it’s your turn. Weirdest place you’ve talked about books?


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