Don’t Be That Guy: On Bookstore Event Etiquette

Dear Guy Who Brought Your Yappy Dog To a Book Reading,

I know you have your excuses because you told me ALL OF THEM.

I know why you had to squeeze over a bunch of people and sit right in the middle of the row (as opposed to sitting on the aisle or le gasp! standing in the back) because “this is where you always sit.”

I know you’re sorry your dog was crawling all over me and licking me in places I really don’t want to be licked by a strange dog, like my thighs and face, but you weren’t sorry enough to restrain him or keep him from doing it all throughout the reading, you were apparently only sorry enough, to, I guess… give the bare minimum of an apology and have it sound completely hollow and ring a hundred percent false?

The thing is, it was okay when you and your dog were just bugging me. Well, not okay-okay but okay enough. Then the author (who had filled the bookstore to the brim with reading attendees because she is crazy beloved) stepped up to the mike and then you and your dog became EVERYONE’S PROBLEM.

Your dog barked like maybe thirty times BEFORE THE READING EVEN STARTED. Like just during the author’s opening chit-chat. And you just sat there and let it happen. She read a shorter piece before she read a section of her novel and your dog just kept barking and you kept on DOING ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ABOUT IT.

Finally, before the author began her novel reading you asked if she would WAIT A MINUTE BEFORE SHE STARTED HER READING TO GIVE YOUR DOG A CHANCE TO CALM DOWN. She was clearly stunned, but not about to embarrass you in front of fifty other people (even though you were doing a great job of this one on your own) and said okay. You insisted your dog “never does this.” You made the author wait to start her own reading. Then when she finally began, your dog kept barking until finally, finally, finally, you made a bunch of people stand up so you could squeeze out of the row and get out of the store, which is what you should have done LIKE FIFTEEN MINUTES AGO.

(Also, I should note that your dog was NOT a service dog, which wouldn’t have been a valid excuse here, but would probably have made those in attendance more sympathetic. No, your dog was just a regular annoying old dog.)

Maybe this woman is one of your favorite writers. Maybe you (like me) have had this event marked on your calendar since this author announced her tour dates. Maybe your dog can’t be left alone in your house because it’s really needy because you spoil it like it’s one of the children in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who is NOT Charlie Bucket. Maybe all the stars aligned against you.

Guess what? It doesn’t matter? If you are responsible for a distraction at a reading, you and your distraction have to hightail it out of there BEFORE you get a hundred dirty looks and BEFORE you have to ask the author to stop her reading for your personal convenience. This reading isn’t a movie on Netflix you can pause. It’s not your personal entertainment. It’s not all about you. You are not that special and you are not that important.

I know we live in a world where we can increasingly control our entertainment experiences. But this isn’t a funny YouTube video on your phone. A reading is a performance, it’s where literature meets theater. You can’t bring your loud pet to a Shakespeare play. That would be craziness. This was craziness too. It’s lovely that the bookstore allows pets (they even have a store cat). But it’s a privilege to be able to bring your pet into an establishment and you abused that privilege. Life happens, of course it does, you obviously didn’t expect your dog to be possessed by a really annoying version of the Exorcist demon, but once that happened, the power of Christ really needed to compel you to leave the store and deal with your responsibility.

I have a few more readings marked on my calendar that will take place at this same bookstore. If you’re planning on coming to these readings too, please find your dear little dog a pet sitter, or else I will have to pull up this post on my phone and make this open letter an out loud letter.

Here’s to being respectful of authors and audiences and just other people around you in general!


Kit Steinkellner