A slow drizzle fell from the grey, dreary sky as it does on many mornings here in my hometown. I step off the stoop of my apartment building, buttoning my jacket as I normally would. There is little alteration in the weather pattern particularly in the fall months as the temperature remains steady throughout day. Precipitation is either falling, about to fall or has just fallen in this city and one tries their best to get used to it. I begin my commute to work by briskly walking two blocks to the nearest bus stop where a tired old bench sits awaiting my arrival. A cigarette is placed between my lips and I cup my hand around it, attempting to ease the process of lighting it. On the third attempt the lighter flares up and ignition occurs. Breathing deeply the tobacco smoke enters my lungs, a habit I have had for many years despite all of its negative connotations. One takes a certain comfort in the routine happenings of a typical morning and I am no different. From the hot shower, to the cup of coffee, to the hurried bowl of cereal I consume knowing that nothing is out of the ordinary provides a reassurance that the day ahead of me is navigable. The bench is certainly looking tired when I arrive, but the presence of a young lady who's looks appeal to me provides a life to the bus stop that it doesn't usually have. I slow to a stop a few feet from the bench and stamp out my cigarette under the heel of my worn dress shoes. A nervous smile is flashed at the woman sitting on the bench but no smile is returned. She is well protected by her oversized sunglasses, which are completely unnecessary on such a grey gloomy day.
No longer do people have to punch the clock when they begin their work day. The act of physically punching the clock is not such a long ago action, I was indeed punching a time card at one of first jobs, in my teenage years at a large grocery mart. The tromping through the foyer to the elevator for the ride up to the office feels like the beginning of a temporary sentence, a feeling I always get when my card entered the machine at the grocer. No crime has been committed, but the dreary feeling in the pit of my stomach makes me feel much like a remorseful criminal. A few others slide through the elevator doors, and I nod to a couple in recognition. It seems that my fellow elevator riders are as aware as I am what awaits them. These people don't work for the company that I do, but it appears that their day holds slim prospects for excitement, just as mine does. I exit the elevator on my floor and say and quick hello to the receptionist. I consider enquiring about messages but the day has just begun and I am a low level employee who rarely recieves phone calls at any hour, let alone prior to the start of my work day. I shuffle to the back of the main work area and find my square footage. Three half walls separate my space from the other work stations. Everything is where I left it the day before, and the lack of personal effects present make the area cold and uninviting. After three years of employment at the same company you would think I would have done something to personalize my area. That simply isn't in me.
Slipping back outside the weather hasn't changed. This city is known for his monotonous weather conditions that provide a type of time stopping sensation. One requires a watch when living here because the grey cloud cover makes morning blend into midday then on into the afternoon. An hour can pass or five and you wouldn't know it without an accurate device to measure time passing. Hence the watch. Planning to make the most of the interruption of my work day that I am granted daily I walk briskly away from the building. An idea of where my walk will take me is always present, but I attempt to trick myself into thinking I don't know where I am going. A creature of habit, a routine embracer like myself often thinks of being spontaneous prior to the decisive moment where once again the usual is chosen and relaxation occurs. Changes brings on unknown factors and this causes uncertainty which sets the mind racing through all of the possible outcomes. Which outcomes are considered first by a routine embracing mind? Why, the most negative of course. Excuses are quickly developed to denounce any positive outcomes and eventually the thought of breaking routine is discarded. I pull back on the aged door and enter the shop. A small bell clinks against the top of the beaten metal door signalling to the propietor that a customer has entered. In my case the word customer may not be appropriate as he recognizes me and knows full well that I am a browser more than a buyer.
The familiar fusty smell embraced me as I stepped inside as the stacks of worn books closed in on me from all sides. As much as I enjoy finding and reading a great book, the appeal of this used book store to me is its utter lack of organization that causes it to ooze character in a blatant manner. The propietor not only embraces the chaos within the walls of his shop, many of the teetering stacks appear to have been engineered by him and his employees to add to the decor. When I first discovered this oasis not long after I began working nearby, I gained an affinity for the shop due to an exchange I had with a woman who works within. As she stared up at a shelf which exceeded ten feet in height she held a small paperback book in one hand. To her left was a large haphazard stack of books that appeared to have been there for a considerable amount of time. Other stacks surrounded her making it appear as if she had built up a defensive barracade of sorts around her. Continuing to scan the shelf with her eyes it dawned on me that she was indeed attempting to shelve the book. The stacks of books built up around her were where the were supposed to be, but this one book was destined for the shelf. How was that determined? It amused me even more to watch her as she retreated to the front desk area and retrieved a few more books. She wandered about the store shelving them as well. Organized but messy. Watching the proprietor work was also fascinating. He answered the phone, or spoke to customers in the flesh and anytime they mentioned a author or work they were looking for, he knew it's location. Not always precisely, but there were general areas of the shop designated to a variety of topics you would typically find in a bookstore. A love affair began that has lasted nearly three years with no termination looming.