So I’m sitting behind the gift wrapping table at the Barnes & Noble in Calhoun Village with FFJ. We’re there to raise money for her dad’s EyeLink foundation.
An hour or so into our shift this guy comes up to our table with a copy of Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint to be wrapped. After he puts some money in the donation box he tries to choose the appropriate wrapping paper for his book. He’s indecisive and I try to help him choose between the holiday city scape or the snowglobes. Then I make a crack about choosing the Hanukkah paper, considering it’s Roth and all.
“Well it would be if Roth wasn’t an atheist,” he said, shifting his weight from one foot to the other.
“I had no idea,” I said. “He just writes a lot about being Jewish.”
He goes on to get a little uppity and start quoting Portnoy’s Complaint, fidgeting the whole time, like he was angry or nervous. I said that’s one of the few Roth books I hadn’t read.
“Oh,” he said. “It’s one of the five funniest books ever.”
“Really?” I said, because if someone’s gonna get uppity about books with me, I am more than happy to throw down with them. “What are the other ones?”
This is when he gets even more jumpy and agitated.
“Ahh,” he started and stopped. “Well, you know, PG Wodehouse’s The Code of the Woosters .
“Haven’t read Wodehouse,” I said.
“Oh and Catch 22 and ahhh. . . ”
I folded my arms and nodded at him, waiting for him to finish.
“Er, probably Hitchhiker’s Guide.
By this time FFJ has finished wrapping the book and handed it to him.
“Happy Holidays,” she said, all full of her usual perk and kindness.
“Yeah.” He grabbed his book and walked a way from the table. “I’ll have to get back to you on that last book.”
As he walked out the door, I rolled my eyes at FFJ. Then her husband Jon, walked over to the table.
“The next time that happens,” he said. “Instead of asking him about books, ask him for his phone number.”