A book by William Steig called "The Lonely Ones" came out about 50 years ago. It is a marvelous collection of cartoon characters with captions depicting the types of misfits one finds in the society at large.
Alas, I am one of them; the evidence is indisputable, and here it is. I do seem to be the only soul in the world unable to appreciate the ambiance offered by Barnes and Noble.
It is my secret
On the occasions I have been to B&N, I look around and feel chillingly odd and alone. Clearly, I have a condition that finds no compatriots here. People appear relaxed and at peace with their surroundings while I become increasingly agitated and annoyed, if not down right pissed off. What is it with this place? I've got a life to live (and books to read), and I don't want to spend it in this packaged bubble of a biblio bordello any more than I have to. This place makes me feel managed, and that makes me rebellious. I, as has already been indicated, am but one miserable outcast incapable of grasping the essence of community cohesion seamlessly insinuating itself into the collective preconscious by the inhaling of cappuccino fumes and flute music.
It shall remain my secret.
Probably, I should go into analysis about my attitude; Barnes and Noble is not out to get me any more than any other outfit. They aim to meet the need to acquire books. It's not like they launched a Joe-Book campaign to hook me when I was young. I submit myself to an atmosphere not of my liking because let's face it, B&N does have a wonderful collection of books, and the chairs are comfortable.
They could have stopped there.
So what is it about them that irks me so? THEIR attitude, that's what. Forget the self-conscious cappuccino fumes and the flute stuff, the fact is that under the veneer of provided perks and the ever so slightly patronizing permission to browse and partake of the manufactured milieu, B&N is nothing more than K-Mart in disguise.
Trying to find someone to give you assistance is a major challenge. In this rarified world, the rules are: look; lounge; linger; levitate (if you must), day-dream, doodle, do lunch (if you call that food), but do not attempt to disturb the limited number of clerks you might spot hurrying to and fro, because they're just too busy to deal with your whining.
And whine I must, because, damn it, I came in with the express purpose of buying a specific book and try as I might, I can't find it. Isn't that one of the functions of the endangered species called employee (occasionally sighted on the tundra, carrying the world on their shoulders), that they, when supplicated, render merciful assistance? Or at least do so disdainfully?
Then, one day, I get smart; I call them up and ask if they have such and such book. They do. I sweetly ask to have it set aside at the checkout counter. Then all I have to do is run in and pick it up. That's more like it! I have succeeded in making them work for me using the smallest amount of my time and energy in the exchange. No begging; back in control!
Even better is the development of cyber-book resources like Amazon. How I love the Amazon River of the written word! Gleeful I am when a book ordered arrives at my doorstep! It works beautifully; I don't have to put up with their atmosphere and they don't have to deal with my attitude. I know what I want; they've (virtually) got it. (I could care less that they don't physically possess the book at the time of ordering. The important thing, of course, is their ability to access it and direct it my way.) Once again, life obeys me; I can continue living in the misanthropic group-herding abhorrent style to which I've been accustomed.
May God grant me a few more years of independent idiosyncratic maneuvering among the slick, market driven world that serves me so well. Cold, impersonal, sterile as the delivery system is, it's learning how to deliver better and better even as we speak.
We should not conclude without noting that, finally, the great sleeping B&N giant has launched its presence on the web. That is well and good. While still partial to the trailblazer Amazon, I will happily shop the B&N web site without the annoyance of the goodies getting in the way of the goods.
Now we have choice, and this ultimately empowers us all, doesn't it?
Even us lonely ones.