“Yes, they are free. But you do have to return them. Really.”
I suppose one of the only good things about visiting my local hospital, other than the hope of receiving a clean bill of health upon departure, is having the opportunity to
borrow books from their lending library.
Basically what happens is I make a point to arrive at least thirty minutes before my appointment, with the expectation that I’ll actually be talking to a
quack punk doctor medical professional roughly forty minutes after the scheduled time.
During that intervening seventy-minute period, I usually spend a few minutes scanning email, CraigsList, and ESPN.com on my blackberry before becoming thoroughly frustrated with the crappy reception and shutting it down.
Then I take another five to ten minutes looking around the waiting room, carefully avoiding direct eye contact with any of the other Muggles there, thanking God I’m not in as bad shape as they appear to be. Plus, many of them seem to feature wardrobes directly removed from a local clothes donation bin.
I know that last comment may sound hurtful, but lots of these folks have taken the entire Pajama Day Phenomenon to an entirely new, public level. I can also see this happening to me as I grow older, by the way. I will just want to be comfortable, and if that means wearing a faded flannel shirt, sweat pants, and bathroom slippers in public, so be it.
And I will tell my family to just deal with it because I know I will be inviting grief from them. Whatever.
So back to the waiting room — when I tire of being smug, I then quickly progress to becoming bored. And if I stay bored too long, I’ll start to get angry about having to waste so much time sitting there in anticipation of being called back to the Magic Kingdom.
It becomes an insidious cycle.
No doubt in acknowledgement of the inordinate waiting times, the hospital volunteers stock rolling carousels with “free” books for the patients to peruse and, I assume, take home.
After all, no rules are posted.
Most of the titles are really, really trashy romance works of fiction, so I have a tendency to look for more “meaty” literature, if it happens to be available. After all, I am a pseudo-intellectual (please pronounce that as “suedo-intellectual” for the appropriate effect). And since none of these volumes cost me anything, I typically pick out something I normally wouldn’t even consider buying.
Latest case in point. I’m now reading a compilation of travel essays called Bad Trips, which could very easily characterize most of my recent journeys to the hospital.
And like TheDailyTripBlog.com, if one didn’t know better, one might think that Bad Trips was about drugs. It’s not, at least from what I’ve read so far.
While the stories have been mildly entertaining and unremarkable, I discovered last night this paperback had a personal inscription, dated 1991, inside the front cover:
“To Evan, on his 29th Birthday, From His Extraordinary Parents, It Runs in the Family.”
In my mind, these few words are far more interesting than the contents of the book itself.
1) Who the hell are you, Evan, and why did you donate this book? Were you mad at your parents? The book itself? The fact that it was a paperback and not hard cover? After all, who writes inscriptions in paperbacks?
2) And to you, parents? What kind of parents describe themselves as extraordinary? Were you? Did Evan think you weren’t?
3) Why did you saddle your kid with the name “Evan”?
4) What, exactly, runs in the family? Taking trips? Taking bad trips? Drugs? Trips? Self-absorbed adjectival phrases?
Maybe the answers to these questions will be revealed the farther I progress into the book. Maybe not.
So far, its contents have been a collection of bad hotels, worse food, and making the best of really crappy situations.
Sort of like going to see the doctor, I figure.
Though part of me has a strong desire to know the substance behind the parent’s words and the child’s reaction, another part of me is more comfortable never knowing. That way, I am free to create my own context which, in the end, will be just as real to me as whatever reality happens to be.
So, for today, I’m thinking that young Evan and his parents enjoyed taking trips just like Daughter and I do. Eventually, Evan grew up, moved out, and carried on the same tradition. Maybe he even became a travel writer.* One year, as they realized the time had come to sell the family RV, Evan’s parents took the opportunity to acknowledge the shared gifts of the past by giving him this book on his birthday. Over the years, Bad Trips, though treasured, got lost in the clutter of Evan’s immense library, and when he was in the process of remodeling during the last housing boom, it somehow wound up in the donation box in the garage. Next stop was the hospital.
Or, he didn’t like his parents because he was sick of them referring to themselves as “extraordinary.”
Whatever the case, I am the book’s steward for a brief period of time before it moves on to the next reader on its journey.
Evan, wherever you are, I think your parents were probably okay, and I think you must have had fun together. I hope you remember them that way because I do.
*Note to Self: check if any of the stories in Bad Trips are authored by a guy named Evan.