Turning a traveller's day around by introducing BookCrossingby Phoenixshanghai
July 16, 2009
She was tired. It had been a 37-hour train journey across China on a hard seat as she had been unable to book a sleeper berth. She was hot; Shanghai has been 30 degrees plus and humid all week. Her room in our hostel would not be ready for her for another
hour. We did not have any Diet Coke left and could not finish her laundry until tomorrow. She was not happy.
What were we able to do? Unhappy visitors are the most difficult challenge for our hostel-bar-activity center. We offered her a drink; she didn't want one. We did her laundry for free; she was still unhappy. We offered to give her a bigger room; she refused.
Just as I was losing hope that we could turn her bad day around, I had a flashback of her arriving at reception. A very heavy daypack, filled with books.
“Do you need anything to read?” I tentatively asked?
She looked bewildered.
“Today we got over 100 BookCrossing books. We've just finished registering them. Would you like to look through and see if there's something we've got that you'd like to take?”
I thought she might cry. “I don't have any books to leave in exchange. My bag is full of academic books I need for my research”
“You don't need to exchange the books. You can just take one”
It took a few moments for my words to sink in. As I explained how BookCrossing worked, I took her over to our stuffed book cart. Her spirit visibly brightened. I left her to search through our selection. Sitting cross-legged on the floor she looked younger, happier and much more relaxed. Later that day I spotted her online checking where her book had 'been' and smiled to myself...another convert.