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The Day I Learned Just How Low I Would Go When Hunting Books

by mrsjones
September 23, 2009

Okay. It has finally happened. I have stooped as low as I possibly can in my pursuit of hunting books in the wild. This time, even I was embarrassed by my actions. But I couldn’t help it. I tell you, I just couldn’t help it.

I once took a BookCrossing quiz that tells you ‘what kind of Bookcrosser you are’. I was not surprised at all to learn that I am an Obsessive Releaser who looks at every shopping expedition, doctor’s visit, sporting event, or children’s outing as a potential place to release a book. I already knew this about myself.

The quiz did not, however, assess how obsessed I can be with hunting books as well. But then, I don’t really need a quiz to tell me how out of control that can be. My poor husband can attest to that.

I have dragged that man on endless quests for books that I thought I remembered being released a few miles (or maybe a few dozen miles) somewhere near wherever we happened to be. I don’t know why he indulges me. I’m surprised every time he flips his blinker and heads off in the general vicinity of a book that might still be on top of a certain newspaper stand, or on a shelf in a random coffee shop.

All too often we go, hunt for the book, order coffees we don’t really want, and leave empty-handed. Hunting books in the wild is tricky. Even when the release is recent and I’m sure of the release spot.

But it hasn’t been beyond me to look for books released a month beforehand either. This happened on our recent trip to Gulfport, Mississippi to see our son. Someone had donated a book to a local thrift store and I wanted it. I asked my son to go find it for me, but he put his military career first and never did go get it. (Imagine that!) So when we went down for a visit, I took it upon myself to look, even though it had been six weeks since it was released. We found the thrift store and searched the shelves, very diligently, I might add, but we didn’t find it. My family was not surprised at all that we spent an hour or two of our vacation hunting for books. It’s practically built-in to the itinerary of our trips now.

When we went to Louisville, we had to first find, and then stop, at a coffee shop where someone had released a book two weeks earlier. When we went to see my in-laws in Columbus, Ohio, I thought nothing of swinging 20 miles out of way to search for a book at Panera Bread.

But our recent trip to San Francisco took the cake. Even I will admit that I sank to an all-time low in my pursuit of the ever-elusive wild book.

I got a Release Alert that countedx58 had released books in the financial district one night. I easily adapted our next day’s plans to include a trip to the Ferry Building, right near the hot release spots. No one was the wiser, until we got there and I told my husband I just wanted to ‘look real quick’ for a couple of books that had been left there the night before.

He didn’t want me to wander around alone, so he went with me. He really should have known better. But even I couldn’t have foreseen how low I would stoop until it happened.

We searched the newspaper stands and the sidewalks around the two banks mentioned in the release notes and didn’t find the books. I wasn’t all that surprised; books left out in the open don’t typically remain in place for long.

We started to walk toward the Ferry building to catch up with the rest of the family when I suddenly spied the spine of a book peeking out between two cardboard boxes on the ground. My feet moved all by themselves.

“Julie, no!” my husband warned me.

I heard him, but I turned into a cat or something. Curiosity was killing me.

I took a step.

“Julie!” he admonished again. “That’s someone’s house! Leave it alone.”

I knew that. I understood that. I was not going to take a book from a homeless person, even though it looked like nobody was home at the moment.

I mustered up a little dignity and redirected myself toward the Ferry building. But then I saw that there were more books tucked inside that cardboard house. I gasped. Were these the treasures I sought?

I just had to open the cover and see. I tried not to do it, but I absolutely couldn’t help myself. My husband stood horrified, probably wishing for the tenant would reach out and grab me, or that a policeman to take me away. But I wasn’t going to remove the books; they had an owner. I just wanted to take a peek inside.

I know you’re probably all shaking your heads like my husband, warning me, “Don’t do it,” like you would a teenager walking toward the woods in a horror movie. But like her, I wouldn’t have listened.

I am embarrassed to admit that I did, indeed, pull out the book that was wedged between the boxes. I didn’t recognize the title, but I opened the cover anyway. Sadly (or fortunately?) it was not a BookCrossing book. My degradation had been for naught. Mortified at what I’d done, yet strangely relieved that I had my answer, I replaced the book exactly as I’d found it while dozens of tourists, just like me (but saner), watched me give back the book they thought I was stealing from the homeless.

We went on with our day, and I did not pester my husband to take me to the medical building where another book was later released. I do have a little self-control. Though I can’t vouch for what might happen on our next trip….


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