Elsewhere across the United States, especially up north, I’ve heard it’s bitterly cold.
I’m not trying to be a jerk or anything, but I can’t help but smirk over the phone as my family calls, complaining of below-zero temperatures and blizzard weather back home.
“That’s a real shame,” I tease them. “It’s eighty degrees here.”
I spent my Sunday off walking around the park. Then I walked to Starbucks to pick up a Frappuccino (ah, nothing like an iced drink in December!) and found a bench in the sunshine where I could contentedly read a novel I’ve been meaning to pick up.
Okay, enough bragging about the weather here. It actually makes me uneasy to hear Christmas carols without seeing snow–real snow, not foamy soap snow. Like I’m a part of some cosmic joke.
But, as I sat reading my book on that happy little bench overlooking the water, the strangest thing happened to me. Three separate people came up to me to comment on the fact I was reading.
The first was a large French man who told me, “It’s lovely to see you sitting there and reading, Madame, too many people are on their technology these days. This is very rare.”
I had no idea how to respond, first because he was French and had called me Madame (that sounded pretty classy and awesome to me) and secondly, I didn’t find reading unusual, so I was totally unprepared in my answer.
I thanked him and went back to my book a little nonplussed, drinking my Frappuccino. I can’t lie, I felt really cool that I’d been called Madame. I think that was the highlight of my day.
I’d made it about halfway through when I was again approached by an elderly man in a blue baseball cap.
“That’s a real book,” he said to me.
“It is,” I responded, a little uncertainly.
“I don’t see people reading a lot around here. And when I do, they’re on those…those electronic things. Kindles or whatnot.”
He used the word ‘whatnot!’ I couldn’t even stop the grin on my face from appearing.
“I’m a little old school,” I said. “I prefer real books.”
“Real books! Yes! Good for you.” With a friendly wave, he walked off. I just kind of stared out after him, wondering at the strangeness of being approached for the simple task of pulling out a book in a public place.
I was also very enthusiastic about the vernacular I was hearing. Madame? Whatnot? Who uses those words in everyday vocabulary?
I was nearing the end of the novel (I spent a really long time on that bench) when the third and final approach occurred.
“Is that a good book?” I heard. I looked up–another elderly couple, a man and a woman.
“It is!” I responded.
“It’s a perfect day to be out reading,” the woman said. “I did that, when I was your age. Nothing beats the feel of a book in your hands, am I right?”
“Absolutely,” I responded. “Electronic books just don’t compare.”
“My daughter tried to get me one for Christmas last year,” the man said and began to laugh. “I don’t use it. It doesn’t even look good on my bookshelf.”
“Have a lovely afternoon,” the woman said. They wandered away and I returned to my book, but I couldn’t quite focus on the words. I was a little too excited over the fact I’d just been approached three times in one day about my novel-reading habits, and all by the friendliest elderly folks I’d ever encountered.
I felt like I may as well have been Audrey Hepburn with a green tea frapp and a pink paperback.
But what does that tell you? Kindles will never replace real books. Maybe I’m just another old soul, like the lovely folks who I encountered on Market Street, but the feel of a book and the smell of a freshly opened one at that can never be replaced.
If you feel like experimenting on your own, grab a novel and find a sunshiney bench on which to read it. You never know how a little paperback can help you meet people, and it’s simply nice to unplug from technology for a while!
Oh, wait. It’s a little chilly out for you northerners around this time, isn’t it?
Alright. Fly down here to Orlando and I’ll share my bench. Heck, I’ll even pay for your Starbucks.