The love of books is among the choicest gifts of the gods.
– Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Beads of perspiration crowned my brow. I cringed with every crack of the poor book’s spine, every wrinkle of its pages. The offender gentleman sitting across from me on the train took no notice, the volume on his iPod drowning my silent struggle.
Over and over in my head, I repeated: It’s his book. I can’t tell a stranger how to read his own book. Just be glad he’s reading. Not enough people do. I must keep quiet. Must…keep…quiet…
My book became my timeout corner as I stuck my nose between the pages, determined not to come out until I knew I could behave myself. Yet, I still kept peeking to offer the abused book my silent sympathy.
Why the agony?
Apparently I was emotionally scarred as a child. Growing up, Mom and I frequented libraries; they were our only steady supply of books because we had neither the money to buy them nor the space to keep them.
Here’s a little known fact: Some librarians get cranky when you damage their books. And back in my day, being eight years old was no excuse. And the lessons those librarians taught me have stuck.
I wanted (so badly) to show this man how to properly handle a book. Nix that. I wanted to rescue that poor book from a fate as a pile of soggy papers strewn in the gutter. I wanted to take it home where it would be safe, cared for and respected.
I didn’t know the title of the book, but I knew I could provide a better home for it.
After the sixth time he cracked the book’s spine, I looked around for another seat. But it was the evening rush hour. There were no vacancies: I was trapped.
Half an hour later, the train came to its first stop. I winced as he dog-eared his place, stuffed the book into his backpack (bending the front cover in half!) and left.
As he faded down the aisle and out into the cool evening air, I released a breath I hadn’t realized I was holding. I then lowered my shoulders from around my ears and relaxed my legs so that my feet could touch the ground.
But I did it. I hadn’t said anything. Because he does have the right to read his book however he wants. And I am thankful that he was reading because I don’t think enough people do.
But, if I’m ever interrogated (an unlikely scenario to be sure), I am clearly screwed. All they’d have to do is dog-ear a page and I’d sing like a canary.