A Man of Extinction

It’s a little disconcerting to wake up one day and realize that, just like the dodo bird, I have become extinct.

Or rather, that everything that made me me has become extinct. 

Or — to put too fine a point on it — everything that I used to enjoy has become extinct.

This epiphany came to me today very much like an iridium-laced meteor came to the dinosaurs a few years back, when I observed yet another “For Lease” sign upon a deserted store that I used to go sometimes.  It is (or was) a big-box store that sold office supplies.

This caused me to muse to myself, “I think that was the last one around here for miles and miles.

And that made me think, “They’re just like book stores.  They’re all disappearing.

By now I was in something of a funk.  

I already have to get in my car and drive much further than I care to in order to find one of the few remaining Barnes & Noble book stores.

And you know what else isn’t around any more?  Stationers!

I used to be able to go into a store called “ColorTree” and find shelves upon shelves of fine writing papers, fountain pens, quills, wax seals, journals, etc.  In the void left by its passing, a store called Papyrus filled the void for a few years, but they basically became a greeting card store that sells wedding invitations in the back (very suspicious!).

I also used to enjoy going into Radio Shack.  As an engineer, it thrilled me no end to be able to go into a store and buy resistors, capacitors, inductors, rectifiers, wire, breadboards, transistors, and 7400-series logic chips, and anything else I might need to build a weekend project.  They even had little project books of schematics to get the juices flowing if I couldn’t think of anything to build.  I could also pick up batteries, a CB radio, RC cars, radios, and all kinds of other neat stuff.

But now they are gone, tossed into the dustbin of history (and mismanagement).  

And suddenly, something that had been nagging me for a few years, was explained.  

I used to enjoy leaving the house.  On a Friday evening, or a Saturday afternoon, I would love to jump into my car and go to one of the aforementioned places.  When the family wanted to go hang out at the mall for a few hours, I didn’t mind, because there would be a bookstore or Radio Shack I could go hang out in.  

But now, when Friday night rolls around, or a lazy Saturday afternoon, I just walk around inside the house and sigh.  

Whither would I go?

I know what you’re thinking.

You’re going to say (for someone always does), “All of those things are online now.  Just order them from Danube (or Nile or Yangtze or Styx, or whatever it’s called).  It’ll be at your doorstep in just a few hours.

But it’s not the same, you see.

I used to get so excited just going into those stores!  It was thrilling!  It wasn’t just that I went in there to pick up some specific item.  It was that I went in there to discover something I did not know existed.  It was the thrill of the hunt.  It was the excitement of the excavation.  

And, just as much as seeing them, it was thrilling to get to touch them.  I loved running my fingers over a fine piece of paper.  Or twirling a wax seal stamper between my fingers.  Or of feeling the fine binding on a lovely book with heft.

And now all of those things are gone.  

And I have nowhere to go.

 

 

14 comments

  1. The only independent bookstore in the next town just closed. It’s so hard for anyone to compete against big box stores. Radio Shack became The Source here though—no radios anymore but lots of electronics and gadgets.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We’re basically down to two book store chains: B&N and Half Price Books. I love them both for different reasons, but I do worry how much longer they will be able to hold out against the evil Amazon empire. Will they too someday go belly-up? I hope not.

      I miss Radio Shack so much. Next to a bookstore, it was my favorite place to go hang out. There used to be a mall here where there was actually a bookstore right next to a Radio Shack! Heaven!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We could try blaming global warming I suppose. This seems to be causing lots of natural habitats to change and wildlife is apparently having to migrate to survive. Perhaps the same is happening with these types of shops? Maybe there are more Barnes & Nobles to be found further north … :-/

    Liked by 1 person

    • You may be right. I would move further north in a heartbeat. I am so sick and tired of the relentless heat here in Dallas. So perhaps you are quite correct in that the heat has sapped all my creativity. Now if I could just win the lottery ….

      Like

    • Oh, yes! I had forgotten about those! What weekend was complete without a Friday evening trip to Blockbuster to pick up 2 or 3 or 5 videos to watch over the weekend? And they always conveniently had the microwave popcorn and theater candy right there at the checkout.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Poor Biff. I know what you’re saying. It’s just like a fellow who was listening to Jim Croche’s song, Operator, and his nephew asked him, “What’s an operator?”
    Perhaps you could go hang out at the antique store. You might meet others of us there, eying the fountain pens. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • I do actually like going to antique stores. Unfortunately, their stock does not turn over very often, so my visits are usually limited to going every 6 or 8 months. And I do love the way a good fountain pen looks and feels. Unfortunately, my handwriting is abysmal, so I am limited to just looking at them.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Nor do I. We are rapidly approaching a time when we will have almost no physical contact with others. We will become detached from nearly everything and approach a state of abstraction that will leave us all diminished and unhappy. On the other hand, we could all push back against that and force real brick-and-mortar stores to return. Hey, if vinyl albums and cassette tapes can make a comeback, ANYTHING is possible. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • I had to look that up to see what it meant, but yes, you are quite right. I can’t recall the last time I saw such a shop as that. I know for a fact there are still candle-makers out there … but shops for nautical equipment … not so much. I see a lot of nautical equipment in antique stores, so I guess they have ended up like a lot of the things I enjoy … obsolete.

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