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.