Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sunday Salon: Searching for a Bookstore

If you're anything like me, you search out bookstores wherever you go. In fact, I not only try to leave space in my luggage for books to bring home with me, I have been known to leave extra shoes or clothes out of my packing if I think their inclusion will cut down on available book space. My family lives in fear of the day I decide it will just be easier to go naked than pack clothes that will take up room in my luggage. (And, to be honest, their fear might be justified if it ever becomes legal to saunter around in public naked.) So it is no surprise at all that the most recent vacation we took, a trip to the Bahamas with two other couples, included the quest for a bookstore. Things did not go as planned.

I had done a little online research for bookstores in Nassau but one evening when we were already monopolizing the hotel concierge, I asked where the best bookstore on the island was thinking that surely a local person would be a better source than strangers on the internet. She confidently told me "Book World," which sounded promising of course and plans were made to trek there the next day. Originally it was just going to be my long-suffering husband (probably hoping to rein in my buying) and me but one of the other couples decided that it sounded like an interesting outing so they tagged along. Our first decision was to take the local jitney for $1.25 a person instead of a taxi for $18-20.  Because who wants to be dropped directly at the door to your destination, right?  If we walked to the end of the property and went left, a bus stop would be there. Should be easy enough. Except apparently the end of the property didn't mean taking the driveway out to the road, it meant doing that and then walking and walking and walking and walking and walking (well you get the idea) along the entire length of the enormous property. We finally saw a hut similar in description to what we were looking for but it was on the other side of the road. With no other option visible, we crossed the road to it whereupon we accidentally interrupted a mother doing a Bible reading with her young son. She graciously told us that we needed to get back to the other side of the road and keep walking (more walking!) until we saw an unmissable green bus shelter. Turned out it wasn't green but it was unmissable and we finally sat down to wait for the bus.

The bus ride was uneventful and having no sense of where to get off or truly where the bus was ultimately going, we opted to get off the bus when everyone else did in downtown Nassau. (To be fair, this is where the people at the hotel told us we should get off.) GPS chided us for this, telling us that we were still 7 minutes away. We all shrugged and decided to walk. Yes, more walking. We walked out of the touristy part of town into an area with abandoned and boarded up buildings. There were no people anywhere, just trash and broken glass. But we kept walking, because, well, books. Still walking many minutes later, we consulted the GPS. Despite having walked for more than 10 minutes past the original promised 7 minute walk, GPS cheerily told us it was just 5 more minutes. I was developing large, painful blisters on both the bottoms and tops of my feet. Our friend M. asked if we could walk on the shady side of the street because he was too hot, which sounded like a reasonable request until we realized there was no shady side. He promptly started unbuttoning his shirt to try and cool off.  We weren't entirely sure how far he intended to strip, he was so overheated.  Meanwhile, looking at the map, we opted to take a shortcut in hopes that we'd cut off a minute or two. Unfortunately the shortcut dead-ended into a street that had literally no shoulder and constant traffic whipping past. Unwilling to play Frogger, we turned around and cut through a cemetery to the street we were supposed to be on, at which point GPS told us that we *still* only had 5 minutes to go to get to the bookstore. You might be wondering why we kept going but at this point there truly were no other options. We plodded on. M.'s wife T. kept telling us it was an adventure and it was all good.  I think she a little delusional and manic at this point, but whatever.  I was demoralized and grumpy and my feet hurt. M. was red as a tomato and sweating profusely. My husband was 100 yards ahead of the rest of us and on a mission to get there already (or maybe just a mission to keep enough distance between us that he didn't strangle me for suggesting this outing).

We finally did make it to Book World. Sweet relief! Except it was the worst bookstore ever. Y'all, it was an office supply store with two rows of school workbooks and one short shelf of general books. I tried my damndest to find something to buy to justify the marathon walk but I just couldn't.  An hour of walking in the heat and blazing sun only to leave empty handed.  :-(

We all agreed we had no interest in walking back so tried to call a taxi. When I heard they couldn't pick us up for an hour, I almost broke down in tears. Meanwhile I'm sure the rest of them were wondering if disposing of me would take an hour and where they could hide my body without having to walk too far. We called the hotel in desperation and they said that they could send a car for $104 or someone at the store could call us a taxi. (I'm pretty sure that the hotel just wanted to pass the problem on to someone else.) The cashier at Book World looked a bit taken aback when we asked if he knew of any taxis but a customer heard the question and directed us to walk (more walking!) up the short hill to the Super Value to see Mr. Wells, who was sometimes known to arrange rides for people. Does this sound ominous to you? Frankly, at this point we didn't care and dutifully trekked up the hill to see our own personal taxi fixer. Rather unsurprisingly, he was told that there were no taxis available for an hour. Of course, by this time, we were starving (all that walking, you know) and decided that we just wanted to be able to have lunch, preferably an authentic lunch since the rest of the trip had been a bust. Mr. Wells sent us into the Super Value to take a look at the deli offerings, assuring us that everything there was made on premises and was locally sourced. We were so demoralized by this point, we actually looked at the food even though there would have been nowhere to eat it. We didn't get anything so I can't tell you what it tasted like but it looked like the same fried and over-sauced sort of stuff we can find in grocery store deli departments here. When we got back outside, Mr. Wells had a taxi for us (and seemed disappointed we had ignored his food suggestion). Or not a taxi, but a guy who worked at the store sweeping the floor who sometimes drove people places and would take us where we wanted to go. "We trust him because he works here. He's an employee." Who were we to argue?

We told the driver where we wanted to go and the address, and piled into his car, trying not to step on what were clearly his groceries piled on the floor in the back. He agreed with our destination and set off. As we drove along, we tried to confirm the cost that Mr. Wells had quoted us. You'll be as shocked (not) as we were to discover that we were going to be charged twice that. But at least we weren't walking. Then we noticed that our driver was heading away from where we wanted to be. In fact, he was taking us to Atlantis (not the hotel we were staying at, by the way). We tried to tell him he was taking us to the wrong place and he just kept telling us "Yes." Over the bridge to not our hotel we went. We resorted to pointing in addition to telling him where we needed to be and M. kept trying to show him the GPS. Obviously the driver had been told that you shouldn't look at your phone while driving so he came to a complete stop. In the middle of the road. Commence honking behind us. He started driving again, still in the wrong direction (and now on the wrong island). M. waves the phone with map on it again. Complete stop again. Honking again. Finally he did a u-turn and we headed off in the correct direction. Each time the GPS suggested that we'd need to turn in a mile or so, he tried to turn immediately, leading M. to finally resort to hand signals to direct us. M. has a really promising career ahead of him either as a football umpire signalling first down or as the ground crew guy who directs the plane to the gate. Then, less than a mile from the restaurant, the car died at a stoplight.  More honking.  He did eventually get it going again and when we got close enough to the restaurant that even I could limp there on my blister filled feet, we paid him and piled out of the car.

Not exactly the bookstore adventure I was hoping for but probably one I won't forget even if I have nothing to show for it now that my feet have healed. We did have a nice lunch and while I'd like to say that was the end of our adventures that day, there was still the crazy taxi ride back to the hotel to get through but that's a tale for a different day. Will I still try searching out bookstores wherever I go? Probably. But I might make room in my luggage for better walking shoes even if I have to sacrifice a book or two.

1 comment:

  1. OMG what an ordeal!!!!! I was hoping that after all the pain and heat exhaustion there would be a great bookstore at the end, but not this time. I'm glad that's all behind you!!!


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