We at the bookstore like to think we have a light-heartedness about us, a jollyness reflected sometimes in the unusual, whimsical gifts that we offer. At any given time you might find a small duck that quacks six different tunes, a pewter wishbone, a tiny snowglobe with a frog in it or a fake spilled cup of coffee (mentioned here, as well. Apparently, this is all we can talk about!). Of all the gift items we carry it is the fake spilled coffee (and wine and milk and ice cream spoon) that draw the most comments in a day. Our owner, Julie, who does most of the buying for the store, is truly creative and original in her outlook about everything, including what would be fun to have in the store to charm our customers. Julie likes to leave the spoons with the fake melted ice cream sitting atop a stack of books. Yes, it works every time. Someone walks by, spies out of the corner of their eye what looks like a real disaster happening, and exclaims:
“Oh my gosh, someone just left a spoon on one of your books…who would do a thing like that???!!!”
To which we have various replies:
“Don’t worry, it’s fake”.
“Thank you for being concerned about our books.”
“What slobs. Who would do such a thing!”
Everyone, hopefully, laughs and we go on to talk about our other gifts or books or life in general.
Day after day, month after month, the same scenario, laughter and explanations over the fake spilled food items. Our regular customers have become savvier (though some keep falling for them over and over no matter how many times they’ve seen them,) but we get many new customers everyday, some from continents away. One evening, such a customer was shopping at the store and purchased her items at the counter as we chatted about her home country of Thailand, which I had the privilege of visiting years ago. Her English was certainly better than my complete lack of Thai but it was difficult to understand some of her words. As she said goodbye and was leaving the store she suddenly rushed back to the counter and exclaimed, “Quick coffee spill, quick quick!!!” I gave the usual reply: “Fake….plastic…etc…” She would have none of it. She shook her head emphatically and said, “Come see, quick!” To humor her I stepped from behind the counter to show her our fake coffee cup on the floor, but to my horror and amazement there was a real cup of coffee spilled all over the floor puddling in little rivers, headed for our gifts. I jumped to clean up the mess, but was laughing at the absurdity of the situation and trying to explain to this lovely Thai woman how I had misjudged what she was telling me and still trying to explain about the fake coffee spills that we carry. She laughed but I don’t think she really understood. I think she returned to her country thinking that some American women are very hard to communicate with in an emergency.
And I ended up thinking of the little boy who cried wolf until no one believed him when the real wolf appeared.