I finally gave in and walked into Borders before it closed its doors forever. I walked out having paid $18 for $90 worth of books. I felt no satisfaction or joy in that. I felt rather like I had just rifled through the pockets of an old friend while he lay near death in a hospital bed. The feeling didn’t much surprise me.
Since its arrival years ago, Borders has played an active role in my life. Not just the books, although as a lover of books I was certainly drawn there for that, but also for the social aspect. It became a gathering place for me. It was where my wife and I would have “coffee dates” on Monday nights when our children were in other activities. It was where, after missing an entire year of school with an illness, my daughter met her tutor each week. And in recent years, it was where I had Sunday morning coffee with Tony and Lawrence, two “old timers” who, after months of nodding hellos to me, had finally welcomed me into their small circle.
Chain stores come and go. I’ve shopped at the same Safeway for twenty-five years. Should Safeway go out of business tomorrow I won’t shed a tear at its going. But Borders, that’s been different. The place invited life to happen within its stores as part of its business model and we willingly accepted the opportunity. I think that is where Borders elevated itself above the rest. We didn’t go there just to buy. We went to browse, to hang out, to connect with others. We met and made friends among the bookstacks and the cups of coffee. Somehow, the big box had taken on the posture of a local joint and we accepted it as such. So while the reality may be that a national chain has gone out of business, from a ground level view and to the people that made the store a part of their lives, it feels much more personal than that.
I’m writing this blog this Sunday morning from my kitchen over a cup of coffee. I’d rather be somewhere else, discussing the Terrapins loss or county politics, but I don’t know where Tony and Lawrence wandered off to.
by guest blogger, Mike Billard
Photo via BaltimoreSun.com