It's finally happened. I'm slightly mad. I broke down and made an anti-squatter policy. In other words, I explicitly spelled out Reading Room (seating area) policies for the store, and now I'm having second thoughts. I put together what I think is a tongue-in-cheek, light and gentle reminder that I'm not Barnes and Noble or the public library, posted it and now I'm second guessing: Does this REALLY need to be codified? Does there really need to be a sheet of paper on the coffee table that explains what is and is not appropriate behavior for the seating area of a small, independent bookstore? Do I need to take on the role of politeness police? The answer, apparently, is yes to all. I am amazed at how many people will sit here under my increasingly withering stare and read entire books with no intention of paying for them. I'm not talking about a 30 page children's book, either. I'm talking the entire epic scope of Desperate Duchesses, every sultry word of The Taste Of Innocence. I had one young lady drag no less than 15 different new books to her seating area lair over the course of several hours to research a paper for school. She even borrowed my pen. When she was done, she got up without so much as a thank you and rolled out--you guessed it--with my pen. The tattoo parlor next door opens at 1 pm; I open at 11 am. Sometimes, I get the benefit of their customers' company for the two hours between. They usually settle in with some trashy romance, invariably new, promptly bend the cover all the way around the back, and read until they see the tattoo parlor door swing open. Then, they hurriedly throw the book back in the direction of a shelf and rush over to be first in line for fresh ink. I've had people get comfortable (read, take their shoes off and loosen their belts) and sleep. I've had people hold entire phone conversations of a nature that should not be in the public domain.
In case you're wondering, I don't sit here and seethe in silence during these episodes. I did for a while. Confrontation is not something I enjoy. Now, I am neurotic, so generally, my internal dialogue goes something like this: hmm, looks like we've got another one. Oh come on Kristy, don't assume the worst about people. And don't be a chintzy b**** either. I'm not assuming the worst, I'm being realistic and besides, YOU just don't want to have to say something to them. Maybe they'll only stay a few minutes. Let me just wait and see. If they haven't closed up shop in the next 15 minutes, I'll say something. Please, you see them settling in for the long haul. What was that sound? Was that a pants button being undone? Oh, God. "Hey buddy, don't want to be a jerk or anything but if you're gonna hold that book captive much longer, we really ought to settle up." What happens next is always the same. They get up with a sigh, button their pants and leave without a backward glance.
My fickle faith in humanity doesn't need this kind of pressure. So now I have a policy to fall back on.