When I'm honest with myself, it has always struck me as a strange combination: a bookstore next to a tattoo parlor. But for a long time, I naively thought it would be one of those quirky coincidences commonplace in Petersburg, an idiosyncracy that would, in fact, make it somehow more special. For several months, I shrugged it off when I arrived to find beer cans, empty cigarette packs, discarded food containers, used (yes, used) feminine hygiene products and/or the occasional wrecked car strewn about the parking lot. I may have said a few choice words, but I picked the trash up and wrote it off as the price of owning something used by the public. I lived with the gaggles of tattoo-laden smokers hanging out in the alley cussing a blue streak and apologized to my purse-clenching little old lady customers who braved what they perceived as something of a gauntlet to visit me. I dealt without complaint with the fact that my parking is regularly taken up by tattoo parlor customers who can't park in tattoo parlor parking because there are so many employees and other people who seem to hang out all day WITHOUT pay there. I watched without comment as taxi after taxi full of GIs parked in the driveway to unload and clogged all avenues of traffic flow while they went in to collect their $10 per taxi load reward from the tattoo parlor staff.
Let me digress here for a moment and say that it is not the majority of the folks who frequent the tattoo parlor with whom I have an issue. Most of them are decent, hard-working folks who would no more throw their trash down in the parking lot, as an example, than my average customer. I actually know and like most of their staff, and I do get some cross traffic from their customers, even if the majority of them only come in to get a print out of their desired tattoo.
But today, I'm pissed. A heavyset pair of women just cruised down the driveway in their Pontiac Grand Prix aiming for the choice lower tier of tattoo parlor parking adjacent to the door. When they saw there were no spaces there, rather than hauling their fat but otherwise able bodies back up the hill and parking a little further away, they decided it would be just fine to use my handicapped space. I went out to politely tell them that the space was reserved for handicapped and that if they didn't have a placard or sticker, I would have to ask them to move. One of them muttered something under her breath. I asked her to please repeat it and she reared back and belted out, "I SAID, you ain't doin' no business over here anyway." I stayed calm long enough to tell her that I appreciated the comment but that I would still need them to move the car. She replied that the other woman was "gon' move it." I thanked them both and told them to have a nice day. Then I came inside, went in the back and cussed my own blue streak. I can't say that I was all that angry because of the young woman's sense of entitlement or even the comment itself. I was more angry because I knew it to be true.
So let this be a lesson to anyone out there in cyberspace who is thinking of starting their own business. There are some things that would do well in such a location as mine. You might run a honkeytonk, or a little bistro, an Internet cafe, a laundromat, skateboard shop, a bike and boat shop or even a gym out here in the hinterlands next to the tattoo parlor. You will not do well with a book store, and the attempt will be an exercise in head-banging that will leave you with little more than a headache and a rapidly dwindling bank account.