“What’s this about?” she asked as she took a seat next to me and picked up my book off the table.
“I’m not sure,” I said. “A friend just lent it to me and I haven’t even started it yet.” I was sitting at the local cafe and coffee shop eating my lunch. My visitor was one of the owners.
“I was going to read it, but then I found this Oprah magazine on the table,” I explained. “I figured I could read my book at home, but can’t bring this magazine home.”
“Yes, you can,” she said. “People borrow my magazines all the time and return them when they’re done. That’s why I bring them here – I subscribe to them, and when I’m finished I want other people to enjoy them. Take it home.”
“I drive by here all the time,” I said. “I can drop it off easily enough.”
“Do that – take it home.”
“I’ve seen this book before,” she said, flipping through it. “But just haven’t gotten around to buying it. I should read this.” The book was titled “101 Things to Do Before Going To Heaven.” I never much cared for these types of “101” or “1001” books – I felt too pressured to do all the things they listed, and then realized one person’s idea of the “1001 places to see before you die” was not necessarily in line with my idea of the places I wanted to see. But the title of this one had caught my eye.
My visitor proceeded to tell me about some troubles she’d been having in her life over the past year. She explained that this year she’s going to get out and do things she’d always wanted to do.
“Like what?” I asked, thinking maybe she was planning a trip to some far-flung locale. I was quite wrong. She named a couple local sites she hadn’t yet seen or hadn’t been to in years. She also talked about going on dates with her husband. Her life had been so busy she hadn’t been able to enjoy such simple things.
“If you wouldn’t mind,” she said, “can I borrow this book when you’re done?”
“Take it now,” I said.
“Oh – no – you haven’t even read it yet!”
“No, really,” I said. “My friend gave me four other books. Go ahead and read it.”
“Thank you – I’m sure I could finish reading it in two days.”
“No need – take your time,” I said. At that, she looked over to the counter. “I need to go help some customers,” she explained as she got up. “The Real Simple magazines are good, too,” she offered. “Thanks,” I said. “I’ll just borrow this one for now.”
This is why I like local places. I can’t recall ever having the owner of a Starbucks sit down with me and ask about the book I was reading. Yes, the person who takes my order might make small talk. But I read that they’re told to do that. On purpose. To make you feel a connection – to your “local” Starbucks. Nothing against Starbucks. That same book made me really like the company. But there’s something about a truly local place. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but this little scene has something to do with it.