Sunday, August 19, 2007

Lessons from the Gainesville Trip

This morning we sent our younger son back to UF for the start of his sophomore year. He still stays in the same residential hall, but another wing. Perhaps because the Fall semester would only start on the coming Wednesday (or is it Thursday?), there were not too many cars taking up the road side parking in front of the Hall when we arrived. We managed to ease into a vacant lot close to the Wing he has been assigned.

Nothing of note occurred along the drive from Tampa. Traffic was smooth, weather was hot, and no surprises from the State Troopers looking out for speedsters. With the help of his elder brother who decided to come along, we managed to put all his things in his room within an hour and off we went to Buffet City for lunch. After having made two trips to Buffet City (read here for our first experience), the novelty began to wear off and my wife decided that this probably would be our last visit, seeing that there are yet unvisited places to sustain our gastronomic adventures.

Next stop was CVS to pick up a new laundry basket, the old one having been inadvertently taken away from the laundry room, for him. Then my wife spotted the open sign at the OMNI books next door (it was closed the last time we were here before the summer break). So we split party, me and my elder son sauntering into the Omni books to quench our literary thirst.

I first scanned the 5-for-$9.95 collection located right after the entrance. No, nothing popped out. Moving to the New Fiction section, I saw a title. The Cold Moon (I have forgotten the name but managed to look it up in the online library catalogue of the Hillsborough Public Library System), by Jeffrey Deaver, a thriller novelist that I’ve just developed a liking for (read here about my chance encounter with the writer, or rather with his works). It’s considered new (published in 2006), but I’m not a sucker for new books, especially novels. It makes more financial sense to buy used books since they are aplenty in supply or to check them out from your friendly local library.

So I asked the proprietor if he has any used books by Deaver. He started toward the central repository of used books, nicely laid out in book shelves like a labyrinth, asking, “Mystery?” “Thrillers,” I answered without hesitation, but really not knowing whether such a category exists in the lexicon of booksellers. If it is not, he did not evince any indication. I followed, and was led to a shelf-full whence he pointed at one by Deaver, Twisted. Oh good, I have not read this one. And it’s for $3.95, written in pencil on the first inside page, meaning that it’s used. “Anymore?” “It should be here if there is.” So let’s start the hunt.

The first thing I noticed is that the books are not arranged in alphabetical order by authors’ names, but rather in groups of the first letters. I saw titles by Tom Clancy, and also John Grisham on the shelf. And by inference, Deaver should be bracketed somewhere, which means from the top to the bottom (on recall, I think it is 5 shelves high). I realize then that these paperbacks are not meant to be searched fast. For one thing, the book covers and the vertical binds are colored, and the words appearing thereon are not in sharp contrast to the background color. Squinting hard and not helped at all by the less than desirable lighting, I only found another title by Deaver, the Bone Collector, which I (or rather my younger daughter) already have. So after 15 minutes of seemingly interminable ordeal, I quickly straightened my back from a half bent position, giving up on the bottom most shelf. Deaver or no Deaver, this ain’t worth the back exertion. So, Twisted it is.

The last stop was the Reitz Union for my younger son to have a haircut. Both the Supercut outlets near our home were too filled with waiting customers for a walk-in when we tried at Tampa yesterday evening. Just to show that last minute chores are destined not to be done. And the barber shop at Reitz Union was closed, perhaps because the semester has not started. Anyway he will try on his own first thing tomorrow morning.

After depositing him at his dorm, we drove home, reaching Tampa before 5pm. The only thing that bears mentioning on the drive home is this particular driver, who kept turning to talk to his front seat companion (I could see that through his back window), with his car showing the same tendency as well. So a minute he was in the lane, the next minute his passenger half of the car would cross the median line. From the back, he appeared to be doing a minor zigzag, but somehow he had the sense to keep to his lane while overtaking. So I maintained a respectable distance, until, mercifully, he exited the Interstate. Lesson: When you are driving, always look straight when talking to your front passenger, if your head-steering coordination is always synchronized, in the same direction.

So the place downstairs vacated by our younger son will be taken up by his sister, who is proud to show off her new laptop, except that we would have to buy a longer Internet cable to connect to the router, which is shared by another two users, me to write my blog, and his elder brother using the old laptop bought in 2001 but still good enough for surfing. We have earlier bought a 7-ft cable that turned out to be too short (the younger son wanted to take along his long cable to UF even though I reasoned with him that he could use the 7-ft one for his dorm room. I have seen the room and a 7ft length is definitely doable, at least on his side of the room).

So more lessons here. When in doubt, always measure. But then we must have doubts first. Also, reasoning with one’s kids must be followed up by putting the foot down, so to speak.


Kitty Girl said...

Ooo, a new method of highlighting key lines! Neat. I don't understand "But then we must have doubts first" in the last paragraph. So, does that mean we should always try to be sure of things, so that we have no doubts? But then, if one is trying to be sure of things, that would imply that one already has doubts...? I think I'm over-thinking this. Chicken, or egg first?

Say Lee said...

That was written in the context that sometimes we go through life happy-go-lucky, taking most things for granted, but we do need a healthy dose of skepticism here and there, then only will we stop and take stock, reevaluate.

The same goes with worries. It'not that we can't be happy, it's just that we don't recognize worry when we see one, or rather when we see none.