Booksellers and Public Transportation

[editor’s note: I scanned this post and wondered what this had to do with bookselling, even considered asking Brian to send something else. Then I read it, soaked it in. This neat little article sums up why I became a bookseller in the first place – to get back to a real life, a relaxed life. Hope you enjoy it.]

by Brian Webster


DEMAND PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION TODAY!

Now why would I do this?
Because yesterday I had to go downtown Atlanta in the rush hour. A whole hour and fifteen minutes in
traffic! I fumed as I looked around at my fellow drivers. Few saw me and merely shrugged their
shoulder as if to say “that’s life”. A few glared at me as if somehow I might be at fault and I wondered
how they would be when they arrived. I pitied the poor minions they oversaw or their frustration at the
boss when he demanded “Where have you been?”
I’m glad I only had to do it once.
In my past I lived in England in a small town called Marlow, about forty miles outside of London.
My morning commute took a ten minute walk to the Railway Station, where I caught the local train to
the main line station. I carried a book to read and the Morning paper with the crossword puzzle. If I
finished the puzzle I had the book.
I changed trains for the express to London and ordered a coffee and took out whatever I had for the day.
Perhaps it was a Novel or perhaps another type of volume. Once in Town I walked for a couple of
minutes, to get to the stop where my bus that took me to the door of my office.. Usually between a
couple of minutes and seven minutes. There are tons of busses Of course I had other options. I could
chat to other passengers, since we all had nodding acquaintance, or even make up a four for bridge. I
could, if I had wanted to, bring out my laptop and work, but I preferred relaxing before the facing the
labor of the day.
Time taken? Forty five minutes.
Mood on arrival. Excellent and calm.
On the return trip I could go to the Bar car and imbibe a beer or two or continue with my book. It gave
me plenty of time to relax from my cares of the day and a nice gentle ten minute walk to finish my trip.
If I had a bad day the ride would have calmed me and I would not take the evils of the office onto her
shoulders.
So follow me, my bookelling friends. Lead the unlettered and benighted from the land of anger and
frustration to that of calm and relaxation.
Mayhap the books they buy to read on the trip could be yours!
I might add that we would be heroes to the Newspaper.
Their Circulations would soar when the public used Public Transportation.
No more breakfasts with a quick look at the TV news while they ate or answered answered questions
for the family.
A Leisurely walk with ones paper under ones arm, and 30 minutes or more idly reading the Paper, a
stressless trip and into the office!
Wc could be heroes!

W.H. Smith 1907, Crystal Palace Station

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  • I’m probably one of the rare suburban book sellers that has directions from public transit FIRST on my directions page at the website. I’m fortunate to be only a few blocks from the Metro North railroad station and the HART bus.

    Public transit is fairly common in the city, but out here in the suburbs, it’s pretty rare. That’s why I put those directions FIRST on the directions page, because people are so used to the idea they MUST get in the car to get anywhere. if they take the train to the bookshop, they can get their books and then start reading them on the way home… something they can’t do in the car.

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  • Of course, if you’re like me and get motion sickness (can’t read or even knit in a moving vehicle, can do nothing but stare out the window, and if I’m not able to look out a window, I’m sick)… and are 4.5 miles and a ten minute drive from work but a 90 minute bus ride with two exchanges from work (I live right near downtown… but apparently Metro doesn’t have enough people going from right near downtown to actually downtown to have a direct route)… you get to hear from people about how you’re destroying the planet.

    I used to love the open-air buses when we lived in London, though. And I do ride my bike… on the few days when it’s both cool enough to ride a bike in professional clothing and light enough not to be run into at night… and not raining…

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  • Or you could just do as I do and work from home. I know it’s not an option for most people, but after a lifetime of working night shifts and the associated constant sleep deprivation, working from home is my idea of a perfect life.

    Brian, I love reading your articles – more please!

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  • I’ve lived in the suburbs all my life (mostly, just outside of Toronto), and have come to appreciate the fact that during my commute, I can leave the driving to someone else and read.
    Sadly, my town’s book-buying options are limited to two independent bookstores (both about a 10-minute walk from each other) and 5 others that are all owned by the same company (a company which happened to buy the W.H. Smith’s out here and then close them or change the name).
    None of the bookstores here give directions via transit (as far as I know) which is odd, given that all are highly accesible by bus.
    We should encourage more stores to open locations that are transit accessible, stand behind initiatives that promote people to take the train/subway/bus/walk and ultimately, demand that city planners make our cities more walkable. Doing all three will give more people more time to read, and that would benefit everyone.

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  • I am, as I like to say a hop skip and a jump, from the nearest railway station which is now a major connect to a cross town ‘Smart Bus’ -literally across the street from one station entrance
    I am thinking of opening very early at least one day a week to try and get commuters in the door
    but don’t know that people will stop to buy a book on their way to work
    I know I don’t get many coming in off the train in the evening

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