The air was crisp and cool. My eyes took in my surroundings, mesmerized. My breath quickened as my eyes rested on it. How big it was! I couldn’t believe it! It was thick but even as a teenager I thought I was ready. I reached out and grabbed it, the lightness surprising me. I hesitated at the size but I knew that it was what I wanted: the John Lennon biography.
I was with my family and my mom’s sister’s family at Half Price Books in outer Cincinnati. This was the first time I’d ever been to a bookstore where everything was half off. It was a brilliant concept to me. Where I grew up, we had to drive twenty minutes to the nearest bookstore and even then, everything was at list price. Upon learning about Half Price Books, I began a long and financially draining relationship with it.
It really wasn’t until I moved to a bigger city that I got to appreciate the chain of (for lack of a better description) book pawn shops. There were two in the area at the time and it took me another three years into college to realize that most of my “textbooks” (literature books, really) could be bought there at a fraction of the cost than at the campus bookstore.
Since then, I’ve remained ever close to HPB. Yes, I’ve strayed and shopped at other stores. I even work at another chain but I still love HPB. I can’t go every day or even every week so I go when I can and every time I do, something has changed between us (mostly the stock). But I am still welcomed and I feel at home when I walk through those doors. However, if I were to even glance at HPB when depressed, I will be tempted to part with significant amounts of money in exchange for a weight to burden. Sometimes afterwards I feel guilty and dirty that I’d succumbed to the temptation. It’s downright sinful.
HPB has been there for me, too, though. A few times I’ve been in a financially sticky situation and have gone to HPB to get some money. I turned to HPB to cleanse myself of DVDs that I was wasting my life watching. We have a give and take relationship and it mostly works for us.
There are now four stores in the city. Mom and Dad have none close to them where they are (that would be a deal breaker for me) so when they come to visit, it’s not hard for me to persuade them to go to HPB. Mom visited this weekend (Dad had to stay behind to work). We started just going to one location. Mom brought some books to sell but what money she got for her stack of books was quickly depleted as she and I ransacked the place for books we wanted.
Mom and I have the same routine: go to the clearance section first and then hunt in other areas. If we pick up a book that’s not a dollar, go back to the clearance section and make sure that another copy of the title isn’t there. Other rules include not grabbing a cart or basket until absolutely necessary (in hopes of not getting too much) and if we’re not sure if we’ll like the author of the book we’re looking at, go ahead and get it if it’s a dollar.
This weekend Mom and I danced our routine with not one, not two, not three, but all four HPB. The escapade left us exhausted but ecstatic. We found a lot of great books and all but a few of them were only a dollar. What can I say? I love HPB, and I’m sure it feels the same way about me.
Here’s a picture of our loot from our weekend extravaganza. My pile is on the left and Mom’s is on the right. My pile is slightly taller than Mom’s, which is good since she was trying to get rid of books this weekend, not replace them all!