Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Used Goods


I stand by my first use of nudity on this blog.
Right now, millions of people are reading textbooks. They are all picking their noses.

By Friday, July 13th, six of those disgusting, germ-riddled tomes will appear at my doorstep. I have two months to accept them into my biblio-family, or else I will be wearing rubber gloves to class. While this will spare unfortunate acquaintances my usually clammy handshake, I will no doubt be informed by at least one well-meaning stranger that the proctology class meets across the street.

So much pressure. Tonight's shopping was meant to be cathartic. Plugging in ISBN numbers and adding overpriced chunks of tree carcasses to my virtual cart was the most zen-like activity I could muster after a stressful day. How fitting, then, that I would achieve rage-nirvana when my total before shipping rivaled my next two car payments. I stared, dead-eyed, at the number. Beads of sweat formed at my temples as I felt my frown lines achieve a new level of depth. I dug my chin into my pillow repeatedly, until I somehow produced the sound of a marker on a balloon and stopped, afraid I would dislocate my jawbone.

I thought of all the horrible things people could do with books: the depravity, the filth, the highlighter violence. I would need to finance the whole purchase anyway. I could just pack my lunch for the rest of the year, assuming that I pack a glob of peanut butter on a reusable plastic spoon. I love peanut butter.

I let out a silent, dramatic scream of defeat and clicked the used book link. As I methodically replaced my vestal virgins with town bicycles, I cursed a world where the existential quality of "Very Good" allows for "Possible water damage." In vain I wondered how moist these books were that water damage is mentioned specifically. I imagined them stored in large pickle barrels, preserved in vinegar and heady spices. Then an order arrives and a man with callused hands and a big heart picks one from the middle, wraps it in newspaper, and sends it on its way. My brain relaxed.  Maybe they are more like shelter pets--not new, but still good. My shelter dog is tough and never sick. On the other hand, my purebred has developed dachshund pattern baldness on his rear and manages to be obese despite throwing up every few days. New isn't always a guarantee of quality. The forced analogy, and the prospect of buying canine Rogaine, gave me the confidence to submit my order.

Now, I wait. I'm sure it will be fine. I'm an adult and adults don't waste money simple because they have a paralyzing fear that former students will place hexes on textbooks or that bad study habits will be transmitted through the pages or that textbooks carry ringworm. That's just ridiculous.

Of course, no one will know if I fumigate the box with Lysol before I take the books out.
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read to be read at yeahwrite.me It's a yeah write summer.

31 comments:

  1. I always loved used textbooks. I know, I'm weird. It wasn't that I loved that they highlighted or underlined things that could be useful...because what I deemed important often differed from what they found highlight-worthy. It was because I loved to see the little extra things scribbled in the margins...poems, drawings, grocery list. It always made me wonder about the person who had the book before I did!

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    1. When I was in school, I loved figuring out who had my textbook the year before. I think because I knew the person, I was ok with it.

      My friends find all kinds of hilarious commentaries in their textbooks. I keeping reminding myself that there is an upside to buying used.

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    2. I totally did that in school! Sometimes there was a list of names inside the front cover and I could see years back. It was endlessly fascinating. I buy used books from Amazon all the time and I've never thought about this. I just imagine them coming from a dusty warehouse in upstate NY. I'm such a germaphobe I don't know how I never thought of this. But thanks for getting it in my head!!

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  2. I can't deal with ordering used books on-line. But as a literature/writing person, it's also an expense I gladly pay (we give up other things, like smartphones and premium cable). I do love going to used book stores and checking out if someone underlined phrases. Then again, I've never taken a proctology methods class; I'm not sure I'd look at it in the same way! Or from the same...angle?

    I hope you give us more as the class gets deeper into its subject matter.

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    1. My roommates in college were English majors. I did not envy their book purchases. I might have had 3 massive textbooks, but they had 20 trade books and an anthology. Selling them back wasn't even an option.

      I just got the email that my first shipment should arrive tomorrow. Hoping for the best or a complete disaster. Nothing else is worth writing about.

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  3. I love buying used books. I enjoy the notes in the margins and the cheaper price tag. I never considered all the people who pick their noses while they read, so thanks for that.

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    1. If I make just one person a little more dysfunctional, I've done my job. :)

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  4. I, too, enjoy reading other people's notes in used books. I like the way they smell, the way the pages sometimes crackle when you turn them.

    I hadn't really thought about what makes them crackle. Sigh.

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  5. Buy those textbooks used if you possibly can. You get almost nothing back when you resell them yourself, so you may as well limit the amount of flesh you hand over with the initial purchase!

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    1. Plus you'll save trees!

      I'm so glad my daughter's school is implementing a new iPad program and getting rid of textbooks!!!

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    2. Law schools aren't jumping on the ebooks bandwagon anytime soon, which makes me sad. My bag would be so much lighter in addition to being easier on the environment.

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  6. So funny! I was riveted because I wasn't sure what was going to happen. It's the best kind of writing. I have bought many a used textbook and never considered it like that.

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    1. I can't take much credit for building the suspense, as it is a side effect of my general instability, but I'm glad you liked it!

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  7. I have several boxes of old law school textbooks that are just waiting for a home. I have no idea what to do with them!

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    1. I don't know either. I have a bunch of social work textbooks that I can't sell back because they are out of print. They are just taking up shelf space. I don't even know if they can be donated.

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  8. I like my books new, who wants somebody else's used electrons?

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    1. Now I have something else to worry about...

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  9. Germaphobes, unite! What? Doesn't everyone use Clorox wipes on that plastic outer sleeve on library books before diving in? Just me?

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    1. It's the equivalent of a hotel comforter! Dirtiest item in the room!

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  10. Ah yes, I remember the law school days when the cost of a semester's worth of books (used) was heart attack inducing. I was always appalled by how little they actually knock off for a USED book!

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  11. I loved the post but never thought about that stuff before. Now I am going to be thinking about it whenever I go to the used bookstore. Oh wait..I dont' do that anymore. I have a Kindle. Nice..no boogers.

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  12. Maybe you ought to give e-books a try? ;)

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  13. I'm currently putting away $50 a month for my kids college fund. We joke that it'll be enough to buy some text books. But our laughter dissipates into far-off looks of worry as we know this is probably true. Hopefully whatever e-version of learning they invent by then will be cheaper...

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  14. Highlighter violence. Hehehe. Been there, spent that. It figures they aren't iPad-ing it. Although, I think I would have a hard time learning from an iPad. I tend to see a page in my head. The landmarks aren't very defined on a tablet. Ellen

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  15. Maybe you're thinking about this the wrong way. Studies show that children exposed to other children and pets develop their immunities early. So you're just developing your immunity by buying used. Clever girl!!

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  16. Great opening sentence! You had us from the start! And we, or at least I, can relate to the beads of sweat forming before we click purchase. I also enjoyed the shelter pet analogy - purebreds are indeed over bred and come genetically predetermined to cost you a fortune in vet bills. As always, nicely worded, well-written.

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  17. I hated getting used textbooks! But I always did since the new are SO expensive.
    I loved that they might have water damage. Either they do or they don't. How is this a maybe?

    I enjoyed this!

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  18. The illustration is still cracking me up! I love your writitng because i never know where you will take me. Nose picking? A fish barrel? I love it all.

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  19. Ha! Ha! This is exactly where my thoughts went when a friend told me she had borrowed Fifty Shades of Grey from the public library. EWWW!

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  20. i just figure i'm bolster my immune system while saving money - beats the hell out of licking public restroom toilet seats... :)

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