This day… Astrid and the bookstore

What is going on at the moment, and how do we deal with all the changes? In this blog, someone from the Flow team shares how she is dealing with the current situation: both on a practical level and in her head. This time: Astrid and the bookstore.

Around me I notice that everyone is getting themselves in order: ‘What am I still doing; What am I not doing…’ And that includes me; I have also placed restrictions on myself. I don’t go into town, but I do go for an early-morning walk in the dunes if possible. I only go shopping every now and then. Oh, and I do allow myself the occasional visit to the bookstore too. And wherever I go, I find myself getting caught in the new ‘social-distance dance’: clumsy steps to the side, forward and back, and quests for walking routes and one-way traffic.

Everything is different at my local bookstore, too. At the entrance there’s a box of disposable gloves, which I walked right past on my first visit. But as soon as I picked up a book and opened it with my possibly-virus-infested hands, my lack of aforementioned protection was kindly brought to my attention. Needless to say, I examined the rest of the books gloved. Naturally, they were absolutely right in asking me to wear the protective layer. And in a way, the books then became works of art and I became a sort of curator who opened all these treasures with white gloves.

Then, to get to the cash desk, I had to follow a set of directions on the floor. Counting lines, following arrows and giving right-of-way priority at an intersection where two aisles meet. Just like in the car, I waved my arm at the other person in a ‘go ahead’ kind of way. They nodded a friendly response, and ‘together’ we joined the queue for the cash register, where lines indicate where you must wait.

At the cash desk, a new dance started. The bookseller stepped forward to pack the books and ring the amount up in the register. Then he stepped back and I stepped forward to swipe my card through the machine. It was a smooth and well-executed dance—a kind of corona cha-cha-cha—I concluded with satisfaction, despite not having been rehearsed beforehand.

I picked up the stack of books and made my way out. At the exit I dropped my gloves in a special container. On the door was a poster: ‘Hang in there’. And suddenly I felt that an ordinary bookstore visit had been upgraded to a very satisfying, almost Japanese-like ritual. I cycled away completely revitalized. Back to my own home.

  • PS: Bookstores are having a hard time right now. So support your local ones and treat yourself to a book. Or buy one for someone else. And if you’d rather not go out, many (independent) bookstores have an online presence and can mail your books to you at home.
  • Find more book tips here.

Text Astrid van der Hulst Photography Kenny Luo/