So the other day I make a trip to the university surplus store. That’s the place where the University sells things that it doesn’t need anymore.
(Whoops. That should be university. No capital letter. It’s hard to break certain typing habits after working on the book.)
I love the surplus store. I’ve bought couches there. Chalkboards. Computers. The chair I’m sitting on right now came from the surplus store. Five bucks. It’s cushy and everything.
But on this particular day, I wander over because I hear the chemistry department has surplussed some of its glassware. Back before I fell under the dark sway of the liberal arts, I was studying to be a chemical engineer. I quit early on, before I could get sick of it. And as a result, I still have a real fondness for chemistry equipment. Especially the glassware.
So I head over and look at what they have. After poking around in a dozen boxes, I ask them what they’d take for the whole lot of it. We negotiate for a while, and eventually settle on a hundred fifty bucks for everything. I get them to throw in an old hand-crank centrifuge as well. Because if you’re going to have a lab in your basement, why wouldn’t you want a hand-crank centrifuge?
It was a pretty frivolous purchase, I suppose. But I just love the stuff. Not even because it’s useful. Hell, some of the stuff I don’t even know what it’s called, let alone how to use it.
Other pieces are easier to identify.
This, for example, is obviously a bong:
This, on the other hand, is a much cooler, more complicated bong:
Okay, fine. I’m not sure what either one of those things is for. But look at the lower one. Witness its awesome. How could anyone not want something like that in their house?
After I bought the glassware I realized Sarah was off running errands. So my intrepid assistant Valerie offered to come pick me up and help me move the boxes.
While I was waiting for her, I wandered over to Starbucks for coffee. I know, I’m not proud of it. But I was on foot with half an hour to kill, and daddy needs his medicine.
By the way, we’re getting to the point of the story now. Did I mention that there was a point to this story? There is.
So I’m at Starbucks, trying to overcome the guilt of not supporting my locally owned, independent coffee shop. They don’t have blueberry syrup, either, which I figure is fair punishment for my betrayal.
Then the woman behind the counter says, “I really liked your book.”
I’m always surprised when someone recognizes me. It doesn’t happen that often, but it’s always flattering. We talk about the book for a minute, and then I head out the door.
On the way back to the surplus store, I walk past a previously out-of-business store someone’s remodeling. I’ve heard a rumor that someone’s starting up a new restaurant in town called “Curry in a Hurry.” Needless to say, I’m delighted. Stevens Point is a nice place to live, but there’s no Indian food around these parts, and that makes me sad.
So I go over and ask the guy that’s painting a few questions. He confirms it is actually going to be the new curry place. I tell him that’s awesome. We smile.
Then, as I turn to leave, he says. “I’m a big fan.”
And this time it strikes me as a little weird. Two stranger in less than three minutes. And they haven’t just read my book, but they obviously know who I am and what I look like.
Still, I shrug it off. This is my hometown after all. And there have been more than a few local-boy-does-good stories in the paper. And I do have a bit of a distinctive look to me…
Given all that, I decide it’s just a coincidence, and that helps me keep my cool together.
But then, less than an hour later when I’m picking up an air conditioner at Menards, the guy in the loading bay smiles and says, “How are the books doing?”
And then it’s just all different colors of bizarre. Flattering? Sure. Cool? Yeah. But mostly it was just weird. None of them said, “Are you that author guy?” They all just knew who I was. I’m not used to that. How can anyone ever be used to that?
Everything said, it made for a very surreal afternoon.
Later space cowboys,