after ninety minutes in the Saab dealer service department “customer lounge,” i’m deliriously thankful to be home where the only sound is the clicking of my keyboard.
there were four other people in this small waiting room, three women about my age, and two gentlemen. the room itself was quite small as these places go – not much bigger than my kitchen at home, which has barely room for the necessary appliances and a small cafe table. everyone was decorously seated in the quite utilitarian red plastic chairs placed around the perimeter of the room.
everyone was reading.
how nice, i thought. you see, i missed my reading hour this morning, that extra hour i allow myself to loll amongst the pillows with coffee and book. but i had an appointment that required me to leave the house at an ungodly hour (7:15!), to be followed by my routine car service, where i planned to continue reading Olive Kitteridge, in which i am completely enthralled.
but i didn’t count on the television. oh yes, that ubiquitous television. affixed to the wall, high overhead in the corner of the room, with a daytime talk show host introducing today’s guests – wives who felt their husbands were “hotter” than they.
the strange thing was that everyone in the room seemed totally engrossed in their respective reading material. no one was paying the slightest attention to the screeching audience, the tearful wives, or the scornful tv host.
i sat for about 15 minutes, trying to tune out the din, hoping to re-focus on my current chapter in Olive’s story. after i’d read the same paragraph several times, not wishing to waste any of Strout’s delicious prose, i noticed the tv remote was lying on small table in the center of the room.
“excuse me,” i ventured, “would anyone mind if i turned that off?”
immediately, a grateful chorus arose. “be my guest!” the gentleman with the Reader’s Digest agreed. “please do!” said the lady with her copy of the Free Press. “absolutely!” asserted a young woman with Parents magazine.
so i switched off the tv, and a nearly palpable sigh of relief filled the room. a roomful of readers, all held captive by mindless entertainment, now grateful for a few moments of silence.
then a young woman burst through the door, her polo shirt proclaiming her a service department employee. she bustled about, putting on a new pot of coffee, and clearing some used paper cups from the counter.
“hey!” she called, “your tv got turned off!” Grabbing the remote and clicking the “on” button in one deft movement, she breezed cheerily out of the room.
“There you go!” she cried, as happy as if she’d given us each a million dollars.
We peered at one another over the tops of our books and shook our heads.