Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Suq at the Library

If you stood outside my door, you couldn't tell what month it was. Today, on my way to my chores, I caught myself wondering how far November was, just so the days could cool down a little! It is an awkward season caught at the wrong time of the year and all the rush to meet the holidays seems  strange and disconcerting. After all, when the sun shines so mercilessly, aren't we to prepare for the Summer vacations? Why is everyone talking of Christmas? That seems many many weather systems away! However, weather ready or not, the end of the year is almost on our threshold, almost knocking. It seems to be the right time to give little tokens, gifts to one's friends to show them how much they are appreciated, how grateful one is for all their patience and tolerance through the year. That part does not feel awkward to me because everyone else seems to feel the same way.

But here is the conundrum: what to give? What could one present that would assure a grin or a light or a smile upon first glance? In other words, where would one find a marketplace that sells objects that are as unique as they are familiar, things that are not hawked at every mall at every cross roads, but not so strange that no one understands what they are.

I wish for a global suq through which I can meander, exchanging friendly banter with the sellers, who are always in a good mood, who always have (for a pice) a cup of fresh coffee brewing for wanderers like me, a bazaar where, under a cloth shade, I'd find incredible treasures for my friends, treasures that even my meagre budget would allow.

I know what my patient reader would suggest: the Internet is one such bazaar and I would agree. In fact, this year, I put together my child's birthday gift basket solely out of things I'd bought online. However, that took me months of planning, ordering, approving, disapproving, a process that took a very very long time. And things I order online sometimes disappoint horribly and then what am I to do? So unless I KNOW the quality of my order, I avoid this particular marketplace.

However, this week, I found a wonderful suq, of all places, at my local county library. It is run solely by volunteers and boasts everything from Scottish tea chests, to scarves, to Vietnamese earrings, to purse hooks, to local art, to Spanish gold! The people at the desk are retired, do not have a personal stake in what they are selling, and at the same time, care deeply for the cause they espouse. They are always friendly, always ready to discuss the merits and demerits of the objects you are considering, and if they'd fit your friends, and yes, they have a complicated coffee machine that they are willing to fire up for a perfect cup (I could even choose my flavor!).

Patient, harried reader, compare this to the absolute incoherence that is your local mall at this time of the year. No sales personnel, no matter how their determined smile, has the time to discuss each object and determine its appropriateness, especially if they are not sure of a sale. If one sees something that looks extraordinary, one is likely to find something similar at the next kiosk. When we last went to a mall, we had to wait in a line for about 20 minutes before we could order our coffee and we definitely were NOT encouraged to choose our own flavors!

So, reader, if you find yourself overwhelmed, would rather meander among shelves of books than the exhaustingly cheerful stores, visit your local county library. You can meander to your hearts' content, maybe find some treasures, perhaps treat yourself to an armload of books, even check out an electronic reader if you are brave!

Who'd have thought that the love for reading could open even these doors!

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