We started at the Gateway Transportation Center downtown, where an Amtrak train and a couple of Greyhound buses were waiting. There's something a bit odd about handing out a book. You feel akin to those religious folks who stand on street corners who wish you a blessed day and a life free of sin, which you can find by following the instructions in the tiny pamphlets they shove into your hand as you rush by. (And which you deposit into the nearest trash can.) You're not proselytizing, exactly. But not a lot of people read books anymore, either.
"Why are you doing this?" demanded David Pinson.
We explained that everybody involved in World Book Night -- the publisher, the binder, the distributor, even UPS -- had worked together to donate the books. "It's to get people to read more," we explained.
Pinson was still skeptical. And, really, who could blame him? Our explanation sounded a little weird and lame, even if it was true. There's a hidden catch everywhere. (Maybe there's one in World Book Night, too, but we haven't heard anything yet.)
It was only after the bartender, Jacki Hlavaty, and a few other patrons took books that Pinson grudgingly accepted a copy. Sue Beck planned to give hers to her dad. Nick Palazzolo didn't go to Vietnam himself, but he served during that era and tries to read everything he can get his hands on. "People don't read anymore," he said sadly, clutching his book
Jerome Simon, a former English major, had actually heard about World Book Night and explained the concept to Wax, who was sitting beside him. "I love the smell of books," Simon said. He flipped open his copy of The Things They Carried and took a long whiff.
After we'd given a book to everybody in the bar, we still had two copies left over. Hlavaty agreed to hang onto them for us. "I know a couple of people I'm going to give them to," she said.
We were grateful. It sounded like she had a far better idea of who could use the books than we did.
When we got home, we saw that a friend of ours, also a World Book Night distributor, had stopped by and left us a book. It was The Things They Carried. We were glad. We really need to read it again.