The day doesn’t start well. The cab I’d ordered the night before doesn’t show, so I schlep a folding table, rolling suitcase, shopping bag, and courier bag onto the Orange, then Green Line, out to Oak Park.
I get there with fifteen minutes to spare before the holiday sale opens. I unfold the table, cover it with a striped bedsheet, then pile up books, bookmarks, and the rest. I lean jazz portraits against the window sill behind me, and tape a couple prints to the glass. Open for business.
My fellow vendors are all women. They sell scarves, sweaters (human and canine), quilts, beads, cheese boards, sconies (cookie/scone hybrid), hand-bound books, vases, and other items I’m sure to’ve missed.
I sell most of the bookmarks the first day. I should’ve made more. Otherwise, a few books go, and couple portraits——Fred Anderson and Boris Ryzhy. I never have numbers goals for these things, so it’s hard to say when they’re a success rather than a failure. One more day to go.
The CTA ride sans gear is easier. Also, because one day is done, I know what to expect. It’s not unlike the drive to San Francisco, or any other new experience; once it’s under way, it becomes my reality until it ends. I know to go to the grocery store across the street for coffee before going in.
I’d hoped to make more bookmarks the night before, but was exhausted when I got home and just watched a dumb, over-long docuseries about some cult church, before drifting off to sleep. I wonder aloud to my neighbor why it’s so tiring to just sit there and smile at people walking by. We repeat our spiel ad nauseum, like worn answering machines. Maybe the shopper picks something up, maybe they don’t; a few part with a few dollars. Whichever way it goes, a bit of energy is sapped. We work at not slumping in our chairs. Maybe go outside for a smoke (or whatever us ex-smokers do for a break.)
I’ve been selling my crap to people a long time, so I don’t get upset with strangers’ commentary often. I know to thank people when they offer compliments and to ignore “suggestions” or criticism. If I wanted input into my working process, I’d have solicited it. Yet there’s a certain type of person who lives to offer their opinions and advice. I thankfully only got one of these in my two days’ tabling. A guy from the book industry who insisted on debating the merits of his racket with me. After ten minutes of it, I stopped responding, put my head down, and pretended to read a book until he mercifully drifted away.
Had he stayed another minute, I would have said something ugly and I didn’t want that roomful of ladies to think less of me. Thankfully, it didn’t come to that. I suppose that counts as success of a sort.