“It’s always been a dream of mine to open a bookstore.” We must hear this two or three times a week, sweetly confessed by starry-eyed book lovers. I don’t have the heart to tell them that, when you do have a bookstore, your dreams — the real ones, the nightly ones — change just a tad.
Here are a few recurring highlights from actual dreams Josie and I have had over the years:
The store is full of customers, you’re alone, and the cash register and POS system aren’t working.
The sections have all been moved; in fact, they’re changing while you look at them.
Your store is suddenly outside.
You’ve had to move your store from a great location to a lousy one, and grieve.
You need to get to work and can’t find your store in the strange city you suddenly find yourself in.
You’re trying to get to work, but the elevator you step into goes sideways, at a fast clip, in the opposite direction of where you need to be.
Your store layout has become a honeycomb of little rooms with organization that makes no sense and bad lighting.
You discover a whole sales floor’s worth of overstock you have to deal with.
The sales meeting you’re in lasts a full week.
There’s an angry customer at the counter demanding the book he’s been waiting for — for eight months.
You’ve got a huge line at the register and you’ve forgotten how to type.
You have all new staff members you don’t know, and they just stand around chatting while customers stream by, needing help.
Suddenly you can’t remember a single Dr. Seuss title.
You’ve just recommended a bunch of perfect books to a teen, only to find you’re out of all of them. (Oh wait, that wasn’t a dream. That just happened on Friday.)
After thirteen years in this changeable business, when people tell me “I’d like to open a bookstore when I retire,” I just smile and say, “Good luck with that. It’s a beautiful dream.”