Monday, October 15, 2012

Thousands of Miles of Books

I really hadn’t done enough to familiarize myself with the bookfair, and really nothing…nothing could have prepared me: 9 halls of books, every country on the planet represented, wave after wave of country, and language and dialect, and this was what I was getting into. Easily two miles of nothing but bookfair. After spending almost all nine hours on my feet I was getting cranky and tired and wanting to do anything but bookfair.

I had 8,000 miles of bookfair to deal with before anything else could happen.

Can you imagine being bored with books? You would have to be so totally overwhelmed by them that books themselves seemed almost entirely incidental. Such was the effect of the bookfair. So many books, so much book, there was simply nothing but book and I was immersed in it.

It was at the same time the singlemost erotic book experience I have ever had and the most exhausting. And all of this was only the beginning. There was walking and looking. I didn’t really have a plan for the first day, which, on reflection, was not a smart idea. The plan was basically to walk. It started in Hall Eight. To help you, the aisles in Hall Eight were each lettered so you would know where in Hall Eight you were by looking up and to the left or right. A giant sign with a  red letter would help you know which aisle you were in. After that you had stalls with numbers, so you could follow the numbers to where you needed to be.

To give you an idea of how big this thing was, in Hall Eight was in the 900 block of the bookfair. Stalls were numbered from 900 to 999 in each aisle. (For example: 8.0 J918.) Each aisle basically went up to somewhere in the high digits if not actually getting to 99; it just depended on how big the booths were for different vendors. Hall Eight also had letters A through Z. That was how big Hall Eight was. My job for day one...was Hall Eight.

“So, what do you want me to do today?” I asked the BizP.

“Well, you know, wander up and down look at everything.”

“Okay, where should I start?”

“From the beginning. Walk the whole hall.”

It was 9:00 a.m. and we were packed into this thing with about a billion other people. The line at the bottom of the escalator to get into Hall  Eight was bottlenecked so much that people could basically stand on top of each other and go to sleep and you didn’t have to fear falling. The reason for the bottleneck was the security check, as apparently every bag had to be hand searched.

“What are they looking for?”

“Bombs, guns, that sort of thing.”

“Really; at a book fair?”

The BizP just shrugged, but I supposed that any measure that would keep us from getting blown to hell was good. I got really comfortable with the security guys and they got really cozy and would always smile and mock when I went through. Probably because my bag had leftover condoms from some night or other where I had put them in and forgotten to take them out. My bag was probably the most thrilling one they got to check at the bookfair since the rest were full of, well, books and brochures mostly.

The BizP dragged me down to where he would be doing business with his Indian BizP, a gargantuan and well-decorated man who sat and monitored his kingdom. He took an instant liking to me and was sweet to me throughout the entire fair...when I had time to see him. His booth was well staffed with polite, smiling, hard-working Indians, and my BizP plus wife. They were there to sell, and sell they would. I was there to scout and scout I would. So would start the deathmarch of a thousand days. At least, that is what it felt like by the end of it.

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