Monday, August 24, 2009

Bookstore Etiquette

As a writer, I have the luxury of being one of those dads you see pushing a stroller in the middle of a weekday. Living in New York City, I have a wide choice of destinations — playgrounds, a great children’s museum, the American Museum of Natural History, a toy store with a train set, and of course, the prime stop for all parents and kids: Barnes & Noble.

Believe me, I’m not one of those perfect dads who look down their nose at other parents. We all know it’s hard to keep our strollers provisioned and our children in line. I’ve had to borrow a diaper or two from a stranger in my day. (“Uh, excuse me, miss. Is your child a size four?”) But there are times when my inner schoolmarm emerges. So herewith I propose some simple guidelines for how to behave in Barnes & Noble, Borders, Shakespeare & Co., or any other bookstore you’re lucky enough to visit.

Clean Up. We all know how it goes. We let our little toddler out of the stroller and bam! — they’re off like a bull in Pamplona, pulling books off of the shelves, crying, “Read this! Read this!” After four books, make the kid stop — physically, if necessary. Then find a spot in the corner and read. After that, make your child put the books back exactly where he or she found them (this part might be difficult), then let the kid loose for another round of four.

Block Not the Thomas. (Or Dora, or Backyardigans, or fiction, or whatever). As the father of an almost-three year old boy, my son John and I often camp out by the Thomas and Friends books. At 6′ 3″, two hundred pounds, I have often been guilty of blocking these precious tomes from other little boys. Shameful.

To Purchase or Not to Purchase? I’ve found it helpful to let my six-year-old daughter, Cassie, know before we enter the store whether she can actually buy a book that day. (And if she can, that I get final say on what the book will be.) The days I forget to take this precaution, I inevitably find myself at the register, reaching into my wallet to purchase yet another copy of Princess Barbie or Gwen the Jewel Fairy.

Change Your Baby in the Bathroom! Not on the floor. I did this once. The manager wasn’t pleased.

Most important of all: Read, read, read!

[photo via TheAng/flickr]

1 comment:

MaggE said...

I used to work at B&N Park Slope right after it first opened. There was definitely a need for basic etiquette lessons.

Here's one you forgot:

Believe it or not, parents and nannies used to leave children unattended in the section, or encourage them to run and play there, assuming b/c it looks kid friendly that it's also kid-safe. Not. Those bookshelves have sharp edges (there will be blood), and they are not meant to be climbed (neither is the "tree" by the stage). And lots of kids forget (or didn't listen) that mommy said she'd be right back. They look up from their book, and..."I WANT MY MOMMY!"

It was a great job, though. I love kids' books, and got a kick out of the combination of chaos (screaming kids) and order (shelving books).

But the best part? Telling John Turturro he couldn't sit in the aisle. :)