Waiting for a few minutes after a wee walk while I was having some family prescriptions filled (not a euphemism), I stopped in at one of Wellington's few remaining shops with a healthy number and array of magazines in. I do this from time to time, not regularly, and try not to overstay my welcome. Ocasionally - but really not often, to be honest - I might buy one.
This week I picked the wrong time to flick through a magazine and two comics (fan-style - never cover-to-cover) in under five minutes. From behind me came an approaching voice and a familiar complaint:
"Hey, mate - you can't do that here. This isn't a library"
I was so surprised and taken aback I nrealy blurted out "but I'm a librarian!', which would have been a very daft thing to say. Instead, I mumbled an awkward assent, carefully replaced the magazine back in its shelf (no chance of buying that now), and walked out with the owner behind me. I guess I was the only customer in the shop, but I don't remember checking either in or out.
|This picture: United States National Archives|
I won't return. I think the message was clear enough, and I'll check my behaviour next time I'm in a newsagent's. I've lived in this city for twenty years now and, as said, have been an occasional customer to this particular shop, buying papers, gum, chocolate bars, stamps and, yes, magazines. But if I could be called a 'regular', then probably not the best kind - certainly in the eyes of the owner.
Walking back to the chemist shamefaced and a little rattled, two thoughts came quickly - some sympathy for the owner, and an acknowledgement that I am part of the problem. I didn't go into the shop to buy a magazine (but I might have - occasional impulse purchases are not outside my habits)
and who knows if I was the first, the fifth, or the tenth visitor to abuse his floorspace there that day, that week, that month. Maybe I am that kind of 'regular.'
It must be a hard time for a newsagent in this age of dwindling print sales, electronic subscriptions and the added impact of high turnaround titles like the weekly Prog. Nobody walked out of that shop happy this time, but next time I'm in a magazine shop will be different.