When I was in college I lived in an apartment complex with a shared laundry room and what I can only assume was a fleet of kleptomaniacs. The first time I did laundry, I lost a pair of underwear and two t-shirts. This is a big deal in college, when you don’t have a lot of money to buy clothes and your favorite t-shirts are The Best Things in the Whole World!
So I had to stay in the laundry room while my possessions were there. Of course I’d bring a book. But being a fast reader – and, back then, not having a smart phone or tablet – I’d often finish the book before the clothes were dry. Luckily, the laundry room became a communal area for small things others were giving away. There were three linty shelves by the door, holding chipped single dishes, board games missing pieces, and books. These books were phenomenal. None had been published in the last fifteen years, many had sensational (!) covers, if they had covers at all. They were in genres I didn’t read back then, like police procedurals and romances.
After I’d been through all twelve books there (I’m kind of messy and I didn’t have a lot of clothes, so I laundered often), picking up the last one. It was a romance, and the cover was fuchsia and sea green, if I remember correctly. Skeptical, I was about to run back to my apartment for a familiar book (risking another pair of underwear). Then I started reading. It was amazing.
The heroine was from a family of hoteliers but unlike, say, Paris Hilton, she was dedicated to the business. Then her family’s business was devastated (by pirates, revenge or weather, maybe all three) and she had to start over. The hero was Italian or Greek – big, dark and beautiful. He died, incidentally, so maybe it wasn’t a traditional romance. But they fell in love and quarreled and sacrificed for one another, so it was close.
I learned a lot from that book. And not just about heaving bosoms and throbbing *ahem*. Actually, I don’t recall if there was much of that. I did learn about the havoc wreaked by hurricanes, about the economic impact of separating the U.S. dollar from gold. About betrayal and forgiveness, and maybe something about organized crime.
Having read the thing in one sitting after only a cursory glance at the cover, I don’t remember the title or author, and the book was gone the next time I looked for it. But I treasure the fact that I was able, wrapped in the soothing shush of the dryer and the artificial citrus-floral medley of multiple detergents, to dive deep into that book and not surface until it was finished. Plus my clothes were super dry. Also, I think night might have fallen while I was in there.
Has this happened to you? Did you ever pull a book off a shelf while babysitting? Find one in a seat pocket on an airplane? Stumble across one in a waiting room?