This morning I stopped in a small restaurant for a bite and must have missed the breakfast rush. Only one other table was occupied. So I set up my iPad on a table by the window and glanced at the menu.
“I’ll be right with you,” the young waitress told me as she hurried by.
“No hurry,” I mumbled.
When she came back in a moment I had already opened a book on my iPad. I ordered eggs, coffee, and a glass of water.
“Is that one of those things you can read books on?”
I nodded my head without looking at her. “Yes it is.”
“I love to read books,” she told me.
“Me too,” I said. I looked up at her and she was smiling, but shy. I smiled back. “I’m reading more on it than I thought I would.”
She nodded and went back to place my order. I glanced down at the iPad, but realized that what I wanted to know wasn’t there. I stared out the window, waiting and thinking.
It didn’t take her long to bring my meal.
“What kind of books do you like to read?” I asked.
“All kinds,” she said, still shy and looking uncertain.
“Me too.” I patted my iPad. “This one here is part of a series. HBO is doing the first one and it looks pretty good.”
She smiled broadly. “I love series! And I love buying books. I have a whole bookshelf of them.”
“Me too,” I said.
She left me to my breakfast, but she seemed less shy and perhaps a bit happier. When she came back we talked more about books and reading. And when she left again I closed the cover on my iPad, drank my coffee, and thought about what books might mean for her. She never told me the names of any books she liked. She might have been embarrassed or uncertain. But I could tell that reading brought joy into her life. And I thought about what books meant to me as well. Pretty much the same thing. Joy.
When I was finished I packed my iPad into my bag, left her a tip, and paid at the register. She smiled easily now, more self-assured. I smiled back and wished her a good day.
I didn’t get much reading done over breakfast, not what I’d wanted, and I had a busy day in front of me. But her smile and the knowledge that reading and books is alive and well set me up for the day ahead. I was a bit happier.
I sometimes feel alone, isolated, with my nose in a book. But not today, not this morning. Books matter to people. I didn’t learn that from reading. I learned it once again by looking up and talking with a stranger.