Thursday, July 3, 2008

Beware of the Man of One Book...

Beware of the man of one book.~ Thomas Aquinas ~

I love to read. No, that is an understatement. I read voraciously. I am an only child so I had plenty of time to cultivate my love of reading as a kid. I love martial arts books, biographies, autobiographies, books about meditation/energy/healing arts (if they're not of the hokey cure-of-the-week variety), books on cooking, magazines, newspapers, cereal boxes…Wait, I just had a better idea - I should tell you what I don't really care to read because that list would be MUCH shorter.

None of my family and friends are as dedicated to reading as I am. My kids like books but don't care much for reading. (Don't ask me - I’m just calling it like I see it.) My husband would rather have his eyes gouged out with a red hot poker than read. My parents are not readers. My friends, who are not involved in nearly as many things as I am, say they don't have time to read. As a fully committed adult (committed in the sense of community/family, not committed as in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest), I make time to read. I have to make time to read or I'd feel life was not worth living. Seriously. That is no exaggeration. I have one friend who is as obsessed with books and reading as I am, but we only get to get together once in awhile so when I go to the bookstore or library, I usually have to go alone because when my husband does go along, he is wandering the mall looking for a store that sells red hot pokers to gouge his eyes out. (Or maybe with which to prod me to herd me out of the store!) Whatever the case, I rarely get the treat of leisurely visiting a bookstore or library. So, when I do get this opportunity, it is a rare, exquisite gem of a day for me. And yes, there is a reason I'm telling you this.

About a month ago, THE used book sale came to town. And I mean this was THE granddaddy of all used book sales. I had only been able to attend this annual event one other time - before I was a committed adult (don't make me explain it again), back when I was a teenager and had no husband or kids to whine about how long I was gone. I told my family that I was going to this book sale come hell or high water, and nobody had better call me while I was gone for those few hours of luxury. They do not understand, of course, but they agreed to it.

The book sale was being held on Macy's lower level parking lot at a popular area mall. Because this mall is not right around the corner, I do not frequent it. So, when I parked on the upper level of Macy's outside parking lot, I had no idea just how far I was going to have to walk to get to the book sale. I started toward the garage and upon entering, I couldn't see anything but cars. No books. Only 2 or 3 people. BUT NO BOOKS! I almost panicked, but contained myself. I asked a couple with a stroller if they knew how to get to the book sale. The man told me there was an elevator or steps and to take it/them to the lower level, then go to the polar opposite end of the garage. So, figuring I could use the exercise of the steps, I proceeded down about 4 flights of stairs to the correct level. And then I saw them…BOOKS! I sighed in relief and tried not to skip or run to the other end of the parking garage.

I grabbed a pretty good sized box and started looking for category signs, hung neatly over each table. I knew there would be no "Martial Arts" category so I thought I'd go for "Sports" but biographies grabbed my attention first so I had a look, figuring I'd do this in an orderly fashion and take my time and not miss anything. I grabbed one biography, Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen-Mah, (which was great BTW). I bypassed the true crime, the fiction, (which I normally peruse but I was just too darned eager to get to the martial arts, energy work books). I bypassed the romance…yuck…never have liked that genre. Guess I have enough romance in my life! So, I finally make my way to the non-fiction areas. Found two copies of Jennifer Lawler's "Dojo Wisdom for Mothers" in the gift book area (?). Having already checked it out and read it at the library, I grabbed both copies - one for me and one for a woman at work who does karate. I looked at all the theological, health and self-help books looking for books on energy - chi, quigong, prana, etc. Nothing. I finally found the sports section. I found a bunch of hockey books - so many I couldn't even get them all for my son because of finances, but only two martial arts books. One was a 1970's looking copy of a book regarding martial arts injuries. I picked it up - you never know. There was one about women in martial arts but it looked to be from the 70's also and not very good. So, silly as it seems, it bothered me to pass on it because it was a martial arts book, but I did pass on it because I'd probably never even look at it.

My cell phone didn't ring once. Amazing is all I can say. My family actually gave me those few hours to myself - almost totally unheard of. Thank you Hubby, Sis (what I'll call my 18 yo daughter to protect her identity from my sometimes embarrassing ramblings), and Buddy (remember him from a prior post - the pseudo name for my 10 yo son?) Anyway, it was GLORIOUS!

I drag my book laden box to the check out tables. My cardboard "shopping cart" is now battle worn from kicking and dragging it around for the past couple of hours, so when I saw that the lines were long at the checkout, I sat the box down next to my feet and hoped I'd have the strength to pick it up again when it was my turn to check out. The man behind me in line, a rather small-in-stature, bookish looking man (after all, we were at a book sale!) was looking at my book choices and asked if he could look at the martial arts ones. Me, being the friendly person I am, said he sure and that he had probably picked the slowest line because the one I'm in is always the slowest line. So, then he asked me if I was interested in martial arts and I told him I was a beginner. (In retrospect - BIG MISTAKE!!! You'll see why.) Atypically, the line moved very quickly and I found myself hoisting the dilapidated box onto the check out table. The ladies rang up my order and turned to the man behind me, acknowledging he was on his second trip through their line. He sprouted some sensitive mumbo-jumbo about the single book he was holding, saying he came back to save it - that this book did not deserve to be in a landfill. It was some off-brand "Fun With Dick and Jane" type of reading book from the 40's or 50's. I looked over at him and don't ask me why, but he reminded me of a Russian college professor. Now, I don't know any Russian college professors, but I'm telling you, that is what came to mind. Right then and there, my BS detectors started going off. It occurred to me that he was not just making small talk when he asked if I practiced martial arts. As soon as the two women were finished collecting my payment, I made tracks toward the other end of the parking lot. Still not seeing any other people around, I kept looking behind me and the guy was nowhere to be found. I started to relax a little, but kept moving quickly toward the stairs, when I realized I'd never be able to do those steps with this heavy, collapsing box. I didn’t want to get on the elevator though all alone. It was right by Macy's store entrance in the garage, but again, as weird as it sounds, there was no one around. I pressed the elevator button and kept glancing around for the strange little man. Nothing. The elevator took forever to get to my level. Finally…"Ding" and the elevator doors opened. Just as they did, I looked behind me and the Nutty Professor was right behind me holding the elevator doors open for me! Where the heck did he come from???? Nobody around, I stepped onto the elevator. He followed. Still nobody around. It went through my head, "If what my gut is telling me is right and this should escalate into something bad, could I use my martial arts training to get out of it? Or would I freeze up?" I thought to myself, yes, I'd have to - I'd have no choice.

"But what if I couldn't?"

Then it came to me. Over and over, when practicing self-defense techniques in class, Sensei stressed the first rule of self-defense is that if you don't need to be there, don't be.

All of a sudden, I shouted out, "Oh, I forgot something. I was supposed to run in Macy's while I was here." He was going to hold the elevator for me, but I told him that I was going to be awhile - to go ahead without me." I then went right inside the doors of Macy's and stood there for about 10 minutes to ensure he was gone before I got on the elevator.

He may have just been a sensitive Russian professor, but he could also have turned out to be a Hannibal Lector. Whatever the case, I think my sensei would have been proud of my decision. And even more importantly, I'm proud of my instinct and decision.


Anonymous said...

damn girl, you did right. Always trust your instincts. It's better to be a live fool than a dead one.

Michele said...


I am a firm believer in gut instincts. I have taught women's self-defense seminars and we use the "creepy person in an elevator" as one of our scenarios. The bottom line is that if it feels "wrong" DO NOT get on the elevator.

Martial Arts Mom said...

And my stupid ego almost beat out my gut instinct. I'm so glad the "scaredy-cat" in me won out this time!

Bob Patterson said...

"To win without fighting is best."

From Sun Tzu's Art of War.

If you like to read and don't mind a little philosophy that's over 2000 years old you should get a used copy.



Martial Arts Mom said...

Bob, I actually bought it a few months ago but keep getting sidelined on other reading ventures! But with all the recommendations I have had, I think I must make it my absolute next read. Thanks!

AikiAddict said...

Good job! You did the right thing. (And hi, I'm a martial arts student too, and I enjoy your blog)

Martial Arts Mom said...

Welcome Aikiaddict! Glad to hear you enjoy the blog. It's a real challenge drumming up readers, but if I stick with it, I hope to have a bunch. But like they say, quality over quantity and so far everyone who has commented so far has been "TOP QUALITY" as far as I'm concerned. Thanks to all who read me!!!