Monday, February 21, 2011

Why are we submitting to this ordeal waiting in line, just for cheap(er) books?

MATTESON, Ill. – A part of me thinks back to what I did Saturday and believes I should have sought out a Giordano’s restaurant for dinner that night.

Personally, I can’t remember the last time I had one of their pizzas. But it would have made for a more complete day of dealing with companies that are going bankrupt.

BOTH GIORDANO’S AND Border’s Books made announcements last week about the way they’re going to cope with their struggling financial bottom lines. The restauarant that some three decades ago was the first to make the concept of “deep dish” pizza available in every neighborhood or suburb (instead of having to make a special trip into the city for Uno’s or Due’s) is declaring bankruptcy – albeit the kind that allows them to restructure so they can pay off their debts.

The book chain that started in Ann Arbor, Mich., and in the past decade has put its big-box bookstores (with requisite coffee shop included) in or near every neighborhood or suburb is also making changes – although in their case, 15 of the 31 Chicago-area stores they operated are closing.

Which is why, after attending a family function involving my father on Saturday morning, my brother and I wound up spending a good chunk of the afternoon at the Border’s Books located within sight of the Lincoln Mall shopping center in south suburban Matteson.

For the record, my brother and I spent about 20 minutes looking through the shelves that were being rapidly depleted by people desperate and eager to find some book they have long desired for a price considerably less than they would have had to pay had the store not been eager to dispose of its inventory as quickly as possible.

BUT LIKE I wrote earlier, we spent a good chunk of the afternoon in the store, waiting in a line that creeped along at the same pace that White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko chugs at when he goes from second base to third on a single – incapable of making it to home plate and scoring like most ballplayers would because he’s just THAT slow.

So was our line. We literally waited for just over an hour in a line that worked its way all the way back to the rear of the store, then looped around and headed to the front of the store – concluding about halfway back to the main entrance.

I can’t remember the last time I felt a moment of relief as intense as what I felt at the point at which I actually reached a cashier and was able to hand her the books and compact discs that I chose to buy.

I literally have two sore spots on my body as I write this late Sunday that still flare up from the tension I put on them from standing erect for that hour-plus – incapable of sitting or walking around a few steps, because it would have resulted in my losing that place in line and having to go to the rear and extend my wait even further.

UNDER NORMAL CIRCUMSTANCES, I would say this is not worth sharing – except for the fact that I have heard nearly identical Borders stories from other people I know, either first-hand or reading accounts they are posting on Facebook or any of the other Internet sites that supposedly bring us together as a society but really give us the opportunity to share our trivial and act as though it is all important.

So apparently, this was a shared experience, and it wasn’t just at the one suburban Borders’ location that I happened to choose because it was near where I happened to be that day.

We all apparently felt the  need to get a financial break, although I must admit to overhearing a woman just a few spots ahead of me in line who was talking on her cellular telephone to someone saying, “I don’t know why we’re all this stupid. It’s not that much of a discount.”

Actually, she was right. My guess is that the real big savings will be put on when the inventory is down to the crud that nobody wants. My Saturday “savings” was a 20 percent markdown on everything I bought (which means a $25 book is still $20).

BUT IT WAS nice to pick up copies of a couple of books I had had my eye on, but had been reluctant to buy because I really didn’t feel like shelling out $28.50 for it. My brother, who raided their DVD selection for those classic films (“The Seven Samurai” and “Vertigo,” to name a couple) put onto multi-disc sets with so many special features that they’re usually out of his price range, had the same attitude – which I’m guessing was a common sentiment this weekend throughout the Chicago area.

Among other titles, I’ll be reading “Scorpions” (about the Supreme Court of the United States back in the days of FDR) and “Murder City” (about how violent the drug-related action along the U.S./Mexico border has become in recent years), while also listening to jazz trumpet player Thad Jones’ intro album on compact disc (which is what I happen to be listening to while writing this commentary).

As for the Giordano’s pizza, I’m not sorry I chose to eat something else – particularly because of the fact that ever since a Lou Malnati franchise opened that includes my residence in its delivery area, it has become the pizza of choice for my brother and I.

Sorry, Giordano's. Your time in the Chicago limelight was back in the day when the Chicago Sting were playing soccer, and winning championships, for the city, just like Borders seems to have been at its peak back in the day when Michael Jordan ruled supreme over this town.


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