Quick peek around the corner and, yes! the coast is clear.
Long down the crowded Mezzanine at Powell's City of Books - elevator, water fountain, walls of journals and sale books - customers walking up and down, but the two small benches under the spot where I need to put up my display are free.
Both. Which means I have twice the chance.
Take the stairs fast, which is hard to do at Powell's, but you can't waste any time when the benches are free. The cart is waiting by my desk. I've got everything gathered and ready - the books, the graphics, the packing tape dispenser. I'm off, down past computers and desks full of books, past the lockers and out onto the floor. In the hero's journey, I've crossed the river. My first foe is the elevator. Every second I wait is one step closer for the customer who wants to stretch out on my bench with a book and a cell phone.
Now the doors open. Wait for the dad guiding his two-year-old out.
Wait for the old woman with the walker.
Oh god, finally, and I jam my cart, clatter, over the track and get myself in. Doors close.
Wait for the elevator to start moving.
Wait at the second floor for the family of five to step on. No, six. Little Brittany takes her time shoving a children's book into the atheism section and then joins us.
Of course, we all get out at the same place, so it takes probably another precious seven seconds - trust me, that's a lot of time - to wait for them to get off before I can exit.
Survey through the heads along the corridor, only fifteen feet down, and by some miracle both benches are free.
I try to get turned out onto the Mezzanine, but the people are coming and going so thick I can't move. Each one of those people is my enemy. Each one might be making eyes at one of my still amazingly vacant, gleaming -
And damn! There goes one. No, wait - the girl didn't sit down. No, she's stopped at the drinking fountain! Hallelujah! Yes, sweetie, you go right ahead and drink all you want of our lovely, cool -
OK, damn. Now, she sat down.
I've got to get the hell out there. I weave my cart in between the masses. One bench left, and it's the one directly under the wall where I need to be working.
People don't walk at Powell's, they mosey. The guy walking in front of my cart isn't even moseying, he is in a downright dilly-dally. Checking out the walls of books, and I can't get around him because of the steady stream of moseyers coming the other way.
Five pitiful feet from my bench, now, and the guy comes to a dead stop. But wait. He turns. He's going for the drinking fountain. Yes! I just might make it! Takes a bit of maneuvering to get around his butt stuck out into the aisle, but my god, I'm home free. The space in front of me is open, open. I slice my cart into the delicious expanse - OK, it's only a five-foot expanse but the freedom of it feels swimming pool lovely.
Then. Just up ahead, down past the bench, I see her.
She's got a book in one hand and a cell phone in the other.
Her eyes track from her book, to my bench, and then right up to lock with mine.
She's fast. I'm faster. I abandon the cart and take my packing tape dispenser in hand like a gun. I'm going to set that thing down on the bench, look up innocent and say, oh, were you looking for a place to sit? there should be another down in the Rose Room.
I am free! I am triumphant!
Tap on my shoulder.
It's the guy from the drinking fountain:
"Yeah, which way to the bathroom?"
And I am defeated.
Woman at a Mirror, by Gerard ter Borch, circa 1652
21 hours ago