An awesome adventure of sci-fi, Sydney trains, and Indiana Jones (and a little muse about e-books)

Bek and I have spent the last two days at the fabulous RWA conference, where the impacts of digital publishing are discussed as much as anywhere. Among the bonuses oft cited is “instant gratification” – the ability to go from covet to cover in one click. That phrase has been spoken many times in my presence these last few months, but for some reason today (maybe because of my gallivanting to Sydney last week), this story came to mind.

Last year, after the Brisbane floods, I spent a few months working in Sydney. It was, at times, pretty lonely. The loss of home was especially felt (I blogged about it here), and books were pretty important. I was living in Chatswood, where a massive Borders closed its doors, and, in the dregs of the store (which steadily resembled The Nothing eating Fantasia), I found books 1 and 3 of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Science in the Capital trilogy. I figured I’d find book 2 later. But I was so engrossed in the story, I unexpectedly finished book 1 (Forty Signs of Rain) late one afternoon.

And I had to know what came next. Right then.

At least, as “right then” as was possible for someone without an e-reader. A quick trip to all the local bookstores revealed the horrible truth – no one had book 2 (Fifty Degrees Below). The closest I got was Dymocks, who had a copy in their city story. But I was in Chatswood. It was half an hour before closing. And I was a 20 minute train ride away. A single second assembled all my mental power into one thought:

I can make it.

I ran. Up the long hill from Westfield, past Gloria Jeans and the buskers, and down the stairs in twos. Punched out a ticket with adrenaline-fuelled precision. Slammed through the station gates and up the stairs. The train was on the platform. If I missed it, the next would be too late. I would miss the store, and the next chapter in the story.

I can make it.

Doors were closing. That gap was the width of opportunity and I chucked everything at it. A real tunnel vision moment. I certainly didn’t stand clear … but then this was Sydney. No QR rules there. And, miracle of miracles, I scraped through, pulling up dramatically to avoid collecting the opposite doors. I was pretty chuffed. I was Indiana Jones of the city! I rode all the way into the city, lowering my heart-rate and mapping the path to the store. A well-timed light change got me there with minutes to spare. Another two minutes and I owned the book, and was heading back to the train, risking life and limb by reading it while crossing roads.

I loved that book, and today I imagine, with an e-reader I could have had it within a few seconds, instead of a heart-pumping thirty minutes. But the thing is, I love the story of how I got the book just as much as the story within it. It was an adventure only possible because instant gratification wasn’t. And maybe we need a little more of that 🙂

About Charlotte Nash

Writer and editor, loves Australia

Posted on August 18, 2012, in Charlotte Nash. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I can soooo picture you on that mad dash! When I look at the (too many) books on my shelves, so many of them hold memories of more than just the story itself. There are my father’s childhood books that I imagine his chubby baby hands holding. The precious copy of Atlas Shrugged I found abandoned at a bus stop when I was fourteen – and which turned me into an overnight activist. My nana’s recipe book. The tiny and rare ‘trench’ edition Australian poetry book for troops in WWI, that I found in a NZ second hand shop for fifty cents.

    Don’t get me wrong. I love my e-books. But they’ll never have that tangible history of a physical tome. Call me sentimental…

  2. I remember a similar moment, Char. Racing to Borders, getting there ten minutes before it closed, all because I HAD to have that second book in the series, I just HAD to. Oh, the triumph! Oh, the sweet, sweet victory! I remember it pretty well, I was so chuffed with myself. Of course, now I have an IPad and kids. There is no ‘ducking out’ for anything anymore. Instead, I have evil instant gratification and how sweet it tastes…

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