A Generation Without Borders

July 21, 2011 at 9:26 pm (Uncategorized)

I wish the title of this post was a reference to some sort of progressive social movement, but it instead refers to the untimely demise of one of my favorite bookstores.  Tonight there was a farewell e-mail in my inbox from Borders, who recently announced that they were going out of business.  Upon reading this e-mail, I cried.  To be fair, it doesn’t take much to make me cry (See earlier this week, when an episode of “Dateline” left me in tears.), but this struck a chord.

I’m still fairly young, but I already find myself starting sentences with the phrase, “Kids these days…”  Usually it precedes a comment about their reliance on technology or their inability to write in cursive, but now I’ve got a new one.  Kids these days won’t know what it’s like to hang out at Borders.

I was initiated early on into the cult of Borders.  When I was in second grade my favorite author, Ann M. Martin, was doing a signing at Borders.  I was more of a Crown Books kid since there was one near our house, but my mom was happy to take me to Borders  to meet the woman responsible for the BSC.  Upon entering the two-story (!) literary behemoth I was sold.  So many books! And CDs! And a cafe! That began a lifelong love-affair with Borders.

Fast-forward to sophomore year of high school, where we’ve got ourselves a newly licensed-to-drive drama and music nerd.  As a teenager in suburban Illinois, your potential hang-out spots are limited.  There’s the diner attached to the bowling alley, the diner not attached to the bowling alley, the diner across the street from the diner not attached to the bowling alley, or Borders.  As a young person who was eager to get her hands on every script and Original Broadway Cast recording that she could, Borders was often the hang-out of choice.  My similarly inclined friends would pile into my 1991 maroon Lumina and away we’d go.

We’d stop at the cafe for Italian sodas and espresso and then make a grand circle of the premises.  After a cursory walk of the floor we’d break off to our separate nooks of the store.  I almost always visited the musical soundtrack section first, or at least I did until my interest in jam bands flourished my junior year.  I’d painstakingly peruse the CDs for any new arrivals since my last visit, which was probably the week before, and then meet up with my friends again.

Sometimes they’d come to me in the music department and we’d quietly sing along to music we heard as we shared over-sized headphones at the listening stations.  More often than not we’d end up in the humor or drama sections.  Someone would read aloud from one of Woody Allen’s books and we’d chuckle to ourselves, pleased with what sophisticated young adults we were.  Or else someone would locate a David Mamet anthology amongst the plays and we’d read one of his vulgarity-laced works aloud, laughing even harder than we had in the humor section.

Then a call over the PA system would let us know that Borders was closing in 15 minutes and to take any unpaid merchandise to the register.  We’d make our way to the register where one, if not all of us, would have a few books or CDs that we wanted to purchase.  Then we’d leave.  Sometimes we’d stop at one of the myriad of diners, but sometimes I was so eager to rip into my new Sondheim musical and drive around with the stereo blasting that I’d make up an excuse about having to be home.  I’d drop my friends off and be alone with a little night music.

What are kids these days supposed to do?  Go to Starbucks and gather around someone’s iPad and browse Amazon together?  And as much as I adore libraries and independent bookstores, neither of those is open or welcoming to a group of respectfully boisterous teens late on a Friday or Saturday night.

I suspect those diners are going to be seeing a lot more traffic in days to come.

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3 Comments

  1. Danielle said,

    I love this, D. I, too, LOVED Borders in high school and college and I am 100% certain I would never have gotten to med school without it. Many tears will be shed at its closing…

  2. Lakeview: RedEye 'Hoods - Life without Borders said,

    […] My Two Weeks Notice- A Generation without Borders […]

  3. Jenn said,

    I will always have fond memories of Borders and your maroon Lumina. Great post! Miss you.

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