Whatcha’ Readin’?

As it is clearly seen from my writing, I’m really not much of a reader.  Not counting things I was assigned to read throughout my time in high school and college, I’ve really probably only read about 25 books, and most of them were biographies, DIY books, or history/reference collections; certainly no fiction.  There is, in fact, only one author that I regularly read, Chuck Klosterman.  Klosterman typically writes nonfiction stories that revolve around music, film, & anything else associated with pop culture, which is typically right up my alley.  With his last book, though, he decided to write a novel, Downtown Owl, and forced me to read my first work of fiction in almost seven years.

I know what you’re thinking, but this blog is not about how great I thought the book was (though I do think that); this is about the actual process of getting through the book.  You see, the only time I really had to read it was during my 30 minute lunch break at work- so obviously it took me a few weeks to get from cover to cover.  My reading process was simply sitting under the awning in front of my building every Monday-Friday from 12:00-12:30.  It was too hot to sit in my car, too distracting to sit in the lunchroom with everyone else, and under the awning was the only outdoor location within 1 block where you could be shielded from any sun and rain.

So there I sat, smoking a cigarette and buried in a book, soaking in every detail about the novel’s three main characters.  Somewhat to my amazement, I did not identify with the third string high school quarterback going through adolescence and questioning the validity of everything.  Nor did I side with the high school teacher who just moved to a small town (from Wisconsin ironically) and is struggling to fit in.  Nope.  I identified with Horace, the crotchety widowed 73 year old man who immerses himself in resentment and self-loathing (he doesn’t read fiction either).  And it is with that spirit in mind that I present to you the rest of my story of getting through Downtown Owl.

Like I said, I’m outside of work reading this book on my lunch and, of course, everyone else’s lunch period (I can’t say hour because they won’t fucking give us an hour!).  Inevitably, my fellow co-workers would exit the building, ready to hop into their cars to pick up something up from McDonald’s, Wendy’s, or anywhere else that would allow them to get their back to work in fifteen minutes, leaving them with less than fifteen minutes to inhale a cheeseburger.  Simply put, these folks are in a hurry, as they should be.  (For some reason, ever since I started working a real job, I’ve never eaten at work.)  Yet what do they do when they exit the building and see me reading while  intentionally making no eye contact with them?  I’ll tell you what they do.  They bend their neck and lean over slightly to see the book’s cover.  Then they ask…

“Whatcha’ Readin?”

First of all, I see these people analyze the cover with their peripherals, so I know they already know the book’s title.  Second of all, these people are on a break where they will spend at least half, if not more, of their time acquiring sustenance, and the other half ingesting it, leaving no time for a real “break,” yet they want me to obviously tell them more about the book than the title without them having to break their stride.  I came up with three ways to respond to this question.  I have tried all of them.   So when faced with said inquiry, I just pick one of these responses arbitrarily.  They’re all a little different, but they all have one thing in common.  They  make me feel like an asshole.

Q:  Whatcha’ readin’?

A:  aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa ………… this book called ……..aaaaaaaaaaa ….. Downtown Owl ……. it’s alright.  (This response offers no real information and in no way shape or form attempts to answer the question) 

Q:  Whatcha’ readin’?

A:  It’s called Downtown Owl.  It’s by this guy Chuck Klosterman.  He mainly writes nonfiction stuff, but in this book he…(this is typically where I get caught off by the question asker who attempts a cordial dismissal from the conversation, leaving me to feel like a shit when all I tried to do was answer their damn question.)

Q: Whatcha’ readin’?

A: A book.  (This is easily the most dickheaded way to answer the question, and it took a while before I tried it out.  But I gotta admit it has proven to be the most effective.  Most of my co-workers know me as a pretty nice guy, so when I respond in this way, they walk away chuckling, assuming I’m just joking around.  I assure you I am not.)

Lucky for me, I finished the book today.  I can now return to breaks where I sit in the lunchroom reading a newspaper, praying that no one tries to spark a conversation.  And even if they happen to, I won’t be forced to explain the goings on of a 273 page novel they’re completely unfamiliar with.  Instead, all I have to say is, “Fuckin’ Brewers.”

As Downtown Owl has shown me, I guess I do share a lot in common with a pissed off old man.  As far as a deeper meaning within its pages, I have some theories, but nothing I’m gonna stick to just yet.  I will say, though, that the process of getting through this book has taught me one valuable lesson.  And it’s a lesson that I’m sure I’ll either forget or ignore when the next Klosterman book comes out:

Never read in public.

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One Response to “Whatcha’ Readin’?”

  1. TJ Says:

    What about a fourth reply there Horace. What about something like; “It’s a DIY book on how to make a bomb at work by using your everyday office supplies.”

    I think this reply will have to be uttered only once because one of two things will definately happen.

    1.) That co worker will in turn tell everyone he or she knows at said job and those people will tell everyone else at work forcing everyone to actively not talk to, look at or engage you in any way or form. This will give you more time to read on your break. Or…….

    2.) Get fired from your job for being thought of as potentially dangerous, (which is really something you could use to beef up your persona). Since you have been fired you can now collect unemployment, giving you even more time to read.

    It’s a win/win situation! Your welcome 🙂

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