Dear Borders

Sorry Borders, but I can’t see myself shopping from you anymore. It’s not working.

You know, I used to snob you off once. Like the way cynical young lefties can be repelled by a Big Mac, I was repelled by you.

When I saw You’ve Got Mail, I wanted Meg Ryan to snap Tom Hanks’ neck when her character found out who her Internet boyfriend was. I was backing the underdog. I didn’t like mega-chain-stores.

But hey. That’s just me being a cynical lefty with pie-in-the-sky ideals. I had to snap back to reality at some point and Borders is part of the reality of anyone strolling down Rundle Mall looking for books.

Borders, when you first came to Adelaide, I knew that at least in the US you had a reputation for being a corporate pig. I knew about the way you shut down Michael Moore in the 1990s when he used the dirty word. “Union.”

I remember hearing in 2001 and 2002, the tales of Borders employees in the US who had been subjected to intimidation to coerce them against union activity. This isn’t the kind of stuff that endears you to someone who protested against the various “waves” of IR reforms brought out by Peter Reith only a few years earlier.

But hey. We have and had different IR laws here in Australia, even if it was Howard’s lot in power at the time. I could rationalise us getting closer.

And then the ladies started wanting to hang out at Borders. Like it was the movies or something.

I don’t know about fashionable hangouts, but I know what I like. Women.

So that’s how I was broken. Like some weak willed husband in denial about a kind of perverse mutual attraction with the neighbour’s wife, I let the flirting begin.

By 2003 I had weakened further. I started to go into Borders with people who’s names I can remember. My friends.

Apparently my friends didn’t get the missive about the IR concerns. They had however, checked the other bookstores for what they wanted first and their foray into Borders was only ever a single way-point between locales in a night out.

At this point, I’d never spent a cent. You hadn’t given me reason to. Then in 2006, with a younger brother about to get into Uni, I was on the lookout for Harry Frankfurt’s On Bullshit as a Christmas present. He’d enrolled in a degree in the humanities.

Dymocks in Rundle Mall didn’t have it in. So that’s how you got me to fess up some cash for the first time.

Dymocks, where I had bought most of my popular science books from back in the 1990s. Dymocks, where I bought Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment for my mother. Dymocks, who had an association with SBS as far back as when it was the best channel on telly (WTF were they thinking taking Des Mangan away from Saturday nights?) Dymocks, where I would browse the sci-fi and fantasy section with friends after school so long ago.

All it took was a moment of weakness and I jumped over the fence for a quicky with the neighbour’s wife – an analogy that only works if the neighbour’s wife is a corporate lawyer and my own wife is a super-sexy music teacher who practices cello in the nude.

All along the signs were there and screaming “NO! STOP! IT’S WRONG!”

One of the things in a relationship that I think is a benchmark of health is the way you prepare food for your loved ones. I love to cook for mine and if I couldn’t do it properly, I’d do what I could to minimise the consequences of my failed gastronomy.

Dymocks doesn’t try it. You have a Gloria Jean’s in store and even though I’ve never bought anything from them, the fact that they donate to Mercy Ministries leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Just seeing their little shop while looking for books is like passing through the kitchen on the way to the corporate lawyer’s bedroom and seeing a bottle of some harsh Nescafe roast.

At least this ugliness is at the back of the store and has nothing to do with the business that we’ve had. Back behind those escalators, those escalators that like the legs of a beautiful woman, lead up to… CDs, DVDs and non-fiction. That’s where you caught me the first time. Where I broke my fidelity.

But like all doomed affairs, there comes a point when the cheater is given a moment of pause. A pause to realise that what you are doing is wrong.

borders01It’s not just the lovely legs your escalators mimic, Borders. Your layout is probably the best of a bookstore anywhere in Adelaide. It’s very attractive. But Dymocks’ isn’t anything to turn your nose up at and besides, layout isn’t everything.

A few weeks ago I bought Dexter by Design by Jeff Lindsay, from you. Up until earlier this evening, it sat with receipt and the copy of Dubliners I also bought, when I decided to plonk them into a new bookshelf I’d recently purchased. It was then that I noticed that I’d been charged $36.50 for a book with a $21.99 sticker on it.

Now, I could probably take the book and the receipt back in and get the difference refunded. You might say that leaving you over a fifteen dollar discrepancy is a bit trite, which would be true if that’s what I’m on about.

Back in the mid-1990s, I met a girl at that wonderful music store of the time, Verandah Music. She led me up the stairs at the back, up to the vinyl section with me in tow… Jaw agape.

I wouldn’t turn my nose up at many a woman’s body, but from that angle she had one of the best layouts I have ever seen. Everything in the right proportion and positioned perfectly as if a sculptor had spent years in the decision making process.

Borders, your store layout and everything that you have got going for you is like her legs and arse. Beautiful.

Thinking everything was going fine, I went with her to the park lands. I opened a bottle of champagne, she lit up a joint and we relaxed and started to get to know each other (not in the biblical sense obviously – it was daylight.) Things inevitably gravitated to the topic of politics.

“The Port Arthur Massacre wouldn’t have happened if we all carried guns like they do in America”, she said…

Anyone in sympathy with my progressive leanings will, as I did, see this as somewhat of a facepalm moment. While I didn’t literally put my face in my palm (the little man in my Cartesian theatre did), I allowed things to progress politely while allowing my executive functions to successfully cockblock me.

Borders, that fifteen dollar discrepancy is the facepalm moment. The point at which I take a reality check and realise that I’ve been doing something very silly in seeing you behind Dymock’s back.

So I’m having to call an end to our affair. No more perusing that philosophy section to see if you have got a copy of The Critique of Pure Reason that doesn’t come with side-notes and explanations. No more impulse shopping while waiting to see if Shermer’s Denying History will make it to your shelf.

No more denial of why I avoided you in the first place.

I’m going back to Dymocks if she’ll still have me. For you and me, it’s over.

~ Bruce

Bruce Everett is an Adelaidian with odd tastes in books, who struggles in not giving in to corporatism and banal franchise while making his income stretch to accomodate his principles. He still struggles to live down his cheating on The Muses through his affair with JB HiFi down the other end of Rundle Mall.