Room to Read
In the mornings on the way to work I drive pretty much the same route. All I want to do is get there on time. Because I tend to leave home at the absolute last minute, I take the most direct route that avoids the school zones. At the end of the day, however, I like to vary the route. It is especially nice now that spring is here and the days last longer. I normally like to stay off the highways, not because I dislike them, but because the scenery is rather mundane. That being said, I broke my rule the other day and drove up Route 301, just because I hadn’t been that way in a year. I wanted to see what had changed, if anything, along this route home. To my delight, a great deal was different. There was a park where there once was a big empty lot. It’s beautiful. A few new strip centers stood where once there was a couple of old and forlorn used car lots that had long since passed into bankruptcy. They were nice to see. It bespoke of good things for the communities around it. Two evenings ago I was sitting at a traffic light across from a gas station I used to frequent before a new one was built closer to home. At that light, too, is a house belonging to what I would have called a “gypsy” in my youth. For all I know, the woman could be from Outer Mongolia.
The name on the sign for years had said “Mrs. Mitchell, Card Reader. Readings for $10.00.” I must confess to more than a little curiosity about what goes on in a tarot card reading room. Over the years I’ve often wondered how someone could make a living doing readings at ten bucks a pop. Just to pay the taxes on the house in which she lives and works would demand almost incessant readings, yet her parking spots rarely had cars in them. Did she do most of her readings in the dead of night? This time I noticed her sign was new—Ms. Mitchell, Card Reader. It’s a sign of the times. It looks like Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell split up. The boat in the side yard is gone and the old work van is for sale in the front yard. I didn’t even need a deck of cards to know this. I wonder if Ms. Mitchell saw it in the cards or if she read her own palm. Perhaps she read his palm and saw the lipstick prints that were not her color. I enjoyed my long mental tear with that one.
I love the fact that there are all manner of reading rooms in and around the areas where I work and live. Madame Varga, another card reader, just built herself a brand new house. I wonder if that means her predictions are more accurate. I have never set foot in these reading rooms, Ms. Mitchell and Madame Varga’s notwithstanding. At work, the men’s room, which is affectionately known as “the reading room” is off limits to the ladies—a fact for which we women are most grateful, particularly since it has inspired a nice deal as far as the daily newspaper is concerned. The women get to keep the society pages, the classifieds and the food and entertainment section in the break room; the gentlemen get to keep the rest of the paper in the “reading room.” It’s a nice compromise especially since the thought of having the rest of the paper back in our small kitchen sounds, well, unappealing.
In town there is a Christian Science Reading room. I’ve never seen anyone ever go in or out of one of those facilities at any place I’ve ever lived. The one in Sarasota is no exception. The blinds are always drawn, and the place looks like a tomb. I don’t know what goes on in there in the wee hours before dawn, and I am not quite sure that some distant ancestor of Count Dracula doesn’t use it for his resting place during the day.
Other “reading rooms” are found in our coffee shops scattered throughout two counties as well as bookstores that serve coffee during the day. Each allows people with computers to work in a relaxed and leisurely setting or to sit at tables on the sidewalks in the fresh air and pore avidly over their newly purchased books. It always looks so peaceful and pleasant with a sort of European flair.
But my favorite reading room, beside the one in my own home, is the public library. What I love about the library in Sarasota is that it’s enormous with lots of windows, making it a bright and cheerful place even on a rainy day. It is always welcoming. I adore seeing readers spilling out the doors sitting on the steps reading or beneath the trees on the property or on the benches in a small park adjacent to the library. The rapt absorption on the faces of those readers tug at the reader in me making me wish to skip the luncheon appointment I might have to join them in the gentle and solitary exploration of a good book. There are days when that happens, to be sure, but not nearly enough. Most days, it’s in the cards that work must come first. The best part is that this reading room is free. The fact or fiction a person can find there is on a shelf, not falling from someone’s interpretation of the random fall of a deck of cards.
At age 10, Anne realized she was never going to get to be Miss America since reading a book was not an acceptable talent. So she went on to get a job and raise a family. Along the way, she fixed meals, picked up toys, helped with homework, and collected a drawer full of rejection slips for her “great American novel.” It was not all bad, however, since she ended up wallpapering a closet with them. She currently designs and creates greeting cards for her tiny company, The Frog Prints, LLC, and also works full-time as a Training Specialist. Anne is currently tethered to reality by a loving spouse, two dogs, one cat and the occasional hurricane that blows through Florida, although falling headlong and happily into a book is still her favorite “talent.” She can be reached at