Two nights ago, while on a late-evening run, I stopped at a used bookstore. This was, without any hyperbole, the very last place on the entire planet that I needed to visit. My eyes are definitely bigger than my schedule – I’ve purchased over a dozen books in the last month, four just in the last five days alone. I’ve read two-first chapters, and I’m somewhat interested in both tales. I’m also revising a whole set of class notes at the last minute, planning classes for next spring, and fretting over the fact that the summer is nearly gone and I’ve still not cleaned out the basement (which has been on the To-Do List for five years now). Time is at a premium, the heat is a major obstacle, and in less than three weeks, my world will become horribly convoluted.
I’ve got no business stopping at another bookstore.
So, while making this totally unnecessary visit, however, I found several books from a thirty-year-old science fiction RPG that I’d wanted for a good while. I won’t mention the title – that’s not important. What is important is that of a set that contained some 12 titles, at least nine of them were on the shelf before me, all modestly priced, and there for my picking. I was on Cloud Nine.
There were two problems I immediately noticed: First, the main set of rules – the Core Rulebook – was absent. This – I’ll abbreviate it as CRB – is the heart of any RPG system. Heck, it is the system, and without it, one does not have a game. The missing volume did not surprise me; as I said, this is a thirty-year-old system and there are a lot of people vying for a copy of this CRB, which has been long out-of-print. I reasoned that I could check online to see if there were used copies or even a digital copy available. In short, with the other material present, the missing CRB was not the end of the world. Not yet, anyway.
The second problem was more practical. Although each volume had an individual price (most likely based on supposed rarity), the set as a whole was cost prohibitive. Well, not really that bad, but when I consider that I’m near the end of my summer funds, yes, it was that serious. If I wanted to be totally honest with myself, I didn’t know if some three decade old books were really worth the expense. I never thought I’d ever say this, but one can reach a point where they’re just tired of spending money.
What to do?
Well, Momma Furious always said (much to my father’s dismay) that if you think it’s a great deal, then you need to act. Now. Either that, or prepare for a lot of wailing when it’s gone. Honestly, that’s been some good advice. Sometimes, you just have to make a move and deal with the consequences later. I wouldn’t be impoverished by purchasing one volume; at worst, I’d have to put off buying something else. This isn’t a justification for reckless spending, or general foolishness, mind you. It’s just a reminder that we’re only on this planet for a comparatively short period of time; sometimes it’s good to just enjoy it without worry.
With that in mind, I snatched the two volumes I considered to be the most desirable. Oh, I considered waiting a day and returning, but no – I figured that of everything here, these two volumes were the most likely to be grabbed by someone else. Unfortunately, the guy who priced them thought the same thing – they were the two most expensive volumes on the shelf. Damn! What to do?
Well, screw it. I grabbed the two, pondered a far cheaper third volume (for a hot second before putting it back), and made my way to the cashier’s desk. Deed done, I was happy – am happy – with my actions. That happiness was magnified today when, by pure coincidence, the Little Woman wanted to visit the same store. Great – this will give me a chance to find another of the volumes. I won’t get them all, but I will get the ones that I want. Except that when I finally reached the section where they’d been placed, I was mortified to see the entire corner of the shelf – almost 1/3 of the shelf itself – was empty. Completely bare and void of materials. Gone.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Someone had come in since my earlier visit and cleaned the store out of the remaining seven volumes. I was stunned that I couldn’t get that third book I’d considered, but I as also shocked at how close I’d come to losing access to any of the materials. Had I waited – as I’d originally planned – I’d have nothing. Someone else didn’t hesitate as I did (that, and he clearly had a full wallet, which I sorely lacked).
I know that this tale hinges on some level of entitlement, but . . . big deal. It’s an interesting life-lesson: Snooze and lose. Sometimes one needs to just make that move. I’m glad that I did. I’m happy with what the two books I got, and I know that I’ll find the rest of the volumes one day. Goodness knows that I’m in area bookstores often enough.