Stepping out of my comfort zone for World Book Night

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone for World Book NightYesterday was World Book Night.  For me, it was World Book Morning.  I gave twenty copies of David Sedaris’s Me Talk Pretty One Day to morning commuters at the nearby Park and Ride.

As excited as I was to be a Book Giver, I knew when I applied that it would be out of my comfort zone.

My comfort zone is pretty small.  It’s basically my house and my family and friends.  Talking to strangers is definitely outside of it.

To counteract this, for the past few months, I would imagine myself at the bus stop, talking to strangers.  In my imagination, April 23rd was a beautiful spring day.  I rode my bike there, because parking is limited, and spoke confidently to people waiting in line for their bus.

In reality, it was snowing.  The roads were icy.  My husband offered to drive me and, let’s be honest, be there for moral support.  So I bundled up in winter coat and snow boots, packed my twenty books into my Don’t Blink bookbag, and off we went.

In the ten minutes it took to get there, I went from slightly nervous to full on nauseous.  Heart pounding, I got out of the car while my husband went to find a parking spot.

This is anxiety.  I know in my head that the worst thing that can happen is people will say no or avoid eye contact, but my body is preparing to flee from man eating tigers.

I remind myself to breathe, because sometimes I forget.

Everyone at the bus stop is coiled in a ring circling the edge of the pavilion, huddled into their winter coats, scarves up, eyes down, silent.

This is not the spring day I’d imagined, with commuters enjoying their last bit of fresh air before spending the day in office buildings.  These people are just plain cold, wishing they were on the heated bus already.

I approach the line, looking for eyes that might be willing to make contact.  Then I begin talking, hoping that three people might hear me, might be willing to look up as I speak.

My voice does not sound confident.  I sound like a nervous fourth grader, my pitch unnaturally high, but if I think about this too much, my heart will pound even faster, so I remind myself that these people don’t know my natural speaking voice.  They won’t hear my nervousness.

“Hi.  I’m giving away free copies of David Sedaris’s Me Talk Pretty One Day for World Book Night.  Would you like one?”

Blank stares from two people.  A third says, “You’re doing what?”

I work my way around the pavilion like this, answering questions about the book or World Book Night.  Talking about the book is not hard.  Books are in my comfort zone, and Sedaris is funny.

I can easily recommend this book to reluctant readers.  It’s not a novel, I say, it’s a series of humorous essays about his moving to France and trying to learn the language and culture and feeling out of place.  It’s easy to pick up and put down.  It’s funny.

A few people tell me they’ve read it; we exchange smiles and words about how funny Sedaris is.  Those who hear us change their mind and decide to read it after all.

Those are the best moments.  The ones where you see their interest sparked.

It’s all over in fifteen minutes.  Every book has found a home, hopefully a reader.

I return to the car, holding my husband’s hand, back in my comfort zone.  Glad I stepped out.