With books and stationery in hand, I waved out at the girl at the counter. Since I hardly pay by cash, I asked the lady which card was preferred. Her blank look was enough to lead me to assume that she was a steal the organisers hurriedly got. They needed someone urgently to "man" the three day mini book fair. What they forgot to ask at the interview was about her proficiency in English. Or maybe they expected only Chinese speaking buyers. But then again, they couldn’t have been doing that! The book fair had three sections strictly devoted to English books - Children, Leisure and Recipe.
Anyway, what happened at the interview stage will be a mystery. What happened at the venue was simple - Poor girl and poor me had just vague, helpless smiles to exchange. My enthusiasm to investigate her on the Spanish dictionary wobbled off.
I quickly checked the counter when the lady exclaimed, “cash cash!’’, with her eyes wandering with the card, held in my loaded hand. The organisers could have spent some time and a few dollars on an "Only Cash" sign at the counter. She pointed to the Cold Storage ATM, which had a long queue of lunchers from the nearby offices. I thought, how sweet of her! If only she had insisted the organisers on having a card machine. Now, why I was I so hassled? This book fair was very close to my house, but cashless me had to go and surrender the carefully selected items. The lady took the stuff and we parted with her timid “tomorrow?..:-).” I have to admit she was nice.
I don’t blame the girl. She didn’t even know what she was doing. With no signs of literary empathy, the kind that you get from people at Popular and Kinokuniya, the lady and her colleague, in the midst of a rather quiet book fair, were laughing at some indigenous jokes. This made them look like they did the interview and got the job together. The rest of us were either puzzled, looking at a very old edition of the Spanish-English dictionary or just harried at the counter, with cards in hands.
An affair like a book fair should be taken seriously. Books will never go wrong but people, they need to be just as right! Get people with the right proficiency, gifted with some sly guts and social pretensions that will make a book fair sail and sell. Because, honestly, it’s really not enough to be sweet!