Saturday, April 05, 2008

Monsoons and Missing Bookstores

It was a lazy Saturday afternoon, the perfect kind to go to Universal...except that the radar said that rainstorms were coming. Instead hubby and I decided to have a nice lunch at Chevy's and go seek out Books-A-Million. I knew that one is supposed to be coming to The Loop (not the Chicago Loop...a shopping center in Hunters Creek), and I was wondering if it had opened yet.

Hubby looked it up on their corporate website and couldn't find anything out there, but he did find one out towards Universal. That's Outlet Store Land, and I did NOT want to visit an outlet bookstore; he called them, and they assured him that they were a full-fledged store.

It's been ages since I've been to a Books-A-Million. We had one in Chicago, but that one was an outlet. I was hoping this one would be more traditional, as I've run out of true crime books to read and I also wanted to paw through their magazines to get some ideas for new freelance writing markets.

Hubby plotted out the address on Google Maps and we set out on what we thought would be a rather run of the mill shopping trip. We fueled ourselves at Chevy's first; I had my usual combo plate of seafood enchilada, pork tamale, and taquitos. They recently sent out coupons, so that made it all the better. Then we headed off towards Dr. Phillips, where we'd pick up I-Drive at Sand Lake Road. I knew that it would be traffic hell, but such is the sacrifice you make to live in Tourist Land.

Unfortunately, the rain decided to come with a vengence. In Florida, heavy rain is indescribable compared to anything I've ever experienced in Chicago. It's not just a downpour but a veritable wall of rain that obscures everything but a tiny glint of the tail lights of the car in front of you. The windshield looks as though the troops of Heaven are slinging endless buckets of water at your car. Being caught in a monsoon in the middle of tourist traffic is not fun.

As we headed down I-Drive towards Kirkland, I said to hubby, "Watch some idiot go running out in front of the cars." Sure enough, Brainless Tourist came zipping out and nearly got splattered by the cars in front of me. Oh well, even if he'd been struck, the downpour would have washed the asphalt clean of his blood in mere minutes.

It took some maneuvering and confusion, but we finally found the strip mall where Books-A-Million was supposedly located. There was no sign whatsoever, but hubby had the address in hand so we slowly circled the lot. Squinting through the downpour, he exclaimed, "There it is!", pointed to a huge abandoned store. Indeed, the address matched...but how could he have talked to them on the phone just an hour or so earlier? There's no way they could have cleared out a store that size so quickly, especially in the driving rain.

He rang them up again, and they told him they had moved (thanks, Books-A-Million Webmaster, for keeping your site so wonderfully up to date). Armed with a new set of directions, we set off into traffic hell once again, although the rain was still smothering the hellfires with its vicious onslaught.

At one red light, we encountered a blue Mustang that decided it absolutely HAD to get in front of us in the right lane, despite the fact that there was literally no one behind us. This was not a good time to challenge me; I might have had mercy if there wasn't a whole open lane behind me, but the aggressive little idiot inching his way over in an open challenge wasn't exactly endearing himself to me. Perhaps he thought I was some wimpy rental car driver afraid to get a dent because I resisted the insurance coverage hardsell. Sadly, I didn't have my neon "Local! BEWARE!" sign hooked up in the side window, so I simply made sure that if he kept coming over, he was going to hit me and end up paying a pretty big whiplash settlement. Eventually he gave up and moved in behind the Family Truckster, pouting the whole way.

We pulled into the area where Books-A-Million was supposedly located, but alas, there was no sign of anything other than dubious-looking "flea markets." Hubby hadn't bothered to ask for the address, so we drove around in rain, trying to avoid the drowned-rat pedestrians who kept popping out from between parked cars like some bizarre video game. He called the store back, but couldn't make heads or tails out of their new directions. Thankfully he got an address this time, but it only brought more confusion. They told him, "If you get to Kirkman, you've gone too far," yet their address was on Kirkman.

At this point, I was ready to choke someone, but hubby was decidedly more mellow since he had indulged in a margarita at lunch. My mood was not improved when we went the wrong way on Kirkman and ended up at Lockheed Martin. In getting out of there, we somehow literally ended up back where we started, on freakin' Sand Lake Road. Arghhhhhh!

At this point hubby was ready to call it quits, but there was no way that I was letting an hour of driving in a downpour go to waste. Better yet, our gas was getting low; I figured that a plague of grasshoppers would be next.

We made it back to Kirkman, although hubby had me turn the wrong way again. I managed to make a U-turn before we got trapped at Lockheed Martin again, and we finally managed to get pointed in the right direction. At this point, I'd begun to suspect that it was actually this store rather than the Fountain of Youth that Ponce deLeon had been seeking when he came to Florida. He only changed the object of his quest when he spent so long seeking it that he realized he'd become an octegenarian in his lengthy pursuit.

Finally! We found the freakin' bookstore. When I first caught sight of the Books-A-Million sign, I swear I heard angels singing in the background. We sprinted through the front door and into a huge netherworld of books, ringed by a magazine section that spanned the entire back wall.

Sadly, they were out of the one magazine I wanted most, but they had plenty of others for me to paw through. Better yet, their True Crime section encompassed three whole shelves! Sadly, I still already had the majority of the books, but I found almost a dozen new ones (which, at my rate of reading, will last a couple of weeks). Hubby found some sort of Nascar magazine that put him in a coma of happiness. We had some coffee to soothe our nerves, and the barrista informed hubby that the store was moving yet again in the near future! He also said that Hunters Creek hasn't opened yet and it will still be a while.

I won't even document the journey home, except to say that I-4 in a monsoon adds a hellaciousness factor of x100 to its usual horror. But at least I had my precious bounty of magazines and books packed safely in the Family Truckster. It had been a challenge to get them, but we'd found the elusive Books-A-Million and lived to tell the tale. After making it through that mess, I think we're ready to tackle a trip to find the Holy Grail!

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Darry said...

There is a BAM store at Posner Park at I-4 & 27,
much closer to Celebration.

Anonymous said...

You drove past a Barnes and Noble at Sand Lake and Dr. Phillips. Plus you have Reading Trout in downtown Celebration.