Canadian field rep Pam describes the joys of making sales calls in the winter. I can’t help but liken Bob’s experience last week, caught in the crush with thousands of other “Blue Ticket” holders, with that of driving down the single plowed lane of a Toronto expressway.
Sunday January 18/2009
6:30 am – I wake to the winter familiar: truck gears grinding and blue lights flashing. A foot of snow has fallen overnight and the snowplows are making their morning swing. By the time I get outside, my car will be trapped in 2 feet of plowed snow. My Vancouver flight leaves at 2pm, and with this storm, a drive that takes 90 minutes will likely be doubled. I start shoveling.
10:30 am – The vehicle is freed. One suitcase, filled with catalogues: seasonal, virtual, medical and a week’s worth of clothing. Heat turned down, garbage stowed, neighbours alerted: I am on my way, snow still falling and blowing. The highway to Toronto – normally a 6 lane swath that cuts across southern Ontario- is down to one plowed lane in each direction. I join other intrepid drivers faithfully following the transport trucks forging a path through the clogged mess, crossing fingers and gritting teeth as we creep blindly through the blowing, whirling white. Two and a half hours later, I am safe at the airport; my flight is departing on time, and joy of joys: my suitcase is not overweight.
5pm (PST) – I emerge from the Vancouver airport to fog. I have traveled 4000 kilometers to creep yet again through blinding, swirling white stuff. At least it isn’t sticking.
Tuesday January 20/2009
9am – I am enroute to the University of British Columbia Bookstore where I will spend much of the day with the trade and medical buyers. Sitting at a red light, I listen to Barack Obama take his oath of office. As cheers from the radio sound out I look around me – drivers are pumping their fists and pounding their steering wheels in joy … it is a good day for the world. At the bookstore, the buyers are cautiously optimistic – trade sales stayed steady throughout the fall and Xmas season, despite weather calamities and recession fears. The medical store, recently relocated to the main campus from its location downtown at Vancouver General, has seen a drop in sales, which they attribute to the loss of walk-in traffic. They have started an email marketing campaign to faculty and medical professionals, and will include all of our new Stahl titles in their spring flashes. At lunch we discuss the rumoured passing of Book Expo Canada, brought down by dismal bookseller attendance and end of exhibiting by major trade publishers. Is it the end of the Canadian publishing industry?Probably not, but the lack of opportunity for Canadian book folks to come together to celebrate and discuss their unique place in the world is sad.
Thursday January 22/2009
9:30 am – After 4 days of fog, the sun appears in Victoria. Here on the island the temperatures are balmy, the snow is gone, and the booksellers are smiling. My first appointment is at Munro’s – reputed to be the most beautiful bookstore in Canada (located in an old, restored bank building). The buyer, Dave Hill is, like most of the booksellers I’ve seen this week, totally fascinated by Japan Rising. Cut off from the rest of Canada by mountains, BC has always turned its face to Asia. We exchange promises: me to send an ARC, he to do a window display when the book comes out. I see three more booksellers here, and next day hop a ferry to Saltspring Island to visit the island’s two stores.
Saturday January 24/2009
7:50 am – I leave on the first ferry of the day. Twelve hours later I arrive home. The snow is gone from my parking area, but there are 7 foot mountains of it piled in every available space. It is minus 32C. The pipes have not burst. One province down – nine more to go.