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by >Jim Rosenberg

I love to browse through bookstores. This is due chiefly to the fact
that I am a world class phony, as you certainly know by now. A
bookstore is the Carnegie Hall for phonies -- a place where the best of
the best can display their talents. Although my true tastes run to
books like "James Worthy: The Man Can Flat-Out Dunk!" I just like the
feeling I get rooting through the snootier sections. It's almost as if
I might be having a ... {brace yourself} thought. It's liberating to
escape the shallowness of my caveman mind into the world of people who
have not only had an idea -- but put it on paper. On that rarest of
occasions when I have an idea, I must call everyone I know and disgorge
it ("For Pete's sake Mom, I know it's 3 AM, but hear me out -- with a
flat tax, everyone pays the *same* percentage!"). By the time I'm done,
I'm so tired I can't be bothered to write it down.

Sadly, the pleasure of shopping at bookstores has been ruined for me
lately when I began to realize what most people are doing there. I hate
to burst your bubble, but the majority of book shoppers aren't looking
for "Absalom, Absalom" -- they have some horrible problem. It's true.
While cruising the shelves fingering up unreadable classics to impress
my fellow browsers, I began to examine what they were reading. I had
hoped to give them a silent "You The Man!" to show solidarity with my
other buddies in Le Societe de Plus Grand Tete. Then, I noticed that
most people were in the "Metaphysics" or "Personal Development" section
looking at books with titles like "You're Not Going To Believe This --
But Other People Have Your Pathetic Problem!" or "Women Who Love Men Who
Love Fabio." This made me very sad. I have paid closer attention to
these self-help books ever since that day.

Those looking to hammer the final nail in the coffin of American culture
need look no further than the self-help section of the bookstore. As a
trained observer of societal behavior (credentials: one remote control,
one television, one chair), let me be the first to say, in layman's
terms: we is one screwed up society. I had no idea how many isms,
syndromes, complexes and the like were gumming up the gutter. On the
one hand, it's comforting to know that the ship of fools is fully
booked, but on the other hand will the last normal person in the United
States please pick up the white courtesy phone? A man right next to me
was thumbing through a book about assertiveness, but quickly shelved it
when I gave him a stern look of disapproval. Next to him, a woman eyed
me hungrily while browsing "Women Who Love Men Who Are Happily Married
Mediocre Humor Columnists." In the back corner, I saw a shifty looking
guy cram "Overcoming Your Shoplifting Problem" into his already stuffed
trench coat. I stopped looking when I saw Dad at the checkout counter
with "When Sons Disappoint."

As I leafed through the books, I found that they were all essentially
the same. The first few chapters defined the problem. ("You are
single"). The next few chapters were free-form commiseration. ("Single
people are unloved"). The final chapters told you to stop whatever it
was you were doing, without saying how ("Get married").

Soon, my bookstore experience polluted my other shopping. Moving from
Atticus Books right down to Phar-Mor, I took notice of what my fellow
shoppers were buying. Maybe it was a bad day, but the Saturday morning
crowd out with me got up early to find cures for ringworm, bad breath,
bunions, and matters of a highly personal nature. Suddenly, I felt as
if my sniffles could wait. I'd rather blow my nose to a bloody red pulp
than get secondhand ringworm.

After much moping, a thought floated down from the clouds and
accidentally landed in my head. I thought of an idea that would end my
gloominess and make me a millionaire: *The Grosseteria*! I am going to
open the world's first Superstore for Dysfunctional people. The more I
think about it, the more it's a can't miss opportunity. There is safety
in numbers. Embarrassed sufferers will flock to The Grosseteria safe in
the knowledge that every other shopper is deficient in some way. At
News & Novels, the guy next to you might be a civil war buff, but at The
Grosseteria it's more likely he just enjoys dressing up in petticoats.

I'm sharing my million dollar idea in print because I trust you. If I
see a Grosseteria open up before mine, I'm going to be awfully mad, and
consider this: statistics show that there are only three regular
readers of this column. So don't even think about it, Mom.

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