Hard to Get a Read

So this always stuck with me: A good seven or eight years ago I'm at my place of employment and this younger associate, a woman in her early twenties, was busy at her work station, a large book sitting on a nearby counter. I picked it up and began leafing through it, passively inquiring whether it was hers, only to be met with perhaps the most disdainful expression ever mustered by a human being. That and the words, "Are you kidding me? I don't read books!"... I was totally nonplussed. It was as if I'd just accused her of robbing a bank, taking the teller captive, crossing state lines, assuming a false identity and forcing the bank employee into servitude for the next two decades. That and cheating on her taxes the whole time. No exaggeration, if you looked up the word "overkill" you'd see a picture of her face, teeth gritted, eyebrows raised, nostrils flared, glaring at said book. It was like she was so put out by the thought that she would squander all that time reading. As if the mere mention of her being associated with this outdated pastime was the ultimate slap in the face.

Surprisingly, since then I've encountered a slew of others who seemingly subscribe to this illiterate way of life. And, to be fair, by "illiterate" I'm not suggesting the complete absence of actual reading. More like the literary equivalent of the vegetarian versus vegan thing: they'll stay away from the meaty "War and Peace" or "Great Expectations" tomes; likewise any in-depth essays or long-winded op-ed pieces, but will unapologetically peruse (to the point of memorization) the inferior protein-adjacent lyrics to Doja Cat's "Paint the Town Red", the newest bawdy Urban Dictionary entry or the Top 2023 Most Intriguing People of the Year List in a magazine that shall remain nameless. And they will devour anything printed on their phone, be it text messages, emails, dumbass celeb Instagram wars, the newest life hack telling you to squint your eyes while having your picture taken to make your smile look much more genuine (faking genuineness; so cool, right?) and any articles on the upcoming new phones, be they of the Android or i variety.

And yes, of course, they will maintain the minimum reading requirements necessary in order to survive life's day-to-day rat race. The basics, like observing traffic signs, navigating lunch menus, discerning junk mail from bills and discovering something palatable to watch on Netflix all come into play. As does the ability to identify store names at the mall, lest ye mistake Dick's Sporting Goods for Macy's and inadvertently walk out with the Martha Stewart Collection's Gatwick Enamel Cast Iron 7 Quart Dutch Oven instead of a 7 iron (could happen). And yeah, it's not lost on me that colors and shapes of the road signs matter more than the words and that a lot of the lunch menus come with pictures, half the stores at the mall have logos that kind of give away what they sell, Netflix offers trailers and any pre-school child could tell the difference between junk mail and bills. So, great, there's even less reading going on than I thought.

Okay, so this brings me to my real purpose here: I have a good friend who doesn't read books. He doesn't brag about it with the vengeance of my former twenty-something co-worker but, more or less, just acknowledges that it's an attention span thing. He's a really bright guy and, yeah, he does read selected pieces online, pours over any and every liner note of his vast vinyl collection and will watch all kinds of foreign movies, eyes intent on the subtitles. But, books?... not his cup of tea. And he makes no bones about it, again, kinda like the crazy lady in paragraph one but without the disdainful expression and scary voice intonation. A few things come to mind here: (1) he might not be thrilled that I called him out like this in a public forum; (2) he'd totally love the "really bright guy" reference and (3) the first two are a moot point as there's no way he has the attention span to get to a fourth paragraph of any blog anywhere at any time.

And so we have this final paragraph, it's only real objective: to throw off the previously mentioned individual whose been known to check out the first paragraph or two of a blog and then peruse the last one to get a quick summation of all that went unread. Am I worried that this will tip this person off?... Nah, while this last segment might be baffling to (insert pronoun here) it won't be nearly enough to break (possessive pronoun) lazy reading habits. Could cause (pronoun) to scratch (possessive pronoun) head in wonderment, though. Who knows, maybe it'll even make (pronoun) a bit frustrated throughout the day at not quite knowing what (pronoun) missed out on. Okay by me, 'cause that's what happens to people who shirk reading.