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The book slayer

August 21, 2013

People find many ways to pass time on the train. One of the most common is reading. I am a printer by trade; naturally I love the look and feel of ink on paper. I can read the New York Post on my iPad, but I still buy the paper from the guy on the street in front of Penn Station every night. I can’t say I deplore the new digital reading devices, but I find them cold and unfriendly, so it always warms my heart to see people reading books. One of the frequent flyers of my morning commute is a strange duck to say the least. I have nick-named him Book Slayer for what he does to his reading material.

Book Slayer is an avid reader of paperback books and one of the few commuters who reads in the morning rather than sleep. He carries no bag, wears a black leather coat and jeans most of the year, and his hair is slicked back, jet black. Sitting daily on the end seat by the row, he is hard not to notice; as we depart, his reading material (or what is left of it) is stuffed into the back pocket of his jeans.

When I first noticed him, I realized that his book had no front cover, and what he would do at the end of the trip that morning left my head spinning. Book Slayer proceeded to rip the pages he just read out of the book and throw them under the seat. Daily that week, the sad pages of what was a complete work would be torn from their binding and tossed lifeless under the seat, never to be read again. “How could he? “ I asked myself. The printer in me wanted to raise my ink knife in defense; I couldn’t believe my eyes. Still, I shrugged it off, saying maybe the book was wet or musty from being in an old attic.

The very next week there he was with a new paperback. This time the cover was on, but not for long. Sure enough, he continued his routine all that week and the ones that followed. This was his MO. Dam, Book Slayer was truly mad. One week I thought, for giggles, I would pick up all those pages, glue them back together and leave the “resurrected” book on his seat to freak him out. The thought of the look on his face brought a smile to my face, but alas I never did it.

I hadn’t seen the slayer in a while till last week, when the warm summer weather turned cold. Dressed in a new leather jacket (a birthday gift, I thought), I said, “OK, here we go again.”

Not today. The slayer produced a brand new Kindle. Never did I appreciate the sight of one of these electronic books as I did that day. For a moment, I wondered if he would rip the cover off his Kindle, too, but he didn’t. I guess there is a place in the world for this technology especially if it saves the “ink-on-paper” books I love.